The Assassin’s Creed series saw the mark of a new gaming age through the eyes of Desmond Miles, a modern day assassin living through the lives via of his unique heritage to unlock secrets that could save their dwindling order, and possibly the world.
Desmond’s story reaches it’s climax in the latest instalment of the AC series – Assassin’s Creed III – as he explores the life of Ratonhnhaké:ton (or ‘Connor’ as he comes to be known) and his desire to quench Templar control and bring justice to his village. Time is running out in the real world, and the fate of the planet rests on Desmond, his lineage and a particular artifact that will change the world as we know it.
Similar to its predecessor, AC3 is an open world RPG allowing you to run, jump, and stab to your heart’s content. There are a lot of new features to experience should you put in the time to pass the game’s linear start which is intriguing, though rather slow-paced in its beginning. Though it is the third game in the series (not including various AC2 spin offs) the first half of the game still engages you in tutorial-type gameplay.
Quite noticeably the game has a fair few glitches, though it’s likely that this will be remedied in future updates, it still makes for a frustrating experience as particular bugs prevent a mission here or there from being completed, requiring a restart. It can be anything from a missing marker (particularly on side missions) to a certain button on the gamepad being rendered useless. While this can be frustrating and inconvenient it is possible to be overlooked and the game is still very much playable.
The third instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series sees the addition of many new features exclusive to the title such as the hunting of wild animals and the command of a tall ship. Hunting through the use of snares allows you to catch smaller animals such as rabbit easily, and bait can be used to attract larger prey such as deer and elk which you can take down with a variety of tools at your disposal. The cleaner the kill, the better quality pelt you receive. Pelts and animal products can then be sold for a profit or used to craft other items. The wilderness is anything but a leisurely walk in the park though, with no more than a growl to warn you of the impending attack you are also victim to all manner of predators such as cougars and wolves who will quickly take you down given the chance. These encounters use a quick-time event, requiring you to hit the designated buttons to save your own hide, killing the animal in the process. This addition makes for an enjoyable, though optional experience which is a wonderful contrast to the paved streets of New York and Boston.
Aside from the signature hidden blade, poison darts, trip mines and firearms that were available in the previous game Connor has a variety of new weapons at his disposal including the tomahawk. The bow and arrow provide a silent option over the hand gun, definitely favored for it’s faster reload time and the rope dart is an effective means for pulling an enemy off their feet leaving them open for the kill.
The ship ‘Aquila’ adds a whole new dimension to game play with unique missions. If you’re fond of big canons and fast paced nautical combat then you’ll thoroughly enjoy the refreshing addition. Controlling both the ship itself, its sails and weaponry can take a little getting used to but proves to be a lot of fun as you try and blast other ships from the water. Other noticeable additions to the game include the ability to climb trees, lock picking, season changes and your ‘base’ the Homestead.
Besides the selection of new online characters (not limited to just assassin’s but the ability to play as British military as well), there are a few new embellishments added to the multiplayer mode that distinguish AC3’s multiplayer capabilities from previous titles. The enemy indicator bar has been replaced by the sounds of a ‘heart beat’ when your target nears you, and whispers when your attacker is near. While this has it’s benefit of removing HUD displays and making for a more realistic experience, it requires a lot of focus and cannot be attempted in a room full of noisy people – you just can’t hear it. You now also have the ‘line of sight’ capability, meaning you and your target can both see each other but if executed correctly you will receive better bonuses.
The multiplayer feels well rounded, its tutorials are helpful and easy to understand for those new to the game and the whole layout is smooth and easy to navigate when it comes to customising your character, finding stats or searching for a game. There are twelve modes to experience through multiplayer, including the new ‘Wolf Pack’ mode which allows you to team up with other online players and take down NPC targets through a sequence of levels, each one becoming more difficult similar to the horde mentality seen in other Multiplayer games.
The graphics have taken a considerable leap forward in AC3. The Assassin’s Creed series has always been privy to beautiful landscapes and intricate details on buildings and clothes though somewhat lacking on facial animation and detail. These have all been improved through the facial mould technology similar to that of LA Noire. Sneering, smirking and mouth expression are all evident and further add to the narrative experience and there are times you cannot help but stare in wonder. Especially when compared to the somewhat blocky, GTA feel of the original Assassin’s creed game.
As always the buildings and scenery are remarkable, and much like Ezio’s outfit, Connor’s robes display beautiful canvas textures and detail on its adornments. Small details such as footprints in the snow, stray pieces of straw falling after exiting a hay stack – all these things are evident. Forests are lush, wolves appear as if they could jump right into your living room and water splashes and reflects the light perfectly.
Unfortunately, as mentioned previously a few bugs here and there sometimes result in a lower frame rate when partaking in high speed operations, though not noticeably so. There also seems to be a consistency issue with blood appearing and disappearing in cut scenes, and sometimes patches of it even moving around on Connor himself.
The Assassin’s Creed series is an open narrative that plays like any good RPG should – driven by its strong storytelling and plot. Included in this is voice acting, which has the ‘do it right, or don’t do it at all’ mentality. Fortunately AC3 is doing it right. The voice acting of Adrian Hough as Haythem Kenway particularly delightful, in addition of course to returning characters Shaun (as snarky as ever), Desmond and Rebecca. In turn I found Connor’s voice acting a bit unreliable. At times it could be amazing, full of emotion and purpose and other times rather droll and forced, though this seems to tie in with his character.
General dialogue is top-notch, characters using language and words for their time period complete with relevant accents from a variety of backgrounds though this is of course to be expected and therefore nothing that jumps out if the ordinary.
Similar to previous games, AC3 is a completionist’s dream. With all manner of items to find, side missions to complete, future DLC to be released via the ‘season pass’ not to mention the multiplayer aspect, the game itself has a high replay value. The ability to replay story-based missions means you can replay the whole game should you wish to or just your favourite scenes – both of which you can do with whatever upgrades/status you have reached in free roam and aim for that 100% synchronisation. Still looking for something to do? How about upgrading your homestead, recruiting assassins or liberating cities from Templar control?
Even with the introduction of a new character and lineage, the Assassin’s Creed games will always be compared to one another especially considering this is all part of ‘Desmond’s Story’. That being said, AC3 takes the controversial leap removing certain aspects of games previous and adding new experiences. A lot of these are positive additions, adding exciting new elements to the series we love. Others, such as the access to upgrades, the purchasing of properties and a seeming lack of puzzles leave you a little confused and with no clear direction where or how to obtain items or perform upgrades. Putting this, the game’s slow start and some of Connor’s character flaws aside though still leaves you with a well-rounded and enjoyable game. It might not match up to previous titles, though this is a purely personal opinion, it is still a highly enjoyable game for the right audience.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ Beautiful graphics and visuals
+ Fresh new additions keep the series interesting
+ Strong plot and sense of urgency
– Glitchy at times meaning the restart of sequences/missions
– Connor’s personality seems somewhat deficient
– Lack of direction for crafting and upgrades