Review by ChickenBot
""It is a road that will not always take me where I wish to go. But I will travel down it, nonetheless.""
Assassin's Creed III is the third numbered entry in the critically-acclaimed series, and, as stated by Ubisoft, the final game in Desmond Miles' story. The game opens where its predecessor Assassin's Creed: Revelations left off, with Desmond and co. arriving at the First Civilization temple they have been led to by the guiding voices of Juno, Tinia and Minerva. This time, Desmond will re-live the memories of ancestor Connor Kenway as he fights his way through the American Revolution, encountering figures such as George Washington, Charles Lee, and Samuel Adams. Ubisoft built up a lot of hype surrounding the game, which allegedly has had a three-year development cycle. Does it live up, however?
The graphics are certainly stellar, when it comes down to it, but even after its three-year development cycle the game suffers from a lot of glitches and awkward animations. There are slowdowns in some parts too; AC3 has a much larger scale than its preceding games did, meaning there will always be something big going on on-screen during the missions - something that the engine, it seems, does its best to handle but is susceptible to failing at. Desmond's arm annoys me a lot too, because it can phase through Shaun and Rebecca and William as though they were ghosts; a very basic glitch that really should not be in the game. Fortunately, Ubisoft is releasing patches to bit by bit fix them. On the plus side though, Connor's kill animations are to die for (pun semi-intended), and are very satisfying to pull off too. The game is more brutal than previous games but also feels more fluid at times. The set-pieces in the Captain Kidd missions, unlocked by finding Peg Leg Trinkets around the map, highlight some breathtaking Uncharted-esque moments. I also have to praise the addition of animals and hunting, which is a nice way to kill time every now and then and make some money to boot (though I have to say, the horses look like a step backwards from previous games). Ubisoft also deserves praise for the Frontier location, which is a great and expansive map full of life and places to explore. It helps you can free-run across the treetops now, which feels great to do.
The game has a cascade of great twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and overall a very engaging story. However, when you dig into it, it can sometimes be a little inconsistent. There are some great highlights: points where the game's "Oh my God" factor shoots up and grips you strongly. Yet on the other side of the coin we have some less memorable segments, which could potentially have been a lot better. The slew of characters that the American Revolution could have used also feels slightly underutilized; Benjamin Franklin, for all the hype surrounding him, does not play a pivotal or even significant role in the game. AC3's protagonist, Connor, also lacks the charm of Ezio or the style of Altair. While I understand they wanted to do a different type of character, I felt they could have done a better job of getting us to invest in him emotionally. A common complaint about the game I agree with is that you don't really get to see Connor reach out to people much in the main story, unless you do the Homestead missions.
As for Desmond's side, again, there were certainly highlights. It's also safe to say you'll be playing as him a lot more often in this game than you had in previous titles, as in-between Animus sessions he sets out to retrieve power sources. They're a great change of pace, and he gets some truly great moments in which he demonstrates what he's learned through the bleeding effect, but on the downside the payoff does not feel as satisfying as it should. After four games of build-up, a lot of questions go unanswered. You won't be encountering all those Pieces of Eden you saw while solving Subject Sixteen's "Truth" puzzles, nor will many of the cryptic things from there come into play. It's an outright shame too, for the Truth segments in previous games had done a great job of giving you chills and anticipating further elaboration.
Now here is where Assassin's Creed III really shines. The gameplay is fantastic. The combat system is a lot more fluid and the difficulty is slightly harder than that of Ezio's games, which many had complained to having been too easy. While at first series veterans will despise the changes in the control system, it does grow on you and by the end of it is, in my opinion, an improvement. Free-running no longer requires you hold X alongside R1 - as long as you have the latter held down Connor will free-run along the path you guide him through. This also means he won't make any stupid awkward jumps. Often times in previous entries you would see a ledge as you're running and think running onwards and jumping toward it is a good idea, only to find it's not reachable at all. Luckily AC3 automatically keeps Connor from making such movements and putting the judgement solely in the hands of the player, who can decide whether or not to hit the X button and attempt the jump.
