Review by Dark_Epathy
"Its moments are great, but the fun is often tempered by frustration."
Assassin's Creed III marks the (supposed) end of the series' current story arc. Does it meet expectations--or does it disappoint? Let's find out.
The game begins with modern-day protagonist Desmond Miles and his motley crew--estranged father William, spunky tech expert Rebecca, and cool know-it-all Shaun--arriving at a temple left behind by the First Civilization. Desmond and his comrades enter the temple in the hope of finding a means to prevent the impending solar flare. What they find instead, however, is another locked door--another missing key. Desmond must once again return to the Animus and experience the memories of yet another ancestor, Connor, in order to find the missing key and--hopefully--save the world.
Connor is an interesting case. Part Native American and part British, he's a distinctly American character. The story follows him from his childhood into his career as an Assassin, along the way chronicling the larger story of the thirteen colonies fighting for their independence. Connor is an active participant in the American Revolution, helping notable historical figures like Samuel Adams and George Washington, but his true goal is to find and eliminate the Templars working behind-the-scenes in the colonies, their goal to take control once independence is won. Connor's story leads him from one target to the next, but rather than just empty names on a list like the targets of Assassin's Creed II, the men here are far more fleshed out. Connor has a personal vendetta against two in particular, and his relationships with these principal villains culminate in some truly brutal, dramatic, and tragic confrontations.
Desmond, meanwhile, must contend with the Templars of his own time. In order to sustain the temple's functions, power sources must be intermittently inserted into the temple's infrastructure. These power sources are Templar property, however, and Desmond must make excursions out into the world to find them. These modern-day missions are short but very sweet, the culmination of Desmond's prior gameplay segments in the previous games. At the same time, the missions help to resolve some plot threads, though their execution tends to be mixed.
In terms of gameplay, Assassin's Creed III plays largely like its predecessors. The player is left with a huge open world consisting of the Frontier--a large forest landscape reminiscent of The Kingdom from the original Assassin's Creed--and two cities, Boston and New York. In-between major missions, the player can partake in a variety of optional side missions. Some of these missions are satisfying and endearing. Recruiting settlers to the homestead, Connor's own tract of land and personal headquarters, is fun and rewarding. The characters here have their own personalities and stories, and, in return for helping them with their problems, Connor can gain access to a wide array of item-crafting options, such as ammunition upgrades and trading convoys.
Some cool exploratory and infiltration levels exist, too, but they are overtaken by a gross amount of extraneous filler. A majority of the game's optional content takes the form of item collection--finding feathers, chests, and almanac pages across the Frontier and the two major cities. Many of this content is tedious, time-consuming, and not necessarily fun, though the Assassin Recruit micro-management feature, coming back from Brotherhood and Revelations, is still fun. The Assassin Recruits have an expanded skill set in this game, allowing them to lure enemies away, ambush them, or even disguise themselves as soldiers and take Connor into enemy territory. For the most part, however, tangible benefits are few and far between, and much of the optional content seems intended to pad out game length.
Problems exist with Connor's story missions, as well. The optional objectives, in the form of "Full Synchronization," return from the last two games. While in the middle of a mission, Connor will have to fulfill certain requirements and abide by constraints in order to achieve 100% of a mission. Some of these optional objectives are sensible, such as remaining undetected throughout a mission or killing no guards. Others, like not shoving any passerby during a chase through a city or tackling targets from above, are arbitrary and needlessly difficult. More often than not, the optional objectives frustrate and annoy than really enhance, especially as they count towards game completion.
There are improvements, though, notably in the combat. Connor has three major moves against enemies, aside from his standard attack, those being Counter, Break Defense, and Parry. Combat becomes a rock-paper-scissors affair, with some enemies being susceptible only to certain attacks. The combat is mostly still just as easy as ever, but its a joy to watch, and kill streaks are more satisfying to pull off now that they require more than just the mashing of a single button.
Assassination options are also fairly varied. Connor has access to the old standbys, such as the poison darts and the pistol, but he also has the a bow and the new rope darts, which provide more options when sneaking around and dispatching guards. Still, the most efficient weapon remains the hidden blade.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned design issues become only worse when glitches abound. Given the size of the game, it's understandable that there would be bugs, and most of them are harmless. But, occasionally, glitches will interfere with missions and optional objectives. Full synchronization is a difficult-enough affair already, but glitches can further complicate matters and frustrate the player. The frame rate also ranges, and, from time to time, the game will lock up, loading in new textures and models that pop out of nowhere. These are minor annoyances, but they compound the problems that are already there and temper an otherwise fun and arresting game.
Overall, Assassin's Creed III is a quality title, though it suffers from flaws. Design issues, some pacing problems, and a number of bugs and glitches prevent the game from being the standout it could have been. Moreover, the ending to the game--well, it opens up a can of worms that had no business being opened.
With all of this said, I recommend the game to those interested in it, but its flaws are there and tarnish the image.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/07/13
Game Release: Assassin's Creed III (US, 10/30/12)
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