I’ve finally finished the fight against the Templars, saw Desmond’s story to the end and laid claim to my piece of Colonial America. I gave you my initial thoughts a few weeks ago, so after finishing Assassin’s Creed III, did my opinion change at all? There’s certainly a lot of material I want to go over so let’s have a talk shall we?
What lies below some would consider to be spoilers so if you haven’t yet finished or played the game, I would tread very carefully.
I’ll be honest here, the game had a very slow start. There are 12 segments in the game and for me, it really didn’t start to lose the training wheels and get interesting until Segment 6 or 7. I will say that once it did, I was having a good time and enjoyed the story. It was also a treat to be able to see and even participate in many of the major historical events of the time such as Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride and the Battle of Bunker Hill. These segments proved to be exciting and really well made. Ubisoft also managed to throw some major curveballs which I did not see coming and I loved that.
Even though he was technically a bad guy, I loved how Ubisoft developed the character, Haytham Kenway. He reminded me more of Ezio than Connor did as he had that confident and sarcastic vibe going for him. His story arch was very interesting, especially the later segments when he teams up with Connor for what was an uneasy truce between father and son. The two played well off of each other and I almost wish there was more of interaction between them. One thing that I didn’t really understand within the context of the story was ultimately the lack of surprise moments when Connor learned that his father was the Templar Grand Master or when Achilles learns of this fact. I felt like it was a moment that the player never sees because when you see it first mentioned, you expect more reaction from the characters which never comes. The same goes for the fight between father and son towards the end portion of the game. I felt the death scene/conversation just didn’t have as big an impact as it should have. Still, Haytham Kenway, awesome character.
As for the actual gameplay, yes, it was littered with glitches, oddities, and bugs and until that second massive patch hit around Thanksgiving, may of these small issues cropped up enough to hinder my enjoyment. None of them were game breaking or anything like that, but when you have small issues constantly happening, it really does affect you. Icons disappeared from the minimap, missions would vanish based on fast traveling to a certain location, AI would get stuck in the map or not properly act as they should. For example, I was inside a fort and a guard noticed me to which I promptly hid and broke line of sight. Instead of going back to the normal routine and spot, the AI character continued to stay looking at me even though the meter had reset. I managed to notice that the character model was stuck in the stair railing which would explain the odd behavior. When the second patch released, many of the odd issues went away which was great. Though, I did see someone holding a massive two handed axe where a drinking glass was supposed to be rendered by the game engine in a tavern however. Got a good chuckle out of that.
The missions are varied and interesting enough, especially as you get to the later half of the game. Still, not everything sat well with me. There are a handful of “chase” and “spy” missions which I just didn’t find compelling or all that fun. The biggest one I had a problem was is at the end when you’re chasing Charles Lee. That has to be one of the most frustratingly unfun missions I’ve played in an Assassin’s Creed game. Lee sprints much too fast and when you get to the boat section of the chase, it’s extremely difficult to know where they want you to go. Not only that, Connor seems to want to grab on to ledges which slows you way down as well. Thankfully, it’s not a terribly long mission. The spy missions as I’ll call them are not very fun either. In these missions, you’re tasked with eavesdropping on conversations by staying in a radius. Sometimes the characters move so you need to find a way to stay within that circle without being detected. It’s fine as it is, just not terribly exciting or memorable.
That kind of brings me to my overall point. Assassin’s Creed III has a huge amount of content for you, but a lot of it just isn’t compelling or fun. Side missions include delivering letters, fulfilling orders for delivery, collecting feathers, and even being able to hunt animals out in the frontier space. Granted, these are side missions so they’re certainly not required. That’s not to say it’s all bad, as it’s not. You’re also able to recruit assassin’s to join you only this time the assassin’s are given actual personalities and backstories. This helps you to relate to them better and actually develop a relationship with these people. Definitely read their animus profiles as some of them are fairly interesting. Seven forts are also scattered around the world and you’re free to deal with them how you like. Go in guns blazing or try to remain undetected. These are basically much more expanded Borgia Towers from AC: Brotherhood. Taking down the leader and blowing the powder keg reserve any way you want is a thrill and a lot of fun.
Another aspect I liked is how the Homestead was handled in this game. Instead of upgrading the house itself like the Ezio games had you do things, you actually recruit people to live on your land and help them through missions. Upon completing missions, their structure is upgraded, you’re given access to more trading supplies and recipes to craft items. Part of me misses just upgrading elements using money, but the Homestead content is well handled and fleshed out. It’s worth sticking around for as the last few missions are great and have some really interesting story details you’d otherwise miss.
The element that really impressed me however were the naval missions aboard the Aquila. Not only were they visually stunning with all of the waves and weather effects, but the ease of control and combat made it extremely entertaining. I never thought driving a 18th century warship could be this much fun. Naval combat kept things fresh, exciting, and thrilling. Definitely a highpoint in the game for me even though the missions tended to be on the shorter side.
I know in my previous article, I had reservations about the game’s Assassin protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton aka Connor Kenway being a likable protagonist. In the end, I felt that Connor never really reached that potential. He has a very different personality than Ezio did, almost being the direct opposite in nature. When interacting with the majority of the people in the world, he came off as having a temper, being short with people, a lack of understanding and being a little naïve. Granted, he’s a person coming from a secluded Native American village in the woods so I can’t fault him too much there interacting with society for the first time. Still, I found it hard to relate to him as he had a more reserved and cold personality. Then again, the same could be said for Altair who also had a very direct and cold personality as well. I guess we were spoiled by the showmanship and high charisma of Ezio.
What I found most interesting in regards to Desmond’s story is that Ubisoft went in and seemed to clear house by the time ACIII ends. If you stop and think about it, the majority of the core characters are now dead and their story lines tied up. Warren Vidic, Lucy Stillman, Daniel Cross, and Desmond Miles and even story elements like Eye Abstergo have all been tied up by the story. To me, this opens the door for Ubisoft to try new things and be free of the past. What I also find interesting is the fact that you are able to continue to play as Connor post credits after Desmond’s death. If you play through the Epilogue, a couple of voices can be heard talking about pivot points and hacking the database. I’ve read online that these two are Templar agents who have hacked the animus and were able to access Desmond’s memories. Could this mean going forward that modern-day protagonists are no longer needed? If people can hack into existing memories, maybe the next game will be all based in the historical past. Who knows, but it certainly raises a lot of interesting possibilities.
I would have liked to see a bit more on Desmond’s ending sequence as well. It did feel a little rushed and left me a bit starving for information. Perhaps DLC will help to rectify that but it is a bit disappointing more detail couldn’t have been added to the core experience.
I know I’ve highlighted a lot of negative things here and I never intended on that as I generally think Assassin’s Creed III is a good game. It may not have lived up to the astronomical hype I set for it but that shouldn’t stop you from checking it out. For all the negatives above, I did have fun and enjoyed my experience overall. It’s not the best Assassin’s Creed game in the franchise but the team at Ubisoft Montreal have established a great foundation going forward. The new engine is very impressive, the story telling is getting even better, and the combat is surprisingly deeper than what they reveal to you on the surface. If they manage to fix those few nagging issues, the next AC game could be the best yet.