It’s 2012, strange things are happening in the world, such as Assassin’s Creed III being the fifth game in the saga, besides that, the end of the world is looming – apparently. Naturally, we’ve yet another hidden-blade-wielding, or rather more proficient Tomahawk, bow and arrow wielding Assassin of the past for poor Desmond to fill the boots of – enter the American Revolution and Ratohnhaké:ton of the Mohawk tribe. Just in case you too have trouble pronouncing that, he also goes by the more common name of Connor.
As the title clearly suggests, this is a new direction for the series, with Altair’s outing done, and Ezio’s trilogy at an end, this is where Assassin’s Creed III comes in with not only new protagonist Connor, furthermore it brings the series’ long running story of Desmond Miles’ journey to its bitter conclusion.
It’s not until three hours in; Sequence 4 that you actually gain control over Connor – from the offset you’re filling the boots of the more prominently British, and rather not-only classy, but also relentless, Haytham Kenway. Those few hours though are quite frankly underwhelming, although it certainly sets the tone for not only high-seas Naval combat, but Connor’s more personal story, which very much proves to be the series’ best yet. As for Desmond’s own story, well that’s a different matter entirely.
If you’ve followed the series through to now, then you’re certainly going to be familiar enough to be able to dive straight in. The only real gameplay quirk to shake, is the fact that you only need to hold the right trigger to not only jog, but to sprint at full speed, and furthermore to safely make jumps between buildings, and make more awkward jumps between tree branches with relative safety, and you’ll be doing lots of jumping from tree to tree in Assassin’s Creed III. Rest assured this aspect is actually rather entertaining; it’s just shaking the damn habit of not having to hold an extra button.
Besides flourishing trees to navigate through, other gameplay additions includes a subtle cover system where by you approach a corner of a wall when tailing someone to have Connor automatically stick behind corner-cover hiding himself from view; surprisingly it’s rather subtle and works well. Given that Assassin’s Creed in the past has various elements where you stalk the enemy it’s surprising cover has not featured previously.
Perhaps taking a page out of Rockstar’s free-roaming Red Dead: Redemption’s play-book, Connor can now not only whistle his horse into the fray from out of nowhere, but can traverse the wilderness and hone his hunting skills to killing and skinning all that mother nature has to offer. Larger beasts will typically attack Connor, and it’s here that a God of War style quick-time event appears on-screen to assassinate and counter your furry targets.
It’s however navigating the large-scale world and ease of combat that’s always been a highlight of the series, except now you can madly sprint into enemies and assassinate your foes with even greater ease all the while continuing the forward momentum.
Combat is for the most part unchanged, though tweaked and refined to a degree, it’s still far too easy to hack away at enemies rather unchallenged. Countering two enemies at the same time offers up a particular satisfying perspective on their deaths, as does all new kill animations with the various weapons on offer. Stringing enemies up over a tree branch with a rope dart or using them as a meat-shield as the redcoats open fire on you proves expectedly satisfying, as does burying a hatchet in their skull.
Multiplayer is once again featured, and with a plethora of modes available with an Assassin’s twist on proceedings; from the expected deathmatch, assassination and capture the objective style games, and more. The new flagship mode however is not of the versus nature, but rather, co-operative. Wolfpack mode caters for 1-4 players to team up and progress through sequences. It spins the familiar AC deathmatch formula of gaining line of sight on your target, and then assassinating him, but does so over a course of sequences where you and your team must kill targets within a set time-limit to progress to the next sequence. Fortunately for Assassin’s Creed III and this style of co-op mode, it certainly proves more unique than those that have done it before, as the focus here will be on melee combat over gun-play.
Assassin’s Creed III is the first in the series to be running on Ubisoft’s latest game engine, AnvilNext. This provides the most detailed game world in the series to date, bringing the American Revolution and all that surround it to life. Sprawling barren countrysides are filled with wildlife to hunt, a Homestead to call your own; side-quests to not only conquer, but those you save can add to the land, and all amidst dynamic weather systems from thick snow to the gleaming sun of the spring, with the relevant rain and lighting effects to compliment.
Assassin’s Creed III certainly has its fair share of issues which are more prominent than the previous entries; riding by horse through villages you oddly can spot NPC’s pop-out; we’re used to texture pop-in with free-roaming titles, but pop-out seems quite odd. When sprinting by foot and leaping through trees and across building it’s by no means an issue, but otherwise, it does serve as quite the distraction. We’ve yet to actually complete a full multiplayer match without the game crashing as well, though did manage to give Wolfpack an almost full-length session.
As for the scale, the detail and the large amount of NPC’s featured at any one time, from a packed classical theatre to full-scale war across land and sea – Assassin’s Creed III certainly impresses from the technical perspective.
Assassin’s Creed has always prospered from within the Animus, the focal point being on the Assassin’s story within, and the struggle between both Assassin and Templar. While that struggle continues in a modern setting with Desmond’s antics it’s perhaps a gameplay area that was best left restricted, much as it was in the first game. Compared to Revelations, ACIII is rather more restricted for Desmond, though frankly, it’s not quite enough. When given the choice between exploring Desmond’s more open surroundings, there’s no enthusiasm to do so, and you can just jump straight back into the wonders of the Animus and continue Connor’s adventure instead.
Ultimately you”ll end up having to do both Desmond’s and Connor’s requirements for the overall story to come to; besides some scripted scenes for Desmond in between, what else is on offer within his space is not only tedious, but too hard to take seriously.
Desmond seems more ticked off than we were, though at the very least, there’s some common ground then between the player and Desmond.
While perhaps not the best game in the series, nor the most dramatic conclusion for Desmond to have finished on, Assassin’s Creed III does at least provide the best story to be told within the confines of the Animus itself; with refined gameplay and all new-combat mechanics on offer, it’s certainly the series’ most intriguing and thought-provoking outing to date.
8/10 – Review by Wayne Julian