The lights are on
Assassin's Creed III is not only the best looking, brightest star, and biggest impact of the Assassin's Creed series (the five main games anyway, excluding handhelds and web games or apps)- but a true feat of ingenuity and masterful swirl of story and gameplay on Ubisoft's part. Almost like the symbolism between Yin and Yang- where one only ends where the other begins in a continuous cycle, where story ends the gameplay and design takes over. The drive and ambition of the third (and final?) Assassin's Creed game is as of yet unparalleled in most other series' and especially so in any other game I have played this year. For every amazing moment or action of the other assassins across the other four mainstay games, Connor and Desmond and crew in this one outdo them all in one amazing cinematic or mission after another. Truly, despite the usual slew of minor bugs and inconveniences that come packaged with grandeur such as this gaming finery, Assassin's Creed III is the best game in the series yet.
If you thought that the settings, story arc, size, gameplay, or universe itself were amazing throughout the other games (even the revolutionary formula of Assassin's Creed II)- prepare to be wowed as Ubisoft Montreal and their brother and sister production teams outdo themselves one more time. Epic moments that the majority of us (American and otherwise) already know from our history classes really bring home the fight this time around, as- instead of being in the far off distances of the Holy Land or Renaissance Italy, the battle between Templars and Assassins is on our home turf. The aforementioned epic scenes include meeting General Washington, witnessing the birth of a new nation and her fight for both independence and sovereignty, and a staggering amount of open world content as per usual (with the welcome additions of hunting, trapping, and much, much more). Possibly the greatest moment of all is when the majority, if not all, of the recurring questions across the multitude of other Assassin's Creed games are answered by the end of this one- with only a few new questions being asked in their places. Of course, I won't ruin these or spoil them in any way for you- so as to not detract from your playthroughs and the finality of the ending either.
Let's talk about the perfect setting for this newest entry into the ranks of the Assassin's order. The meshing of both real and fictitious history, as well as the conspiracies and plotting revolving around people (both real and not) from those time periods has always been one of the main focuses of the Assassin's Creed games, and the setting of colonial America throughout this third iteration of the series is no exception. Not only are the two major towns, sprawling as they are, (Boston and New York) some of the most lifelike and energetic places I've encountered in an Assassin's Creed game yet- far from the sparsely populated streets of the Holy Land's cities, and even busier than the bustling streets of Rome and Florence, but possibly more jampacked full of people than any cities in gaming history. The amazing part (or one of many, I should say) is that even the vast wilds of the Frontier areas are filled with plenty of opportunities and missions as well. Truly, the amount of attention to detail, numerous sidequests and diversions, and the other multitudes of singularly impressive feats of engineering and destruction that are possible in this area alone is spectacular as well. Even the dynamic weather patterns that can change at the tip of a hat (or the toss of a knife) serve only to make the world more lifelike and varied in each and every way, and looks twice as amazing as any other similar motifs in previous games- what with the impressive graphics of the Anvil Next engine.
The game almost places out like one big cinematic cutscene- or an incredibly grand CG movie throughout it's entirety, as you are continuous involved in the antics of groups within the Revolution and their notorious actions sprawling across the pages of history itself. From Bunker Hill to the later years of the Articles of Confederation and Continental Congresses, most every base is covered in some fashion- and if Connor can't be present for some spectacular showdown, you know it is only because he is human and called off to be elsewhere. Sure, while the scripted sequences are as amazing as ever, a few objectives can be equally tedious and not very substantial on their own for a few of the less than stellar missions, however, these are so few and far between that they are easily outshined by the multitude of amazing ones that they amount to little or no trouble whatsoever. Synchronization even takes on a new meaning, as the more objectives on the side that you manage to pull off during a mission, the more replay value and percentage achieved you receive. While some seem almost detrimental to your objectives at times, this is only because they do not always line up with what the mission requests- such as assassinating somebody that you would otherwise leave be in a stealthy scenario. Of course, this is again, only a minor touch heavily downplayed and thus of little to no consequence. Try not to think of the game itself as a string of missions such as the others within the series, as you will be amazed to learn that Ubisoft has also virtually perfected an open story progression as well as their already spotless open world setting- what with there being story and mission opportunities every direction you turn. It's almost a shame that it is so hard to get to them all without sacrificing days of your time... But it would be well worth it, I assure you, in order to make that sacrifice.
Not only is there one core story being told, such as there was pretty much the entire way through the subtitled entries of Brotherhood and Revelations- with the mains stories for each pretty much revolving entirely upon Ezio's fight with the Templar order and his rebuilding of the Assassins, but there are multiple arcs to be witnessed this time around. Note, I am just talking about Connor's story alone- I'm not even including the present day arc of Desmond's story in the slightest. Not only do we witness Connor's well-deserved hatred and countless victories and losses over and against the Templar order of his time, but we also witness his relationships with the most influential peoples of that time, a seabound voyage in order to confront new threats to the stability of the fledgling nation, and many more exciting details- such as the recruiting of major players into the Assassin ranks. Rather than giving the main features of the story in previous entries into the series a backseat this time around, Assassin's Creed III not only embraces these core elements and works with them once more, but shines further lights into the darkness and illuminates nearly everything. With an intriguing plot, strong characters, and some of the greatest moral lessons in the series- and gaming to date, this is truly a strong narrative, and not just another revenge story or otherwise blood soaked tale. The heroes and friendly characters are wonderful, from the acting to their in-game tactics, as are the villainous evil characters, who range from the morally grey to the most despicable of traitors- in grand Assassin's Creed fashion.
