Review: Assassin’s Creed 3

assassins creed 3 review

The most appealing aspect of the Assassin’s Creed series is the ability to experience different periods of human history through a sci-fi wrapper. Thanks to the prolonged presence of Renaissance Italy’s Ezio Auditore, the need to travel to a different era was reaching a high. Thankfully for Assassin’s Creed 3, Ubisoft moved the clock up a few hundred years, dropping you in Revolutionary America in the moccasins of Connor Kenway (real name RatonhnhakĆ©:ton) a half-Mohawk, half-British assassin.

With a new setting, a new engine and the possibility of wrapping up the modern day storyline of Desmond Miles, Assassin’s Creed 3 seemed poised to make the same sort of leap that the series did with Assassin’s Creed 2 back in 2009. Did Ubisoft manage to pull it off, and can Connor replace the venerable Ezio?

Right away Assassin’s Creed 3 repeats the sin committed by 2, and that is having a drawn-out tutorial/prologue section to set up the main plot points of the game. Depending on your skill and whether or not you do any ancillary tasks, it can take upwards of four hours to get into the actual game. When you can play and beat most modern military shooters in that time frame, four hours seems like its asking a lot for your investment, especially when you take into account that the tutorial is light on actually explaining anything outside of the combat and stealth systems.

Like every Assassin’s Creed game, 3 has a bevy of distractions for you, ranging from running your Homestead to sending out convoys for trading and managing your guild of assassins. All of the menu driven systems in the game are complex and the game takes less than a couple minutes to explain how to use the convoys as a source of income. It doesn’t cover how to build new convoys (which you will need, because your first convoy will always get attacked and it doesn’t tell you how to rescue it, either) so you need to find that out on your own. New convoys can be built by finding the requisite materiel and construction recipe, but good luck figuring that out without looking it up somewhere.

assassins creed 3 review

There isn’t even a tangible benefit to the economy in this game, either. Unlike the previous three games , Assassin’s Creed 3 doesn’t rely on accumulating currency to upgrade Connor. Your health bar regenerates, so armor is superfluous and the starter weapons will serve you well throughout the entire game. Hunting is another way of gaining money, but there’s no real reason to partake in it unless you want to engage a lot of wolves and cougars in a quicktime battle as the time investment for money returned is not worth it. The only area of the game that benefits from the economy is your warship the Aquila, but even there you can get by without spending money on it.

Speaking of the Aquila, the naval battles in Assassin’s Creed 3 are quite possibly the best part of the game. Taking control of the ship from behind the helm (the camera is situated behind Connor at the wheel but pulled back so you can see the entirety of your vessel) you steer it through engagements with enemy ships, using your cannons and swivel guns to take them out. Your enemies range from schooners to similar sized boats and the frightening Man O’ Wars.

You can put your ship at full and half sail (full sail is good for speed, half for maneuvering) and try and keep a good wind behind you as you try to out-maneuver you foes. Shots from your full cannons need to be lined up from either port or starboard, but holding in the right trigger and letting fly with a full broadside and sinking and enemy ship is incredibly satisfying. The swivel cannons are useful for taking out small ships or targeting the powder stores of big ships.

The Aquila is so much fun to play with that it’s kind of a shame that the main mission design is rather lacking. For an assassin, Connor really prefers a direct approach, and this is emphasized in the game’s many, many cutscenes (we’re talking Metal Gear Solid territory here). Very rarely do you get to actually sneak into an area and take out your target; more often than not you just wade through swaths of Redcoats until you can engage your target in a one-on-one battle. Add that to the often impossible side-objectives for full synchronization and the story missions of Assassin’s Creed 3 fail to reach the heights set by the previous games.

That’s even before getting to how buggy the game is, which is somewhat of an oddity for the usually solid state of Assassin’s Creed games. Getting stuck in geometry is fairly common, leading to many failed chases, and NPCs will randomly appear and disappear, breaking the immersion effectively. The game also has a nasty habit of working against you when it comes to your side-objectives, as more than once I failed to get full synchronization because the game locked me in place while a line of Redcoats fired at me, or brought up some other situation where fully completing a mission was snatched away from me.

assassins creed 3 review

The final mission itself is quite aggravating, almost to the point where it appears broken. Guards have a habit of knocking you off your feet even if you’re far away from their physical model and the game expects far too much perfection for how touchy the controls are. Assassin’s Creed has always been a bit deficient in this area, but between the glitchyness and the propensity Connor has to just climb the wrong object at the wrong time, most of the game’s evasion and chase sequences are exercises in patience.

There are a few redeeming qualities to Assassin’s Creed 3, however. Besides the Aquila, the game’s rendition of Revolutionary America is a visual treat, if you ignore the shamefully short draw distance. The Frontier is particularity eye-catching in the summertime, with its verdant greens and authentic-feeling atmosphere. Despite also having a winter setting, Assassin’s Creed 3 makes very little use of it, placing a scant few missions in the colder months. The Frontier is even underutilized in that respect, as most missions take place in New York or Boston, or at sea.

