Assassin’s Creed III is the fifth game in the series, proving that numeral titles mean jack shit in todays world of video games. Unfortunately, after five games in the main series it still feels like Assassin’s Creed is having a hard time finding where it belongs.
For the sake of not spoiling anything important, I’m going to keep talk of the story to a bear minimum. The game opens with Desmond Miles and his ragtag group of science-fueled rebels traveling to a temple in the middle of nowhere, also known as New York. Within it, Desmond falls into a fugue-like state and his group plugs him into the Animus, where the fun starts. The first three sequences in Assassin’s Creed III have you playing as someone who has never been mentioned or shown as a playable character before. Despite feeling different from playing as master assassin’s Altair and Ezio, it’s a nice experience and sets up things to come, all while adding just enough “shock value” to make me gasp and get excited for when I finally get to play as the adorable blood thirsty Indian we’ve learned about over the course of the past three years.
Assassin’s Creed III (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed], Wii U)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Released: October 30, 2012 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) / November 18, 2012 (Wii U) / November 20, 2012 (PC)
MSRP: $59.99 [Buy Now]
The story itself is quite enjoyable and exciting to see unfold with the exception of the whole 2012 doomsday angle, which feels completely uninspired and lazy. People dislike the first Assassin’s Creed for various reasons, but I loved how they handled Desmond’s story. At the time it felt groundbreaking how two completely different story arcs could be so intertwined. Ever since the first game, it felt like Desmond has been disregarded like a ten-cent whore. They like the idea of keeping him around, but they really don’t know what to do with him. His training through the series has amounted to jack shit instead of giving us the “modern day” conclusion we all believed this was building up to. Well, in Assassin’s Creed III we do get some modern Desmond action, but it makes me glad we didn’t get a full-blown modern day Assassin’s Creed. Simply put, the modern world is…boring.
Connor is a welcome addition to the Assassin’s Creed family. He’s spiritual, young at heart and a little naïve. His role in Assassin’s Creed III takes place over 30 years of his life and seeing him grow from a rambunctious little boy into the assassin seen in the trailers is an absolute treat. Seeing Connor interact with historical figures is nowhere near as fulfilling as it was with Ezio. He doesn’t have the drive of Altair or the personality of Ezio, but given the timeline and his heritage, it’s understandable that he’d behave the way he does.
There are plenty of bugs in Assassin’s Creed III to prevent it from being the masterpiece we wanted it to be. During follow missions some onscreen text will warn you to reduce the distance to your target. Upon falling back the slightest bit, you will desynchronize and fail the mission. Other bugs include floating weapons in the air, corpses magically sinking through the world, disappearing bystanders, pop-up textures and NPCs, and my all time favorite – NPCs ‘photo bombing’ the scripted event by spinning around in place. Oh, and I also saw a horse spawn on top of another horse. Sadly, the doublehorseabeast could not be ridden. All those bugs are almost forgivable when you take into consideration some of the other problems the game has.
The camera in Assassin’s Creed III is by far the worst offender. It will get caught under grass; obscure your view during fights and even causes some deaths. Regardless of the sensitivity level you have it set at, it will always feel sluggish and delayed. Compel the horrid camera with the uninspired and broken combat system and you have one of the most aggravating gaming experiences of the year.
Despite being rebuilt from the ground up on a completely new engine, the combat feels like a simplified version of previous Assassin’s Creed titles; it feels like a poor man’s Arkham City. It’s counter-based, so you’re constantly slashing at enemies while waiting for a red icon to appear above their head so you can parry and counter their attack. As previously mentioned, the camera is got awful mess. The camera zooms out when you enter combat, giving you a wider view of the enemies around you. This is fine when you’re out in the open, but when you’re fighting near environmental set pieces, the camera will get hung up on them, drastically zooming in and preventing you from seeing your enemy’s counter notification. Regardless of the camera, Connor is an unstoppable juggernaut in combat and you shouldn’t have any trouble taking out small armies of Redcoats.
If you think you can just sneak past enemies and keep conflict to a bear minimum, think again. You have limited control over your stealth exploits. Simply walking into a house triggers a scripted indoor parkour run that results in Connor popping out the other side. Whenever you walk up to tall grass, you are instantly pulled into a crouching stealth mode. This is quite annoying when you’re walking through the wild without wanting to go into hiding, and then having that triggered just because you stepped into some two-foot grass. The grass itself is often unreliable for cover, since there are the occasional grassless patches that will result in your character standing up when he crosses over it, giving away his position. If there was ever a time to add a dedicated crouch button, it would have been with Assassin’s Creed III. Of course they didn’t add this, because wanting basic control over a character in the Assassin’s Creed franchise is asking too much. The free-running overhaul that the game has received is unreliable, and will have you stuck on the occasional branch or jumping to your death.
There are some noticeable frame rate issues when the action picks up. The moment an exploding barrel goes off during a horse chance, the game slows down to a crawl until the particles dissipate off-screen. Granted, times like these are rare, but they are certainly noticeable when they do hit.
In Assassin’s Creed III, animal attacks take place in the form of annoying quick time events where one mistake results in your death. The inclusion of QTEs of any sort is always a nuisance, but when you repeatedly die because of them, you know that their inclusion was a huge mistake. You can’t simply run up to an aggressive animal and slit its throat. The moment you get close to it, the QTE is triggered and you have a split second to press the onscreen buttons. If you don’t press them in time, the animal will take off more than half your health while you are spamming the “get the hell off of me” button. Keep in mind that wolves travel in packs. Yeah, you will have to do this for each wolf in the pack. Of course, you could always shoot them. Oh, wait. You can maybe get one shot off, but you wouldn’t have enough time to reload and would get mauled to death by the dead wolf’s friends. Realism is swell.
Assassin’s Creed’s revered multiplayer mode makes its triumphant return in Assassin’s Creed III and fans of the multiplayer should welcome it with open arms. Not only does all the classic variants of capture-the-flag, King of the Hill and deathmatch return, but Assassin’s Creed III also introduced a brand new multiplayer game type called Wolfpack. In this multiplayer mode, four assassins team up to square off against increasingly difficult AI opponents. A round consists of twenty-five stages and it’s highly enjoyable to work with friends to hunt down targets. There’s a time limit, so taking down targets swiftly adds back to the clock as well as increasing the amount of points the team has.
If I seem overly negative, it’s because I love the Assassin’s Creed franchise to death and want to see it live up to its full potential. When the original was announced, I was awestruck and I’ll never forget how happy I was when I finally managed to get hands on time with the game. Sure, I’m in the minority of people who loved the original, but you never forget your first and it did do a lot of things right. Over the years the franchise started to evolve into something more than an assassin game, turning into an action game with the option to kill stealthily. Despite setting in a time period world apart from the story of Altair and Ezio, I was hoping Assassin’s Creed III would return the franchise to its roots instead of building upon the bastardized sub-genre it created. It’s like Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t know what wants to be. One minute it’s an action game with shooting gameplay, the next a hunting simulator, an on-rails bird flight game and then it’s a ship battler. The genre the Assassin’s Creed franchise falls under is getting harder and harder to define, and with it, so is its fanbase.