The latest game in the Assassin’s Creed saga was recently released, and it features a new protagonist to replace Ezio Audittore. Let’s see how well the stabbing, killing, maiming, and adventuring continues, shall we?
Assassin’s Creed 3 picks up pretty much where the last game, Revelations, left off. Desmond and his motley band disappear to a new location with Templars hot on their heels, and the memories that Desmond experiences in the Animus starts off halfway through the life of one Haytham Kenway in the middle of the 1700s. Oh, sorry? You thought that the protagonist of the game was named Connor, and that the game takes place around the 1780s? Well, that’s the first bit of strangeness to this game that no one expected. I deeply apologize for having the start this review off with some whinging, but there’s going to be a fair bit of it. Brace yourselves: whinging approaches.
So, playing as Haytham Kenway serves as the tutorial section for Assassin’s Creed 3. And you’re going to get to know Mr Kenway fairly well, because you end up with him for up to and over six hours. Yes, you read that correctly. SIX. DAMN. HOURS. I suppose you are now sitting with the admittedly not unreasonable thought: “A six-hour long tutorial? Really?” Yes, really. The actual tutorializing is much longer, but much of what you do with Haytham serves to introduce you to the way that the game’s controls have changed and how to make do with the differences. And only then you are allowed to play as Connor. Of course, a lot of back story and exposition happens during the first six hours, but very little of it is more compelling than, say, an episode of Extreme Couponing. When you finally take over Connor, you still have to play through another few hours of tutorial before you’re into the meat of the game. Surprised? I bet you are. As, I am sure, were many people who played AC3.
The game’s historical context is that of the events in Boston just before the start of the American Revolution—that point in history where the Americans decided that they’d just about had enough of the British, despite many of them actually BEING of British descent. The game itself starts in 1754, but the real Connor-on-America action gets going around the year 1770. Connor’s main goal in life, like those of many of the Assassins who have gone before him, is to kill a bunch of Templars who have gone and made his life a little miserable. Some people apparently struggle with a little taunting and a little bit of playful murder. I’m not going to ruin the plot for you more than that.
Gameplay-wise, there is a lot to Assassin’s Creed 3. Many of the familiar elements from prior games return to AC3, including a brotherhood of Assassins to recruit, a base of operations to upgrade (this time it’s an area called the Homestead), trading to be done, parkour to be parked, weapons to be collected, missions to be completed, side-quests to be sided, treasures to be located, areas to explore, and lots of killing to be done. Lots of killing. This time, though, your killing spree isn’t confined to just humans. No, now you’re good to kill animals, too; big animals, little animals, animals that climb on rocks, fat animals, skinny animals, even chickens with the pox; badgers, rabbit, wolves, bears, deer, elk…if it existed in the old Frontier, odds are it’ll be available for you to stalk, hunt, kill, and render down for parts. It all depends on how you get your jollies, I guess. All this bloodshed isn’t ENTIRELY senseless, though. You reap valuable raw materials from the slain, allowing you to make things at the Homestead, or trade them off for filthy lucre. There is a hell of a lot to do, and it may even start to feel overwhelming in terms of its sheer size. Frankly, for a reviewer, it’s a nightmare of a game, but in terms of the player, it’s a treasure-trove, purely because of the amount of time you can spend in the game without running out of things to see and do. Even when you do complete the main story, the old American Frontier still has a lot of content to keep you busy, multiplayer, and DLC notwithstanding.
The one really big addition to Assassin’s Creed 3 is the ability to kill people on boats out on the high seas. Early in Connor’s adventures, he get to control a ship called the Aquila, and this ship is available for you to pilot any time you feel in the mood for a little high-seas hijinks. The ship steers like a drunk, pregnant elephant high on marijuana, but boy are the naval battles fun! To my mind, they are the best part of AC3, in the same way that the Leonardo da Vinci missions were the best from AC2 and AC:Brotherhood. Thankfully, unlike the da Vinci missions, the naval missions aren’t a bunch of one-off battles. There’s a fair amount of coast to explore and populate with sunken ships.
My chief issue with AC3 is that the old Frontier, and indeed, the old American towns and cities, just didn’t feel as historically compelling to me as the cities in Europe and the Middle East. There’s a layer of deep historical mystery, a calling deep within my soul that I didn’t feel with the newer game. Let me put it to you this way: playing the first two games in Assassin’s Creed 2 made me actually plan a trip to Italy to see Rome, Venice, and San Gimignano (the bus drove past Monteriggioni, but from the outside, it looks as impressively old as in the game). Playing Assassin’s Creed 3 doesn’t give me the same sense of wonder and “I-must-see-it”-ness that I got from the earlier games. I honestly didn’t feel as engaged in the environment. However, the graphics are supremely pretty, and the addition of both animals and weather makes it feel a lot more alive than the environments of the older games. But despite that, it still felt like it lacked the same kind of soul and mystery. Ironically, the sections featuring Desmond were far more interesting to me now, and exploring the modern-day areas was wonderful fun, if a little shorter than I would have liked.
The multiplayer games were more of what had come before as well, with two new modes thrown: Wolfpack is my favourite of the two, with up to four players teaming up to kill NPCs within a given time limit. There are 25 stages to play through in Wolfpack, and learning to co-ordinate your attack is what makes this mode. It reminds me rather of some of the multiplayer missions in Mass Effect 3. The other mode, called Domination, is a standard king-of-the-hill mode where you need to protect an area from the opposing team. If you’ve played any multiplayer game with a king-of-the-hill mode, you’ll know precisely what to expect from this.
To be frank and fair, Assassin’s Creed 3 is a pretty good game in its own right. My problem, as with many sequels, is that it has to stand against its predecessors. Is Assassin’s Creed 3 head and shoulders above the prior games? Sadly no. Well, it’s definitely better than the first Assassin’s Creed game, but in my mind, it falls below the entire Assassin’s Creed 2 trilogy. That’s not to say it’s not a brilliant game or good value for money, because it is. You’ll be playing it for hours on end, even after you’ve completed the story. But the story is not what’s going to keep you here. Connor seems a less interesting, less rounded person than Ezio, despite the naval skills. If you’ve been in the Assassin’s Creed adventure up until this point, it’s worth playing it just to find out where it leads and how the story ends. If you’re new to the series, you can easily start here and not feel the same disappointment as someone who travelled in Ezio’s footsteps. An intro sequence will bring you up to speed on the events of the earlier games, and you’ll be all hunkedy-dory when the game kicks in.
Final score: 7 slicin’ dicin’ killin’ prawns out of 10
Distributor: Ubisoft (Megarom)
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Age Rating: 18