It is hard to say goodbye to Ezio and Altair, characters who over the last five years have given us exciting locations to traverse in, interesting characters to meet, and above all else the most dynamic gaming experience in years. The mechanics and story elements drawn out through those first four games were remarkable to say the least, and everything blended exceptionally well in all aspects of the game. Topping these was a heavy task indeed for Assassin’s Creed 3 , and even if a few of its own additions fail to impress, it still delivers one of the best entries in the series to date.
The American Revolution was a time of extreme turmoil, with the Loyalists in America ready to ignite a war at the drop of a hat, and the British focused on claiming the land for themselves. It is at this backdrop that Assassin’s Creed 3 shines, a thrilling location and setting that blends perfectly with the lore and story of Assassin’s Creed. Meet Connor, a loyal yet hot-headed Native American who after seeing his village endangered by the threats of war, becomes trained in the ways of the Assassin. Connor’s story is seen from all stages of his life, from a small boy learning how to hunt to a young man vowing revenge on those who did him wrong. Although Connor is not the only person you control throughout the game (there is a drudgingly long and tedious tutorial in the beginning that lasts almost five hours), his persona and decisiveness make him the series' best Assassin protagonist yet.
What Is It?
The story in Assassin’s Creed 3 focuses solely on Connor’s impact to the shaping colonies. While some of Connor’s actions are conflicting at times, the goal is ultimately to stop the Templars from gaining control. The Templars have been fighting with the Assassins for hundreds of years and Connor’s attempts to stop them all lead to great battles and dialogue. Throughout the adventure, Connor will get to meet some famous historical figures of the, including Samuel Adams, Israel Putnam, Benjamin Franklin, and of course George Washington. All of these figures, and how remarkably they are portrayed based upon their actions of the time, are a sight to see. The story really does not need to take any liberties since the American Revolution needs no reprising, however, the main story missions in which you actually get to engage in some of the historic Revolutionary battles are far and few between, which is a real drag.
Throughout the course of the game, Connor will travel to various places, including both Boston and New York. But the best new area offered is the Frontier, an immense area perfectly suited to become your own Assassin’s playground. Free-roaming has always been a staple of the franchise, with your character able to freely climb tall structures, swing from ledges and perform impossible vertical maneuvers in a short span of time. The Frontier takes all of that training and experience and turns it up to 11. Climbing trees and jumping from limb to limb without ever touching the ground is such an exciting rush. The Frontier is also full of wildlife you can hunt for trading (more on that later), and utilizing your new predatory strategies is useful when killing enemies much faster than you.
Why Should I Care?
While the free-roaming in the Frontier is really well executed, the same cannot be said for the areas where people bustle around. Boston and New York in particular have so many objects around you at a given time that you will often find yourself accidentally running up walls or getting knocked over. It is amusing to see a well-trained Assassin move so swiftly on top of rooftops only to crash and burn so easily by being hit by a stationary barrel. It’s one of the few annoyances the game should have recognized, since changing the way the free-roaming works technically causes a bigger hindrance. The missions in particular where you are required to chase someone through the streets without losing sight of them will surely cause you fits of rage and many dozens of restarts.
But while the free-roaming was made simpler albeit a little more clumsy to maneuver, the combat has finally evolved into its pinnacle of the franchise. Combat has never flowed so efficiently before, and there were times when starting a battle with five or six guys at once never felt like a burden. Once battle begins, Connor can start swinging away at his foes, but the beauty of the system relies in blocking, a maneuver you must fully understand if you want to even have a chance to survive. Enemies will show a red marker above their head when they are about to strike you, and once blocked you have the option to counterattack, disarm or shove away. Different enemies have different tactics, such as the big Grenadiers who can block your counterattack and require different ways to take down. Coupled together with gruesome combo kills and you will find how incredibly satisfying it is to go toe-to-toe with a group of a dozen redcoats all by yourself.
