PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
October 30, 2012 (NA)
October 31, 2012 (Europe)
November 20, 2012 (NA)
November 23, 2012 (Europe)
Assassin’s Creed III Review (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
It’s The End of the World as We Know It
Desmond Miles has had a rough journey so far. He’s been kidnapped, chased by Templars, thrown through time to relive his ancestor’s memories, received some nice mental trauma from said ancestors, and now he has to save the world from impending doom. That’s what you get for being a hero, kids.
Desmond’s mission since the end of the first game has been to relive key points in his ancestor’s past to uncover hints on the whereabouts of some powerful artifacts known as the Pieces of Eden. Desmond is hindered in his quest by Abstergo, a front for the nefarious Templar order.
Assassin’s Creed III (the fifth instalment, if you’re counting) sees Ubisoft’s experience with the Assassin’s Creed universe culminate in to an epic experience that brings together all the best that previous Assassin’s Creed games had to offer. Set in Colonial America during the American Revolution, Desmond relives the memories of Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor for short. Half-English and half-Mohawk, Connor sees his mother killed by the Templars in an attempt to scare his tribe into selling their land to aid their quest of finding another Piece of Eden. Seeing his mother murdered leaves Connor lost and angry, tormented with thoughts of revenge. When he is visited by a strange apparition during a spirit dream, claiming to be able to give him the revenge he seeks, Connor sets off to gain the knowledge and tools required to exact justice on the people who murdered his mother and still to this day threaten his people and their land.
Colonial America Needs YOU!
Simply taking the size of the land available to you into account, Assassin’s Creed III is a very ambitious title. Set in Colonial America, you’ll find yourself traversing the rooftops of Boston and New York, alongside a vast wilderness simply named the “Frontier.” This vast wilderness consists of large stretches of land, mountains, forests and rivers, housing Connor’s Mohawk village, multiple British and American settlements and more missions than you can shake a tomahawk at. The wilderness also holds a great number of wild animals, all of which can be tracked and hunted, something Connor is quite skilled at. Animals can be hunted for profit and a clean kill, say with a Hidden Blade, will net you more money for the animal’s hide than firing at it with a musket. You can also use bait and snares to trap smaller animals, both of which can be purchased from stores or made by Connor.
Weather also plays a large part of the experience in Assassin’s Creed III. You’ll encounter all four seasons, with winter being the most impressive when you go off the beaten path and find yourself waist-deep in snow.
Boston and New York are both lovingly, and knowing the team behind Assassin’s Creed, accurately recreated in full detail. The seed of an America without the British monarchy has been planted in the minds of the town’s people, and the tension between the occupying British and the town’s folk can be cut with a knife. Connor will find himself quickly embroiled in the struggle of the Sons of Liberty, reliving historically accurate scenes from the American Revolution as he tries to stop the Templars from finding the Pieces of Eden. From the Boston Tea Party to Bunker Hill, Connor will be the driving force behind America’s sought after independence, helping notable historical figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams to name but a few.
Desmond also plays a bigger part in Assassin’s Creed III than he has done in previous games. Awake from his coma in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Desmond is sent on missions at key points through Connor’s story. These missions put you in control of Desmond as he puts his assassin “training” to use in the present, scaling tall buildings and infiltrating stadiums.
The expansive and intricate settings are not without their issues however, and you will likely notice some AI and model quirks as you progress through the different areas in Assassin’s Creed III. Notable quirks involved some citizens falling through the ground and on one occasion a guard’s voice being replaced by a lady’s voice. Nothing that breaks the game however and these will likely be fixed by a patch at a later date.
Parkour Like You Mean It
In its three year development cycle Assassin’s Creed III has undergone many changes to set it apart from its predecessors. Ubisoft have gone to great effort to give Connor and the surrounding world all new animations using the “Anvil Next” engine as a driving force.
New free-running moves give Connor his own identity, separate from Altair and Ezio. Brought up by the Mohawk tribe, Connor uses the forest and trees to his advantage, sprinting through the branches with ease. The free-running system has been simplified slightly to aid climbing through trees and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Where before you had to manually jump, now all you need do is hold down the Action button (right-trigger on Xbox 360). The developers refer to this as ‘safe’ free-running and it’s meant to stop accidental jumps and make sprinting through the treetops more fluid. You are still able to manually jump should you wish.
Tomahawk To The Face
Being half-Mohawk has shaped Connor’s fighting-style in a way unlike the styles of previous Assassins we’ve seen. While Altair and Ezio were methodical and quick in the kill, Connor utilizes his trusted tomahawk with a slight hint of brutality, betraying his roots and quick temper. Alongside his tomahawk, Connor is rarely seen without his bow and arrow which serves as an excellent silent weapon, similar to Ezio’s crossbow in previous games.
