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Assassin’s Creed III Review

Assassin's Creed III Review

Assassin’s Creed III was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and first released on October 30, 2012 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Though the name might be misleading, it is actually the fifth game in the Assassin’s Creed series. Thus far, every numbered game has introduced a new protagonist to the series. This time around we take control of Ratonhnhaké:ton, or as he is more commonly called, Connor.

The game takes place in the 1700’s, around the time of the American Revolution, and Connor is half Mohawk Native American and half British. The game centers around Connor’s struggle to protect his people from the encroaching American and British soldiers. As with previous Assassin’s Creed games, there is also a parallel story being told in the present day through the character of Desmond.

So how does Assassin’s Creed III stack up against previous games? Let us take a look.

Gameplay

If you have played an Assassin’s Creed game before, you should be very familiar with the gameplay already; it is mostly unchanged. Connor can climb cliffs, boxes, and buildings, just like in previous games. The only major change to the list of climbable objects is trees. Though a little unintuitive at times, Connor can leap from branch to branch without alerting anything below to his presence. This is quite useful when attempting to hunt.

There is a whole new minigame in the form of hunting in Assassin’s Creed III. Connor can place traps, lay down bait, and interact with clues to hunt down many different animals such as rabbits and bears. Hunting yields goods like pelts which can be sold for a worthwhile amount of money.

Speaking of selling goods, Assassin’s Creed III introduces a homestead where Connor can purchase raw materials from homestead inhabitants and sell the goods through land and naval convoys. The artisans living on the homestead gain the ability to sell and craft new materials after completing various homestead missions. Convoys have a lower tax rate and a decreased chance of being attacked as Connor removes the Templar presence from various areas.

The biggest addition to gameplay has to be the new naval battle system. Connor adorns his captain’s uniform to command a ship and partake in ship-to-ship battles. I quite enjoyed these battles because they were a nice change of pace and allowed me to choose my own strategy to complete them. I could ram a ship to expose a weak spot, take out its sails and fire freely as it remains a sitting duck, or just exchange blow for blow as the enemy ships pass one another.

Missing from previous Assassin’s Creed games are things like doctors, bomb-making stations, and throwing knives.

Health will regenerate over time now, very slowly in combat and very quickly out of combat. Smoke bombs can be purchased and looted from enemies, but no other bomb types exist or can be crafted like in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Throwing knives are simply gone with no other real alternative.

Even with these changes, the gameplay is still extremely familiar and recognizable.

Quality of Life Improvements

If you read my critique of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, you know I had one major problem with the game: trying to complete optional objectives for 100% synchronization was unnecessarily difficult. There was no easy way to revert to a prior checkpoint, any completed optional objectives were lost upon death even though a checkpoint had been reached, and consumable items like throwing knives, bombs, and poison darts were not refunded if the memory was restarted.

I was ecstatic to discover all of these problems were fixed! There is now a revert to checkpoint option; progress towards 100% synchronization is retained if you reach a checkpoint, and consumables are kept track of properly. It made attempting the optional objectives much easier.

In addition to this change, marking a waypoint on the map also marks the objective in the real world. This means that if you are looking for a feather in a tree and mark it, you will see a symbol in the game marking it outside of the map. That lets you see if an item is above or below you much easier.

I cannot express how pleased I am with these improvements, and Ubisoft should unquestioningly continue to keep them in future games. That being said, not everything in Assassin’s Creed III was implemented well.

The Bad

100% Synchronization Requirements

Some of the 100% synchronization requirements were incredibly unreasonable. The whole idea behind the system is that actions performed within the Animus have to be very close to what actually happened or Desmond becomes desynchronized. Desmond does not have to be perfect in order to prevent desynchronization, but anything that strays too far from what happened is unacceptable.

The optional objectives for 100% synchronization should be difficult to complete but they should also make sense in context. When the player has to go completely out of her way to ensure an objective is completed and loses the sense of immersion, it is a bad objective.

