The lights are on
After nearly 5 yrs. of games, the Assassin’s Creed trilogy that began with Altair’s fight in the crusades and took us through the Renaissance with Ezio de Auditore has finally come to an end with the life of Native American revolutionary Connor Kenway. Containing as many flaws as it does triumphs, Assassin’s Creed III remains a landmark for the franchise that should still provide a satisfactory conclusion to the series’s many questions and more than its share of enjoyable action and enormous content. As a fan of the franchise, its noteworthy merits generally outweigh its share of missteps and Connor’s revolutionary tale still holds its own against the rest of 2012 as a worthy entry for the franchise.
Following his awakening from his coma and his encounter with Subject 16, Desmond and his assassin father, William Miles, arrive with their allies at the First Civilization’s temple in New York State in their desperate search for a solution to the coming Dec. 21 solar flare apocalypse of 2012. To obtain the location of the keys they need to open the temple’s final chamber, Desmond is once again sent into the Animus to relive the memories of a new ancestor, half Native-American, half English assassin Ratonhnhak`e (a.k.a “Connor Kenway”) and his fight for the soldiers of the American Revolution. Time is short and with many twists and turns, both Desmond and Connor are faced with a variety of revelations that promise to drive the series into exciting new territory.
Ubisoft's portrayal of Colonial America shines with the same attention to rich detail and history of its previous series entries, and the game's world does better for it. The towns and woods of Connor’s travels are truly remarkable in their sheer size and scope, and filled with animals to hunt and people to trade with, they feel lived in with loads of activities to keep players occupied with. The thrilling visage of the game's enormous battlefields and ship battles are beautifully illustrated, and if not for awkward facial animations, the graphical quality of the game is virtually perfect. Cheap distance fog and occasional glitches halt AC III's full potential, however, as the sight of helpless civilians falling through mysterious pitfalls in the street help to remove much of the ambience from this otherwise remarkable setting.
The economy system also comes back for III with several changes. Like Ezio's family villa in Assassins' Creed II, players can control and upgrade Connor's homestead and watch it grow with not just size, but residents too as you increase your production of goods and income. Your neighbors will have a good amount of backstory and personality and getting the chance to interact and talk with them this time makes work around the place a lot more enjoyable. Landmarks are logically not available for your purchase, but with the impressive space that your homestead will take up, you probably wont' miss them.
As enormous as the series has attempted thus far, Assassin's Creed III begins its ambitious plot with less than appealing pacing but makes up for it in its admirable narrative. Following Desmond's opening segment, players will be immediately surprised upon taking control not of Connor [Spoilers!!!], but of his Templar father, Haytham Kenway. Though Haytham’s segments last at least a whopping 4-6 hrs. before getting to his son’s missions and unfortunately involve little gameplay other than mere control tutorials, his personality and subtle motivations ultimately prove far more interesting than his son and remains pivotal to the story's emotional twist.
A good deal of attention can also be brought to the new protagonist. Although Connor's lackluster sense of personality may fall short from the previous charisma of Ezio de Auditore, Connor's heartfelt story of loss and idealism may genuinely keep players attention as will the pivotal history that shaped his life, if not in an occasionally campy, Forest Gump style that's incongruous with the series tone. His journey from child to man is an engaging one and from the tragic death of his mother to his first meetings with the Founding fathers, he still means something as a part of an intelligently written narrative. His noble spirit further drives home some unique criticisms of both the British and the Americans alike. Among the dullness of lesser characters like his mentor of Achilles and sorely underused patriots of Ben Franklin and John Adams, Connor serves a purpose, even if it's not what wanted one could most want from a series of such wonderful characterization.
Desmond’s segments, though they have never been ones to impress in the series, make an effort to focus on action and player control. While Desmond may not be any more relatable in his appearances, his missions make great attempts at feeling interesting to players. Finally a full-fledged assassin and traveling the world fighting Abstergo agents, Desmond has some mildly entertaining platforming and melee combat from the rooftops of New York City to a South American wrestling stadium. His final part of Assassin's is a surprise to be sure and fans should at least appreciate its shock value, if not for its cheap way of leaving you with a "what?!" cliff-hanger.
A big change for the series is its standout departure from its traditional stealth and greater focus on gunplay and melee combat. Not limited to Ezio’s or Altair’s swords and daggers, Connor’s fights encourage mad dashes headlong into battle, brandishing tomahawks, pistols, and muskets. As a result, you’ll usually get the job done by wailing on enemies like a crazy person, taking out huge herds of enemies with the popular and fluid Brotherhood-style chain-kill system. Connor also has additional tricks like snatching guards in mid-battle to use as human shields and snaring others with rope darts from tree tops as well as mini land mines. Fighting is fast and exciting to watch with its intensity and enemy types are far more varied, making for more challenging and interesting fight scenarios. Enemies’ AI seemed genuinely inconsistent, however, when it came to intelligence, either being excessively tough or seeming to have no intelligence at all. It's unfortunate that Assassin's Creed III's stealth is as removed as much as it is from Connor's moves, but while it's not as traditional, it still is mighty fun to play.
This time, platforming has also been greatly expanded upon, allowing you to not only run around in the familiar roof-top run chases of Venice and Rome to tree climbing and horse riding in the frontier. Connor is able to swing across the frontier’s branches like Tarzan and mount cliff-sides with poise and grace, making for a fast and visually striking way of travel in contrast to the often slow and cumbersome horse riding mechanics. However, as with many of the game’s glitches, climbing suffers from stiff controls and can force upon you your untimely demise falling onto the forest floor or stuck between rocks and even the floor when things go wrong. When it works, running and climbing is enjoyable to watch, but I was thankful for fast-travel stations in the end to get around.
The most impressive new feature by far is Assassin’s Creed III’s naval combat missions. As Connor, players will be able to pilot the flagship of the Aquila and participate in engagements with the British fleet as well as travel to deserted islands in search of treasure. These missions are a provide spectacular visuals and offer intense energy with the awesome amount of destruction and power your cannons give in battle, tearing apart ships plant by plank. Ships control well and the weather makes for great challenges with its waves and rain.The islands you’ll explore, including real-life Oak Island (look it up!), also give some great surprises of their own in goodies.
Ever since its inception in Brotherhood, the multi-player of Assassin’s Creed has been inventive and challenging and Assassin’s Creed III dishes out a real doozy of content in its much upgraded multi-player. With several new on-line modes of wolf-pack and domination, players are allowed to form teams to kill targets together and capture and hold territory, creating a much more interesting co-operative dynamic that runs smoothly and is as equally exciting as the traditional death-match modes. As with every entry, the multi-player flaunts the new setting and costumes of the game’s era to create striking new multi-player characters. Each has access to a greater supply of weapons and tricks, involving everything from disguises to better tracking abilities to mark your targets. The multi-player also features more character customization, but its DLC will otherwise be pointless
A bold and imaginative entry for the Assassin’s Creed series, Assassin’s Creed III never truly failed me with its engaging backdrop and ingenious features, but I feel that its issues of frequent glitches and troubled story-telling certainly kept it short of greatness. While much of what was there offered a good deal of fun, missed story opportunities or bugs made me wish that Ubisoft had put this back in the shop just a little longer. There are good things to be had for the patient, and, despite its significant flaws, Connor’s interesting tale gave me reason to keep hope alive that Assassin’s Creed may finally get back its stride from II and deliver the sense of excellence it deserves.
Overall Score: 8.5