Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 30th October, 2012
Even though the Assassin’s Creed games are some of the most tedious I have ever played, the fifth installment, while keeping the game play style consistent with its predecessors, adds extra features in an attempt to create a larger and more engaging world.
This time around, you’re not playing as boring Altair or Ezio “Mama Mia!” Auditore. For the majority of Assassin’s Creed III, you follow the journey of the half Native American Ratonhnhaké:ton, nicknamed Connor ‘cause you gotta give the voice actors a break.
Do minor changes and additions elevate the game above the earlier releases? I guess you’ll just have to skip to the bottom of the page to find out…
Train Tracks And Tornados
That sub-heading will make sense eventually. Trust me.
I’ve never liked the way the characters control in this series. So much so, that I just had to give it the nickname: ‘Train Track Movement.
Whenever you’re running close to buildings, crates, hay stacks or even gravestones (seriously?) it’s very common for Connor to automatically ‘lock’ onto them if you get too close, forcing you to awkwardly ‘unstick’ yourself from the object and step around it to begin sprinting off again.
Since checkpoints in missions can be very far apart, especially the last chase, they can be failed pretty much instantly by a miniscule nudge of the joystick, making Connor run up some boxes or stay balancing on a scaffold. It’s almost game breaking.
combat isn’t challenging enough to the point where I feel threatened by anything
Not only is it absolutely unnecessary to be stealthy in situations where it wasn’t required, but just like Assassin’s Creed II, combat isn’t challenging enough to the point where I feel threatened by anything, such as a legion of musket-wielding soldiers, since I was positive I could take them all out singlehandedly.
Here is the strategy of fighting in Assassin’s Creed III:
- Weak soldiers: Smack ‘em with your axe!
- Stronger soldiers: Counter. Push B. Smack ‘em with your axe!
- When you get bored: Use your rope dart.
The number of enemies makes virtually no difference since, once again, soldiers either foolishly attack you one at a time or can, if two attack , can be killed simultaneously. And not only does pressing ‘B’ block attacks coming from any direction, but many of the moves Connor does involve so many swings and stabs that Assassin’s Creed III’s combat feels like you’re shouting commands at a tornado holding an axe.
Fights are still necessarily gruesome, even if some enemies can survive getting stabbed through their neck and face. But the best this game gives you are the rare moments of coordinating soldiers and especially piloting a ship, the latter of which is more engaging than anything the entire series has shown me so far.
Turning your massive ship to face an enemy vessel and adjusting your speed with the sails before ‘charging’ your cannons is appropriately methodical, and extremely satisfying, like 3D Space Invaders. My only complaint is that you can dodge enemy cannonballs hitting your ship if you duck. How the hell does that make any sense?!
A Big World With Nothing In It
The first Assassin’s Creed, and to a lesser extent, Assassin’s Creed II had worlds that felt like boxes filled with obnoxious hiding spots like roof gazebos or people sitting on benches for absolutely no reason. However, the world and character animations are impressively detailed here, and the simplistic layout of trees and buildings never feels like it’s trying too hard to look pretty. No aurora borealis’s in sight.
With the inclusion of open wilderness, dense forests and bustling towns, the world feels truly alive. Sadly, if it weren’t for the stunted combat, it would be equally as immersive.
Even though fast traveling is available, you actually get placed at the entrance of your selection, so you never feel like you’re just teleporting around the world since you still have to manually walk into the area like normal.
I had a surprising amount of fun simply running through these towns and forests. Although sprinting is something you’ll do a lot here, which completely kills the atmosphere when you watch one of the many many many forlorn cinematics, before playing as Connor who may as well say “I’m sorry to hear that…RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!”
Every Assassin’s Creed game seems to think we’ll care about side missions and mini games just because they’re there, when the only reward is money, if that, but the only things I purchased were two weapons that were necessary to complete the story…so…yeah…nothing.
Also, I don’t think you can praise a game for having mini games based on games that already exist, like checkers.
the story is needlessly padded and suffers from introducing too many characters
Unfortunately, the story is needlessly padded and suffers from introducing too many characters and not giving them enough personality. Exactly like Assassin’s Creed II, it only took me several hours to intentionally stop paying attention to what was happening.
It’s a shame because the four most important characters: Connor, Charles Lee, Achilles and Haytham Kenway, the last of which you actually control for a good chunk at the start, develop into totally relatable people, with arguments and discussions that make them feel flawed and human, even if Charles may as well be constantly twirling his ‘I’m Evil’ moustache.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Desmond Miles plot until now, and it’s because it doesn’t matter. Even now, after five years of games, books and short films, the ancestral memory idea still feels like a tacked on concept that’s just there to make the games seem special and unique when they’re really not. There’s not even enough substance for it to be jarring when it pops up in the plot.
The “science” involved in this series is so vague it may as well not exist, and after a few hours I just gave up asking questions like “If getting hurt desynchronizes me does that mean Connor never got hit by anything?” or “Why did Connor play Checkers for over 15 minutes for no money? What an idiot.”
It’s easy to see how much love and attention went into Assassain’s Creed III, and it’s clearly made for fans that are familiar with the series’ mechanics since I myself had to look online to find out how to fire a gun or tackle somebody…
The graphics are decent, the world has excellent detail and the voice acting isn’t bad either. But, problems such as ‘Train Track Movement’, pitifully easy combat and a padded storyline hinder the game once again.
Not terrible, but just above passable.
Assassin’s Creed III Score: 7.4
Why so high?:
- The world is detailed and feels ‘real’
- Relatively varied missions
- Boat combat is FUN FUN FUN!
- Good voice acting
- Several characters show great development
- Combat is visceral and pretty fun to WATCH
Why so low?:
- Incredibly awkward controls with movement and combat
- Story is meandering and uninteresting
- Side missions and mini games are unappetizing
- Desmond Miles’ story is worthless
- Too many damn cinematics!