Games

Assassin’s Creed 3 Thoughts – Bigger but Smaller

Five years ago, a new franchise was born called Assassin’s Creed. A sequel arrived two years later and since then, yearly releases have occurred to bridge the gap between the next sequel. Last week, Assassin’s Creed 3 – the first numbered title in the series since 2009 – finally launched after months of being pumped up by the hype machine. But is it a case of third time lucky or have Ubisoft underwhelmed with their fifth Assassin’s Creed title?

These are a collection of my thoughts and opinions on the game in a non-review format. Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game and whether you agree with any points that I make.

I will also note that I have yet to play anything of the multiplayer so these opinions are based solely on the single-player experience.

The Good

– The setting change for Assassin’s Creed 3 makes the game feel refreshed and different compared to the environments of previous titles. It feels authentic and true to the era the game’s set in. It takes a little while to adjust to the change in environment, especially if you spent a considerable amount of time in the earlier titles, but when you get there, it’s a nice change. It’s unfortunate that Boston and New York don’t really feel much different to each other, however.

– Assassin’s Creed games have always been good at keeping true to history and to the time period they are set in, and AC3 does not break that pattern. The constant battle between the British and the Americans is always in your face and having characters such as George Washington make an appearance makes you feel like you’re grounded in that part of history. The database entries detailing the events are also informative should you take the time to read them. It’s clear that some effort went into making AC3 feel accurate and it paid off handsomely.

– After spending three games playing as Ezio, it was time to move on to another character. This time that is Connor, who can sometimes be interesting and other times bordering on dull. Mostly, however, he’s a decent enough character to play as. It’s unfortunate that playing as his father for the first few hours results in Connor feeling like a step back once you finally get to him.

– While Brotherhood and Revelations were good enough games by any definition, they never really felt like sequels. They were never meant to serve that purpose either, and they didn’t. However, AC3 does feel like a pivotal step for the franchise rather than a bridge between them and after three years, it’s good to finally have a true sequel to the excellent Assassin’s Creed 2.

– While AC3 features several large cities, it also contains a huge wilderness in the form of the Frontier, which is sparsely populated with small settlements. Most of your hunting activity will be done there, as will the occasional mission. Although the area may seem like an empty wasteland at first, it’s a nice change from the other cities and something that I can really appreciate about the game.

– Hunting makes its debut in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and it’s a relatively good inclusion. When you want a break away from the slicing and dicing of the main story, sitting in trees and bushes while waiting for your prey to appear is a welcome distraction. It’s unfortunate that many of the animal species you can kill, such as elks and wolves, can only be done so via an unavoidable quick-time sequence. There’s also no real purpose to hunting other than fulfilling a desire to do so, as the money you gain from it is small for the time it takes, but it’s still a nice inclusion that makes use of all that seemingly empty forest space that makes up the majority of the Frontier and the Davenport Homestead.

– Assassin’s Creed 3 is the first title in the series to make a significant attempt at changing the combat system. What found its way into the game is a system that doesn’t feel too dissimilar to that found in Rocksteady’s Arkham games. It seems as though the purpose of changing the system was to make it more challenging than the previous games but honestly, once you’ve adjusted to how it works, it rarely feels difficult to master and you’ll be slicing your way through packs of guards and templars before you know it. That being said, the new system does feel more rewarding and stylish than before, and for that I have to appreciate it.

– Assassin’s Creed titles have never been games that you will have finished in a few hours and the third title is no different to the rest. The main story alone will last you around 15-20 hours, and then you have a tonne of optional side-missions to do that will liberate districts of the city as you continue through them. There are also the naval missions to complete, as well as collectibles and the multiplayer, and the game can easily last you around 60-70 hours if you make an attempt to see all there is to see.

– The main story of Assassin’s Creed 3, centering around Connor’s fight to get vengeance for his mother’s murder and to free the people from oppression, is a lot more engaging and interesting compared to that of previous AC outings. The game starts off a tad boring but as you continue, it becomes significantly more interesting and I would easily place it above the storylines in all the other Assassin’s Creed titles. The game falters in several areas but this definitely wasn’t one of them.

– AC3’s graphics generally aren’t bad to look at, although there can be several ugly textures when observed up close, and the sound isn’t poor either, although the lack of the atmospheric music that played a part in the earlier titles is very disappointing.

– While Revelations was plagued with the dreadfully inane den defense missions, Assassin’s Creed 3 features naval missions which see you command control of a ship and take to the high seas – blasting and sinking all those that fight you. You can tell that considerable time and effort went into making sure these missions felt authentic and fun because they are just that. It’s pity that they omitted the ability to free-roam an area of the sea and explore the surroundings without being funnelled down a specific path but the naval missions were a fantastic inclusion that I hope will see some DLC love in the future.

