Assassin’s Creed III reviewBy Jonathan Jenner
Assassin’s Creed III, set during the American Revolution, was supposed to do what its time period suggested for a series that had become ever so slightly stale.
For three full games, Ezio Auditore di Firenze held a charismatic grip on our interest as the gameplay mechanics slowly aged around him. For this new release, those mechanics have been modified, certainly, but after a few hours with the game you do begin to notice problems that have plagued the series since 2007. Despite this, however, ACIII’s vast and engaging world may provide just enough for players to overlook those same old issues.
Featuring beautifully realised representations of Boston and New York, as well as the sprawling wilderness of The Frontier linking them together, this game is huge. More importantly, it’s full; cities teem with people going about their lives, gossiping on street corners and purchasing goods from stalls, and making a racket in The Frontier quickly flushes out deer, rabbits, and other game. The number of side missions in all of these places also help to flesh them out, and set you off in directions that the main story simply wouldn’t. Sure, a fairly unpleasant fellow needs assassinating somewhere, but you’ll still find yourself playing draughts for half an hour with a sailor to make fifty quid.
That’s perhaps the most engaging thing about this game. The storyine builds on the core of past Assassin’s Creed games by making you a part of history – never before has your character proven quite so influential. You’ll personally lead the Boston Tea Party, charge through literally thousands of men at the Battle for Bunker Hill, and both witness and partake in other seminal events from the American Revolution. But the storyline, as lengthy as it is, is less than a quarter of what this game is offering, and is easily ignored for hours at a time. Scampering over rooftops chasing after almanac pages, hunting bears out on The Frontier, recruiting assassins, captaining your own bloody warship; the side missions are varied, plentiful and easily more captivating than your war with the Templars.
The world around you, then, is easily the best of any Assassin’s Creed game, and arguably stands shoulder to shoulder with games like Red Dead Redemption. The gameplay has changed too, but unfortunately, not enough to warrant any real praise. Combat is advertised as faster and more aggressive, with more options for dispatching your opponents. And to some extent, it delivers, with the new Counter system making it easier to hack lumps out of someone with your tomahawk and still watch your own back. But all too often you’ll find yourself surrounded by enemies and countering in the same fashion as ACII, and swapping weapons is a mood-killing process of leaving the action with R2 to cycle through some menus. The ability to wield a weapon in your right hand and a ‘tool’ in your left (tomahawk and pistol, for example) also seems great in theory, but this is somewhat offset by certain tools being useless in combat, with the pistol taking a genuinely excruciating amount of time to reload. Gameplay problems don’t stop there, with the biggest gripe being the ways in which you run and climb. The chief problem here is that running and climbing are controlled with the same button; all too often, you’ll find yourself sprinting away from a Redcoat patrol, only to randomly mount a fence that you came too close to and getting caught. It’s frustrating, and made all the more so by the fact that it’s a problem the series has always had. Wanting to move slightly faster along a roof can result in jumping off of it, and it’s these problems that make it difficult to enjoy new features like escaping through the interiors of buildings and more natural blending mechanics.
An undeniable draw of the past few Assassin’s Creed games was the protagonist himself. Ezio grew from lovable rogue into a Master Assassin but through it all he retained a sense of humour, style, and a charisma that was constantly compelling and likeable. Connor Kenway, despite his interesting background and excellent bone structure, simply isn’t as much fun as Ezio was. You play through set-pieces and moments of tension that really are the pinnacle of the series, without ever feeling any connection to the character. He’s just so serious – and angry to the point where he’s dangerously close to being unpleasant to watch.
Overall, ACIII is a lot of fun, with a breath-taking world that is full of things to do and see. That’s why it’s so disappointing that playing through that world is all too often a frustrating affair because of familiar flaws in gameplay and overall it isn’t quite the revolution that was promised.