Posted on November 2, 2012 AT 08:53am
The more I think about Assassin’s Creed 3, the more I find myself thinking that this really is the “darkest” game in the series. The main set piece for the game might be the colonies in the newly-founded United States around the time of the Revolutionary War, which should convey hope, but instead the game’s tone was very, very dark and focused on the concept of vengeance. In a way, it is a welcome departure to have an Assassin’s Creed game take itself very seriously, but in the same vein, it might be too much of a departure for its own good sometimes.
One thing that became very clear to me while playing as Connor was that Ezio Auditore is the star of the Assassin’s Creed series, no matter what happens in the future or how it is sold, this series was all about Ezio. We followed Ezio’s path from a young playboy who cared about nothing but pleasure and himself to a man with a very important purpose who was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders for decades but did it with a sense of style. Connor’s story is that of vengeance, bloody vengeance and nothing else. Much like Ezio, Connor finds himself turning to becoming an assassin after personal tragedy befalls him, and this tragedy leads him on a bloody quest to eliminate the Templars from New England. Of course, his path is not for a greater cause, nor does it seem like he cares at all about any greater cause outside of his desire for revenge and for keeping his home village safe and undisturbed.
Connor just doesn’t have that greater purpose.
We see such little development in Connor throughout his story that I’d be hard-pressed to want to play another game with him in it. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy his own person “Kill Bill” rampage, because I did, but as a character I found him oddly compelling and that the story was held together by the cast of supporting characters more than it was him. Connor does have some unique abilities that have to do with his heritage of being a Native American, as his hunting and trapping skills are top notch, as are his climbing skills. These, of course, become crucial gameplay elements in Assassin’s Creed 3 and take advantage of the overhauled control scheme.
I gotta say, a part of me was still holding “A” a lot while I ran or climbed just out of habit, or holding the right bumper to block even if it wasn’t doing anything. The game controls rather fluidly and you have better control than ever before. Sadly, the missions tend to take less and less advantage of this newfound freedom in the controls and in many cases, the game feels like you are on rails to get the storytelling across as opposed to utilizing the core gameplay seen in past Assassin’s Creed titles. If the last few games were considered easy, Assassin’s Creed 3 would have to be considered difficult, as I’m not sure I remember ever having to retry as many missions as I had to in this game. Sometimes it was good, other times it was just frustrating because of poor controls or complete lack of freedom.
Instead of having a few unique ways to handle a mission, there really seemed to be one “right” way of doing it and then a bunch of wrong ways that either resulted in a mission failure or completing the mission with none of the optional objectives anywhere near met. In a way it detracts from one of the main joys of the series; coming up with ways to assassinate your target and feel accomplished. I understand what they were doing, but I’m just not sure that I really enjoyed it. This, on top of an abundance of guards and what felt like less environments to explore like previous games were a bit disappointing, as it felt less like an open world and more like a big place that was called an open world but gave you less and less in the way of options to explore and enjoy it.
Like the previous few games, Ubisoft felt the need to focus on the weird side missions that aren’t really a part of the core gameplay. Some of them are fun, other ones are a chore and will inevitably just be skipped. Homesteading is kind of a cool idea, but kind of tedious as well and ship battles is a cool idea on paper, but I’m not sure when I’m playing Assassin’s Creed that I associate it with captaining a ship and having epic ship battles. If anything it is worlds better than the awful tower defense game in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
The game finally moves the main storyline ahead quite a bit with Desmond, but still doesn’t really endear you to him all-that-much. You get get to play as him a whole lot more and find out a bit more about him and his family, which is a good thing. You’ll probably find yourself having more fun starting riots in colonial Boston and New York, though, as well as setting traps for rabbits while hunting down some bigger game to trade in for money. Connor’s kills are also just spectacular to watch and execute and makes battling guards actually a bit more fun as you’ll wonder where he’ll plant his tomahawk.
Presentation, graphics and sound fall right in line with the other games in the series, with the kind of improvements that you’d expect from a yearly franchise, meaning good but not overwhelming. There is some good attention to detail throughout the game and it actually feels like you are in colonial Boston and New York. The multiplayer isn’t going to blaze any trails, but new modes, maps and character models makes it interesting, although I gotta say that I had the menus freeze up on me quite a bit while trying to log into Ubisoft’s ill-fated Uplay.
SUMMARY: There are a couple of important leaps forward for the series in this game, while other parts of the game are sadly a few steps back. Connor didn’t turn out to be as memorable of a character as Ezio was and the missions seemed to lack some of the pizazz that they had in older games. The changes in controls and fights are a great addition to the series and I can’t wait to see what is next for them, just hope that it is in a more interesting character’s skin next time.
- The Good: Overhauled fighting and control scheme makes the series feel fresh again.
- The Bad: Connor is kind of a flat character.
- The Ugly: Ubisoft’s Uplay.
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