Assassin’s Creed 3 Xbox 360 Review
Okay, so let’s assume that you’ve already played the previous Assassin’s Creed games. You were forced to go through the Crusades, then spent quite a long time in the Italian Renaissance, either throughout Italy, specifically in Rome, or basically in Constantinople – sorry, Istanbul. Now, in Assassin’s Creed III, it’s time to enter the American Revolution, and this time, the world’s going to end in December last year. Go figure – in being a completionist (at least for the games on the XBox 360), you’ve got a game that became irrelevant almost upon purchase. Hope you didn’t request it as a Christmas/Hanukkah gift, unless you don’t care about the suspense of the modern-day parts.
Despite obviously making a slight misjudgment in giving the whole series a time frame with an endpoint that was due to pass roughly seven weeks after the release of the final game, Ubisoft has made a game with a compelling story both in the distant and recent past. Although the game mechanics haven’t changed much between AC: Revelations and this game, the creators have still given a lot of thought to the way that you interact with the new environs, and have made every last one quite detailed. Historic details are also quite interestingly researched.
I’m going to have to divide this in to multiple sections because the experiences differ heavily. Of course, the main piece of interest – and the bit that was advertised to people new to the series – is set before and during the United States Revolution. You start off as an English gentleman named Haytham Kenway. Although your first few missions are basically a tutorial – somewhat annoying if you’ve played the game before, but it does allow you to learn some new mechanics. Don’t worry, it allows you plenty of opportunities to make with the killing and the hidden blades and the weaponry and the acrobatics – everything about Assassin’s Creed that you know and love. Things expand more when you get to the Colonies, specifically Boston and what’s called The Frontier, but which is basically a large portion of the rest of Massachussetts. You carry out some missions, side with the natives, run in to some familiar historic figures, and then find out a huge shocker, considering Haytham is an ancestor of Assassin Desmond Miles. (NOTE: If you want to ruin the surprise, read everything in the database. It really killed the reveal for me, which struck me as a design flaw.)
Once it becomes clear that being Haytham isn’t going anywhere, you suddenly become Ratonhnhaké:ton (but, similar to another character in the game, I’m gonna’ call him Connor, because it’s easier to say than it is to spell – intimidating, huh?), Haytham’s illegitimate kid conceived with basically a Mohawk (well, close enough) princess. You start out with him as an adolescent, but you get to grow up with him, all the way up to being trained by an elderly landed black man (which is repeatedly pointed out as a crazy concept, because hey, if we’re going to tackle a bunch of random murder, why not ugly things like racism and slavery?) to become an Assassin. Along the way, New York is added to the places that you can visit on foot, as well as a homestead that acts as your headquarters (without which none of these games would be complete, it seems). Plus, you can now move through tree branches and climb cliffs.
Eventually, Connor gets involved in the American Revolution, as well as other various activities, such as captaining a ship in which you experience high seas combat (probably the most fun new thing in the game). Connor also dabbles in tracking down frontier legends (Bigfoot, UFOs, sea monsters – just a bunch of stuff that winds up, sadly, having completely logical explanations), completing particular hunting challenges (and apparently being single-handedly responsible for the depletion of the entire wildlife population of Massachussetts), delivering letters, supplies, grabbing lost pages of different editions of Poore Richard’s Almanack (yeah, the one Ben Franklin wrote), raiding caravans, helping people that eventually wind up living on the homestead, and doing various activities to gain allegiances. You also get to access fast travel routes by a method that’s a little more entertaining than just buying them – you actually get to explore catacombs in Boston and New York to reach them. There are some side games to play, specifically checkers, variations of morris, an old game that seems like an English version of go called farona, and bocce ball (called “bowls” in the game because they’re English, not Italian). You can also use the homestead to engage in trade, similar to the property ownership of Brotherhood and Revelations in purpose.
