I’ve always been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. Even when the first one was panned for its repetitive gameplay and difficult controls, there was clear groundwork for a truly epic game. Assassin’s Creed II was a realization of most of the ambition that the first game contained. However, Brotherhood and Revelations bogged the series down with what felt like retreads and series stagnation. With that said, there was great anticipation for ACIII, a game that looked to once again revitalize the saga with a fresh setting and a new protagonist. Unfortunately, while the game may be one of the best Assassin’s Creed games yet, it fails to live up to its expectations and falls short of its revolutionary setting.
Good Ol’ America
Don’t get me wrong: Traversing the streets of Rome and climbing the buildings of Constantinople was a whole lot of fun. But after climbing around Europe for four installments (more if you count the handheld games), it was refreshing to see a new environment. At first, it was disappointing to see that the large cathedrals and towering architecture had been replaced with small houses and trees. After all, one of the simple joys of Assassin’s Creed was getting a good panoramic view while perched hundreds of feet above the ground.
Thankfully, the variety of houses and trees to climb around on makes for just as much fun. While it feels more vertically limited, seeing a bustling Boston makes it plenty entertaining just to walk around the streets. Every corner seems to be alive with activity. There are plenty of people talking with a lot of action going around. It’s awe-inspiring how much seems to be simultaneously occurring in such a big space.
The quiet but determined Connor played a great Assassin. His inner conflicts between protecting his own people or fighting for America made him a great flawed character to follow. Without going into detail, his inner battle between the righteousness of the Assassins and the evilness of the Templar is the most thorough character development yet. Plus, how often do you get to play as a Native American slashing away at Redcoats?
The multiplayer almost feels like its own game (and it kind of is, as it’s developed by a separate team). It has a fairly in-depth customization and leveling system. The gameplay involves a bunch of assassins blending and plotting out attacks on each other in an arena covered with NPCs. Sessions are tense and exciting, as each player nervously observes a crowd of NPCs to find his or her target while avoiding being targeted. It feels genuinely novel and amazingly refreshing in comparison to the shooters that populate the online arena.
Partly due to the new setting and partly due to the brand new character, ACIII features a robust and engaging story. While the Desmond sequences felt a little slow, Connor’s adventure was full of twists and turns. It was a lot of fun reliving famous events such as the Boston Tea Party through the eyes of Connor.
So Much To Do
From hunting deer to commanding ships, there’s plenty to do in ACIII. Almost every mission is something unique and feels exciting and fresh. This is a sharp contrast from how the series began and it’s great to see Ubisoft try new things and experimenting with various gameplay techniques. While some of the games and segments were not that strong, the sheer volume of activities to do makes up for it.
Buggy as 1776
For a triple-A title, the game is marred with a boatload of bugs and glitches. Even after the giant day one patch, the game was riddled with distracting issues. Many cutscenes had people talking, but nobody’s lips were moving. In other instances, subtitles were out of sync, or the audio was completely missing. Clipping was also a big issue and I experienced slowdowns and lag in more than one instance. Most of the issues can be forgiven simply due to the expansive nature of the stages, but one mission was beyond aggravating. It was supposed to be a simple chance scene, but I had to replay it over 10 times because I kept running ahead of the person I was chasing. For such a big title, it felt unpolished and rushed.
Poor Mission Structure
I really hated the above chase sequence. You know what else I hate? Desmond sequences. They embody everything that’s wrong with ACIII. Poor structuring of the levels cause these sequences to languish. They feel boring, frustrating, and just not fun to play. I’m all for replaying missions due to difficulty, but some levels felt overly cheap and I was losing on technicalities. Chases are confusingly structured and there were quite a few missions where I was plain lost. It was far too often that I was stuck trying to figure out if I was lost due to the poor mission structure or if I was stuck in some bug.
There are 5 billion things you can do in ACIII. Unfortunately, there aren’t 5 billion buttons on a controller. This leads to some difficult control mechanics. I often end up petting a dog instead of hitting my enemy. On top of that, ACIII decided to ditch a popup wheel to choose weapons and created a new menu that took me away from the action and made it difficult to choose weapons on the fly. The running mechanic is also still difficult to use. I often find myself climbing buildings by accident or jumping off when I didn’t mean to. By having the character climb automatically, it makes it difficult to take sharp turns without accidentally scaling a house. While the cinematics looked neat and fluid, the underlying controls always felt unwieldy and stiff.
There’s Not Really Any Assassinating
The previous games were already using the assassin term quite loosely, but this takes it to a new level. There’s almost no stealth involved anymore, and most of the levels were much easier to play through with an aggressive approach. The incentive to sneak around is only for the benefit of full synchronization. The exhilaration of finding a target with Eagle Vision and flying in from above has been replaced with lengthy fights with hundreds of Redcoats. It’s not a surprise that this series is going in this direction, but with the wealth of recent stealth games, I had hoped that ACIII would’ve taken some inspiration from them.
Assassin’s Creed III has a great amount of flaws, but so did the first game and I loved that. While many ideas were half-baked and poorly executed, the fundamental gameplay remains intact and fun to play. The bugs and glitches can be annoying, but the refreshing multiplayer and expansive virtual world makes it worth the playthrough. Assassin’s Creed III fails to be the revolutionary experience it set out to be, and it may feel like the same old AC game with a fresh coat of paint, but there’s plenty of tomahawk-ing fun to be had under the surface-level flaws.
Our copy of Assassin’s Creed III was provided by Ubisoft at U of I. Like their page for the latest Ubisoft news, information on upcoming local events, and plenty of opportunities for free swag. Be sure to look for a Ubisoft representative on your campus!
This review and its review score are not influenced by any external parties.
[gameinfo title="Game Info" game_name="Assassin's Creed III" developers="Ubisoft Montreal" publishers="Ubisoft" platforms="PC, PS3 (Reviewed), Wii U, 360" genres="Action" release_date="10/30/12 (PS3, 360)"]