1 if by land 2 if by sea…The review for Assassin’s Creed 3 really is as simple as that simple quote by Paul Revere. In a nut shell Assassins Creed is trying to do too much and only accomplishes a little. Everything that is done by land is just frustrating while everything by sea is a thing of beauty to behold. It’s a shame really as I had so much hope and anticipation for AC3 that I went into a media black out after the initial trailer was released last year.
While the Assassin’s Creed games have been either a hit or miss with regards to the various gameplay elements, its the story of both Desmond and the story of the various protagonists that keeps me playing. And if I were to just look at this game from a strictly story stand point, the game would get a much higher number and maybe even a 10. Sure the opening dragged on a bit too much, but seeing the new characters introduced and the battle between Assassins and Templars unfold in 18th Century America was pure joy for this political science geek. This however, is a game that is meant to be played and is a game that has a pretty tried and true formula for what works and what doesn’t work. I am not going to discuss any story elements in this review, as I hate having things spoiled for me, and so let’s just take a look at what works and what doesn’t work gameplay wise.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been built around its free-running; climbing tall towers; stealth; counter/ attack combat; and collectible hunting. Notice how I didn’t say QTE (Quick timer events)? Are you listening Ubisoft? What in the hell were you thinking with these stupid QTE? I mean seriously hunting or traversing the frontier is just annoying now as there is no way to battle the wild beasts of America without facing multiple QTE’s. Wait until you are running through the forest and come across a pack of wolves and then let me know if you had FUN with that?
So let’s examine the other elements of gameplay that are supposed to be the bread and butter of the franchise.
Free-running: Alright so they have made it smoother and easier to get from place to place without some of the really frustrating mis-steps. For running around the world and during various chase scenes it seems to work fine and was enjoyable even when going from tree to tree. The tree stuff was actually pretty great here, just not enough connecting paths.
Climbing: So the climbing mechanic is on one hand super easy, with just one button press you can climb tall towers, trees, or ships. On the other hand its just too easy as there is no challenge or thinking involved. One of my favorite parts of past games was having to find the correct path up a certain building and yet now its a no-brainer, just push up and the RT and away you go. Well almost that easy…Once you are on the top of certain sync points good luck at getting to the very top as often times you will just fall right off (i.e. wind indicators on the top of buildings). Once you are on the top, good luck getting down in one piece especially if you climbed up a large tree. I mean seriously Ubisoft how come every time I climbed up a tree and tried to do a free fall to a pile of hay, I would end up splashed on the ground? Shouldn’t this be automatic by now?
Stealth: Haha yeah stealth is pretty poorly implemented in AC3 in that there are sight lines from enemies that make zero sense. There are a few missions where stealth is a requirement and even then the game is a chore. If you kill someone before they say a word and nobody is around to hear or see it, you should be okay right? Nope not in AC3 where the game will give you a mission failure and require you to start over. YAY! Don’t get me started on the frustrating “tail somebody and listen to their conversation” mission type. Seriously Ubisoft what were you thinking with this crap?
Combat: The combat here is basically the same as before and while it works the same as before its just no fun, especially after games like Batman Arkham City. I died more times than I would like to admit thanks to either bad counter mechanics or poor camera angles. In order to win its almost a quick button mash contest to see if you get lucky or not…and yes I understand the counter system…it just sucks.
Collectibles: There are a ton of things to find throughout the world and while not as many as previous games, the amount seemed like a nice balance and not a complete chore. Well almost not a complete chore as the flying almanac pages are just that…a chore!
Let’s take a look at some of the new or semi-new aspects of the game that they threw into Assassin’s Creed 3:
Crafting / Convoy system: For a system that has clearly been thought out, they sure don’t explain much here. I made it through Sequence 9 before I even considered checking out the crafting system and that was only because I needed to find a way to make some quick cash. I needed ship upgrades after all. While the game does give you a quick tutorial on how to use the system, its never really clear about when this is all available and what you can actually do with it. It just seems clunky at best and at worst a big time suck with little payout. The fact that the entire convoy system is hidden away in a crafting system is beyond me and having to craft naval convoys was really just something I ended up having to do rather than wanting to do. To be honest if I hadn’t enjoyed the naval sequences so much, I would have never gone into the crafting system and would have missed nothing.
Assassin Recruits / Contracts: In previous games, you are able to recruit an infinite number of assassins (provided you have open slots) and then send them out easily to train and get more skilled. They could also die and then you would have to find another assassin to fill the void. In Assassins Creed 3 you are only able to recruit 6 assassins, all with their own back story and specialty.They cannot die which is great but they can get injured and be forced to take a time out. That is all fine and dandy…but the thing that irritates me about this games use of the recruits is with the contract system. There is no tutorial on how to send them off to missions and even when you go to try and send them off you are given a screen that says there are zero contracts available. Sure you are able to click on the one mission that says 0% success rate and I guess send them off, but who is going to do that on their own? I know for me it took me looking on a wiki before I figured out what to do in order to send them off. All in all a broken system that had a chance but in the end fell flat just like an assassin missing a haystack.
Naval / Privateer Sequences: One of the biggest joys of this game for me was the privateering missions on the sea. Everything about them from the controls, combat strategy, weather fluctuations, story, and yes even the side missions were great. Alright maybe the side missions could use some work, but that was just due to the restraints of the aging combat mechanics and poor stealth mechanics.
This is what a new Sid Meir Pirates! game needs to be like. A mixture of Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, and a huge open world to travel around and explore in the Aquila. Please Ubisoft getterdun!!! Seriously though once you are out there chasing a Man of War on the open seas and a giant rogue wave begins to barrel down on you, you will see what I mean. It’s a shame that I almost missed out on these missions as I just thought they were some side thing that wasn’t important to the story or game. Once I started though I was addicted and almost forgot to get back into the regular game. The only thing I would maybe change or add here would be a second view point or over head shot to see the lay of the sea better.
So yeah without mentioning anything of the Connor or Desmond story, as that’s what you will be coming to see and will be what keeps you playing, that’s our Assassin’s Creed 3 review. So much potential and yet just another huge missed opportunity. I guess we should be happy they didn’t include the tower defense mini game though right? I gave Assassin’s Creed 3 a 7 out of 10.
NOTE: I didn’t play the multiplayer as it just didn’t interest me.
Disclaimer: This review is one I wrote many years ago for one of my old websites that no longer exists.