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Assassin's Creed III - Review

Written by 
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal/Kiev/Romania
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Open world, Action-adventurem stealth
Release Date: 22.11.2012
Official Site: http://assassinscreed.ubi.com/

 

Oh goodie!  Assassin’s Creed III!  I remember when I played the first game.  I spent about an hour on it.  It wasn’t my computer.  Before this, that was my entire experience with the Assassin’s Creed franchise.  What I remember coming into Assassin’s Creed III is this:  You’re this bloke that lies in a device that allows you to relive your past lives by reading your DNA memory.  In your past you’re an acrobatic, free running, house-climbing assassin with a sleeve-hidden knife and killer melee moves!  Also, swan diving off ridiculously high buildings into conveniently placed haystacks is really, really fun.

So I was excited.  The third installation of a very popular series.  This ought to be good …
 

Beginning
 
The intro to the game was fine.  If a little vague.  It mentioned the DNA memory thingy, called it Animus.  It explains about three factions.  First, there’s this ancient order, The Templars, and they apparently have it in for “us” and “we” them.  I’m not told who “we” are but I got the impression we’re quite important chaps, reliving history, opposing Templars and what not.

It seems we’ve been fighting them for centuries, but, again, I’m not told why we’ve been fighting for all that time.  I can only speculate, that like any good feud, this fight’s origins are lost to time and is purely kept alive for the principle of it.  

Then there’s the third faction, the Precursors.  People that came before humans and inhabited the Earth.  They had remarkable technology or magic and one day, they just packed it in and sodded off.  Von Daniken had it right all along.  These Precursors left behind devices of great power “... some of them hidden, some of them found.  All of them dangerous.” says the intro.  Then there’s a scene where the Earth is on fire, and “we” have to hurry to save it.  


From what?  Intro didn’t say exactly.

By doing what?  Wasn’t told that either.

 
 
Middle
 
Then the game begins!  I, along with some other people, am a passenger in a car.  I can see wilderness through the windows.  I can’t move, not even to look around.  

‘All right’ I think, ‘probably some exchange coming up, a little more story.’  The game cuts to a cinematic scene.  

This baffles me.  I thought I was already in one.  I prepare to let the game finish the story so I can start the tutorial.  It shows the interior of the car and it’s passengers again, just in case I missed it the first time around.  The car stops.  Everyone exits the car.  Everyone grabs a box and starts walking towards a cave opening.  And without any more story or premise, the cut scene ends and I gain control of my dude.  

Weird cut scene.

 
 
 

Yes!  I’m excited!  Now the game begins!  I walk my dude into the cave, all cool and handsome with a satchel.  We walk a bit inside.  The game cuts to a cinematic.  

‘Ahh, here comes the extra story now’ I remember thinking.

I’m shown a short clip where they’re walking inside the cave.  

Cinematic ends.

I regain control.  I get to see how you slide down a slope, that was neat.  I walk onwards.  The game cuts to a cinematic.  

This time, I’ve reached the bottom where there’s a wall blocking my progress.  Not wondering the slightest bit why a concrete wall at the bottom of a cave in the middle of nowhere has ghetto graffiti all over it, my dude removes a precursor device from his satchel, places it in the wall.  Bam.  The wall glows and opens.  I regain my character!  Yes!  Now the game begins!  I walk into the wall.  The game cuts to a cinematic.

What. The.

In this cinematic there is a big metal machine covering most of the room the characters are in.  But it appears to be off.  As it happens, the key to start the machine had been left on the floor right in front of it glowing to clarify it’s importance.  My dude picks it up, places it in the machine, it turns on.

The screen goes black.

Next thing I know I’m told I had fainted.  My merry band, concerned for my well-being, decided the best thing for me was to place me in the Animus.  Oh, and I also heard a whispery female voice, impressing on me the urgency of finding “the key”.

I now get to play the tutorial.  I run up walls.  I shimmy along them.  I freerun along beams and ledges.  It’s really fun.  There’s a dilemma for me though.  It is possible to just hold in the free-run button and your dude automatically navigates lesser obstacles like short hops over gaps or climbing low obstacles.  You never have to hit a jump button to navigate lesser hindrances.  It’s done for you.  Makes free-running easier than if you had to time a jump yourself all the time, but it feels … too easy.  But it looks cool, so I decide I like it.  Besides, there are also longer  jumps that require you to press a jump button, so timing a jump isn’t completely absent.

I finish the tutorial.  And am well impressed with the responsiveness of the controls, navigating the tutorial course felt challenging but not hard and I was looking forward to employ my new skill set.

The Animus changes, I now look like my ancestor, Haytham Kenway.  I’m walking in an empty white space as the Animus builds the world of yesteryears around me.  I don’t remember if it was the same in AC1, but, the Animus ‘synchronizing’ visual effect where the world is being pieced together bit by bit is just great!

“Finally!  The game begins!” I cheer!

I’m now in the mid 1700’s, walking towards an opera house commanding my driver.  I reach the opera house.  The game cuts to a cinematic.

In which I enter the opera house, the show’s about to begin, I walk my dude into the seating area, have a seat.  I get to do this all by myself before the game cuts to a cinematic!

Here’s a cinematic where I have an exchange with my neighbouring opera viewer, there are hints of dastardly plans.  I’m shown a target I’m meant to assassinate and directed to the obstacle course that will lead me to him.

I get to play again!  Whee!

I navigate the course, feeling pretty suave shimming along balconies, swinging on the stage scenery, finally reaching my kill and the game cuts to a cinematic.

At least this time I got to press the left button in the middle of the cut scene.  My dude snaps a necklace off the body.  Now I’ve got “the key”.  The game cuts to a cinematic.

