The Assassin’s Creed series has been polarizing over the years. People have both criticized and lauded the automatic free running system, the counter-based combat mechanic, and the sci-fi/historical setting.
Now, we’re all set to visit Boston and New York, and relive one of the biggest moments in American history — understandably, it has some big shoes to fill.
While the third main iteration is more of the same quality we can expect from the franchise, it isn’t going to do much for anyone who wasn’t already enamored by it.
There’s not much I can say about the game’ story without venturing into spoiler territory, so I’ll mostly provide a general critique with a focus on historical elements.
In AC III, you’re all set to pick up where the last game left off in the present day, with Desmond and Co. unlocking the secrets of an ancient vault to stop a deadly solar flare. Just like past iterations, the present day story is very much take it or leave it.
While I enjoy the general overarching narrative that gives more purpose to the tales, I often times find it jarring that I have to do Desmond sections and take myself out of the game. Luckily, even at a brisk pace, the present day platforming interruptions will take around an hour maximum of the game’s 15-20ish hour main story lifespan.
But what about the bulk of the game, which is played as Connor, the Native American protagonist? Put simply, I think Ubisoft squishes a bit too much into this decidedly condensed tale, to the point where it probably needed to be twice as long to truly get everything they wanted across.
Because of this condensing, Connor’s tale suffers from a rushed beginning, a spectacular middle with setpiece after setpiece, and a very underwhelming last few chapters. As a character, Connor is a tad more shallow than past protagonists, but I ended up enjoying his raw physical power a bit more in terms of a gameplay perspective.
Connor can traverse the outdoors and climb trees a lot better than his predecessors, and his hand to hand combat skills are a bit more fun when armed with a tomahawk and the new combat system (which is now basically distilled down to guard breaking, counters, and attacks). He can also liberate areas and recruit assassins just like Ezio was able to, and when combined with his physical prowess, it makes for some fun action sequences.
As previously mentioned, the game does start off rather slowly — but once the game picks up — it really picks up. You’ll be whisked away to action-packed events like the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the interception of General Braddock, Bunker Hill, and more. All of these sections are done well, and incorporate the “behind the scene assassin” gimmick perfectly. Events, while of course not picture perfect, are fun enough to the point where you may find yourself looking them up afterwards.
Of course, the enjoyment of said events is severely enhanced if you’re a fan of American history. While it may seem like pandering, that’s pretty far from the truth. Like pretty much every other historical setting, Ubisoft did it justice, and really did their homework here.
You’ll be able to open up little Animus factoids just like past games — except they’re a bit more interesting here, as the writing has improved significantly. The facts aren’t just helpful and more nuanced than past games — they’re actually pretty funny, and “written from the perspective” of a British citizen (which makes for some of the funnier points — particularly the protesting of the romanticizing of George Washington).
But any problems the game may have aren’t because of the setting itself — it’s how it’s utilized. At times, due to the long intro/tutorial, and the aforementioned let down of a finale, it feels like wasted opportunity. Of course, more pertinent events are most likely to come in the upcoming King George Washington DLC, but it’s unfortunate that the setting couldn’t have been taken advantage of on the actual disc more than it was.
While I found myself enjoying the vast majority of the game, just know that it isn’t entirely action packed, and you may find yourself yawning at a few lengthy fetch/Point A to Point B quests. In essence, this doesn’t really transcend the pedigree of “an Assassin’s Creed game”). If it’s pure content you’re looking for however, you could arguably play this one more than any other iteration to date.
There’s a heap of extra missions involved that would satisfy any completionist, including Homestead (home base) quests, naval missions, collection quests, and tons of kooky side missions (like the discovery of Bigfoot) that will keep you busy for hours on end. Oh, and the standalone multiplayer is back — and you’ll want to play it.
Multiplayer, as usual, is fantastic. Everything has been enhanced since Revelations‘ multiplayer component (which in turn, was enhanced after Brotherhood), to the point where it feels near perfect. Matchmaking is very easy and quick, there’s an extensive tutorial, setting up a certain gametype is great, and the new coop mode, Wolfpack is superb.
Wolfpack is kind of like the “horde mode” variant found in most contemporary games, but it’s not just a generic addition, and more custom tailored to the franchise’s multiplayer mode. Up to four players can essentially play a team game against four other PCs, ramping up in difficulty as you score more points. If you score a certain amount of points, you head to the next “wave” — if you don’t, it’s game over.
Playing Wolfpack with other people is a blast, especially with voice chat — as you’re hunting down your prey as a team. The game’s mechanics all mesh perfectly here, forcing you to coordinate your attacks for the highest bonus in order to topple the higher difficulties.
I had a ton of fun playing Wolfpack, and I intend on cycling it into my weekly routine for some time to come now. Coop also nets you XP just like any other mode, and there’s even a mini-story involved within the confines of the animus/Abstergo plotline. I can’t wait to see what the next game can add, given how full this package feels at this point.
Everything about Assassin’s Creed III on paper had it geared up to be the best entry in the series, but in actuality, AC I (the Director’s Cut at least), AC II, and Brotherhood top it.
It’s a great AC experience for sure, but it doesn’t really offer anything you haven’t seen before (outside of the fantastic multiplayer component). Likewise, it won’t entice any non-fans, which is a shame — this would have been the perfect opportunity to do it.
This review is based on a physical copy of Assassin’s Creed III for the Xbox 360.