Assassin’s Creed III’s sheer volume of engaging content outweighs its negatives
We were promised annual instalments of Assassin’s Creed, and not disappointingly, there have been two of them this year. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation on the Playstation Vita was a good effort indeed, and in many ways, a perfect prelude to the more complete experience on consoles and PC. Assassin’s Creed III is in part reinvention, and in part evolution. But best of all, it is relocation — we finally don’t have to inhabit the all-too-tiring world of whiny old master assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
The setting (as with AC III: Liberation on the Vita) is the New World, in the time of the American revolutionary war. The story spans several decades of the eighteenth century, and follows (without giving too much away) a couple of characters, one of whom is Connor (or Ratonhnhaké:ton, if you prefer his native American name). Playing as Connor, you will learn to become a master hunter and elite assassin with the ultimate aim of removing Templar presence from America — the land which serves as their refuge and stronghold with rising ranks. The plot is standard Assassin’s Creed fare, but it feels fresh, thanks to oodles of historic references, a wonderful new setting, well-written dialogue and great all-round voice acting.
Gameplay has selectively evolved as well. Connor has several new toys to play with, including a tomahawk which he carries on his person at all times, as well as muskets, dart ropes and more. The combat engine seems to show signs of significant refinement — its fluidity is a direct result of great responsiveness, move sets and well-implemented control scheme. Stealth gameplay still remains iffy, however. Connor isn’t particularly adept at crouching and moving stealthily or even quickly for that matter. Sure, the free-running mechanic is back and navigating rooftops and wonderfully rendered forests of the frontier is a breeze, but it would have been great to see a rudimentary system of cover, disguises (unscripted, free use like Hitman) or a stealth takedown system that didn’t feel so clumsy. AC III does play to its strengths on occasion (aerial takedowns, takedowns from hiding places and corners), and when it does, the game’s assassinations do feel satisfying. Added gameplay elements include economic activities (trade, logistics and resource management which generate funds), naval battles (possibly the best addition, though brief) and hunting, which involves tracking, baiting and the actual hunt itself. There’s not much reward for hunting, but the game does do a good job of making the process feel engaging. All in all, the game feels fresh — something the series has so sorely lacked over the past couple of years.
Assassins Creed III’s freshness comes with a few downsides — the game’s ambitious reinvention results in problems that would traditionally be limited to a new game in a franchise, with the new gameplay elements in particular not enjoying a symbiotic relationship with mechanics, now associated with the series. It’s a sum of many parts that don’t always come together ideally, and the series seems to have evolved in a macro sense, leaving several individual aspects with room for substantial improvement (viz. AI, stealth mechanics). Fortunately, the experience in collective terms (open-world, story, visuals, historic references and sheer volume of content) is engaging, immersive and ultimately, thoroughly enjoyable. Assassin’s Creed III is available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.