Review: Assassin’s Creed 3

Being British, I was simultaneously excited for and dreading Assassin’s Creed 3. Excited, because even though all meaningful plot has left the series, who doesn’t love a good bit of historical parkour. Dreading, because given the fact the game is set during the American War of Independence, I could immediately see which side would get all the love- and they wouldn’t be wearing red. I know Britain and France have had their fallings out, Ubisoft, but for the sake of originality, couldn’t you have sided with us for once?

The story picks up exactly where Revelations left off- Desmond has woken up from his coma-type-thing and has been shipped off to once again attempt to save the world from the Templars, and also the destruction of the Earth by the Sun (which is rather conveniently set to happen on 21.12.12). Desmond and co. have to find the secrets of a temple left behind by the mysterious Precursor Race so they can save the world, all the while being taunted and insulted by one of these Precursors, who has a special interest in poor Des. In true AC tradition, they have to delve into the life of one of Desmond’s ancestors to find a mcguffin that will unlock a door that holds all the answers. Keeping up?  Bloody hell, I wasn’t.

It takes a while for us to actually meet Desmond’s new historical meat-suit. For the first 3 hours of the game, you play as a bloke called Haytham- a fine British chap with Assassin skills, who gets sent over to the New World to find the same temple Desmond is currently in.  To absolutely nobody’s surprise, he ends up founding the American branch of the Templars. Along the way, he becomes VERY good friends with a Native woman, and thus we’re FINALLY introduced to Ratonhnhaké:ton (which later shortens to Connor, thankfully).

To cut a looooong story short, Connor gets involved with helping The Patriots get independence from the British, while trying to carry on the work of the Assassins by killing his father’s Templar buddies. It goes without saying that all the major events of the War of Independence are covered here- the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea-Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence… Connor inevitably makes an appearance at all of them.

One thing that the game can be praised for is its attempts at neutrality- it doesn’t pander to the American propaganda of the time (for example, it stays true to the fact that only 5 people were killed during the Boston Massacre)- making some of my fears of thick American patriotism go away. The sheer number of major events Connor shows up at did make my eyes roll like marbles, though- we’re talking a 4 cheese pizza with stuffed mozzerella crust here.

A lot of the plot does seem pretty contrived- we are given no explanation as to why Connor needs to kill the Templars this time (other than the fact that that’s just what Assassins do). I actually found myself siding with the Templars- the game makes little attempt to make them seem really evil. We’re also not particularly made to feel compelled to help the Patriots (unless you’re an American, where presumably not wanting to help them is some form of treason)- the game doesn’t really make you care. It was pretty bland compared with other installments of the series (apart from Revelations, which I can’t even remember the story to).

The flagship feature (pun not intended) of AC3 is undoubtedly the naval combat. I loved this part of the game, I really did. Connor gets to control a huge 18th century warship, and bombards the crap out of mercenary and British ships alike. You get to fire the cannons, steer your way through rogue winds and tight corridors of rock, all the while surrounded by a lifelike crew which is constantly on the move. It’s an incredibly immersible experience, nothing like anything I’ve played before.

Outside of these little side missions, the gameplay is mostly unchanged. You have a new type of parkour, which puts you in the dense forest- replacing tall buildings with trees. It works as a way of getting around, and it feels fluid, but you don’t have much of a reason to use it unless you’re doing hunting missions. Hunting deer, rabbits, raccons and other furry creatures is your main source of income in the game, and you use the skins and meat from what you kill to sell to merchants in your homestead. While you have a huge amount of skills and items you can use to do this, there isn’t much of a call to. Money is largely pointless in this game, you can get by perfectly well without needing to upgrade your equipment, and ammunition for your bow and  pistol is relatively cheap.

Your homestead (like the Villa in AC2) can be upgraded by saving citizens and recruiting them to work for you. Again, this only served as a set of side missions if you’re bored of the main story, and there wasn’t much cause to complete them. There’s a crafting mechanic which supposedly gets you money, but it didn’t come across as interesting or worthwhile.

The game itself boasts that a lot of the glitches and issues you encountered in previous games have been fixed- but I didn’t see much evidence of this. Free-running is more fluid in that you can assassinate a target without breaking your stride, but the difficulties I’ve had in the past with controlling my assassin are still present, and as annoying as ever. Connor will still gravitate to hay bales and climable walls like he has magnets up his sleeves, and this causes a huge problem when there are more chase sections than any other AC game I care to recall. The sheer number of times my horse has got stuck in a fence, I’ve tried air assassinating targets and have ended up standing on their head instead, enemies have got stuck on scenery and I’ve spotted floating objects that shouldn’t, says to me that the game needs an update STAT, because it’s BROKEN. We’re not talking hilarious Skyrim-style glitches here, we’re talking glitches that will impede your progress.

To wrap up, AC3 isn’t the blockbuster game I was hoping for- there are more issues that I could mention, but I’d be here all day. The plot is bland, and the ending pulls a Mass Effect 3 (being nonsensical, flawed and providing more questions than answers)- but then we all knew this wouldn’t be the end of the series. The gameplay adds some interesting extras- I can’t emphasise enough how great the naval battles are, and the tree climbing is certainly interesting, but everything else the game offers is just guff in comparison. If you liked the other games for the combat, free-running etc, then you won’t be too disapointed, but wait until there’s been a fix for all the glitches first. If you want a conclusive end to Desmond’s story, just read it on Wikipedia , become utterly confused, and save yourself £35.