It’s clear that Ubisoft doesn’t understand the law of diminishing returns. This is the only reason I can think of as to why Assassin’s Creed as a franchise hasn’t become stale even after four annually released games. You’d expect that by now the series would become ho-hum but that just isn’t the case. With an all new main character and setting, Assassin’s Creed III is arguably the most unique and exciting game in the series.
After three titles playing as Ezio Auditore, you now get to play as a shiny new protagonist. Connor Kenway is the name and assassinating Templars during the American Revolution is his game. Connor is kind of like Altair in that he doesn’t say much but he’s a far more appealing and interesting character than Altair ever was. Connor is half English and half Native American and is more or less an outsider to both of those worlds. Because of his Native upbringing, he knows what it’s like to be persecuted and he seeks justice against those who would harm his people. It doesn’t matter to him if his enemies are on the American or British side of the conflict. As always you’ll also get to play as Desmond Miles who is reliving Connor’s life inside the genetic memory extracting machine called the Animus.
Although the story isn’t as grand as those involving Ezio, it’s still pretty damn epic. Connor’s journey places him in some of the most pivotal moments in American history. As an American and as a history buff it was exciting to see Connor meet some of the founding fathers and play a significant role in events like Paul Revere’s midnight ride or the battles of Lexington and Concord. Desmond’s story sees him getting his James Bond on as he travels all over the world in search of a way to stop the upcoming apocalypse. While Desmond’s story is the most important one in the Assassin’s Creed games, it always gets relegated to the background. While that is still mostly the case here, he does get a lot more screen time than before. Desmond’s story feels more fleshed out and important this time around.
The main setting of the game is in 18th century America and it’s a wonder to behold. The previous titles all took place in ancient cities with rich histories. Since America was still young during this time, almost all of the buildings look brand new. There aren’t any massive structures to climb this time around but you’ll still get a nice sense of how vast the world is when you climb the tallest buildings or trees. The game takes place in the cities of Boston and New York as well as a massive frontier land. While the cities are amazingly well crafted, it’s the frontier land that will leave your jaw on the floor. There is a real sense of wonder as you explore the frontier and you’ll never know exactly what you’ll find. This is a land not yet tamed by man and has a certain mythic quality to it.
Performing parkour to navigate through the world is a series staple but it’s been refined to make the experience smoother and more intuitive. Platforming’s been streamlined to a point where it’s almost flawless. Instead of holding R1 and X like you did before, now simply holding R1 will let you both run and jump automatically. Since your thumb isn’t glued to X, you’re now able to freely move the camera around and see precisely where you want to go next. You can climb, run and jump to and from buildings like before but now you don’t need to worry about accidentally jumping or falling to your death. Unlike other Assassin’s Creed games, you can now also parkour your way through the wilderness. Many parts of the frontier are set up so that you can run on tree branches and jump from tree to tree uninterrupted. Platforming is a hell of a lot of fun now that most of its quirks have been removed or made simpler.
The other returning mechanic that’s been overhauled is combat. It seems like the developers took a cue from the Arkham games because combat largely revolves around countering. When an enemy is going to attack you, a red triangle will appear over their head. When you press circle and successfully counter, the game slows down and you’ll then have several options available to you. You can counter with a melee or weapon attack, disarm or throw your foe. Different enemies require different strategies so you’ll need to make sure that you press the correct button when you counter. After you kill an enemy, you can then chain-kill as many as you can until you’re hit. Some enemies will shoot at you with their muskets and you can use other enemies as shields to protect yourself. Combat really is a blast. In previous games I’d avoid it if I could since it was always a clumsy affair. Now that combat’s been streamlined, I’m more than happy to jump into the middle of 20 British soldiers and feel confident that I can kill them all.
The new settings open up a whole host of never before seen features for the series. You can now hunt animals and sell the remains. Connor is a Native American so tracking wild game is one of his specialties. When you find an animal you can catch them in several different ways. You can set lures and use bait to bring them to you. You can climb on tree branches and air-assassinate your prey. You can even run after them like a madman if you want but this won’t get you very far with most prey. That is, unless they’re idiot beavers who just stay there waiting for you to kill them. You’ll have to be careful when hunting though because some of your prey will try to eat you. Wolves, Cougars and of course Bears are just some of the animals that will try to bite your face off. You can easily kill them by performing short QTEs but if you fail you’ll meet a quick end.
