I liked the idea of the first Assassin’s Creed game more than I enjoyed the actual game itself. Desmond, our present day hero, lives out the lives of his ancestors through genetic memories. The second game seemed like it was an excellent evolution of the concept and was so addicting it became the first game I ever got all of the achievements for. The developers seemed to feel differently about how perfect the game was though, as after Assassin’s Creed 2 they released two other games that gave you more things to do with your time when you weren’t busy stabbing someone. Multiplayer was added as were other features. These two games really didn’t grab my attention. I guess I wasn’t really interested in those features. I played the game to stab villains. Not pay others to do it for me.
But anyway, the long wretched storyline of Assassins vs Templar/Abstergo appears to finally be at an end, with the release of Assassin’s Creed 3. The game starts during the years leading up to the American Revolution and ends right about when the British leave the thirteen colonies. There’s a bit of a twist early on, as you don’t immediately start the game as Connor, the Assassin of choice for this generation. Eventually though, and I do mean eventually, as it takes forever to get to the stabbing, you take control of Connor as he heads out to become a man and get his revenge for stuff I’m not going to spoil.
The early levels do give you an idea of how to play the game. You learn to track your prey through the snow, how to set traps you’ll never use again in the game, and you learn how to use a bow and arrow, which you’ll also never use again. You play hide and seek. Then plot device happens and it all goes to hell.
The main storyline (or the subplot, I can’t tell. Who is the main story line here, Desmond or Connor?) follows the course of how the American Revolution began. How it might have been instigated for no good reason, and how those dastardly Templars are behind it all. Or are they? The story does a pretty fair job of treading a fine line when it comes to making the British seem not nearly as villainous as they might. I know the developers went well out of their way to allay the fears of the British buying public that Redcoats would be the overwhelming bad guys when the game was first announced. And it’s true, sort of. The generic troops are there doing their jobs, and the generals make you wonder if it’s really the whole crisis is not just manufactured by some power grabbing opportunists. And at times your blade will be turned on Americans, so it’s not all about killing the English.
I enjoyed watching the hoops the developers jumped through to make sure nobody was offended. Even the Templars come off as looking not so bad at times, which is remarkable considering they’ve been the bad guys from day one in the series.
The audio was particularly good too. All of the voice actors did a great job with their performances. The sound effects were spot on as well. Running around in the snow, hearing it crunch beneath your feet, very subtle but effective. And then you’re out at sea in a running battle and you hear a noise, so you look over your shoulder and see a massive wave about to crash in on you, so you throw the wheel over and bring the boat into the wave just in time to hear it crashing over you. You survived it though, and your crew gives a cheer because they know you saved their lives with that move. Not much else you can do to immerse a person in the experience I think.
Not everything is so enjoyable though. While the shipboard gameplay that has been introduced to the series in this game is very fun, there seem to have been a lack of time to test some of the other parts of the game thoroughly. You quickly discover that horseback riding is a massive waste of time. Your horse will almost intentionally find rocks to climb onto that cannot easily be escaped from, often while you are chasing an opponent that you must stay close to. And even when you manage to keep your horse on the road and away from the purgatory of cliffs, you must deal with the fact that all of the horses in the game have the lungs of a fly, and can only sprint for seconds at a time before slowing down again. And there’s nothing on the HUD to show you how much stamina the horse has, you have to go by what the horse is doing. Spurring your horse on too soon will cause it to neigh at you, and I soon realized that I could get where I was going just as fast by running on foot as any horse could take me.
Other things to keep in mind. For some reason when fast traveling across the map, the developers insist on making you travel to the exit point of the map you are on instead of the place you are going to, thus making you sit through twice as much loading as is needed. Had they included the ability to fast travel via the super zoomed out map this might have been acceptable, but instead they chose to force you to do it their way. Lazy. And then there is the trading system. You can sell what you hunt, and eventually you can build up your homestead to include farmers, craftsmen and hunters. So far so good. But if you try to send caravans of your goods to market you must go through the tedious task of selecting an individual item one at a time, say a deer skin, instead of selecting as many deer skins as will fit onto the wagon. It’s like they don’t want you to enjoy this aspect of the game. And that’s a real shame, because it could have been a major part of the game. Or rather it should have been a major functioning part of the game, as it’s just about the only way to make money to upgrade yourself and your ship.
The major reason for the ship is for you to open up trade routes by presumably destroying blockading British Navy ships, but you get no immediate reward for doing so, and you have to complete the process to build convoys that can travel across the sea. Of course they don’t tell you how to do it. You have to figure it out on your own. Or perhaps find out using a nifty strategy guide maybe.
I wish I were done complaining about broken gameplay items, but sadly I’m not. Hand to hand combat has been modified. The button layout has changed. I won’t say if it’s for the better or not, as that’s a personal preference. I found it easy enough to adapt to, but some features were just not as responsive as I would like. Taking someone hostage to use as a human shield, for example, is supposed to be easy but winds up being a pain that only works some of the time. Using firearms is also awkward. You select your pistol or musket, then press the button to fire on your target. Except you accidentally touched the joystick and so you fire on the guy beside him. You can go into an aiming mode, but the combat moves so fast that it’s often hopeless to do so.
Please don’t get me wrong. The game is not a complete disaster by any stretch. It’s just incredibly awkward and overly complicated. When it’s working it’s awesome. All of the things that made the series so enjoyable are still there, and some of it’s been improved. Climbing to the highest point on the map is still a treat. And now they’ve added the ability to rock climb. Not everywhere of course, but if there’s a fissure in the rock, it can probably be scaled.
And the sea missions are a sight to behold, especially at night in stormy weather. The water crashing around you, using the waves to shield your ship from incoming fire, taking down the enemies sails to gain an advantage, all of it is fantastic. I want more. Like Hoth on Shadows of the Empire, I want this to become a new game entirely, or at the least some new DLC.
Another thing the game gets right is the graphics. The game looks amazing. Be it the streets of Boston or the forests of the wilderness, the game does a fantastic job of making you think you’re right there. The cities are enormous, stretching forever. The rooftop running which was such a strong part of the earlier games is back, but its not the same. Boston and New York are frontier towns at this point, basically, so any rooftop running only lasts for a few houses before you’re back on the ground. And while you can run from tree to tree in the wilderness, it’s much more structured than I’d like. A patch of trees here can be navigated, but then that tree over there cannot be reached even though it’s just as close as this one over here. I guess it’s not a huge deal, unless its the winter and you’re having to slog through waist high snow drifts.
The multiplayer, aside from having the most obnoxious menu system in the history of the known world, is actually just as enjoyable as I remembered. Sneaking around trying to look just like an AI copy of yourself while searching out your prey is a real treat, just like it was when it was first introduced. I don’t know that I’ll be playing it religiously, but if that’s your thing you’ll find it just the way you left it.
The longer I played this the more obvious it became that the game was rushed out the door. It is not finished. It’s not far from being finished, the game only crashed on me two or three times, but all of the minor annoyances that should have been caught in testing and fixed were clearly not fixed. Maybe a patch is coming, I don’t know. I also don’t care. The game isn’t done.
Story: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
It’s a shame that Ubisoft decided to ship the game in its current state, as with some more polishing this game could have been an all time great. As it is it’s a game that leaves you to wonder just what they were thinking half of the time.
What Video Game Release for January 2014 are you most excited for?
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