The Assassins Creed franchise has become one of the most popular gaming series of the current generation, Assassins Creed 3 aims to take the well known formula of previous games and refine, flesh out and introduce new mechanics aiming to provide the best entry in the series to date. AC3 introduces us to the American Revolution between the 30 year span of 1753-1783, Ubisoft Montreal has been able to provide one of the most living and breathing gaming worlds ever created, such beauty, such variety and one of the most interesting narratives I have played this year. Problem is this wonderful experience is continuously hampered by technical issues, average gameplay and empty side missions. Assassins Creed 3 tries to innovate in so many ways, but because of the wide array of focus, many of the key aspects fail to provide that polished quality that the series is known for.
Assassins Creed 3 brings back Desmond Miles, who out of his comatose state is now in search of the key to an underground temple, to try and save the world from the 2012 solar flare that threatens to wipe out life as we know it. During the game you will take control of Desmond on many occasions, but you will mostly spend your time in the faithful Animus taking control over half English, half Mohawk assassin known in his native tongue as Ratonhnhaké:ton, but commonly known as Connor. Connors story provides gamers with the most interesting narrative the series has ever seen, it felt well paced, well structured and in my opinion in another league to the story of AC2. Interacting with such legendary figures of American history such as George Washington, Charles Lee and Benjamin Franklin provide some great moments, but it also provides the gamer with a great history lesson. AC3 finds a way of showcasing some key historical moments, which are brilliantly portrayed through some movie quality voice acting. From the Declaration of Independence, Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill, these moments all provide a memorable experience.
Magnificent is a word I barely use, but there is no better way to explain how this game looks. Character models look realistic, the architecture looks ripped right out of historical photos and the world itself feels alive. Alive is the best way to explain the world of AC3, the attention to detail is astronomical. Connors movements capture the realism of traversal, lifting his legs high to get through the thick snow, giving that extra effort to run up hills, the way he moves under a washing line. These subtle movements make all the difference to venturing around the environment, which has also had a major upgrade. Rats scamper through city streets, blood builds up on your outfit as you engage in combat, and animals go about their daily business on the frontier, even the dust rises from the ground as you gallop on your trusty steed. The AnvilNext engine has delivered breathtaking visuals to compliment your experience.
One moment that stuck with me was when I was making my through the frontier to my next mission, I stumbled upon a beautiful lake and beside it was two elk, fighting each other with their antlers. This tussle for dominance could have been missed, but there it was, as if my existence didn’t matter, I was just another facet of this breathing world. AC3 graphically shines when you acquire the Aquila, your own personal vessel of the seven seas. The gorgeous ocean, the weather effects and the physics of the waves around you, videos do not do this scenario justice, it is astounding. Include the new seasonal changes in the games environment and winter becomes a magical wonderland of beauty, for you to explore.
AC3 includes brand new fighting and traversal systems, these new additions were said to allow free-flowing combat using Connors two handed fighting preference. The refined traversal system also now allows players to climb trees and cliff-faces, which is something completely new to the series. In a way this new system works, but it is very inconsistent. Firstly when it comes to combat, the combat feels unnatural and actually a step back in terms of functionality compared to previous entries. One of the major flaws is countering, if pulled off extremely well you can brutalize your enemies with some violent kill animations. But the problem is the counter system feels non-responsive, after spending upwards of 15 hours with the game the combat felt like a chore, having reversal attempts either not respond or instead of reversing into a combat maneuver Connor would just push the opponent away, even though the correct button combination was being used. The system adds in useful mechanics however such as corner spot assassinations, allowing you to hide behind objects to catch your foes by surprise.
The environmental traversal works well for the most part, swinging through trees makes you feel like the king of the wilderness. Yet as I said it becomes inconsistent, some cliffs look climbable but Connor will only run a few steps up the wall before falling back to the ground, this goes the same for trees. The line “You can climb anything” in the lead-up to release kept running through my head, though it certainly delivered to an extent, it feels like a component that could become amazing in future iterations. The game also adds in some great new gameplay additions, including driving your ship through the ocean, which continues to be a fun experience, yet additions such as lock picking feel unnecessarily difficult.
The major problem with gameplay comes in form of sprinting and climbing being assigned to the same R1/LB shoulder buttons, walking using just the analog sticks is a snail’s pace, but using the shoulder button to sprint can become quite problematic. Some missions require you to chase down a target, but these become quite frustrating when Connor decides to run up the side of a barrel because you were holding the shoulder button to close to the object. Sure you can eventually get used to the system, but in some final missions when you are surrounded by guards, with only mere seconds meaning the difference between accomplishment or desynchronization, prepare yourself for the worst.
