We have an official review of Assassin’s Creed III, but I too wanted to share my thoughts in a more relaxed manner that wouldn’t be so much informative and my impressions of the game but rather the realization that the game failed to live up to my expectations. Now, by disappointing I don’t mean bad. I don’t hate or even strongly dislike Assassin’s Creed III, the bar was set too high to reach. How could it ever be a satisfying ending with the world at stake?
Over the course of five games, we’ve minimally played the adventures of one Desmond Miles. The unwilling assassin who, over time, became the man he needed to be. Desmond’s transformation from the whiny guy who was abducted, not knowing his fate to becoming a pivotal and instrumental person that would be the world’s destruction or its saving grace. There was one final, missing piece from it all, locked away in another ancestor: Connor, or more commonly misspelled and mispronounced: Ratonhnhaké:ton. Similarly to Assassin’s Creed II, Connor is inducted into the Assassin’s Brotherhood by revenge. Also, like the first Assassin’s Creed, there’s a stable of 9 people to be assassinated in order for there to be peace and the Templars eliminated. These similarities strike the character’s balance in which Connor only speaks when needed and hardly has the personality of Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
The game thankfully eschews the frustrations of tower defense and bomb building introduced in Revelations, but unfortunately replaces them with limited free running and a meaningless Homestead to build up. The free running system was tweaked because of the introduction of trees and running above your enemies, but it breaks when you try to use it on buildings or natural walls on the environment. I found myself in more follies than ever before, jumping to unintended directions, not grabbing hold of walls, taking cover on a chimney instead of climbing over or going around it. Blame the player or controller all you want, but the criminal here is the controls. They work against you in an attempt to make certain things easier, but it is actually harder. I strictly played main story missions and was able to beat the game handily without recruiting assassins (besides the story-related one) or improving the Homestead. I give kudos to the developers by not making it a requirement, but also shows that those elements are fluff, busy-work even. It’s still an amazing sight to call in assassins to do your dirty work, but it didn’t seem important or relevant to Connor’s interests to pursue.
The setting and atmosphere surrounding the turn of the 18th century is fantastic. For many of us who are American, an Assassin’s Creed game that takes place around the birth of our nation and a twist on the history books made each mission and story beat feel important and influential, even if Connor was conveniently placed at key moments in time. These events felt bigger than the Crusades or Renaissance, perhaps appealing to my interests or knowledge of the events.
Naval battles provide the most interesting departure in gameplay. There have been vehicle missions sprinkled throughout Ezio’s storyline when DaVinci was involved, but here we have a fully realized warship minigame that is hectic, thrilling, and distinct one battle from the next. How or why Connor is given his own ship is pure luck and a good example of his mixed heritage, despite his father’s lack of sea legs. It’s a conflicting element we ignore because of the quality of these optional adventures. It’s a damn shame this gameplay didn’t make its way to the Multiplayer component.
Combat is the best it’s ever been, but follows in the shadow of Batman: Arkham City but doesn’t get close enough to perfect it. I found myself mostly using the tomahawk for battle and assassinations. The hidden blade still had its usefulness but the tomahawk just looks so damn good in action. Did anyone buy two-handed weapons? I didn’t, as it didn’t fit Connor’s heritage. Those weapons are slow and heavy. Connor is a nimble warrior, able to use any weapon to deliver a killing blow to anyone and chaining kills can be pure bliss, when it goes right.
How about those chase and eavesdrop mission, huh? The eavesdropping ones were certainly frustrating without checkpoints. The chase missions however, are a different breed. They were mostly okay until you had to give chase to Charles Lee as the final mission in the game. The path in which to chase Lee is obscured and not detailed. Only when I had been inside the burning ship had I gotten confused, a place that you can climb where there isn’t fire isn’t the path to take and results in a desync. It turns out that you must wait for a wall to crumble before going through it and then outside to chase him. I’ve seen nothing but trouble from friends on Facebook and Twitter experiencing the same issue and getting upset to the point of stopping – literally minutes from the end of the game! It’s amazing these issues might have been overlooked in QA. There was a patch that supposedly addressed it, but seems to barely be effective still.
Assassins’s Creed III is unsatisfying in narrative. December 21st, 2012 has fast approached due to negligence of the humans as the ones who came before have left information to ensure people survive. Desmond is given a choice but we do not get to make one, and worst of all – he dies. At least, is what we’re led to believe. A character we barely get to spend time with sacrifices himself and potentially unleashes a dominant force upon the world, perhaps. Religious implications aside, if he is dead, he may rise from the dead to continue his adventures but you can’t help but be let down in the final cutscene. It doesn’t deserve a new one, but the way things were written, there was nothing better. A grim circumstance no doubt, but you can’t help but feel there could be something better. So now, if the story continues to Assassin’s Creed IV, it’ll be a next-gen title with possibly an entirely new protagonist or a newly-resurrected Desmond.
My time on Xbox 360 and PC with Assassin’s Creed III was infuriating at times, yes. But I still couldn’t help but enjoy the fluid combat, gorgeous visuals, and great voice acting. There’s plenty of side-missions, things to collect, forts to conquer, and seas to chart. But in the end, it gives the game variety that builds up your completion percentage. I will say that playing out altered American history is none-the-less enjoyable. You’ll get plenty of value for your wallet, but the conclusion the five-game arc comes up a bit short and is why it’ll be mildly disappointing to long-time fans.