Assassin’s Creed III – Review
Platform | Release Date
360, PS3, PC | October 30, 2012
Developed by Ubisoft
Published by Ubisoft
The American Colonies, 1775. It’s a time of civil unrest and political upheaval in the Americas. As a Native American Assassin fights to protect his land and his people he will ignite the flames of a young nation’s revolution. In Assassin’s Creed® III, eliminate your enemies with an array of new weapons including guns, bows, tomahawks, and trusty hidden blades. The game has been in development for over 3 years and features the new Ubisoft-AnvilNext engine, a stunning technology that will revolutionize gaming with powerful graphics, lifelike animations, immersive combat, and advanced physics. With an all new setting, assassin and engine, Assassin’s Creed® III takes you back to the American Revolutionary War, but not the one you’ve read about in history books.
I didn’t see this coming, but I should have known it was inevitable.
You always stood apart from the crowd, Assassin. You tried to blend in with the other triple A releases, but your golden shimmer showed through a sea of iron-sight shooters. You offered a different experience. Some say you were repetitive, and doubted your ability to perform once a year, but the annual release of a new Assassin’s Creed was a happy holiday for me. But now I lay here, broken, at your feet.
You’ve stabbed me in the back, Assassin’s Creed 3. You’ve killed me, but you cannot silence the truth. I’ll lecture you one last time.
Remember that I’ve been with you since the beginning. I know you, Assassin. We fought for the people of Little Jerusalem, but many shunned you as boring and repetitive. We sat side by side on that bench for what felt like hours. I was with you in that haystack as yet another guard arrived to ponder, “Who could have done this?!”. I followed when you went to Italy to stab men in tights. Did I harbor secret doubts as we beat helpless Italians into submission? Yes, but I was loyal, stuck with you, and was amply rewarded. When you offered to start a franchise, recruiting more to our Brotherhood on a yearly basis, did I fret this could ruin our relationship? Of course, but I stuck by you, Assassin. When you promised to reveal the the secrets of the Order, leading me on a trial of bomb-making and tower defense, did I flee? No. I had to see where this path would take us.
I’ve actually enjoyed the plot of Assassin’s Creed and wanted to see where it would go. The moral grey of the Assassin vs. Templar conflict in the past was intriguing, though squandered by the comic book villainy of the present-day Templars. However, as the rules of the universe are established, the Assassin cannot die in the past. Therefore much of the tension is provided by your quest to find the item or information dooming the future/present time. It’s great that we get to tackle your personal demons, Assassin, over our 20-30 hour adventures, but spending 5 minutes finding the macguffin trinket is what really determines if humanity and Desmond have a future. Desmond: the rising crescendo of the franchise’s story as he becomes a Master Assassin in modern times.
And this is what you chose to strike down, Assassin. You’ve destroyed all investment and any interest I had in the Desmond storyline. Try to remember that the entire plot of Assassin’s Creed 2 was about training Desmond with the skills of Ezio by way of the Bleeding Effect. The way Desmond and his cast of supporting characters use this knowledge and experience accomplishes nothing in Assassin’s Creed 3. Your motto might as well be “Everything is resolved, but nothing is gained.” The conclusion to Assassin’s Creed 3 is as unsatisfying an end you can give a game besides plastering “To Be Continued” before a fade to black.
A disappointing ending is all the more crushing when you’ve struggled through an inferior game to reach it. Assassin’s Creed 3 feels like a rushed product handled by a second tier team. The level of polish is significantly less than any of the previous titles. Dozens of old systems such as Eagle Points and transversal work worse than expected, while most new systems aren’t enjoyable or are broken.
There are some highlights to be found in this haystack: The Wilderness. It is the largest area with the best map design, yet has the smallest impact with the least to do. The Wilderness is the connective tissue between Assassin’s Creed 3‘s towns that can be explored at leisure. The green and gold color palette found here during the non-snow seasons is beautiful. Unfortunately, it is not only possible to bypass using the fast travel system, it is encouraged as there is little to do besides run straight through to the next Mission Marker. The only activities are very short side quests or collecting Eagle feathers.
Combat has been redesigned. It is yet another Batman: Arkham Asylum knock-off that manages to be inferior to the original, other copycats such as Sleeping Dogs, and even the combat found in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The system basically boils down to knowing when to counter (B) vs. when to roll away (A), then follow up with an attack depending on the enemy type. Since the enemies are not that varied and the timing required is very lax, it’s easy to dodge or defend. The weapon-specific counters of previous titles (such as going bare-handed to defeat spearmen) are no longer required. You can still perform these moves, but you can also beat everyone with the starting tomahawk. The different weapons and tools have little impact, giving combat a monotonous feel.
Assassin’s Creed 3 also tries to pickpocket Batman’s clue finding and lock picking mechanics, as well as his enter door animation. Also added is a creepy sewer system similar to Killer Croc’s boss fight level of Batman: Arkham Asylum. After 15 minutes, it loses all personality and tension as there are only a couple of common enemies to dispatch while it must be navigated with a forced, slow walk. Instead of Batman holding his hand to his ear, you hold a lamp to light your way. To unlock fast travel points in a city, you must walk this maze for an hour or two, then repeat this for another city.
Naval combat is a blast. With cannons. Get it? However, to upgrade the ship, you need a lot of money. This requires crafting and trading. The crafting interface feels like it was held over from internal testing. Cursor position isn’t remembered and everything is several clicks away. It’s so bad it’s not just broken, it’s insulting to assume a player should use it.
There are a litany of other issues I encountered while playing the game. Load times are frequent and lengthy. Some quest markers would only appear outside the radius of any Eagle Point, and even after collecting all the Eagle Points they were not revealed.. They required manually running along the perimeter of the map, like hunting for the last SCV, to find assassin recruitment missions. There was no indication this search was necessary; it could have as easily been a “play more missions — come back later” scenario. Despite an overabundance of pop-up notifications and waypoint markers, Assassin’s Creed 3 does a surprisingly poor job of communication. There were several other holdovers from the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood interface, such as a prompt to close eyes on fallen recruits, despite the fact that they cannot die. There are too many to list here but if you want a list, ask: I kept notes. The Animus as a plot device has always offered a credible way to mask issues in previous titles without breaking immersion, but this does not work if they become too numerous or interfere with progress.
Something must have happened to drastically reduce the quality of this title. Coincidentally, Far Cry 3 was in development at the same main studio, at the same time, and feels more like an Assassin’s Creed game than this one. I’ve had a more thrilling time climbing towers and taking over Borgia Tow-, I mean “Outposts,” and other Assassin’s Creed activities in Far Cry 3 than I had in Assassin’s Creed 3. It’s just a shame because there are dozens of other iron-sight shooter games to play, and not as many 3rd person melee combat games that also have large open worlds with the ability to freerun. Assassin’s Creed may have been an annual release, but it’s not like there is a lot of direct competition.
Despite all of this, as a whole, Assassin’s Creed 3 is not a terrible or broken game. It’s just substantially worse than any of the previous games in the series. It’s just so hugely disappointing, it feels like a betrayal.