The lights are on
After seeing the first trailer for Assassin's Creed III back in March, I knew right then that it was going to be a must have for the year. Ubisoft did not disappoint me. Ubisoft once again delivered an expansive Assassin's Creed experience complete with a new environment, new missions, improved gameplay, and further lore on the Assassin's Creed storyline.
Since most people just care for the gameplay, I'll elaborate on that first. Everything about the previous Assassin's Creeds' game mechanics has been improved greatly, well almost everything. The combat is far smoother than the previous installments so you can literally use every weapon at Connor's disposal seamlessly and without difficulty. What makes fighting with Connor so much more enjoyable than that of Ezio or Altair is simply how brutal yet elegantly Connor fights. Mowing through red coats has never been so easy! Ranged weapons can be mixed in with your melee strikes at any point and often times Connor will perform some jaw dropping combos with his weapons. I suggest using all the different types of weapons to get the full experience of just how masterful Connor is in combat. In the previous games I was always guilty of just sticking to one type of weapon, small weapons. I never really tried the other types of weapons such as the heavy weapons. This time around, I once again thought I was going to stick to smaller, more agile weapons such as the Assassin Tomahawk. However, after running around with a giant, blunt club and seeing the serious pain Connor can inflict with it, I knew I was completely wrong. Experiment with new weapon choices, you won't regret it!
Free running and climbing has also improved from the previous installments. Simple, yet effective changes with the controls have made all the difference. Unlike in previous games, in order to sprint you no longer have to hold the "A" or "X" button down. All you have to do is hold the right trigger down. This may not seem like much, but it does make a difference when you're trying to escape a pack of pursuing guards and need to take down a few guards blocking the way while on the run. The climbing is once again relatively simple, albeit some minor things such as targeting errors. I remember three times in a row I attempted the same leap of faith and three times I completely missed the hay barrel beneath me even though I pointed my analog stick right at it. One thing I was worried about was how Ubisoft was going to incorporate natural environment climbing into the game. To my surprise, however, running through the trees is just as easy as climbing any building, perhaps even easier at times.
Missions have once again been improved upon in this latest installment also. Repetition is almost completely gone this time around (Assassin's Creed 1 anyone?). While playing with Connor you will be tasked to do various missions such as homestead missions, the occasional courier mission, liberation missions, and of course the main story missions. There are also challenges similar to that of the thieves, mercenaries, and courtesans that Ezio had to complete during his adventures. Personally, my favorite missions were the homestead missions. It was great to see the homestead grow and to learn about the various characters that would inhabit it.
Some of the newer editions to the game were also well received, at least for me they were. The addition of naval missions was a brilliant idea for Ubisoft. Captaining a colonial battle ship is just so much fun! Yelling "Full Sail!" and then preparing to ram an opposing ship never got old. The addition of the trade system was also welcomed by me. The ability to buy stockpile off my fellow homestead residents and then craft entirely new items from them actually gave me a purpose to collect as much seemingly useless junk as I could. Although the trade system was somewhat confusing at first, once I got the hang of it I was constantly sending out convoys of crafted items worth far more than anything I could have just found. Here's some advice, never ever sell your items without crafting them into something. Whatever you craft will always be worth far more than the original item.
As expected, Assassin's Creed III delivered a beautiful and expansive environment like no other game. Half the fun of Assassin's Creed has always been just running around exploring and climbing what ever you see fit. The frontier is one of the most beautiful environments I have ever seen in any game. The rolling hills, huge cliffs, multitude of trees, and mind boggling vistas are second to none. The addition of wildlife to the frontier just adds to the beauty and realism of it all. The frontier is not the only environment, however, the big cities of Boston and New York also serve as Connor's playground. The difference between the frontier and the cities is like day and night. One is beautiful and serene, while the other is grungy and just plain dirty. I find it so odd to think about how these little excuses for cities have turned into two of the biggest and most important cities in all of the United States.
Personally, my favorite addition to the environment is the drastic changes in weather. The changing of the seasons makes it seem that you're traveling an entirely new environment. From simple fog to massive storms to snow, the environment is a spectacle to behold. Some of my more potent memories of the weather usually came while I was at sea. As I piloted my ship through several storms, I remember constantly thinking to myself that my boat is going to be capsized by the next incoming wave. Simply stated, Assassin's Creed III has one of the best environments of any game today.
My favorite part of Assassin's Creed III, however, is not the gameplay or even the environment, but rather the story. Now I do understand that a lot of people complain about Assassin's Creed 's story, but I just find it to be intriguing. Connor's story is what particularly intrigued me (no surprise there though right?). The uneasiness between his people's safety and the goals of both the Patriots and the British was always a point of interest. Throughout the war the Patriots justified it by claiming they wanted freedom for all people, but then turned around and took the freedom of other people. This was blatantly ironic and really made them no better than the British or the Templars in my eyes. Also, the way that Connor chose to aid the Patriots in their struggle, only to come to the realization that the Patriots were the ones to threaten the one thing Connor sought to protect, his people and homeland, was infuriating. It felt like a complete stab in the back when the Patriots basically betrayed Connor. It really made me look at the Patriots in a different light. This brings me to how George Washington, our country's father, was portrayed. Contrary to common thought, Washington was not portrayed as the heroic commander of the continental army as many thought he was going to be. He seemed weak, unsure, and seemed to be even villianified at times. I'm don't want to spoil anything, but you'll understand what I mean about Washington.
The main story point that struck me different from the previous Assassin's Creeds was the way the Templars were portrayed. They didn't seem to be nearly the villains they have always been depicted as. The main Templar characters each had their own goals and their own motives. Often times the things they wanted were no worse or better than that of the Assassins. I even felt regret at times for killing some of them and questioned the Assassin's Order's motives.
I would like to talk about Desmond's story and the whole 2012 apocalypse thing, but I'm not really sure if I could accurately explain what is happening so I'm just going to leave that subject alone.
Assassin's Creed III was not, however, without it's faults. I found that many times the voice acting fell completely flat, especially with Connor. Even though Connor was the main character, a lot of the side characters such as the homesteaders had far more personality to them. Then again, maybe Ubisoft wanted to depict Connor as an emotionless assassin, similar to Altair but far different from Ezio. The ending of the game also left me wanting more and I'll just leave it at that (no spoilers). As always the stealth mechanics are somewhat poor. There were so many times that I thought I should have been seen, especially the many times when I'm hiding in a bush two feet away from a guard. There are some more flaws that come to mind, but these two are really the only ones that bothered me.
All in all, Assassin's Creed III is a great addition the the Assassin's Creed series and is a must have for Assassin's Creed veterans and new comers alike. My only question for the future of Assassin's Creed is: what's next?