Previous AC games rewarded you for finding viewpoints and extra collectibles, with either bonus health or special weapons. AC3 however doesn’t seem to reward you for completing many tasks, viewpoints do not garner any extra health as you are given your full bar from the start and side missions provide this extreme sense of emptiness on completion. More and more World of Warcraft style missions were thrown my way, stop 3 executions, deliver 5 letters, hunt down 3 wolves etc. The side quests do not seem to award you in many ways, after one ship mission I was left with several loading screens over a good 60 seconds, to only appear in front of my boat with nothing to show for it. Sure these missions can be fun for awhile, but the game doesn’t provide the incentive to keep questing like previous entries. Though those of you who love all these optional missions will be in heaven, the main quest will take you about 12 hours to complete and with the various missions and tasks to complete, you could easily spend 50 hours with the game and still have more to finish.
AC3’s answer to the Villa in AC2 is the Homestead, the Homestead provides unique missions to recruit hunters, architects and many other fine folk to craft items that are found on recipes, these are collected by completing various tasks in-game. The system works, allowing you to craft items and then send them to stores via a convoy to earn cash; the convoys however can be attacked so it is your duty to protect your items. The system allows for some of the best side missions in the game, providing small stories of the people you recruit. The crafting system itself never felt like a major innovation and I didn’t spend much time using the system, due to some poor explanations as to why this system was important .But those players looking for extra money could spend hours crafting and protecting their convoy efforts.
With any game of this magnitude technical flaws will arise, AC3 is no different. The game suffers from relatively bad pop-in, with buildings materializing and civilians literally appearing in front of you, it doesn’t affect your ability to enjoy this experience but it is very noticeable, when half the crowd around you seems to magically remove the invisibility cloak in unison. Noticeable load times do occur, but once the game is loaded there was never any slowdown during gameplay, which is crazy when you consider certain events such as the memorable battle of Bunker Hill housing hundreds of enemies on the one screen at once, the AnvilNext engine delivered an elegant display during these massive conflict sequences.
Multiplayer makes a return in AC3, the premise of AC multiplayer is a cat and mouse situation, while you are given a target to assassinate there is also another player searching for you, this mentality has always resonated well with me and makes the mode ever so entertaining. High scores are given to those to make the perfect kill, using stealth tactics, the environment and abilities to their advantage. The multiplayer in AC3 feels smooth, after several attempts at perfecting the system this game has made a lot of general improvements. Locking on to your opponents is a skill that will help throughout game sessions, when in groups of civilians your kills can become imprecise, locking onto your target however means you can only kill your locked enemy, this feature allows more precise hidden blade action. When your pursuer closes into your position they will give off small whispering sounds, it is a nice idea to try and allow you more defense against opposition, but unless you turn off the gameplay audio and mute opposing player’s audio, it becomes quite hard to hear.
One of the additions to multiplayer is the Wolfpack game mode, this mode allows four players to race against the clock to score assassination points by killing assigned targets, the better the kill, the better the score. This mode is excellent, it creates a great sense of teamwork, allowing you to heal team mates and perform synchronized kills for bonus scores. Though reaching the end of the mode is quite easy, you will want to replay to try and better your previous scores. Although my multiplayer experience in AC3 was hampered by a problem known as ‘Limited Mode’ that stopped me from accessing online for a few days, when the error lifted the online performance ran smoothly.
The game also offers asynchronous multiplayer stat tracking via the Animus Training Center option in the start menu, these stats can be compared to friends and even be used to see your ranking amongst the entire world. Those of you like me who love a game that tracks stats such as game time, kills and percentages of completion will appreciate the system, with the added ability of beating your friends top scores placing a lovely cheery on this sweet addition.
Assassins Creed 3 set out to overhaul the entire game and provide the best AC game to date, it was one monumental task and in many ways they were able to excel in comparison to previous entries. Providing the best story in the series and one of the strongest tales of the year, along with one of the most wondrous examples of a living-breathing open-world to explore, make this game one of the strongest entries in the franchise. Including some gorgeous visuals and the brilliant inclusion of pirate-inspired ship missions, the games does so many things extremely well. Though as strong as these elements are, the empty side missions, lack of incentive to complete extra tasks and the presence of so many technical issues take away from the overall experience. As much as the game seems to provide some truly great moments, other aspects always seem to take you out of the experience and radiate the feeling of quantity, rather than quality.
Assassins Creed 3 is still an impressive entry in the series and one of the best games this year, it may not reach the extremely high expectations that many thought the game would achieve. But it is definitely is worth the experience and a must-buy for fans of the franchise.
- Boat Missions
- Cool Narrative
- Fun Multiplayer
- Incredible Living World
- Many Glitches/Bugs
- Side Quests Feel Empty
- Gameplay Becomes Issue
- Homestead Not Explained Well
Jamie Briggs runs Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and their videos on YouTube.