One of the coolest things about Assassin’s Creed III are the naval battles. There are only two words that I can think of to describe naval battles; FUCKING AMAZING. Sailing the seas and engaging in battle with other ships is bad ass beyond belief. Smaller ships can be destroyed easily enough with your swivel guns but the bigger ones require a bit of strategizing. Naval battles against frigates are all about positioning and you’ll want to have the enemy to your side so that you can do the most damage with your cannons. Of course since both ships are side to side that means that they’ll bombard you as well. Naval combat during normal weather is thrilling enough but when you have to fight during a thunder storm is when things really get exhilarating. Having to dodge enemy fire is one thing but trying to avoid monster rogue waves is another. One of the cool and annoying things is that the giant waves can protect you from enemy fire but can also block your shots from hitting your targets. The only disappointment I had with naval battles is that there weren’t enough of them. I did them all in one sitting and wanted more. Naval battles are something that can’t be properly described and need to be experienced firsthand.
To say that the graphics of Assassin’s Creed III are impressive would be an understatement. This game looks so good that it makes the notion of next gen consoles seem ridiculous. The cities and frontier have a mind blowing amount of detail to them and really make you feel like you’re in the world of the 1700s. The seasons change from spring to winter as the story progresses. The cities don’t really change much when they’re covered in snow but the frontier almost becomes an entirely new place. Moving around in the snow is kind of tricky so you’ll want to stay in the trees as much as possible. The open seas also look stunning in good or bad weather. Ubisoft really outdid themselves in the graphics department here. Assassin’s Creed games have always been known for having incredible graphics but this one takes things to a whole new level of awesomeness.
Assassin’s Creed’s stealth based multiplayer is back and remains largely unchanged. Like before, your objective is to take out targets while remaining anonymous. Running around trying to kill as many people as possible won’t get you anywhere. You have to be clever if you want to take out opponents before they know you’re onto them. Conversely, you’re also being hunted and you need to keep a low profile in order not to get caught. This is all pretty much the same as it was in past games. The newest addition to multiplayer is a co-op mode called “Wolfpack”. In this mode your objective is to take out A.I controlled targets with a team of friends. It may not be the most talked about, but the multiplayer of the Assassin’s Creed games is definitely one of the most unique ones out there.
There are so many side quests and diversions in Assassin’s Creed III that you can spend hours on end playing it without ever touching the main quest. This is an open world game after all so it’s jam packed with stuff to keep you occupied when you’re not trying to stop the Templars. You can build up your homestead, hunt animals, collect feathers, train assassins, send out convoys etc. There’s so much to do that I could have easily written two to three paragraphs about it. The campaign will take you roughly 17-20 hours to complete. Side quests add an additional 15-20 hours and of course the multiplayer can last you even longer than that. As always you definitely get your money’s worth when you buy an Assassin’s Creed title.
Before I close this out I need to point out how buggy the game can be at times. There’s nothing potentially game breaking like in a Bethesda game but it’s enough that you’ll notice. The biggest glitches I’ve encountered were ones that made me have to reset missions because a glitch would cause it to be impossible to complete. Most glitches are minor though, like characters not facing each other when they’re talking or when the lip synching is off. For a game that’s been in development since Assassin’s Creed II was released, there should have been more bug testing done. Again, I didn’t find anything too egregious but there were points where I’d say to myself “Come on Ubisoft. REALLY?”
Minor quibbles aside; Assassin’s Creed III is a marvelous game. It’s easily the most ambitious entry in the series and mostly succeeds at what it tries to accomplish. I’ve been a fan of this series almost since day one and I couldn’t be happier with this game. Although I liked Ezio better as a character, Connor is still a very cool protagonist. I think his character has a lot of room to grow and I want to play more games that star him. Setting the game in revolutionary era America was a great choice since very few games have done it. The game shows the greatness of the American spirit but isn’t shy about showing the hypocrisy of some of our ideals. Ubisoft should be commended for creating such a fantastic title. Assassin’s Creed III is the strongest entry in the series yet.
• Stunning graphics
• Captivating story
• Enjoyable gameplay
• Amazing soundtrack and sound design
• High replay value
• Minor glitches
• Generating money is complicated
Assassin’s Creed III was developed and published by Ubisoft Entertainment. It was released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. PC and Wii U versions will be out next week.