Assassins Creed III Review
Hoping to rekindle the slowly dwindling fire of the Assassin Creed series, Assassin Creed III leaves Ezio and Italy far behind whilst delving into the rich history of New America and its heroic fight for freedom.
As well as this new setting, Assassins Creed III bags a huge array of improvements from fast and fluid combat to one of gaming’s most lively and vibrant open worlds, as well as a new main character, Connor, that seems more relatable and likeable than our dearest Ezio. However, through all the hyperbole, Assassins Creed III is still plagued by problems that have persisted throughout its five year cycle and as a result the end product feels slightly subdued and restricted.
Once again, Desmond Miles and his team are searching for answers and Apples in their modern day sections and as a result, Desmond must dive back into the Animus for another run. This time, he inhabits the half British, half Native American Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor for us non-Natives. Connor finds himself amongst the American War of Independence between the Redcoat British and Patriotic Americans – a time of turmoil and tyranny.
Ubisoft utilise the setting wonderfully and show an exuberant mix of fact and myth, once again weaving an intriguing narrative full of twists and turns. Connors interactions with historical figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson absorb the player and add a sense of historical authentication that is rarely found in gaming, as well as being surprisingly surreal. This combination of reality and fabrication allows for some epic moments such as Israel Putnams ‘Hold fire until you see the white of their eyes’ speech whilst the Battle of Bunker Hill explodes before your eyes.
Once again though, Desmond’s story fails to impress coming across empty and simply boring; too cryptic for intrigue and too jumbled to fully follow. His sections are certainly more exciting but as always, the real draw is inside the Animus.
Whether it be Boston, New York or the ambitious achievement that is the great Frontier, the game always looks beautiful and is always chock full of things to do, almost too full in some places. With the normal narrative run-through taking around 20 hours, Assassins Creed III is already a big game, but add in 5 hours of naval fights, 10 hours of side missions, 5 hours of extra quests and another 5 hours of explorations and you have yourself a ridiculous amount of playtime.
In spite of the limitless activities, it feels overwhelming. AC III never pushes you to follow one path meaning you can end up following the leads for 6 different missions at once; it creates a rather cramped experience. In addition, many side missions or quests feel superficial. The naval battles are certainly exciting but feel out of place, the trading mechanic has potential but has little pay off so little incentive and the Almanac page hunt for Benjamin Franklin seems based on unfair luck.
And sadly, these are problems that have stuck with the series since its ‘feature fest’ in Brotherhood and are imperfections that shouldn’t be present. Likewise, Assassins Creed III is full of bugs and glitches that are simply inexcusable, especially when they should have been ironed out 4 years ago! I found myself getting physically angry at the game due to some early nigh on impossible challenges.
There is one level near the beginning where you have to transport Paul Revere to rebel houses around the city and after skulking around the same area for 10 minutes and considering quitting, he suddenly chimes up that you should enter the very first house we looked in. Many missions still suffer from a NPC trigger animation and with the zombie like AI, and it can be absolute hell, heavily tainting your overall enjoyment.
For a series that prides itself on its flow and smoothness, these bugs can be a real game breaker. Another niggle that pulls you out of the experience is the excessive loading times and white screens. Every transition between cut scene and gameplay is accompanied by a white screen for two or three seconds. It’s small and shouldn’t be annoying (or present for that matter) but it draws the player out and disrupts the flow.
Luckily though, the climbing has been fixed and it is as good as Ubisoft claim. I found myself wanting to run to missions instead of using fast travel, mainly due to its exceptional fluidity and sense of speed. Although city free running is as great as ever, especially with the unique New World architecture, the mechanic really comes into its own when you reach the great outdoors. The environmental designers need an award due to the seamless blending of branches and trunks and all things organic. Witnessing Connor bound effortlessly across snowy tree tops is something to behold.
Animations, one of AC’s strongest areas, is as great as ever with little room for complaint. The new ‘refined’ combat system is not exactly revolutionised, more simplified. Ubisoft hoped that the so called ‘turtling’ style of fighting will be reduced but sadly combat still revolves around waiting and countering. There are occasions when Connor hits his stride and chains kills together like a berserker on Red Bull, but for many people, fights will usually end in the classic AC style. That is not to say that combat feels archaic though, Connor’s gruesome kill moves are gory and great and overall, fighting feels solid and much more enjoyable than previous entries.
All these improvements and problems fall to Ubisoft’s grace and downfall, their behemothic ambition. Taking the Assassins Creed formula away from the cramped alleys into the expansive frontier was always going to be difficult, and like any open world game, Assassin Creed III suffers from the size. Fog covering inadequate draw distances and a heavy scattering of muddy textures show that Ubisoft’s true vision is hindered by the current console capacities. Whether it is a sign that we need new more powerful machines to finally make developers visions come true is a tricky debate, but one that will most certainly use AC III as an example.
Assassins Creed III is a brilliant entry to the more than stellar franchise and it is rewarding and satisfying to see the series’ potential be fulfilled at last. Ubisoft have yet again forged a breathing world that is beyond detailed, only this time, it’s in the Land of the Free. Even more so than previously, the composite of fact and fiction works beautifully and it is great to see such renowned historical figures in the flesh (well, virtual flesh) whilst Connor is arguably a better protagonist than Ezio coming across more humble and relaetable as he fights for his family’s freedom and pride, as well as looking painfully badass.
Whilst it may not be perfect and in places may feel slightly disappointing, Assassins Creed III puts the slowly-waning series back on top with its absorbing story, revolutionary climbing mechanics and yet again, brilliantly written script worthy of Hollywood but Ubisoft’s latest creation is held back from greatness by technical limitations and as a result, feels more of a next gen demo than next gen game.
Assassins Creed III is ridiculously ambitious, jam packed of content and stuffed with life and energy. It is not the Revolution we needed, but Assassins Creed III is an epic conclusion to one of gaming’s greatest series.