“Assassin’s Creed III” Review
I have always had a mixed experience with the “Assassin’s Creed” series. The games always seemed to feature some great aspects, such as the story, along with some poorer ones, such as finicky and often repetitive gameplay. “Assassin’s Creed III” is a game that moves in a new direction for the series, yet follows in the footsteps, both good and bad, of the prior entries.
The story in the game is above average. Looking at the past and present stories in the game separately, it is easy to say Conner’s struggle during the Revolutionary War is the stronger one. Conner’s path through the war, and conflict with the Templars draws you in and is interesting all the way through. The amount of detail put into recreating the time period is nice as well. The present day story involving Desmond, though, starts well and remains fairly good through the majority of the game. Yet once the final sequence begins, everything falls apart. The ending feels rushed and is quite poor. After building 5 games worth of story, there should have been a more fulfilling conclusion.
For all the good and bad of the story, its presentation is remarkable. The graphics succeed on both a technical and artistic front, with lively cities and settlements and an expansive frontier. Voice acting is top-notch, with veteran Nolan North and newcomer Noah Watts acting as the main characters. Character models are finely detailed and are animated wonderfully. Yet, for how nice the animations are, the transitions from animation to animation are sometimes unnatural and jarring. There are also some hitches here and there, such as character’s faces/mouths not moving during cutscenes, pop-in with the environments, and minor hiccups with textures. I also have to quickly mention the soundtrack, which is the only real low point in the presentation. It is not very present at times and overall, quite unremarkable.
The gameplay is where we hit the biggest mixed bag. On one hand, you are given an extraordinary array of skills and items to accomplish your tasks, yet on the other, you are limited by sticky surfaces and clunky controls. The ability to free-run and climb anywhere is silky smooth at times, and when it works, you feel like an assassin. But at many times, your character jumps to the wrong object or clings to surfaces and objects you don’t even want to touch. This causes issues on its own, but combined with the poor stealth mechanics, makes it far more difficult than it should be to pull off certain stealth moves, or remain undetected. Further, riding on horseback is very restrictive and clunky, as your horse gets rustled by the smallest of objets or height differentials.
When it comes to actual combat, you have a similar situation. Hand-to-hand combat is well-done and a nice balance of countering and looking for an opportunity to strike. Ranged weapons, such as the bow and pistols, are more clumsy in their use. The ability to hit a target that is highlighted with one button is nice, but to actually get the target highlighted is an issue. Yes, there is free-aim, but that in itself is quite clumsy, as well.
One thing I will mention is that there is a wide variety of things to do in “Assassin’s Creed III”. From hunting, to building your homestead, to recruiting settlers to your cause, there is an abundance of activities and quests waiting to be undertaken. Many of these activities are done well, but I feel that the game does a poor job of making them compelling. In games with a wide variety of side activities, the game needs to have some factor that makes the player want to complete them (i.e. “Skyrim” or the recently released “Far Cry 3”) – making the player travel long distances to get to the mission starting points doesn’t help (there is a poor fast travel system). In other words, I could never get lost doing random tasks, completely forgetting about the main story, in this game as I would in the others mentioned.
Overall, ACIII sets itself up to be a great experience. The story pulls you in and grabs your interest from the start, the presentation is wonderful, and when the mechanics work well, you feel like an Assassin. Yet, the experience is often marred by some poor design choices and clumsy controls, along with a rushed ending.
Final Score: 7/10