For example, in Sequence 7 the Conflict Looms memory has the following optional objectives:

  • Air assassinate a Grenadier;
  • Remain undetected while on ships; and
  • Cross Charlestown without taking damage

To give you a little perspective, there are two ships in a harbor next to one another. The main mission objective is to detonate kegs on the ship. The ships themselves have patrolling guards and are restricted areas, meaning if anyone sees you, you are automatically detected.

Air assassinating a Grenadier is such a random requirement considering the kegs can be detonated without alerting or killing anyone. Any air assassination, no matter from what height, alerts the other guards on the ship that something happened. That means Connor needs to kill all the other guards on the ship, leaving the Grenadier alive, and then assassinating him.

Killing ever other guard on the ship without being detected is incredibly difficult. But doing it twice in one playthrough was maddening! There was no checkpoint between ships. The player has to be perfect in one go to complete the objectives. A far better full synchronization requirement would have been to detonate the kegs without being detected and without killing anyone. That would make much more sense because the keg explosions kill everyone aboard the ships. Why would Connor go out of his way to kill a Grenadier when he was about to die anyway? The designers seem to have crafted some of the objectives without regard for common sense.

Voice Acting

Connor’s voice acting was dreadful. He barely showed any emotional at all and kept his voice in a general monotone. Many exciting events take place around Connor and he treats them all with the same bland reaction. There was a moment on the Homestead where someone was in labor and he had to hurry and get a doctor. No emotion. He had a conversation with an Assassin recruit where she flirts with him and tells him she gets a first crack at being his wife when everything is all over. No emotion! It was very distracting.

What was almost worse was the lack of voice acting in certain side missions. There are side quests like assassination contracts and courier tasks which are obtained by walking up to a certain NPC and pressing the “interact with” button. Nothing is exchanged vocally between Connor and the NPC. The assassination contracts were the most confusing because random people who clearly did not belong to the Assassins gave them out. So, what, Connor is just taking hit lists from random strangers?

It would have required little effort to give the exchange some voice acting and it would have made the tasks a little more believable.

The Ancients

Can we ditch the whole idea behind running from Abstergo please? Every time I play an Assassin’s Creed game, I forget all about Desmond’s side story until the flow of gameplay is interrupted to achieve some unnecessary objective in the “real world.” At the end of the game I am always left a sense of confusion, trying to process what I just saw and trying to give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt in the story’s direction.

I do not want to spoil the ending of the game, but after witnessing the culmination of Desmond’s efforts in Assassin’s Creed III, I can honestly say the game is worse off because of it. It makes little sense and it honestly feels like the developers are just throwing shit against the wall and watching what sticks at this point.

The franchise would be well-off with a non-Animus storyline desperately attached to it like a parasite. And it is not the Animus itself that is troubling, but the artifacts left by the Ancients like the Apple of Eden. I love playing the game in different historical timelines. Why not leave it at that?

To compound the problem, Ubisoft has trouble sticking to its own rules when it comes to the Animus’ technology. The idea is that DNA memory is transferred from parent to child. All of the parent’s life experiences up to the point of conception are transferred to the child, along with the memories of all past ancestors.

Okay, I can live with that. In a previous game we see Altaïr climb a tower to meet a woman. It is implied that they sleep together and the camera then remains on the woman as Altaïr leaps off the tower. The camera focuses on the woman’s abdomen, implying a child has just been conceived. No problem there.

But then, in Assassin’s Creed III, things become inconsistent. Connor’s father impregnates his mother. The Animus then follows Connor’s father for a time afterward before following Connor’s life. That should not be possible. The moment Connor was conceived, no memories Connor’s father makes should be transferred. Desmond should not be able to re-live them through the Animus.

Conclusion

I enjoyed playing Assassin’s Creed III. I found the naval battles fun and I am the kind of person who enjoys doing all of the side quests in games. I liked recruiting all of the members of the homestead and crafting items to sell using their skill. I generally liked the combat even though some tools available in previous games were taken away.

I hated the story, both Connor’s and Desmond’s. Was the story bad enough for me not to recommend the game? No, it was not quite that bad. I think if you are a fan of the series you should pick it up, just ignore all story-related elements.

My rating is a 70/100.

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