Assassin’s Creed III.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is by far one of my favorite out there. I loved Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (review here) so I was curious if Assassin’s Creed III could improve on a pretty extraordinary franchise.
The basic gist this time around is that our current-day hero Desmond is looking through the eyes of Connor, the son of an American patriot and Native American woman during the 1700s. There is no reference to Altair or Ezio, who both got pretty stellar conclusions in Revelations, so this is a brand new story essentially. We follow Connor from childhood until manhood and watch as he trains to become an assassin and tries to wipe out the Templar control from the colonies.
This game is massive. I spent hours and hours not even doing sidequests, but just wandering around. There’s a pretty deep hunting system, where you can track, kill, and skin animals and then sell those goods for money. I spent a majority of the beginning of the game just collecting pelts and it was amazing. The landscapes are gorgeous and the passage of time allows for all the different seasons, so you might see the areas in completely new ways.
One of my complaints about Revelations is that it added villains and tried to focus on political intrigue but this game really let you know who the bad guys were from the beginning (in a really interesting way). It may be a spoiler, but I loved that you play the first couple hours as Haytham Kenway, Connor’s father.
Combat is much more challenging this time around. In previous installments, I was never worried about losing in combat because the countering system was almost unfair. In this outing, it’s much harder and the AI opponents counter your attacks frequently as well, making it much more worrisome when you’re swarmed by a dozen guards.
One of my favorite new aspects was the naval missions. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it made me super excited for AC4, which is focusing on pirates in the Caribbean. I also liked the Peg Leg side missions, which were some of the most unique and engaging missions in the game.
Overall, I enjoyed the variety of mission types but it felt like I could do most of them without much stealth and I hardly ever changed weapons or used any of my accessories. More about that below.
What didn’t work?
I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed III a lot, let me start with that. But there are a lot of missed opportunities and missteps.
Let’s start with the story. Connor’s story was interesting but I always groaned when it got back to Desmond. It got a little fun when Desmond was actually fighting people, but his gymnastics in caves got a little redundant. Also, the deeper mythology storyline has also kind of taken me out of the story. And in this one, it gives this big twist or something but it relies on you to remember the key pieces from AC1 and 2 and I definitely don’t remember all the details, so this twist was a little confusing. Maybe it wasn’t even a twist, but everyone acted shocked.
Also, there were some cool innovations in AC2/Revelations that I loved and this game cut them out. For instance, in Revelations, you could create bombs, such as smoke bombs, to give you some stealth opportunities. In AC3, it felt like I had to charge head-first into every encounter. The various forts that you have to take over, all I did was charge in the front door and take everyone out. There wasn’t the same level of strategy that prior games encouraged.
And I know this is a weird complaint, but people were mad at me way too often. I’m trying to do a quest and everyone and their mom wants to kill me on the map. I could be incognito, chillin in Boston, when all of a sudden alarms start going off. Places to hide were much more sparse and it was much harder to remove warning levels. This, added with a harder combat system, meant I died more from fighting than I would’ve liked. I don’t mind a challenge but this seemed almost unfair, when alarms would raise for no reason. A few times after I’d defeat a fort, the people on the inside (that I thought were my friends) would immediately raise alarms and attack me. I just did them a solid and they do this to me?
I also felt like there were a few mechanics that weren’t utilized and might’ve just been confusing. One of these was the Homestead. I appreciate getting followers and making my homestead better, but the perk was that they could make things for you. So I made tons of things. But then what? I tried sending out convoys but the minimal money wasn’t worth the time to use that menu, which you could only access from a few places.
And then there was the Assassin menu, where you send them out on missions. I must’ve missed something because I ended the game with only five assassins and most missions took 3 of them to achieve a win. So it took forever and I didn’t see any payoff for doing these missions. Maybe if I beat them all, something would’ve unlocked (similar to the Peg Leg missions).
Assassin’s Creed III is a great game but it feels bloated. I appreciate the quantity of missions but there were too many mechanics. I didn’t know if sending out convoys of material was doing anything. Sending my assassins on missions felt like a detour from the story. Hunting was fun but it was usually easier to just shoot something with an arrow, as opposed to using the intricate bait and snare techniques. Likewise, the larger story involving Desmond was bloated as well, focusing on this end-of-the-world scenario and ancient aliens, when the heart of the story was Connor. If they would have trimmed down mechanics and trimmed down the story, this game might’ve been perfect.