“On this land, I am torn. Part of me wants to fight and repel all outsiders. The other part of me is the outsider. In the name of liberty, I will fight the enemy regardless of their allegiance. While men of courage write history of this day, the future of our land depends on those who are truly free.” ―Ratonhnhaké:ton (Connor)
Torn is the key word in that quote taken from one of the early Assassin’s Creed III trailers, and it’s probably going to be the key word for anyone currently playing the game as well.
Since the first game was released in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed series has gone from strength to strength; it would have been very easy for Ubisoft Montreal to churn out the same game with different historical settings at yearly intervals: however they didn’t. Instead they split the development across multiple teams all over the globe, each working on different aspects of the gameplay before bringing it all together to much critical delight, introducing new gameplay elements with every release whilst maintaining the feel of the series. Each new title brought something new, and whilst some decisions were initially greeted with distain, all added something to the series..
However, Assassin’s Creed III is more of a back to basics approach than the promised revolution, removing the abilities to buy businesses and build strongholds, instead replaced by creating a Homestead to bring in crafting material and the ability to hunt the many wild animals you will encounter on your journey across the eastern Seaboard of the USA. The combat has been stripped back too, focusing more on countering, making it feel less complex but strangely more satisfying when you take down a large group of redcoats using just your trusty tomahawk.
The cities also feel stripped back and although this is in keeping with the time period it does take something away from the game. In previous titles the cities have felt alive, bright & colourful, as much of a character as any of Desmond’s bladed relatives, however here the cities of Boston and New York, although not as sparse as most expected really feel a little bland. In-between the cities you are able to navigate the great frontier, running through the trees with ease, kind of like that awful Shia LaBeouf monkey scene in Indy IV, hunting elk, wolves and beaver for items to trade. However, although the alpine traversal feels fluent, and stalking an enemy from the treetops is fun, it again feels a little bland and more akin to the deserts of the first game in the series.
Another major change from the established, is the main character Connor (or Ratonhnhaké:ton).Whereas Desmond’s previous ancestors have been righteous and very clear on their quest, Connor come across as a little hot headed and plain naïve at times which can also make him slightly unlikeable. I’m not too convinced this isn’t deliberate though as Assassin’s Creed III attempts to blur the lines between the Assassin’s and the Templars more than ever before and will often have you questioning everything you thought you knew about both orders. Connor finds himself heavily involved in the formation of the United States as we know it, yet his focus is always on the defence of his people and what he considers right for his country even if it doesn’t always seem the best decision. The game also allows you to recruit assassin’s and send them on missions to level them up, which is a little strange as Connor himself often shows little regard for the ways of his order and their struggle against the Templars.
The missions themselves are a little stunted and way more defined than the previous games, offering little in the way of freedom to tackle them any way you want and making you feel much more directed. Some of the side quest’s do offer a little more variety to the go here and kill the British of the main story. The frontier challenges are taken straight out of Red Dead Redemption and will see you hunting down mysteries as well as wild animals and there’s the usual collectables, although annoyingly you have to chase most of them.
Assassin’s Creed III however does do a lot right, sadly most of it is hidden in the menus and easily missed. The story cleverly involves some of the most important days in America’s history, with the Animus database detailed enough to be referenced in a history piece on the period and the even more simplified assassin’s contracts will have you idling in the city as your trusty minions tackle Templar threats across North America. It’s easily the best looking of the series too, even if it does suffer from the god awful frame rates and texture pop-in that has dogged the series.
One major plus is the introduction of Naval combat; the ability to wreak havoc on the high seas is truly epic and really deserving of its own game in its own right. Although a little daunting to begin with you’ll soon be swashbuckling your way through fleets of loyalist ships in beautifully crafted and tense sea battles, battling the elements just as much as the ship’s out to send you down to Davy Jones locker. These epic moments are few and far between in the main story but there’s plenty of opportunity to take to the high seas in a series of side missions.
The popular multiplayer suite makes its return as expected too, this time bringing a new mode in Wolf Pack mode, pitting you and your friends against NPC targets in a series of co-op challenges. The lasting appeal however will be with the hugely popular Assassinate mode, where you have to identify other players hiding around the map, as you yourself hide from assailants. Progress in the multiplayer will also unlock further back story into the mysterious Abstergo company and its development of the Animus, in an effect to get more people playing and creating a lasting community.
Assassin’s Creed III is by no means the weakest in the series, but it’s also far from the strongest and it’s likely going to be overarching storyline that keeps you playing through the glitches and bugs the game has, after the excellent Ezio trilogy ramped up the storyline. It still has all the problems that have littered the series, and whilst lacking much of the charm and character of its predecessors its worth picking up to finally get some closure on Desmond Miles’ fight against Abstergo.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: Xbox 360/PS3 (PC/Wii-U coming soon) Release Date: 31/10/2012
Disclosure: BlueWolf rented a physical copy Assassin’s Creed III for review purposes . The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.