While free-roaming for collectibles and fighting off enemies in the main story missions will consume most of your time, there are plenty of new side missions that will keep you entertained. In the early stages of the story Connor sets up shop in the Davenport Homestead, a base of operations if you will, where he learns the tools of the trade from his mentor, Achilles, and also recruits artisans to live on the land. Returning here throughout the story is essential if you wish to make a lot of money trading. These Homestead missions are simple tasks which usually require you to find someone, help them out for a while, and then rinse and repeat. After much tediousness occurs, you will soon find yourself with millworkers, blacksmiths, farmers and doctors all settled around your Homestead and able to interact and trade with.
Trading is the new way to make money in Assassin’s Creed 3, but it is an incredibly flawed system mainly for the fact that the game does not even tell you about it at all. Under the restraints of the game, it works quite well if you know how to manage trade routes, buy and sell items and how to hunt. But since the game does not teach you how to do these things effectively, you might find yourself broke throughout the course of the game. Hunting for animals and trading in their skins can only net you so much money before you tire of it completely. Sure you can eventually sell off goods from your artisans to stores, but there is very little reason to do so because you could finish the game without buying a simple new weapon to use. It is a new idea that completely missed its mark in terms of execution and awareness.
Connor wouldn’t be a jack-of-all-trades if he wasn’t an expert sea captain as well and you eventually get to control your own private vessel, The Aquila. Once aboard The Aquila you can do side quests to abolish trade routes to make sending naval convoys easier, or you can just waste time sinking British ships. Maneuvering and fighting aboard The Aquila is quite easy to manage and is only has three set speeds to note; full stop, half sail and full sail. Adjusting to these various degrees is important when noticing the way the wind blows in the bottom corner of the screen. Slowing down is necessary for easier turning while full sailing is critical to catch up to ships far away. Once you learn how to steer, fighting becomes immensely entertaining. Coming side by side with another ship and firing your cannons is a dream all kids imagined when they were younger. Topped off with upgrades such as heat balls that glow on fire when shot and battering rams so you can mow down enemy ships, the rewards and cash you can rake in are countless. The mechanics of the Naval missions are so well executed they could work as a standalone game somewhere down the line (hint hint, Ubisoft).
In terms of technical merits, Assassin’s Creed 3 is hands-down the best looking game in the series. The amount of detail that comes to life in every city is remarkable, with dozens of characters on screen at the same time. If you spend some time truly navigating the various places, you could find some exciting things, like citizens cutting wood or fishing, cobblestones on the street that brush up dirt when you run over them and even interior furniture and lighting when you enter buildings…or run through them to escape. The naval missions in particular truly shine as the cream of the crop when you get to witness the impressive water effects and your crew aboard the Aquila moving about setting up cannons or climbing ropes and putting out fires. The game also sports some truly impressive weather effects, with the game shifting between summer and winter seasons. The Frontier in particular looks truly splendid when frosted over with a fresh coat of snow.
The soundtrack in the game is still exhilarating, with a unique and quite catchy new tune when you control Connor when he is running around his village. The Native American chant fits perfectly with the mood of the game. Nolan North once again does a great job voicing Desmond, however, the only complaint would have to be the voice of George Washington, who sounded more like a 30-year-old actor from California than an ex-British solder.
Multiplayer makes its rounds again, and it's much improved from Revelations. Assassinate mode is where the bulk of players will spend their time and it’s still incredibly fun to utilize abilities to hunt down your target. Wolfpack mode teams players together to simultaneously kill enemies and complete objectives. It’s a unique take on the standard “horde” mode from other games, and it works well in the context of the game’s controls. Still, it seems the servers lack proper management as games aggravatingly take forever to load, and even then glitchy problems, such as targets disappearing from the map and players getting stuck in walls, are still apparent. Weekly challenges and brand new skill sets should however keep you entertained for months to come.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Like Samuel Adams once said: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” This rings true to the Templars ambitions in Assassin’s Creed 3 and ultimately Connor’s adventure to stop them. The American Revolution never has been portrayed in such a fascinating light and it’s a testament to how well Ubisoft truly cares for its fans. While there are a few gameplay miscues along the way and the ending leaves much to be desired, the game still evolved for the better. Assassin’s Creed 3 delivers the thrill of being an apex predator better than any game before it.