Video Game Reviews: Assassin’s Creed III(Xbox 360)
Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on January 10, 2013.
The Assassinâ€™s Creed franchise is easily one of the most successful and influential series of the current console generation. The first game was largely considered a disappointment for not living up to the potential it had. The next game in the series, Assassinâ€™s Creed II is considered, along with Uncharted 2, how to make huge improvements over the first game in order to create a fantastic experience. Assassinâ€™s Creed Brotherhood would then add multiplayer along with the ability to recruit assassins into the mix. The game after that, Assassinâ€™s Creed Revelations, was largely considered a retread with the only really strong contribution being giving closure to the protagonist of the first game, Altair. Assassinâ€™s Creed III spend three years in development and had a lot to live up to since it was suppose to be the game that closes Desmondâ€™s story. Does the game live up to the series legacy?
The story of the third game in the series follows Desmond, who is the descendent of Altair and Ezio from the previous games, who camps out in a temple, along with his father, Rebecca, and Shaun, that is located in a cave in New York City in order to access it with the Apple of Eden by unsealing a massive door. However, they need a key that can only be found by Desmond going back into the Animus. In the animus, he takes control of another ancestor named Connor, who after surviving the destruction of his village as a child, grows up to be an Assassin in order to protect his own kind during the times of the American Revolution. Connor has to ally himself with both the British and revolutionaries alike in order to protect his people. During his journey, Connor discovers the conflict between the assassinâ€™s and the templars.
As you can tell from the above paragraph, the story of Assassinâ€™s Creed III is very convoluted and confusing. It comes as no surprise that the story is a mixed bag with many well done scenes of Connor interacting with real life historical figures like Paul Revere, Charles Lee, and George Washington. However, it is undermined by Connor, who is the most unlikable protagonist in the series to date. While he doesnâ€™t suffer a case of being a blank slate like Altair did in the first game, he is nowhere as likeable as the previous protagonist of the series, Ezio. Connorâ€™s stubbornness and naivetÃ© can come off as really grating and annoying. The biggest issue with the story is the way Desmondâ€™s story ends. With spoiling anything, it is safe to say that the ending of the story is one of the infuriating endings to any game in recent memory.
Like previous games in the series, Assassinâ€™s Creed III takes place in a huge sandbox world, where you can do side missions, hunt animals, recruit others into your cause by completing Libertarian missions, and play games with A.I partners. There is a lot to do in the game and you can spend many hours lost in the American Revolution setting of the game.
The combat in ACIII is simplified from previous games in the series. Connor has a wide range of weapons he can use such as the muskets, pistols, the hidden blade, the bow and arrow, the tomahawk, and a rope dart. This allows for different ways to encounter enemies in combat. You can also use human shields to block against attacks. At times, the combat can be either too frustrating and sloppy or too easy and simplistic to be satisfying but it sometimes manages to settle into a natural groove.
You may also take the time to hunt animals into to collect their skins. The skins can be sold in order to gain currency. The amount of currency depends on the quality of the kill, which encourages players to hunt silently. In order to do this you can use traps and bait to get better kills. While an interesting mechanic in theory, it is undermined by the fact that there is no real incentive to do it as you donâ€™t really need currency all that much to get through the game.
The economy of the game is based on the Davenport Homestead, which is the adopted home of Connor. The site can be visited by carpenters, tailors, and other types of people that are displaced due to the war. Helping them will encourage them to settle into the Homestead. By doing this, the player is able to craft items and trade with them. They can then sell the crafted items for currency via caravan. The player can also forge relationships with the settlers which will result in the formation of a small village as well as the ability to upgrade the Homestead manor. While again, an interesting idea idea in theory, it is again undermined by the lack of need of currency. The player can play through the entire story without even touching Davenport Homestead mechanics.
A revamped version of the recruitment mechanic from the previous two games in the series is also available in Assassinâ€™s Creed III. You are able to recruit citizens by completing Libertarian missions. They have a much larger skill set, allowing them to start a riot, provide a covert escort and act as a personal bodyguard. However, it is yet another interesting mechanic in theory that should have better integrated into the game as you can also get through the game while barely using the recruitment ability in the game.
There are also other types of side quests to take on such as finding almanac pages, exploring underground tunnels in order to gain new fast travel points, the ability to join hunting and fighting clubs, â€œpeg-legâ€ missions in which Connor can go to underground forts and wastelands to uncover Captain Kiddâ€™s treasure and others. While the variety of missions is welcome, this variety unfortunately contributes to the gameâ€™s lack of cohesion.
As far as the single player mode goes, the best addition to the series is the naval expeditions where Connor can use his ship, the Aquila, to navigate the high seas. Many environmental factors such as the wind , the weather, the presence of storms, high waves and rocks can be used to the players advantage to navigate with your ship. You will also engage with enemy ships which you can defeat by using the cannons on both sides of the ship, with broadsides and swivel guns, which are used to damage smaller ships, which the player then board to find treasure. Players can also upgrade the Aquila in order to improve for further ship battles.
However, probably the best and most enjoyable part of ACIII is the multiplayer mode. While modes such as death match, and capture the flag make their return, ACIII adds Wolfpack mode to the mix where two to four players are charged with killing certain NPCs within a certain time limit through a sequence of 25 stages. There is also the addition of Domination, where opposing teams have to capture certain areas on the map and protecting them from the other team. The multiplayer is the most fully formed part of the game with many enjoyable game modes that are a lot of fun to play with others.
As you can already tell by the above paragraphs, Assassinâ€™s Creed III is sadly far from flawless. One of the biggest problems with the game is the stealth mechanic. Many stealth sections of thegame are hampered by incredibly bad game design as the enemy A.I. is so good that it makes getting spotted during missions to be easy. There is also so much variety in the game that it results in the game suffering from an identity crisis due to the lack of cohesion in the single player mode. Some missions also suffer from a seeming lack of play testing including a chase mission towards the end of the game that is bogged down by a severe lack of polish.
From a graphics standpoint, Assassinâ€™s Creed III looks gorgeous, but only when it isnâ€™t suffering from very noticeable graphical pop-in. This is no doubt the result of a rushed development and the gameâ€™s sheer ambition. When it isnâ€™t suffering from this issues, the environments are a sight to behold. Not many games take place during the American Revolutionary-era America so it is definitely a pleasure to just go sight seeing in the gameâ€™s diverse environments.
While Lorne Balfe does a serviceable job with the soundtrack, he falls short of Jesper Kydâ€™s suble yet well done scores for the previous games in the series. The sound effects are also well done with a decent amount of attention to detail. Finally, the voice acting is very respectable with everyone doing a fine job in their roles without anyone particularly standing out.
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