On the combat side, things have changed considerably. The combat from previous Assassin’s Creed games was always neat and user-friendly, albeit a little easy. You could win most any fight just by countering and while it made Ezio and Altair look like the Master Assassins they were, the challenge was soon lost. If you’re used to the way the old combat system worked, you’ll soon find yourself getting hit from every direction when you’re thrown into your first fight.
Instead of holding down one button to block, you now tap the B button (on the Xbox 360) to counter your opponents move. As soon as the move connects, time is slowed down and you’re able to choose how to progress from there. You can either disarm your enemy right there and then, throw him in any direction you wish, or go straight for the kill. The latter won’t work on every enemy, and sooner or later you’ll find certain moves blocked by a devastating counter that snaps up a quarter of your health.
Connor isn’t the only one to wield new weapons and new abilities. Your enemies will do whatever it takes to bring you down, including the use of muskets in a firing line. When threatened by a firing line, Connor can grab the nearest enemy and use him as a human shield, killing the enemy in the process and opening up a window of opportunity to sprint and take out the firing line.
The new combat is more challenging than previous games, but also more rewarding. You’re able to chain together moves with much more effect and veterans will be cutting through people in no time at all.
Batten Down The Hatches!
Quite early on, Connor is set the task of repairing a once-mighty ship that lies half-sunk and bruised like a peach. The old Captain is adamant that in its day, the ship was the fastest vessel to sail the oceans, but it’s seen better days and now looks like a pile of soggy timber. Once repaired, the vessel will serve as your hub for the naval missions of the game, which, as you guessed it, involve Connor captaining the aforementioned ship in large battles, mostly against the British.
Ubisoft has put a lot of effort into creating a rich experience, one that wouldn’t feel out of place in a true old-timey naval simulator.
The controls are simple: left and right steer the ship left and right (or port and starboard for you nautical types). The left and right triggers control your rotary gun and cannons respectively. The trick comes in navigating the ship, knowing when to call for half or full sail, and traversing the open ocean like a true seadog. Connor takes to it quickly, and soon you’ll be off rescuing merchant vessels from the English in high storms that batter your ship, your men, and leave you feeling a little salty behind the ears. The naval missions are some of the best available to you in Assassin’s Creed III and come highly recommended.
Assassinate Your Friends and Loved Ones
Multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed III plays out in a similar fashion to its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. It has, of course, undergone a couple of changes here and there, most notably a refreshed UI and some new game modes to keep things fresh. The default game mode will be familiar to veterans; you receive a contract, signified by a portrait in the top right corner, and it’s your job to find the target in a crowd, all while being hunted yourself.
The trick comes in having to account for your actions making you easy to spot. If your target keeps their wits about them and you run at them like a bull in a china shop trying to assassinate a china shop owner, they’ll stun you and leave you humiliated. If you take your time and use the crowds to your advantage, you’ll gain the best points possible by remaining undetected and making a stealthy approach.
One of the new modes, Wolf Pack, is a co-op mode where you and up to three friends must assassinate targets. The targets have to be assassinated within the 90 second time limit and each game is broken up in to 25 “waves” that increase in difficulty as you progress. Best played with mics to coordinate kills effectively!
Players can choose from a multitude of characters designed especially for the multiplayer, most of which look absolutely stunning. Beware though! Don’t become “that guy” who always chooses the pretty Native American girl. You WILL get spotted and it will make your online play more difficult. Switch it up a bit.
Simplicity is where it’s at with Assassin’s Creed III’s multiplayer. It’s very easy to get to grips with the basics, but if you want to be scoring the big points and humiliating your targets again and again, you’ll need to step up your game. The multiplayer is refreshingly addictive in today’s world of MP shooters.
At The End of the World
Assassin’s Creed III is an absolutely massive game. On top of at least 30 hours for your first playthrough, if not much more, Ubisoft have lovingly recreated Colonial America and some of the key points in history that lead to America becoming a free and independent nation. Anvil Next delivers a true next-gen experience, pushing the current generation of consoles to their absolute limit. We won’t see a prettier game until the next generation of consoles launches. Ubisoft is able to pull all of this off without sacrificing framerate, which is a great accomplishment.
Assassin’s Creed III delivers the sequel that fans have been waiting for since Assassin’s Creed II.Assassin's Creed III Review (Xbox 360/PS3/PC),