Now I’m in a room with some of these “us” people I’ve been hearing about.  The leader talks about what the key is for.  It opens a site that once belonged to the precursors.  Inside might be untold wisdom, a great weapon or nothing at all.  I am being sent to America, where the site is, to open it.  The game cuts to a FRIGGIN’ cinematic.

I’m on down below on board a ship, I’m writing in a book looking forlorn throughout my window.  When it’s time to get some fresh air.

I get to guide my dude out of the cabin and up on deck.  Where I have my first fight!
 
 

et’s stop here.  At this juncture, thirty-odd minutes into the game, I get my first piece of action.  It lasted FIFTY SECONDS.  And it would be another 18 minutes peppered with useless walk abouts and uninformative cut scenes until I would get to fight again.  My challenges after that was to run from A to B and from B to C to tie some ropes for which I was granted the glorious action of pressing a single button.  I was made to walk between three different people collecting information, which was the same as the rope bit, but with words instead of an awkward animation of mr. Kenway tying a rope.  I got to climb two masts and jump once over a broken mast to save a fellow sailor.  And then I arrived in America!  A cinematic appeared, I landed, met a bloke, went through several more cinematics with walking in between them and then received my first mission!  

Now.  For 77 minutes I’ve been playing this game of which around 15 minutes have been climbing stuff and 5 minutes fighting stuff.  The rest?  Useless walking and endless cut scenes which yield little to no story and running between spots pressing ‘E’.  There’s been almost an hour and twenty minutes, where I, the player have done next to nothing and I haven’t even been presented with a worthwhile story yet!


To be clear:  This is not a good start for a game.


I encouraged myself continuously, that it would get better.  More fighting, or climbing or stealthy-stabby would soon come along.  Or perhaps the story would richen and become engaging (it didn’t).  But the action picked up!  Not in any amount considered satisfactory, but it picked up.

Fighting is ok-ish.  It really looks great!  It really does!  Haytham busts a move I tell you!  But it’s lacking in depth.  Whenever a baddie is about to attack you, a red triangle flashes above their head.  You can then press ‘E’ to block it.  If you time it perfectly, you can perform one of two different counter attacks.  One disarms your foe, the other kills him.  Disarm is quicker so when  fighting multiple opponents you might want to disarm a couple of’em first and then start despatching them.  There are two attacks.  Spamming left mouse attacks with your chosen weapon.  There seems to be no skill to this.  You just spam and Haytham hacks and slashes in style.  You can also press space to break an opponent’s defence up.  And that’s melee.  All of it.

Pressing Q shoots your firearm.  It takes a while to reload, but you can walk around while you pour the pyromaniac’s pepper into the barrel.

Another loss fighting suffers in AC3 is that there is absolutely no urgency to it.  There is no danger of dying.  I would attack 16 redcoats at once and loose half my life.  You regain life too quickly and opponents do very little damage to you.  But it’s still fun, to go through the moves, to see how Haytham kills.  The most serious defect this causes though is that being spotted when stealthing around town looses it’s urgency too.  So what if you’re caught?  You can fight the lot of’em, no problem.

The only challenge Assassin’s creed offered me were stealth missions.  But only because all of a sudden you’re pitted into do or die missions.  Once caught, the mission is just over.  You restart it at the beginning.  If you enjoy stealth, you’ll have fun on these.  The missions are inventive, have multiple ways of being solved and (for me) difficult enough.


Graphically AC3 is just lovely.  I really liked the landscapes, the cityscapes, the people.  Lipsync is nice, facial expressions sweet and animations like a milkshake --smooth and cool.  It really feels like being in a periodic movie.  I loved the sense of history and someone deserves a pat on the back for delving after the plethora of old-school hackneyed english words.  Speech helps the mood a lot in the game, walking the streets of Boston in the 1750’s never was so near.  Music is great too.  Perhaps a little too little of it, but what there is, it’s great.

 
 
The Thing About Multiplayer
 
Now this was interesting.  This really is a new game.  It’s a stealthy-stabby multiplayer!  And it’s quite novel, too!  You are either a pursuer or a target.  When a pursuer, you have to discover your target and despatch it as stealthily as possible for points!  As a target, you need to avoid and hinder your pursuer for points.  You are given tools and tricks, and was really fun!  I would urge anyone who likes competitive multiplayer games to give this a go.  It was tense hiding and evading a pursuer, and you stalking a potential victim deciding if you had the right target or not was very engaging.

There are also ways to customize, build items and buy cosmetic accessories for multiplayer play.  One can hang about in this days on end.

Such a clever game.

 
 
 
...And An End
 

To me, AC3 primarily suffers from lack of vision.  The game tries to be an adventure game (lots of little stories you have to complete with menial tasks), a fighter (of which there is too little and then lacks exigency) and a stealth game (where you either are at no risk at all or everything is lost if you’re caught).  It does none of these three well, but none of them terribly either.

Climbing, jumping and free-running is a lot of fun but is given few uses.  At least for the first four hours of gameplay.  If it’s not used by then, when will it be used? And the game is so beautiful.  Oh so beautiful.  I could run around Boston for minutes on end, just having fun.  Pick pocketing and murdering.  Hiding from pursuers, galloping a horse through a group of redcoats.  And the wilderness, so pretty!  Wading knee high snow, fighting wolves --where the game changes things up and offers you a mini game in order to deal with them-- and chasing crazy indian ladies.
 
 

We liked Beautiful, Free-running and climbing around is a lot of fun, Sealth missions are a good challengeInteresting and novel multiplayerand so beautiful.

We disliked Endless cinametics furthering a shallow story, and Melee lacks depth, urgency, and frequency.

 

Arelíus

Games Journalist

 

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