Each addition to the Assassin’s Creed series begs the question what has changed? With the latest release built from a stronger, more robust engine it’s time to see if Assassin’s Creed III will break the mold and shine in a new light or repeat the same mistakes again.
As I descend into Assassin’s Creed III for another session, the world loads into view and I find myself standing at the top of a hill staring out at the ocean. It’s midnight and the moon looks stunning as it reflects off the water. After a few seconds of taking in the view I turn my attention to my a town close by, my target resides in among the patrons of this city known as Boston.
I climb a nearby tree and start making my way to the city. Leaping from branch to branch I look down to see animals scurry away from the noise as I speed through the forest like the badass I am. After a few minutes I run out of trees and the city stands in front of me. Due to previous engagements the city is on high alert to my presence and my approach will have to be a covert one.
I slip into town using a wagon and then leap effortlessly into a group of townsfolk to blend in as an oncoming patrol passes by. After a quick glance at my surroundings I realize the guard population is too high to try a frontal assault so I duck into an alley and ascend onto the roof. As I free-climb my way up Assassin’s Creed III begins to show its true colours.
I hit a jutting window frame and the game struggles to make a decision as to which way to get around this obstacle. Suddenly a nearby guard notices me and becomes suspicious. I flounder on the edge for a moment hoping to shimmy to the side but I am out time and need to act. The obvious choice would be to leap from the wall out into the street and make a break for a hiding spot, however as I hold the trigger down and direct the thumbstick toward the street the game decides the wall on the opposite side of the alley is a much better choice. I’m thrown onto another wall with the guard and his mates now lining up to shoot me down. This is my experience with every Assassin’s Creed game.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise deserves respect for what it has accomplished, with eight games thus far, each deepening its story line, breathtaking environments with amazing levels of historical accuracy and scope bigger than most RPGs can ever imagine. However, there are some things that have been a huge put off since the beginning of the series. One is the Grand Theft Auto style repetition of gameplay and the other lies in its glitchy controls. Both of these are the main reasons I usually stop playing Assassin’s Creed titles long before the game finishes.
Assassin’s Creed III genuinely excited me because of the idea of a new engine, a new system to build the game from. Aside from even more beautiful graphics and an impressive living ecosystem, the concept of a controls revamp could have been the one thing to truly win me over. However the additions feel like more paint on a broken fence. No amount of more work can fix the problems that you didn’t fix before hand and still lie beneath.
Assassin’s Creed III takes a lot of risks, which in a way I respect. The idea of spending the first few hours on an introduction that stars a different protagonist is a ballsy way to open your game. Truth be told, it was also my favourite part of the game. The idea of setting up your story by showing the actions and ideas of your enemy brought a lot more depth than I expected to see.
Once we get to the main protagonist, Connor, it begins to feel more like a traditional Assassin’s Creed title, for better and for worse. There is effort behind the story and as long as you stay focused on the main campaign the progression helps fight off some of the repetitiveness. Alas, the increase in map size and sporadic distribution of side missions just made the experience more tedious as time wore on.
The game has tried to flesh the experience out by adding more to do. Fetch quests, collectibles and liberation missions provide small amounts of entertainment, with naval missions the highlight of them all. Players have to command a large sailing vessel through epic sea battles and navigate terrifying rocky coastlines, sure to get your heart racing. On the flip side, the new forest environments are kind of barren and empty, offering very little more to do than just run through and occasionally hunt.
Of course, Assassins Creed is only ever as good as its combat and this is one place the game has had some impressive upgrades. Fights are more dynamic with the controls streamlined down to a basic attack and counter system, leaving you to focus more on ducking between enemies and creating impressive flurries of Hollywood worthy action scenes. Connor can roll under attacks, take out multiple enemies at once and use one enemy against another (pictured above). Pity this overhaul was not extended into the rest of the controls as it has made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the game.
Assassin’s Creed III wants to offer its fans the deepest and most expansive title in the series to date, and there is no argument that it has accomplished this. The game has pushed the brand to new heights in some aspects, yet pulled back down to earth by problems overlooked yet again. For every awesome new skill or powerful story moment introduced the game shows its flaws and pulls me out of the experience. Assassin’s Creed had a chance to redefine the series and solidify itself as a classic title but instead offers only another expanded version of the same thing. A solid effort but not game changing.