As with the story, I would also have to complain that every now and then the gameplay can be inconsistent. A few of the story missions have some ridiculous Full Synchronization objectives. While it is true these are just optional, they can come off as just plain stupid at times. For example Connor has to race to somebody to save their life, yet according to the optional objectives he, rather than rushing to him immediately, went out of his way to kill two other random soldiers on the way. The Assassin Recruits feature from Brotherhood and Revelations makes a return, but feels like a step back. Luckily they can not die anymore, as they are no longer NPCs you rescue but their own actual characters. This means you only get one female recruit and around five male, which is a bit annoying for people like me who like a more balanced-out ratio. My main complaint, however, is that they're only usable in Boston and New York. They don't travel alongside Connor in the Frontier, where you'll be spending quite a large amount of time playing. Yet despite one or two shortcomings, I would have to say I thoroughly enjoyed AC3's gameplay. The side-missions certainly help. As Ezio did with Monterrigioni back in AC2, Connor will have his own manor in the Davenport Homestead, only the citizens here aren't random character models you'll see in other places. You actually encounter and befriend the people who will move here; farmers, a doctor, a miner, a huntress.... they're all some very affable characters with their own little story arcs, all of which you, as Connor, will help them deal with. They become a closely-knit community living with Connor, and it's the Homestead missions where he is at his best, being a great and likeable friend to his people. Watching the Homestead grow was definitely a great part of the game for me. My only regret was that your assassin recruits don't move in there; which would have been a great way to show they would follow Connor in his travels too, and allow him to call them in the Frontier rather than just inside city walls.
The Naval missions too, are worthy of notice. You take control of the Connor's ship, the Aquila, and alongside first mate Mr Faulkner (voiced by the same person who played Joshamee Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean!) and his crew must sail across the Atlantic battling other ships both large and small, as well as against massive forts. They're great to play and epic in scale.
Disappointed Jesper Kyd isn't back? I was too. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the new composer, Lorne Balfe, has done a great job with the score. The main theme in particular deserves mention. Often times I would find myself having just left my screen on the "Assassin's Creed III" option on the XMB simply to listen to it. The audio suffers from the occasional technical glitch, but otherwise is well done. The voice acting is great as well, and Nolan North continues to offer us his stunning performance as Desmond. As I stated Connor is not a very charming nor fun character, and his voice acting can come off as slightly awkward, but it seems more intentional to me. In fact, it feels natural and consistent with his character. Noah Watts does an equally great job with him as an indifferent and cold character when he must, and as a brash and reckless fighter when the role calls for it. Adrian Hough deserves a special mention for nailing his portrayal of Haytham, who is a great character throughout.
There is simply so much to do in the game that it's quite inevitable you'll be pumping hours into it. While it's hard to get invested in Connor, the story is interesting enough and has a slew of great villains, so it's tough to put down as well. As for side-missions, they're something that makes the game really shine. I would find it hard not to be a fan of the Homestead or Naval or Captain Kidd missions. They all have variety to them, and while there is the occasional black sheep, they are for the most part very enjoyable. There's simply a lot to do in the game, and watching the Homestead grow is satisfying. Hunting is, in my opinion, not as refined as in Red Dead Redemption, but it's a nice way to while away some free time. The animals and environments are lush and full of life, and combat is fun. On the downside however, while the build-up to the main story is incredible, on subsequent playthroughs when you know everything that's going to happen, it may feel like a bit of a drag to have to go through Connor's "origin story" again. The first playthrough was a very memorable experience for sure, with some great twists, but I feel as far as replayability goes, AC2 and Brotherhood had done a better job, thanks to their better pacing.
Should I Buy It?
Despite its shortcomings Assassin's Creed III does not fail to deliver. There is a lack of payoff that will leave you wanting more, but for the most part the game is a fun and memorable experience. The side-stories are great, and while Connor can feel slightly robotic and mechanical at times, his supporting cast, Achilles and the others at Davenport, are likeable enough to bring out the best in him every now and then. The mission variety is better than ever as far as the series is concerned, and people who complained the previous games were too repetitive should be happy as a result. However Connor seems less like a silent assassin and more of a reckless, brash and naive one, which many would complain about but I find was a worthwhile change of pace. As for Desmond, I maintain the story really felt like it was missing something, but his missions were a very welcome change of pace. Awarding the game a 9/10, I would have to go with yes.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/29/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed III (US, 10/30/12)
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