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Assassin’s Creed III

aciicover

The previous installments of the Assassin’s Creed franchise sent us into the lives of Desmond Miles’ ancestors Altaïr and Ezio. While Desmond battled Abstergo Industries in a modern, quasi sci-fi environment, the majority of each game followed Altaïr and Ezio in their attempts to stifle the Templars’ hold on the Holy Land and Renaissance Italy. But this time, Ubisoft has decided to let the Animus take us in a new direction, across the ocean to the New World. And with the New World comes a new character: Ratonhnhakéton, who also (fortunately) goes by the name of Connor. Utilizing many of the same tactics as Altaïr and Ezio, along with a few new additions, it’s up to Connor to not only halt the Templars’ takeover of the New World, but to oversee the victory of the American Colonists while saving his Native American tribe.

While Connor might not live up to the personality of Ezio, as his attitude more closely resembles the cold arrogance of Altaïr, it’s easy to sympathize with his struggle as his people try to survive in the face of colonial expansion. But in this case, Connor’s cocky attitude fits well with his background. He survived the attempted extermination of his village as a child, he is an expert outdoorsman with legendary skills for hunting and tracking, and as a Mohawk Indian, he would be expected to become a great warrior with age. Toss in a few marvelously executed plot twists and a few shocking moments, and it’s easy to make the claim that Assassin’s Creed III has the second most intriguing plot in the series after Assassin’s Creed II.

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Though that’s not to say everything played up to its potential. The introduction is unnecessarily lengthy, and it takes a surprisingly long time for anything interesting to happen. In addition, the struggle of Connor’s tribe could’ve (and definitely should’ve) played a bigger role in the second half of the story. Instead of going down in a roar of battle and mayhem, the climactic moment of his tribe’s struggle concludes with the faintest of whimpers, perhaps the most disappointing moment in the entire game. And that’s not to mention the lack of authenticity in the voice acting. Ubisoft went to great lengths to bring in Native American voice actors, but why does Connor’s mother speak with a modern American accent (a recurring issue with other characters as well)? The voice acting for Connor himself is constantly hesitant, and he’s not at all aided by a bad script loaded with overly dramatic dialogue.

But take out the monotonous voice-acting for Connor and a few other characters, and the sound design is impressive. The sound of city life is as immersive as ever, but the big improvements can be heard when adventuring in the landscapes of New England. The environmental sounds of wildlife and the ocean have been clearly improved along with the grunts of the main character as he runs and fights. The musical score brings back a few old tunes, with some revision, and the music perfectly accentuates the moments when the action is at its peak. There are moments, when characters are speaking, that you’d wish it would cool down a bit so you can hear, but the complaints should end there. The more sci-fi sounding tunes during Desmond’s adventures allow for an ambiance rarely experienced at any other point in the franchise.

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It’s also nice to see that Desmond’s role has increased significantly. He has several levels completely to himself, and these provide some of the game’s best thrills (even though I always had to stop and wonder why Desmond doesn’t change his attire even with authorities handing out pictures of him to people). The base formula is the same for Desmond as it is for Connor, alternating between action and platforming segments. The gameplay itself has changed very little from the previous Assassin’s Creed games, though there have been some noticeable tweaks to the combat. The lock-on system has been disbanded, making counters more important, and improved animations along with more the fluid attack system allows for some absolutely vicious chain kills. Of course, Desmond’s sequences are completely linear, as opposed to those of Connor, but they pack a relatively bigger punch. It makes one wonder if a modern-day setting is in store for us in the future, though a surprising (albeit not quite satisfying) ending puts much in doubt.

The platforming looks better than it ever did previously, partially due to better animations and slightly improved detection when jumping and running, though missed jumps due to no fault of the player are still common. The running system has been a bit simplified, as there is no button for sprint anymore, though in the end the difference is almost unnoticeable. Connor can climb trees, allowing for forest parkour that you could previously only enjoy within city walls. Forest parkour perhaps shatters the laws of physics more than anything else in the game, but fortunately the horse-riding feels more realistic than ever. The biggest change in Assassin’s Creed III is the addition of naval warfare, one of the true highlights of the game. The controls are tight and intuitive, and some of the naval battles are delightfully huge in scale. Connor can also command soldiers on the ground, and these battles also provide a decent change of pace.

