Review of Assassins Creed III from Ubisoft

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After a large amount of waiting and an even larger amount of “not actual full title” additions for my PS3, EA and Ubisoft have released a proper sequel! With a new protagonist and time period hopefully we can progress the overall plot of Assassins creed a little more.

OUT OF THE ANIMUS

I love the overall plot in Assassins Creed and can never wait for the next out of Animus section with Desmond so I was looking forward to the progression AC3 would offer. We do get some more action in this respect but for me the Sci-Fi plot is stretching itself a little. It strikes me as a plot that doesn’t really know where its going with little direction any more.

I still have incredibly fond memories of the first Assassins Creed where the mystery of the plot was the big pull. The scene at the end of the game where you could use Eagle Vision out of the Animus and a series of puzzles revealed themselves was just a work of art. I’m generally not a “the first in the trilogy has to be the best” kind of guy. In fact I’m usually the only person who likes sequels but it seems to me like the plot of Assassins Creed is just being dragged out and slowly making less sense as time goes on.

On the other hand we do see Desmond progress his skills in some truly excellent out of Animus missions and the plot isn’t terrible but I think its losing direction and could do with being brought back to the real world just a little.

IN THE ANIMUS

We have a brand new set of characters this time around and a totally new time period and setting. The first mission is a great tutorial which wastes no time having you climbing and using the new Eagle Vision in your new setting. It’s pretty on the rails and limited but that makes it look good and perform well as a tutorial.

When you first enter one of the populated areas the atmosphere is nothing short of breath-taking. The hustle and bustle the crowds create is not even comparable to older titles. We’ve been promised “real” feeling cities on many games before but Assassins Creed III comes the closest to achieving it by far.

Unfortunately quite a few of the early missions limit the player and the game holds your hand for a little too long which is a shame as it doesn’t make as much use of the amazing environments as it could. To be fair this does mean that once you’re left to your own devices you have a pretty good idea of how to work all the games mechanics.

 

There are a lot of main missions and loads on offer for the completionist too. Recruiting assassins makes a return from previous installments except now you have to liberate zones on a map before the final recruit mission is available. The liberation missions are solid and allow you to do a bit of open combat whilst still gaining an objective, which is always fun.

The story in the Animus gets pretty dark at some points and left me pleasantly surprised with a couple of nicely integrated twists. It’s interesting, well paced and left me wanting more post game.

THE HOMESTEAD & OTHER SIDE QUESTS

There’s quite a lot to do after the main game ends with an incredibly surprising and ingenious cheat system too. I was really looking forward to the end game but to be honest got frustrated with a lot of the tasks. Most of them are really tedious fetch quests or have you walking massive distances pointlessly to achieve trivial goals. Your character is very important to the Assassins Creed and the American revolution, taking on dozens of armed soldiers literally with his bare hands, so the monotonous tasks seem to belittle your character.

Tasks like documenting the characters in your homestead performing their daily tasks (which takes a couple of hours or so) has no indication of which tasks you have already logged unless you try to log them again. Essentially you wander about and look at characters and then wander about some more and look at some other characters, for hours. As a last bit of fun after the boredom and stress really reach their height the trophy can glitch on the PS3, as mine did.

The homestead itself is a good idea, gathering people to settle in the homestead by helping them out in tasks across the homestead map. The missions themselves are good distractions and building up your own town adds a good sense of progression. Adding people to the homestead also allows more items to be traded and crafted.

Items can be traded with stores in the main cities and there are a huge amount of items available to trade. There seems like a lot to the trading and crafting at first but some items simply offer more profit than others so I didn’t see the point in almost all of them. It seems like a great in depth system that really just doesn’t do anything or ever become an integral part of the game.

The crafting items are similar, some allow your character to have dual pistols or carry more usable items and some are almost pointless. I waited for the dual pistol holsters for a long time and when I finally got them they didn’t really work. One of the pistols would change on every are transition and I could really only choose one pistol and let the game decide on the other, if it rendered the second one at all. The upgrades also become available too late in the game considering none of them offer pivotal changes to the game play.

Naval battles are a welcome addition which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I really thought it would be a tacked on after thought that didn’t fit into the game, how wrong I was. The battles are challenging and the combat on the ship is fun. These missions are also totally optional but I strongly recommend giving them a go.

WEAPONS, EQUIPMENT & COMBAT

The weapons follow a similar pattern except you can afford most of the good stuff early on. There is no problem with the weapons as such but there really isn’t a point to them. The tomahawk is just too cool and you can fight just as effectively with it as any of the other weapons. I even used “unarmed” as one of my main “weapons” just for the disarm option and the stupidly cool looking fighting mechanics that come with it.

I really think the weapons available at the shop should just not be in Assassins Creed. The game doesn’t need weapons with stats, considering the combat allows you to absolutely batter any man in your way with your already impressive portable armory. Countering appropriately will thrust a sharp object into an enemies skull and regardless of an arbitrary number of damage, that’s usually pretty fatal.

The combat however is absolutely incredible fun. After a successful counter you can press any of the face buttons to decide what kind of counter to perform which gives you a lot more control over the combat. Different enemies will be susceptible to different attacks so learning which to use and when is important. The AI helps you along with this simply by working. I don’t think the AI ever got in the way of me trying to do something in combat and performing the move your trying to perform every time is a satisfying and refreshing experience.

The combat is really fluid and looks great. I really wanted was some form of combat room system like Batman:Arkham City offered. This would work so well on Assassins Creed III its ridiculous. Post game I really wanted to kill some enemies either in specific ways or on a time limit, anything really! The combat is massively entertaining and I’d rather have seen a combat room option than a vast majority of the side quests that simply bored me.

Another aspect Ubisoft have nailed this time is the free running which for the first time really feels polished. There was a noticeable decrease in the amount of times I shouted at the game for steeling yet another potentially cool moment from me and coupled with the new environments, free running was smooth and fun.

MULTI-PLAYER

The multi-player works well and should provide entertainment for those wishing to participate. There are a huge amount of unlocks to earn and even a plot totally separate from the main game giving the multi-player direction and purpose. These additions make the multi-player feel much better formed than previous installments of Assassins Creed and lead to a much more satisfying overall experience.

VISUALS

When it works Assassins Creed is one of the best looking games on the PS3. Ubisoft have yet again got more out of the PS3 than I thought possible. Apart from a few dubious graphical hiccups and load times that can start to test the nerves, Assassins Creed looks great throughout. The waves on the naval missions and rain in the cities are outstanding and really have no peer.

AUDIO

The sound of the weapons in combat and the noises made by your equipment when moving around are great and add a nice layer of realism. The bass created by the cannons on the ships is incredibly punchy and satisfying. There is also a good score at work in the background although it could have been used more prominently at times.

CONCLUSION

Assassins Creed III is a great experience and comes packed with a massive amount optional activities, most of which are satisfying. It’s nice to see Desmond’s story moved on and hopefully Connor will make a return, so long as he doesn’t do it three times before we get another full sequel.

As a technological showcase Assassins Creed III is astonishing but at some point playability has to come into the equation. At times I felt like Assassins Creed III sacrificed playability for its good looks and fancy mechanics and despite their obvious brilliance playability is number one. Definitely one of the top games of the year and worth enough of your time for at least a play through.

Assassins Creed III is available now on PS3, XBOX 360 and PC.