OXCGN’s Assassin’s Creed 3 Review
An Evolution of a Revolution
by Nicholas Laborde
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
When in the Animus, Desmond takes control of a Native American ancestor known as Connor (whose original Mohawk name I won’t even attempt to spell).
The bulk of the game follows Connor through his trials and tribulations during one of the most pivotal points in history, the American Revolution.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed III has a mild case of identity crisis and is severely lacking in consistency, both in gameplay and polish.
Note: this review is spoiler-free.
2012: The end is nigh
Assassin’s Creed III picks up exactly where Assassin’s Creed: Revelations left off, with Desmond and co. entering a mysterious cave to unlock the final piece of the puzzle that we’ve been following since Assassin’s Creed in 2007.
That puzzle, in case you were wondering, is some sort of hidden secret that Those Who Came Before left behind for humanity to prevent the annihilation of our world in December 2012.
The central story of the game has Desmond reliving the memories of Connor, a Native American ancestor, through a genetic memory accessing device called the Animus, in order to find a key to get to the aforementioned secret.
Traveling back to the American Revolution, the game follows Connor from a young age until several years after the revolution itself has ended. Make no mistake: while this is a fun plot device, following Connor throughout his life isn’t nearly as interesting as it was with Ezio.
While we do get to experience some genuine emotion with him, such as the constant persecution of Native Americans by the British and colonists alike, ultimately he’s a very forgettable character who is harder to connect with.
Connor meets many famous figures throughout the game such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Samuel Adams, to name a few. They breathe life into the world, and allow the player to easily be swept up in revolutionary fervor.
All accusations of pro-American attitudes in this game should be dropped, because when you’re walking around colonial America, Patriots and Brits alike are against you. In fact, one of the primary antagonists of the game is a high-ranking member of the Continental Army.
When you’re not playing as Connor, you’ll find yourself back in the cave as Desmond.
These segments typically involve wandering around and listening to stories from Juno (one of the people from the first civilization that you’ve seen in the visualizations throughout the Ezio series).
To hear these stories, players will have to find “power sources” which are strange little cubes most likely made from the same material as the Apple of Eden. Obtaining these cubes requires Desmond to travel around the world in search of them, from Brazil to Abstergo Industries itself.
However, there are only three of these sequences, and unfortunately, it’s the closest we get to full Desmond gameplay.
Problems with pacing
The main problem with Assassin’s Creed III‘s story lies in the pacing. The introduction is nearly three hours long, and you won’t don Connor as a full Assassin until around five hours in. While I am perfectly content with a well-executed buildup, that isn’t the case here.
A solid hour or so consists of the Desmond segments, with five hours leading up to the “full” Assassin status and beginning of the “real” part of the game.
I had only logged around twelve hours when I had completed the story, which ultimately leaves the player with roughly six hours of narrative within the American Revolution itself, an amount far smaller than expected.
The story was just ridiculously underwhelming. We’ve been building up to this monumental climax for half a decade, and then it simply fizzles and cuts to the credits.
I obtained zero closure and zero satisfaction from the ending of Assassin’s Creed III.
Honestly, it’s the biggest disappointment of the franchise in terms of the storyline. There could have been so much more, but ultimately, it falls through and fails to deliver what the series has been promising.
While the story is by no means bad, you’ll constantly find yourself asking, “Why didn’t they do this? Why wasn’t this person included? Why did this event get no attention?”
On one hand, the combat system has been completely rebuilt, animations have been redone, thousands of NPCs can be on-screen at a time, kills are more brutal than ever before, and you’ll never get tired of the ways you can kill those dirty Redcoats. [Ed.: Careful, Nick, your American nationalism is beginning to show...]
On the other hand, the game is plagued by glitches that can make all of these advances feel null and void.
The game still revolves around free running throughout vast, expansive worlds, killing targets in a preferably silent manner, and eventually escaping.
You’ll get to run around beautifully rendered versions of colonial Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and a giant forest expanse in between them known as the Frontier.
Home on the wild Frontier
In this area, you’ll be able to partake in many of the new gameplay features, like hunting or tree climbing. While the ability to climb trees is nice, it can still be a tad difficult to discern which trees are able to be climbed, and at that, how to even get on to their branches.
The Frontier is also connected to the Homestead, which is the product of the subtle emphasis the series has been putting on renovating stores and properties. In this area owned by Connor, you’ll encounter settlers that may need help.
After helping them with whatever conundrum they have been plagued with, you’ll see them come to live on your land. By allowing these people to stay on your land, they become of use to you and can allow Connor to craft weapons, ammunition, and resources.