The main mechanics are of course still present in the combat and parkour-like free running that the series is noted for, even though they are much more efficient, stream-lined, and easier to control this time around than ever before. The controls overall are not only slightly easier to grasp- albeit different as well, but also firmly rooted in a more natural flow of things than ever before, making for a more fluid appearance and feeling at your fingertips as well. Climbing trees and other objects in the environment makes for a change of pace, adds new tactics and evasion techniques, and empowers the player as never before in an Assassin's Creed game, which is quite a refreshing addition to the already intelligent and successful formula. While a few bugs are sure to be made clear during combat and environmental traversal as per usual, the shifts between takedowns and the even more offensively oriented attacks and powerful defenses of the newest series assassin make the chain kills in Brotherhood and Revelations look like a toned down piece of cake. You should certainly expect Connor to be covered head to toe in blood and gore after some high fighting, adrenaline pumping combat scenarios throughout the game- and with him being much better off than the poor schmucks who had the pleasure of fighting him...and dying terribly from his enormous and heady arsenal. Also building on details from Revelations mainly, comes an entirely in-depth crafting and creating mechanic (which honestly, probably requires more thought than most players wish to exhibit, but is interesting nonetheless) for materials and goods, as well as the previously mentioned hunting and other interesting past times. Probably the biggest of all the notable additions- not just from mention in the achievements and trophies, but from the amount of time and fun you'll likely to devote to it, is the naval warfare as well.
While short and sweet enough to be an interesting break from the usual mundane art of death and destruction that Connor will constantly be leaving in his wake wherever he travels, the naval battles aboard your personal ship- the Aquila certainly serve as tense and action heavy minigames of sorts akin (but much more fun and cooler) to the tower defense segments of the Revelations Den battles. Shying away from Connor so much however, let us turn to the key Assassin at the moment- who has been at the heart of things since the very beginning... Without ruining too much, allow me to say that- with Desmond's training within the Animus now complete, and the ever-present threat of catastrophe looming overhead in the gameworld, he will be able to venture out on his own in the present day segments of the game, as well as to unlock his own special revelations- much deeper ones than the ending events of Assassin's Creed: Revelations by far. As the end is nigh within the game's end, Desmond not only realizes his full potential, but faces an incredibly difficult choice- sure to be the talk of many gamers once they figure out exactly what happens, and then realize the answers they now hold, and the new questions they will feel burning inside...
To briefly touch on the spectacular multiplayer aspect of the game, allow me to simply say that it is easily the best since it was introduced to the skeptic fans of the series in Brotherhood. Two games later, and it is like observing the evolution of a caterpillar larva into a butterfly and spreading it's wings in order to soar unto new heights. Popular and finely tuned modes of the past games return, as well as with the addition of several new ones you owe it to yourself to sample- namely the excellent Domination (essentially territory capture at it's finest) and Wolfpack (four player survival coop) modes. Playing through all modes rewards you with customizations between point rewards, looks, weapons, and many more details in the lobbies and gameplay alike. Completing challenges and unlocking new multiplayer stories is as rewarding as it ever has been. Having spent five or six years of perfecting one great formula, Ubisoft finally shows the epitome of excellent gaming narrative and action fueled performance in Assassin's Creed III, and puts the overwhelming treasures of the game into the hands of any capable gamers- which proves to be a very powerful weapon for change indeed. Here's to the success of what is now surely Ubisoft's flagship franchise, only a short few years after it's creation.
Concept: (Conclude?) the awe-inspiring journey of the Assassin order throughout the history of the world and their battles with the evil Templars, and do it all throughout the beginning and the end of the American Revolution to boot.
Graphics: While pushing the graphical capabilities of current gen consoles to the limits, and exposing some never before thought of animations and environmental designs, Ubisoft's Anvil Next shows that it is a thing of the next generation indeed- with ample promise for more in the future.
Sound: The voice acting is twice as amazing as before, if at all possible, and the score- while different, holds it's own with those of the previous series entries...
Playability: The newer controls take time to get used to, but are overall more fitting to Connor and Desmond as assassins, and much tighter than the more complicated ones of the past. The fluidity of combat and free running is quite impressive as well.
Entertainment: Easily the most enjoyable and ambitious Assassin's Creed experience to date. It'll be hard to top, should Ubisoft ever think to create either Assassin's Creed 4 or some other game in the same series in the future.
Replay Value: High
Overall Score: 9.75