Of course, what with the name of the title, you also go about killing people in various creative ways. This includes all of the weapons from Revelations – sword, gun, darts, hidden blade, heavy weaponry, throwing knives, smoke bombs, regular explosives – but with clubs, axes, and tomahawks taking the place of knives, and a bow and arrow taking the place of the crossbow. You also get a new weapon straight out of Mortal Kombat – the rope dart. Plus, you’ll utilize snares and bait, because you’re a hunter now, and killing animals is just one of those things that requires stuff like that. All these tools wind up being useful along your path, and some of the side quest goals actual require the use of every last one of them. Come to that, a few perfect completion goals require it as well.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Desmond Miles and his team – newly joined by his dad, who apparently came at the end of Brotherhood to help because Desmond killed would-be traitor Lucy Stillman (obvious swerves are this series’ trademark) and then went comatose throughout the events of Revelations – are out to save the world. They go to what used to be tribal land, use this special device from the Earth’s previous advanced civilization, and enter a huge cave of dead technology. You can travel around the cave, seeing visions of somebody called Juno (basically, we’re saying that the Greeks had the predecessors to humans as the gods, used the wrong names, the Romans fixed that, fun times were had by none) who is trying to stop humanity from suffering the painful end of the sun roasting the planet that her civilization suffered. It’s not much of a history, but it is fun trying to find your way around the caves, including figuring out the gymnastics required.
Unlike the other iterations of the game, you actually get more than one basic modern-day area that you get to explore (although technically, the previous game was entirely in Desmond’s head, so that’s not much of a reach). You get to do a parachute drop from one skyscraper on to another, sneak in to an MMA event in Rio de Janiero, and a particularly detailed location from a previous game (hey, they couldn’t just let all that wonderful environment rendering work that they did from previous games go entirely unused). All of this is to save the world, specifically trying to get cells to power the cave so that you can open a door that apparently holds the key to salvation. Gameplay-wise, the real-world missions themselves leave something to be desired, as you only have the hidden blades in combat situations, and you don’t get any on-screen warnings because you’re not in the Animus, but the attention to detail is rather good. They even have a match in progress when Desmond enters the arena in Rio. The NPCs in the cage are actually putting on something that may have been borrowed from EA or THQ.
The two plot lines come together to an ending that seems fitting, but it left me a little bit empty. Then again, the game series almost continuously promised, since Assassin’s Creed II, that the ending was going to be a deus ex machina, and that kind of resolution tends to leave anybody empty. On the other hand, the game is never really about the end so much as the journey, and the journey is quite the ride, even the parts where you’re basically just grinding.
The multiplayer hasn’t really changed, save for the different game options that weren’t previously present. Although I enjoyed the previous versions, this one didn’t do much to entice me beyond the first few days of play-through. The fact that you need to buy a new copy to be able to play, or get the access with Microsoft Points, might turn some people away from even trying it. The new character models for the multiplayer suite are decently rendered.
However, there were points where the game froze instead of starting from a previous point, specifically with deaths due to falling. Also, you could be trapped by NPCs that should normally let you shove your way through, or jump off of a surface in a direction that you aren’t aiming your character. New York’s underground also has a major glitch where you can’t get to the rest of the maze from a certain entrance save for using fast travel points. There are also a few errors with the trade system. Finally, the timing of combat is either far too easy or far too complicated, meaning that one of the most intricate aspects of previous games has been “dumbed” down on the player end and amped up on the enemy NPC end, leading to something that, previously fun, now is tedious. Sneaking around is far better and more entertaining, as it saves you things like the needless slaughter that just goes on and on and on without being fun.
So in conclusion Assassin’s Creed III has far more things going for it than against it, and Ubisoft did right by the fans with this series conclusion, even though the real world outside of the game obviously did not end on the 21 of December, 2012. If you have a 360, PS3, Wii U, or gaming PC, and haven’t bought it, it should be in your library.
+ A compelling story that never misses a beat (provided you just play through)
+ Side quests that aren’t mandatory, and which don’t detract from the game
+ A new naval game mechanic that really made some side quests more fun than the regular missions
+ “Real world” setups that finally feel integral to the story, instead of being add-ons through which you need to pass in order to get to the end of the events in the Animus
+ An ending that seems fitting to the series, or at the very least to the current plot
– Some glitchy movement and environmental issues
– Combat becomes tedious instead of fun in “open instance” situations
– Some side quests can’t be located using the map, and are found almost entirely by accident
– The database ruins parts of the story that are supposed to be surprises
Review Score: 8.5/10