The lights are on
----- Originally seen on The Young Folks -----
After six years and five major releases, the Assassin’s Creed franchise finally brings its epic saga to a close. Assassin’s Creed 3, the last installment in a 5-game cycle, concludes the story of Desmond Miles as he relives the events of the American Revolution through the eyes of a brand new assassin. Ripe with cinematic battles and important events, the revolution provides a gigantic historical playground for Ubisoft to intertwine its fantasy. After three long years of development, Assassin’s Creed 3 is without a doubt the biggest, best, and most polished Assassin’s Creed experience to date. While the game makes some major strides in competitive multiplayer, this review focuses on the overarching story of the franchise and will be very much geared towards players who are fans of the campaign and other single player mechanics. This review will be almost entirely spoiler free as well so don’t be afraid.
Ratonhnhaké:ton, better known by his American name of Connor, takes the leading role as the new assassin in Assassin’s Creed 3. Born to a British father and Mohawk Indian mother, Connor is raised not knowing whom he can trust and what he can rely on. The game begins in a rather unexpected way, allowing the player to relive events from other characters’ lives that appear later on in Connor’s story rather than beginning directly as Connor himself. The introductory sequences are rather lengthy and can feel somewhat slow to players who are more accustomed to jumping straight into the action. It would have been nice for Ubisoft to implement an optional action-oriented mode which would allow players to shorten some of the beginning segments so that those players who are less story-driven can get straight into killing some Templar scum. For others, like myself, the opening is a much welcomed backstory that is remarkably well written and presented with fantastic cinematic quality.
It’s in these very first missions that you can
truly appreciate some of the improvements that Ubisoft has made using the
AnvilNext engine. Character models are extremely intricate and are complemented
by very well designed facial animation techniques. The new engine excels in
just about everything, from smooth character animations to dynamic weather
effects. One of the major areas of the game is the Frontier, an open wilderness
with vast stretches of land to explore. Mountains and foliage looks top notch
and the game has some of the best looking water that I’ve ever seen in a game.
This is highlighted in what to me is the best addition to the franchise during
its six year lifespan, the fantastic new naval warfare gameplay.
The announcement of naval warfare being present
in Assassin’s Creed 3 scared a lot of fans. Many were worried that it was just
another gimmicky game mechanic aimed at hyping up the game’s release. Not only
is it the gameplay not a tacked on mechanic, it surpasses even the most
advanced naval simulations in competing games that are out there today. With a
fairly simple set of tools and weapons, the naval missions provide some of the
most fun and addicting experiences that Assassin’s Creed 3 has to offer. The
open waters look great, with waves crashing over the sides of your ship and
storms often intensifying the battle at hand. With some practice you’ll become
a master of the seas, opening trade routes that can be utilized in an elaborate
trading system that is managed through your homestead.
In addition to some of the new mechanics
presented in the naval sequences there are a slew of other features, both new
and old, that show just how polished the game is after so much development
time. At the top of the list is the newly redesigned combat system which works
almost flawlessly in action. Connor’s entire set of animations is completely
brand new, and he is able to string together various combinations of moves that
deal lethal blows to all of his enemies. The addition of a double kill mechanic
is immensely satisfying and instantly results in taking down both enemies with
one smooth counter. The brotherhood of previous games returns in a simplified
but functional form which lets you manage your assassins and send them on
missions around the countryside. Along with calling on your assassins to aide
you in battle you can also stir crowds of citizens into a riot, cursing British
soldiers and providing a distraction for a quick getaway.
Varied mission types are also a major
improvement in Assassin’s Creed 3. Liberation missions allow you to help
citizens of specific districts in an effort to push it towards patriot control.
Forts are scattered around the colonies for Connor to infiltrate, in which you
must kill its officer, blow up the powder reserves, and proceed to raise the
American flag, driving the British out of the area. The Homestead is another
major area on which rests your estate and any villagers you manage to recruit.
Although not directly tied to the main story, every side mission you complete
contributes to developing and upgrading your village, adding new members and
new shops. Each villager has their own stories which can be explored through
further side errands and investigation. Towards the end of my play through I
actually found myself caring for some of my villagers and thoroughly invested
in the community that I had created. Of all the side missions in the game,
these were by far the most charming and well developed.
A world as large as Assassin’s Creed 3 is sure
to have some minor frustrations, and while they are ultimately outweighed by
the enormous list of the other great features in the game, they are still
present and undeniably noticeable. One thing that remains a frustration is the
unreliability of NPCs during tailing missions, causing the target to sometimes
see through walls or your allies to jump right out in front of them,
automatically desynchronizing you from the memory. The architecture of
Boston and New York look great, but I swear almost every single viewpoint is
the exact same church that I have climbed up a times. Ubisoft does give us some
very cool tree viewpoints in some areas of the Frontier, but they are a pain to
climb until you realize that each one is the exact same and you simply memorize
which branch to hop onto next. One nice feature, however, is the ability to
fast travel from anywhere on the map to specified known locations. Connor can
also unlock new fast travel destinations through a challenging tunnel system
located beneath the streets of Boston and New York.
Regarding Desmond’s story, which has been an
ongoing mess of confusion ever since the first game, Assassin’s Creed 3 aims to
wrap up the saga as a global catastrophe looms overhead. As the date slowly
approaches December 21st, 2012, Desmond must find a way to stop
whatever horrific global event that is set to occur. Without revealing any
spoilers, Desmond’s narrative eventually wraps up and the overarching story is
indeed finally over. While I felt content that the story had finally concluded,
its ending was mildly anticlimactic and I wasn’t left with as great a sense of
meaning as I had hoped. Regardless of the successes and failures of the
franchise as a whole, Connor’s story in Assassin’s Creed 3 is without a doubt
one of the best campaigns that I’ve had the chance to play through.
Connor quickly became my
favorite assassin. His personality and motivations throughout the game are
based solely on his perceptions of justice and the pursuit of freedom. His
story is one of both hardship and triumph, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be
able to accompany him through the various stages of his life. The revolutionary
setting is crawling with creative opportunities that will make anyone familiar
with American history excited to be a part of it. For fans of the series, this
last installment is a must have item for your collection. For newcomers to the
franchise, it is a perfect entry point that shows off some of the best features
the genre has to offer. While Assassin’s Creed 3 does have some minor flaws and
technical bugs, the game provides one of the grandest and most unique
experiences that this medium has to offer. Fight through history as a brand new
assassin and do your part to ignite the revolution.
----- Originally seen on The Young Folks -----
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