From Ubisoft comes the much…dare I say, over-anticipated Assassin’s Creed III. This latest installment in the series may not appeal to those who haven’t enjoyed the series before, but there is still a lot of fun to be had for veterans.
Leaving behind the Old World completely, Assassin’s Creed III sees the series go bigger than ever before with larger open-world action & adventure set in 18th-century America. It deals with some of the same themes as previous games, sure —power, influence of one person and their ability to control others through charisma as well as other means— but it also explores the nature of revolution, the danger of good intentions, and the slippery slope of conviction.
After spending the last three years with Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the series has finally moved on to introduce to us a new character, Connor, named Ratonhnhaké:ton by the tribe which he grew up with. Connor is a man stuck between two worlds. Born to a Native American tribe, and of a European father, Connor can be at home in both the wilderness or the city, but isn’t able to truly belong in either one. As an assassin, his goals of peace and freedom put him firmly in the middle of the war between the British loyalists and the prickly colonists. Relationships with other characters in the narrative put him further into a tumultuous space between the Assassins and the Templars.
Firmly on land, the combat and free running have had a bit of an overhaul, although it’s not immediately noticeable. Free running now only requires you to hold one button to sprint and climb but it doesn’t really mitigate the problems with leaping off handholds when you don’t want to, or occasionally flailing about awkwardly. It’s not that big of a deal, it’s never been a consistent problem, but there were still times where I found Connor shooting himself face-first into the ground when I simply wanted to leap to the next ledge. Combat has been simplified too, although largely functions in the same way. It now seems bit too easy to take down swathes of guards, although it’s still satisfying to pull off a string of blocks, counters, and killings.
Elsewhere, the partially revamped multiplayer mode is as fantastic as ever. The new Wolfpack mode is somewhat reminiscent of Sega’s The Club or Resi’s Mercenaries mode, tasking a team of players with killing a bunch of targets and performing bonus objectives in order to extend a timer, allowing the match to continue. The Assassin’s Creed versus multiplayer is an intense, subtle affair, tasking you with sneakily rubbing out your opponents in crowded areas. As always, if you go tearing around levels, leaping off rooftops and such, you’re going to get spotted very quickly. There are a bunch of modes here, with some that are pleasingly minimalist in terms of HUD and guidance towards your targets. This makes matches into exciting, slow-paced struggles for survival, made all the more ominous by the frenzied whispering you begin to hear as soon as a pursuer is closing in on you. On the downside, some of the maps aren’t quite as interesting as in previous games, and a few of the multiplayer characters look too similar to one another, which is a bit of a pain when it comes to identifying targets. These are minor gripes however, and with plenty of customization and load out options gradually unlocking the higher you level, there’s a lot of scope for the competitive assassin.
The environmental graphics are simply stunning. Water shifts to-and-fro just like real water on the oceans, clouds and landscapes are pristine and atmospheric, and fog flows naturally and blocks just the right amount of vision. Trees and buildings feel natural and organic, and nothing is left feeling out of place.
People graphics are…well, very unsettling. The eyes especially always look like polished stones because of a persistent reflective effect. Clothes and weapons go through objects and people rag doll way too much when killed. Stutters from officers are the worst, with patrolling officials getting trapped on railings, shimmying about as if they are doing the ants in the pants dance, or sinking into the floor but somehow spinning like tops while staring up at you.
Overall, the graphics were immersive enough to draw me into the story, if I ignored the minor glitches.
Despite its minor flaws, I can easily sum my feelings into a few words: I want to play more. The game has frustrating problems that are impossible to ignore, but the overall experience is just…well, fun. There is a ton of stuff to do, and most of it is a blast as well. High-seas hi-jinks, building out your quaint little homestead, investigating Daniel Boone’s tall tales, and building your brotherhood of assassins are all highly entertaining, and that moment when you sneak around a group of guards and leap from a flagpole to strike down your target is satisfying as ever. Even with its problems, Assassin’s Creed III is a brilliant and unique successor to Assassin’s Creed II and should not be missed.