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Like the other games in the series, Assassin’s Creed III has only one difficulty setting: Easy. The most difficult moments in combat are typically optional fights in the city in which you must kill several enemies while dozens of guards pour in on you from the streets. But even then, it’s not terribly hard to continuously spam the counter button and attack. Enemies will sometimes shoot at you, but even that’s offset by the ability to use enemies as shields. Some tougher enemies can’t be countered, but you can always either break defense or shoot them with your pistol (or call some of your assassin recruits). Regenerating health has been somewhat newly added, but it’s such a small addition (you could already regenerate some health in previous games if your health went below a certain threshold) that it doesn’t make the game any easier or harder. Cool new items like the rope-dart make assassinations even simpler when you’re up high. Naval battles aren’t any tougher, and fighting bears and wolves (and elk?) when hunting doesn’t require much more than a few QTEs.

In fact, the only real difficulty is elicited when trying to be a completionist and achieving full synchronization on every mission. If you are a completionist, the good news is that there’s a large amount of side quests for you to complete as well. Most of these remain similar to side quests in other games in the series, like assassin recruit missions, taking over Templar forts, and taking out a specific target, though there are more board games along with missions for naval warfare. This amounts to dozens of hours of gameplay, though a straight playthrough will easily take less than twenty hours. Some quests allow you to add people to your homestead, which can be upgraded through Crafting and is the equivalent of upgrading your city in previous games. This allows you to make money and procure new weapons. However, the menu is so convoluted that Crafting often just feels like a drag, and you don’t need the upgrades anyhow. You inexplicably can’t upgrade your armor or health, and while you can upgrade your ship, it’s (once again) completely unnecessary.

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The game does look good though. Some muddy textures and pop-in with the console versions notwithstanding, the environmental details are highly impressive, both within the cities and out in the wilderness. The character models are also very detailed, and it’s once again fascinating how much detail has been put into their clothes. The only small problem seems to be the eyes, which look downright creepy on some of the character models of children. Then there’s what is perhaps a glitch with the weather, in which you’ll find yourself in a location with five feet of snow, and then travel to another location in which it looks like the middle of spring. But the world is big and looks incredible, and the large-scale battles run extremely well. There are a lot of minor bugs, which range from guns floating in the air to characters you’re supposed to incapacitate becoming invincible. These can provide some true annoyances, especially when you have to let yourself die to start a mission over, though I never ran across such a glitch during the main quest. Regardless, in these instances, it’s wonderful that Assassin’s Creed still possesses such a forgiving checkpoint system.

Assassin’s Creed III continues with the same formula of its three direct predecessors, with just a few tweaks and additions. It still provides plenty of thrilling chases, hectic platforming, and delightfully brutal assassinations, and the inclusion of naval warfare brings an awesome new element of fun to the franchise. The game is beautiful, and there are loads of side quests. And if the single player isn’t enough for you, Ubisoft brings back an entertaining multiplayer system that includes a co-op mode. But the game is still far too easy, making the side quests feel rather pointless, the base gameplay has markedly few true improvements, there are a lot of bugs, Connor isn’t particularly interesting and is poorly voiced, and the ending lacks the spark of Assassin’s Creed II. But all of that could’ve been silently swept under the rug if the game hadn’t taken such a long time to get interesting. As it is, Assassin’s Creed III is a good game that never quite distinguishes itself from its direct predecessors.

The Good

Naval battles are a blast | Upgrading your homestead is better than ever before | Loads of quests to enjoy | Environments are highly detailed

The Bad

Main story takes a long time to get interesting | Stealth and platforming annoyances haven't really been fixed | Many minor bugs | Still far too easy

3.5/5

First introduced to gaming with Wolfenstein 3D, Daniel has never looked back. He still returns to the old classics while enjoying the current generation, and beats every game he can get his hands on. In addition, he loves to read and write and is an avid follower of sports and martial arts.
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