– You’ll see Boston, New York et al in the traditional Summer setting but making a debut appearance in the Assassin’s Creed series is the inclusion of changing weather seasons. At certain points in the story, the landscape will be changed to a white wintery setting and it’s a great feature that I wish would be included more often in free-roaming titles. Having snow settle on the ground isn’t just a cosmetic change either, as the deep snow can sometimes slow Connor’s movements down, as well as impair his vision when a blizzard kicks in.

The Bad

– As was the case with previous Assassin’s Creed titles, the control scheme can leave a little to be desired. Connor regularly jumps up against walls and scenery when you don’t intend him to, which can be incredibly frustrating during chase/evade sequences where keeping close to your target is necessary. Also, doing something simple like picking up the body of the guard you just mutilated so that his buddies don’t find his lifeless corpse can be made much more difficult as to pick him up, you need to press B, which also makes you pick up weapons (which every guard is packing), whistle and other functions. It’s cluttered and tedious at very frequent intervals.

– While Assassin’s Creed 3 greatly expands its environment to be bigger than before, it reduces what the player can actually do within it to something annoyingly small. One such example would be the removal of several features like  finding and exploring tombs, solving puzzles hidden across the city and vice versa. Those sublime musical scores that played when you visited certain areas in previous games are also gone, replaced with a miserable emptiness that adds nothing to the experience.

– In the case of the weapons, you are given a hidden blade and a tomahawk right at the beginning of Connor’s sections and you do not need any other weapon for the rest of the game, which is fortunate because those general stores selling them are spread thinly. The blade and tomahawk combination feels rather overpowered across the whole game so even if they were still present by the dozen, there would be no point in using them.

– Assassin’s Creed 3 introduces a host of new features, such as hunting, managing the Homestead, naval missions etc but besides using them when required of you during missions, each one serves little purpose and can be ignored entirely. It’s very disappointing because each one had so much potential to really enhance and invigorate the experience but with little to no reward for playing them, they feel unnecessary.

– The first few hours of the game are very, very dull. For a new player unfamiliar with the franchise, they could potentially be an immediate turn-off. It felt like they had tried to find a way to appeal to new players and old players alike but somewhere along the line, the excitement was sacrificed. It was regained when Haytham’s sections came to an end and it was revealed – rather surprisingly I might add – that you had been playing as a Templar, but it should’ve happened sooner. In my opinion, the hours you spend with Haytham didn’t need to have been so long, and considering Haytham was a far more interesting character to play as than Connor, it might not have had the intended effect.

– Someone call the exterminator because we’ve got some bugs in here! Make no mistake that when I tell you that Assassin’s Creed 3 is teaming with bugs and glitches, I mean it. Not everybody will experience them, but I did and it’s unacceptable. Many times I had quest icons disappear and reappear at will, guards suddenly become unable to be killed, missions refuse to progress to the next stage which then requires a restart, dialogue inexplicably stop playing, items fall through the map and much, much more. Fortunately these are all things that can be fixed with a patch but the sheer quantity of them is enough to immediately cast a negative light over the game. I don’t know who, if anybody, tested the game before release but clearly they weren’t looking hard enough to allow all of these bugs to escape through the cracks.

The Ugly

– Assassin’s Creed 3 was never billed as the end of the series, merely the end of Desmond’s story. And they did just that. Unfortunately, however, the ending they created was, in my opinion, absolutely rubbish. Desmond touches a pedestal, gets fried and the credits literally roll seconds later. We’re told the world was saved by Desmond doing that, but not how, what the ramifications were, what happened to the people he was working with, or basically anything. It felt incredibly rushed and while they left things hanging for the next game that will inevitably arrive, the way they finished the current story was just poor on all levels. I was so interested in Desmond’s story from the very beginning and I felt massively disappointed at how they ultimately handled it.

Assassin’s Creed 3 is a good game. A very good game, even. But when I see the review scores that gave it 9s and 10s, I struggle to agree with them. While I consider it a very strong and ambitious outing for the series, it still felt like a lot of what worked in the previous games was cut out and replaced with nothing. Assassin’s Creed games have always made me feel involved and enthralled but I struggled to feel the same way at several points during AC3.

My expectations were very high for the game but after playing it, half of me feels underwhelmed and the other half feels satisfied. Assassin’s Creed 3 is a good game, but not 9/10 good, unfortunately.

8/10

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