The time has finally come, or rather the history has. The war between the Templars and Assassins reaches the summit of the battle between freedom with privileged chaos and control with enslaved order. Ubisoft grants us with the historic American Revolution and the present day Mayan apocalypse as the battleground, but the hype machine turns the expectations towards for the worse. The game feels simplified, segmented and forced at times.
Assassin’s Creed 3 jumps right to it, by picking up right where it ended in Revelations. The storyline is a vast one, spanning 35 years (1747-1782) and playing as several characters. With such a massive undertaking narration bridges gaps between years, teaching us the assassin’s history as it parallels with our own. The game begins in Britain with a Hytham Kenway, a man sent to search the new world with a mysterious key.
Just like any of the other in the series, AC3 is loaded with historic people, places and events without the patriotic propaganda. The early main-story missions cover one historical event after the next, but each feels as an interactive history lesson than an Assassin’s Creed game. This is where the game falls flat. The story builds around the end of the world paralleled with the revolution, but it leaves us chasing the hype and build until the game just ends.
The game has its moments with gameplay mixing well with history and the great atmosphere the trilogy has always produced. From scene to scene, the game creates layers of gameplay, but without a foundation of consistent gameplay. Instead of building to the epic conclusion, like previous games, each mission feels like a separate mini-game from the last.
The story continues to remind players this time period was filled with doubt and mistakes. Each side shows a reasoning and understanding to the British, Americans, Assassins and Templars. Their enemies and friends overlap one another to create an un-American action story. Nothing is simple when enemies become allies and allies become enemies, leaving Connor in the middle of this historic conflict only to learn that his resolution is not as easy when he entered.
But as any Assassin’s Creed fan knows we’re not here for the history, but for the future, specifically 12/21/2012. After finding the first civilization room AC: Revelations lead Desmond to, two devices prevent him from completing his journey to save the world, a key and a few power supplies.
Desmond Miles has developed into a vocal character, a change from the popular silent-types. He continues to have a growing role in gameplay, but still falls short will limited gameplay compared to the expanded role fans expected.
The controls are awkward at first, but as characters change there is a realization that each character moves different. The adjustments remain smooth and intuitive with an occasionally improved tweak, like the previous AC installments. Climbing is easier with a more lenient and less precise stick movement allowing the player to just consistently push in the direction wanted and not needed.
Ship battles replace the unpopular Assassin’s Den Defense mini game. There is a learning curve, but more because most of have no foundation of sailing. When battle arrives three factors always apply: wind, position and weapons. Wind works with the sails, giving the ship three speeds. Position is the most forgotten when turning to line up the ship, because turning into the wind is disastrous. The weapon number and type can change any battle, or quickly end it. Cannons can increase in number with upgrades, while smaller swivel cannons can deliver a precise hit. Each needs constant adjustment if the battle is to be won. When it all comes together, it can result in yelling victory with Connor’s AI shipmates.
Every Assassin needs a manor to maintain and Connor doesn’t miss out. Most of the design remains the same from previous games, but it differs in money made. No more city reconstruction, each group is recruited through homestead missions. Each recruit added improves trade capabilities, the sole income for the manor. Crafting is also new, allowing players to create numerous products for profit, although it is segmented from the rest of the game and not required.
Other parts seem segmented and thrown into the game without any connection or requirement to the main story. Hunting is for fur and meat, but those only result in small funds. Money is less important, which keeps focus on the game at the cost of removing any purchasing of item collections and upgrades.
The Assassin’s guild is back, but this time it is another segmented afterthought. Recruiting assassins is practically the same, but now each one adds a special ability to aid Connor. The problem is nothing of it is needed. The guild and their missions are forgotten except for mini-missions and for unnecessary income. The frontier is another forced new idea in AC 3, but again it feels more as the area between cities, not something wanted to venture.
The frontier is beautiful, but feels more grueling than entertaining. Tree-to-tree movement is preferred, but too limited, leading to never looking for the opportunity at all. However, when finding the chance in the forest, free running is fluid with dash of sexy and a pint of blood. Not always available, swooping from tree to tree while hunting Connors enemies below seems reminiscent of the classic Predator movie, and you feel just as powerful with your own belt of tools. The rope dart is the new unique weapon that fits the assassins as well as it is deadly. The dart gives options for above and equal-level kills. From above Connor hangs his enemies and on equal ground Connor can pull his enemies into the bushes when out of reach for the silent kill. Unfortunately, there is never a time to use it, except when being trained for it.
Combat has received minor changes. Left trigger has been completely removed leaving no need for locking in and out of battle. If multiple enemies attack Connor a successful counter produces an action-packed double kill cinematic. The enemies keep the same variety requiring a different battle strategy with each new group faced, keeping the excitement throughout the game.
Assassin’s Creed 3 as a whole is not greater than the sum of all its parts. The game lacks the larger picture, connecting all of the nuances and side missions and abilities throughout that the series gamers are promised. The continuation of the present-day end of the world story shrinks in size with each new game in the series. The story will continue onward, but hopefully future games in the series will focus on the reason Desmond continues to enter the animus and not the animus itself. Or hopefully about assassinations and not being a financial assassin.
Valhalla: The Historic Choice, Gameplay, Naval Battles
Hel: Desmond gameplay, No strong core story, No Risk to the next level, Ventures away from original AC games
Here at Top Tyr each game is played through its entirety before the review process begins. The review is based on entertaining gameplay, story and innovative advancement in gaming. Intangibles and changes between sequels are also viewed.