Well folks, the long-awaited end to Desmond’s journey is upon us with Assassin’s Creed III. If you know anything about me or have been with me for a while (thank you), then you’ll know I’m quite the Assassin’s supporter. There’s just something great about being able to explore interesting time periods with historical accuracy being mixed with a fictional subplot about two secret organizations going at each other. With Assassin’s Creed III, we get to run, jump, and assassinate targets in the 18th century, specifically during the American Revolution. While it’s interesting to be able to interact with famous people like George Washington, Samuel Adams, and the rest of the crew, how does the gameplay hold up?
Full impressions after the jump…
Let me first say that Ubisoft has done a fantastic job making the game look beautiful. The AnvilNext engine looks great and creates extremely believable animations and facial expressions on top of the gorgeous world they’ve crafted. Understanding what characters are feeling even without words is a wonderful thing and much appreciated. The world is absolutely huge as evidenced by the Frontier zone linking major cities like Boston and New York. A lot of work has gone into traversal and the best example of this is being able to move flawlessly through the trees. The weather comes and goes in addition to the seasons, changing up the landscape in believable ways with snow making travel by foot tricky for example.
At this point in the game, I don’t have a great understanding of Connor like I did with Ezio and because of that, I’m not fully absorbed into the character. While Ezio came off as charming, confident, and suave, Connor gives off such traits as quiet, noble, and quick to anger. I understand he’s new to society, living in a tribe isolated from the world, but at this point, he’s just not that interesting. I’m hoping this changes as the game wears on because I can feel myself want to like him as a lead character.
The controls are just as fluid as you remember and actually even more streamlined for easier control through the environment. No longer are the face buttons tied to particular body parts. Eagle Vision has moved to clicking the left stick and you no longer need to use a face button to sprint around the world as the left trigger has been given more power over that aspect. it feels like the team spent a lot of time refining the controls and it definitely shows in the end product. Combat feels familiar and fresh at the same time and is definitely a high point, especially the well done animations.
The biggest surprise for me is the fact that at this point, the story hasn’t floored me. Since I’m only on Sequence 6, there’s room for that to change, but part of the issue seems to be from the game wanting to hold my hand almost in a tutorial like mode. Even now, up to sequence 5, the game was still introducing me to concepts and ways to do things. Sure, there’s a lot to see and take in, but it’s at a point where it just takes too long to get going. I can appreciate the level of detail the team is striving for, but by sequence 5, I expect the training wheels to come off. I’m confident that things will pick up soon, but for reasons mentioned above, the slow pacing seems to have played a part.
The same thing goes for optional objectives which make a return to the series coming over from Brotherhood and Revelations. As I felt in those games, I still don’t care for them as they alter the way I want to play. If I see an optional objective to do something, I’m going to want to complete it. I mold my thinking around what the game wants me to do, rather than what works best for me. Blame it on some sort of OCD complex, but it does bother me when I fail them to the point where I restart the checkpoint to try again. It just feels like the independence and freedom to tackle the mission is stripped out a bit because of them.
With a new game engine combined with the massive size and scope of Assassin’s Creed III, the potential for glitches and bugs also goes on the rise. As such, Assassin’s Creed III also suffers from oddities such as wonky AI behavior (a guard getting stuck in the environment/guards not resetting to their patrol patterns after the alert fades), graphical glitches (a person’s character model going invisible/clipping through objects), to even bigger issues such as trying to connect to multiplayer and my Xbox freezing. Thankfully the last one was fixed recently and I know the team at Ubisoft Montreal is working hard on tracking down the others. Still, it’s weird seeing this many issues in an Assassin’s Creed title especially considering it’s been in development for three years. Then again, with a new engine, sometimes it takes a game or two until it’s completely optimized. The issues may be jarring, but I haven’t come across any that have had a big negative impact on my game.
Overall, I’m enjoying the game but I can’t help this nagging feeling that it’s missing a certain aspect. Maybe my expectations were just too astronomical or I’m putting too much stock into what Assassin’s Creed II did as a sequel, but Assassin’s Creed III just doesn’t seem to have that same spark as of yet. Granted, that could all completely change at any moment and I am keeping an open mind on that aspect. After everything has been said, it is a thrill seeing so many famous personalities and being able to run around in Colonial America. ACIII still does enough right that at this point I would definitely recommend it to Assassins fans. I’m curious to see how the game manages to open up in later sequences so you can expect a full report once I finish it up. I’m still optimistic.