Arguably the biggest change in the game’s economy is how you trade. Instead of just finding a store for the item you need, you’re more likely to create it on your own.
By having members on the Homestead, you’ll be able to create gunpowder for your pistols, arrows for your bow, smoke bombs for creative escapes… the list goes on and on. All of this is managed through an accounting book at the central manor in the Homestead.
While a great feature, I didn’t even figure it out until over halfway through the game. It’s more annoying than interesting that I can’t just find a shop and buy ammunition.
You either have to find a traveling convoy to do your purchases, or find one of the very few stores that aren’t even marked on the map. Otherwise, you’ll have to craft it yourself, which you can’t do unless you know the recipes.
One of the biggest indirect changes is that you no longer have to buy armor (it’s not even in the game), and you probably won’t even need to buy better weapons. Since, as previously mentioned, stores aren’t that common, you won’t really be able to get better weapons.
I bought one sword, which I could never figure out how to change from my default one.
As you may know, doing battle in Assassin’s Creed has been a very easy, unchallenging, repetitive action. Ubisoft sought to change it, and they did, but it wasn’t necessarily for the better.
In the days of old, you would simply wait for an enemy to attack, press the counter button, and get an easy accompanying kill.
Now, countering doesn’t bring an attached kill; it only does as it says. Performing counter kills is excruciatingly difficult, and you’ll rarely find combat easy.
In terms of the 360 version, you press the B button to counter, and then have to quickly – and with perfect timing – press X immediately after to get a counter kill. This makes combat more engaging, but at the same time, exponentially more difficult.
I like the change because I wasn’t just doing the same tactic for every single encounter, but unfortunately, I died much more as a result. The AI is designed in such a way that when you’re mashing the attack button and are about to deliver that final killing blow, nearby enemies will strike to disrupt you.
It’s overall a very frustrating system, even though it’s a step above what the franchise has done previously.
Join the navy!
Early on, Connor gets command of a ship. A few main missions revolve around using the ship, but most of that naval content lies in the separate naval battle mode.
Simply meet a Harbormaster, pick a battle, and fight! You have a ship which you can set to various speeds, and have two different types of attacks.
First, you have the standard cannonballs, which deal massive damage and take out most smaller ships in one show. Simply turn your camera to the side, hold the right trigger, line up your shots, and reign hell upon your enemies.
You also have smaller “sniper” cannons controlled by the left trigger, which can be used for more precise shots on smaller ships, or to target critical points on larger ships.
In addition, you have access to a second type of cannonball that disables the masts of larger ships, rendering them immobile. Naturally, you would think this would allow you to board them in typical pirate style, which you can do… once, in a mission.
When I wasn’t improving the Homestead or doing missions, I easily found myself distracted with these addictive ship wars. Oh, and your “first mate” on the ship is easily a reference to Mr. Gibbs from Pirates, making it all the more enjoyable.
I was a huge fan of the initial multiplayer offerings in Brotherhood, but was very disappointed by the confusing mess that appeared in Revelations.
The multiplayer here takes the best of both titles, refines what we’re familiar with, and throws in a few new things to keep us busy.
Players are able to choose from one of three modes: traditional free for all, team-based objective games, and Wolfpack.
Free for all is self-explanatory, and has players set in a typical crowded environment in which they must stalk and eliminate their targets.
My personal favorite offering, though, is that of Wolfpack, the series’ first attempt at a cooperative mode. In this game type, four players must coordinate to take down groups of specific targets.
While it sounds light on the surface, it’s addicting. Based on your kills and how you perform them, the team earns a score. By attaining higher scores within a certain time frame, you’ll progress to higher levels and find a greater challenge.
It’s a simple, addicting, fulfilling cooperative take on Assassin’s Creed.
Overall, it’s a great addition to the game that feels natural and will never leave you bored. While the campaign may have not surprised as much as it should have, multiplayer sneaks up and steals the spotlight.
A revolutionary verdict
It’s a must-play for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.
However, it simply misses the mark and falls through in much of its execution. One moment you’ll be basking in the fervor of the revolution, and the next, you’ll want to stop playing due to a missing layer of polish and an unhealthy amount of glitches.
Connor simply isn’t as likeable a character as previous protagonists in the franchise, and while the entire purpose of the series was to tell the story of Desmond Miles, his parts in Assassin’s Creed III are very lackluster and don’t provide the closure that was expected.
I still recommend playing the game and all it has to offer, but lower your expectations considerably because you’ll be very disappointed if you don’t.