Cutscenes are particularly well done, which is good because there are a whole heck of a lot of them. Connor is exceptionally detailed, right down to the smallest emotional nuance in his face. The animators took great care to make Connor’s every action look as cool as possible, and the double-counter scenes are brutal and mesmerizing to watch. The story of Assassin’s Creed 3 leaves something to be desired though, as Connor is not as likeable as Ezio and seems almost too naive for his circumstances. Characters frequently make connections and leaps in logic that the game doesn’t bother to explain and the developers went out of their way to shoehorn Connor into a few too many classic Revolution scenarios. One small aspect I can’t help but point out is that, while Assassin’s Creed 3 features children and animals, Ubisoft couldn’t be bothered to get actual kids for voice actors as their sound clips are clearly adult voice actors pitched to try and emulate children’s voices, giving them a Krusty the Clown sort of effect.

Desmond returns as a playable character for four bland modern day missions. While navigating Desmond’s missions without a HUD to indicate your stealth levels or point out when you should counter is a challenging take on the base mechanics, his story beats aren’t that interesting. Even the ending of 3 leaves a lot to be desired and kind of feels hollow for all the buildup its received over the years.

Fans of the multiplayer will be happy to know that this mode returns in all of its glory, essentially unchanged from Revelations aside from the addition of a co-op Wolfpack mode.

The thing about Assassin’s Creed 3 is that it has all the trappings that people love about the series. There’s oodles of sidequests and distractions and the naval battles will draw you in and make you wish there was a whole game centered around them. Assassin’s Creed 3 is still an Assassin’s Creed game at its heart, just not a very good one.

D

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Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

4 thoughts on “Review: Assassin’s Creed 3”

  1. Man, not what I was expecting after seeing some other reviews. I was going to leave this one alone anyway because I haven’t played Brotherhood or Revelations yet, but looks like it doesn’t matter.

    Love the honesty here.

  2. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve commented anything on this site, so most of you might not remember me. I still stalk it (it’s actually my homepage) so I read almost all of the articles still, but I was compelled to respond to this one.

    I’m not responding to tear the review apart, quite the opposite. I just couldn’t believe how spot-on it was with everything I liked/disliked about the game. Every point you made here have been things that I’ve told people while giving my opinion on the game. Especially the sequence with the last mission…I can’t tell you how many times the soldiers knocked me over even though they were facing a different direction during the chase. Very frustrating.

    I also agree that the naval battles are an excellent part of the game, probably my favorite. I actually just finished them today, even though there were only four, but that hour or so spent playing them was some of the most enjoyable time I had.

    It is glitchy/buggy, and most times I found myself just wanting to get the game over with already, as was the case in Brotherhood and Revelations. Overall, I was disappointed because I believed the new setting would refresh the whole experience and breathe new life into the game, but I found I was just coming back for more of the same. I didn’t even bother with the Homestead or convoy, or even Assassin guild missions. Even though I love the Revolutionary War setting and story, there were a lot of improvements that could have been made.

    Oh, and one last thing. There were times during the story when I found myself hating the protagonist, Connor. He is such a naive character that you honestly want to reach out and punch him. Perhaps they made him this way as a metaphor to the Native American people as a whole, trusting the government and then seeing what happened to them. I’m not personally saying they are this way, but you know what I mean. Anyway, most of the time I found myself rooting for Kenway…they could have had an excellent twist there with a different story.

  3. @Julez It pained me to write this review šŸ™ But I felt that a D was the right grade.

    @Newaythisckesgr8 I really appreciate your comment! I felt like I was taking crazy pills, trying to reconcile my opinion of the game with the relatively high scores AC3 was getting from a few outlets (namely Game Informer’s 9.5/10).

    And you’re right, Connor is far too naive, considering everything he experiences throughout his story. This next part might spoil the game, so be careful reading it: Maybe he was looking for the good in people where there was clearly none to be found, regardless of alignment? Loyalists, Patriots, Templars, Assassins; they all had their own goals and Connor was just a pawn. It felt like he had no authority beyond his base desire to get his revenge. He didn’t even feel like a good Assassin. You can’t just slap a white hood on a dude and call him an assassin, as Connor proved.

  4. This is a prime example of why I don’t really trust too many of the media’s opinions on reviews anymore. However, independent sites like this one give the most honest reviews because you have nothing to gain or lose. So I appreciate that.

    You make a good point about him looking for the good in people. That’s correct, his only mission was to get revenge, and it just happened to work out in his favor through the storyline of everyone else. Looking back on past games, the assassins were their own bosses, where Connor seemed to go where his services were needed. And for your last comment, he does seem very out of place as an assassin. Heck, by blood he is actually a Templar!

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