It’s finally here, the third chapter in one of the most popular franchises of this generation. Riding a wave of anticipation, hype and expectation, Assassin’s Creed III is a blockbuster’s blockbuster, Ubisoft have crafted such an astonishing legacy already through this generation with Assassin’s games that this third iteration in the main series should be a crowning jewel of fabulous accomplishment.
That it’s not isn’t down to one massive factor, or a lack of ambition, in fact if anything, Assassin’s Creed III suffers from an overabundance of ambition. That may sound a little strange, but Ubisoft have crammed so much into the jaw-droppingly amazing world of 18th century America, that it’s diluted what made the series just so damn amazing in the first place.
Unless living under a rock, on the moon, in another universe, you should know by now that Assassin’s Creed III is a massive departure, era-wise, from the previous entries in the franchise. Taking place initially in London before transferring for the majority of the time to colonial America, Assassin’s Creed III is bigger in scope and size than any game in the series before it.
The game finds the hapless Desmond slipping back into the Animus and into the generational spanning lives of Connor Kenway and his father Haytham; with the son’s journey through the American Revolution the crux of the story, Desmond finds himself thrown into a decade’s long adventure in the New World.
Connor is half-Mohawk, half-English and his heritage plays a massive part in shaping the way the game plays and the narrative drive behind it. With his natural connection to the environment and a new skill set to play with, Connor is a capable addition to Ezio and Altair and plays a central role in what works in this version of Assassin’s.
Connor is different enough from those that came before him, that playing through the game is equal parts refreshing and rewarding. Once the long prologue with his father Haytham is done with, and THAT stonking twist regarding his family’s loyalties is revealed, Connor instantly ups the ante, driving the whole series forward with eye-opening results.
Make no bones about it though, this is a DAMN BIG game, the sheer ambition of Ubisoft is staggering. With revolution-era Boston, New York and Philadelphia being recreated right down to the dirt on the beggar’s hands, and seemingly endless miles of open world to explore and murder in, the scope can be almost overwhelming at times.
Between the main storyline, sub-plots, nautical adventures, historical figures (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, oh my!), hunting, skinning, collecting and various other activities, this iteration of the game packs so much into it that gamers could spend weeks and months just living in the fascinating world of the American Revolution.
Aside from being bigger, Assassin’s Creed III is also easier than the games that came before it. With free running now assigned to one of the triggers and less consequence given to failure or lack of stealth; Creed III feels almost like an exceptionally produced copy of the previous game. It ticks all the right boxes, but outside of the amazing graphics, lacks the spectacular ease at which the first and second entries impressed.
Graphically the game is stunning, for the most part. The open American vistas and the new, dirty, populous, budding American cities are put on the screen with such loving quality and depth, that it’s easy to get lost in the environment and just people watch for hours.
But between the amazing environments and people, there are an enormous amount of glitches and bugs that take the player right our of the lovingly created world. Bad lip-synching, horrendous pop up, weapons floating in mid-air, there are moments within the game that indicate that even the most aspiring designers have limits.
The AI also comes in for a battering at times during the long single player campaign. With a heavy reliance on AI counterparts to trigger game cues or assist your assassinations, the game can slip up by simply showing no intelligence at all, let alone artificial ones.
Couple this AI shoddiness with the games over-reliance on pushing cut-scenes into the middle of gameplay and the game sometimes feels like a very involved movie. Odds that are seemingly overwhelming will suddenly vanish with an awkwardly placed interruption, or enemies will continuously respawn until you stand in the right place to trigger the next sequence; these tropes are commonplace in gaming, but they so obvious here that they become distracting
All these slight problems and glitches mean that this version, as ambitious and beautiful as it can be at times, is plagued with what could have been. With so much going on, so many side missions and such an amazing world to explore, with a little more polish Assassin’s Creed III could have been one of the defining games of not just this generation, but in gaming.
All that being said, the continuing saga of the Templars and the Illuminati really is one of THE creations in modern gaming. Assassin’s Creed III brings the franchise closer to the modern world than ever before and drives the entire series to a new beginning promised by a shocking ending, something that will ultimately prove the defining legacy of the game. [7.5]
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Classification: R16 – Contains Violence