You want to know what I think of Assassin’s Creed III? How to phrase this. I occupy a tiny minority of modern gamers who care about story and concept above all else. I don’t care if the gameplay is repetitive and boring (Wolfpack, Privateer). I don’t care if the graphics are awful or nonexistent (Marathon, Pirates!). I don’t care if there’s little conflict or challenge (Viva Pinata). I don’t even care if there is almost no sound at all (Uplink, BBS door games). If the story is great or the concept is novel and fun, I will play the balls off it.
Story is the most important thing to me, is what I’m saying. So it’s a big deal that I think the Assassin’s Creed series might be the best series ever made. It’s certainly up there in the Tier I pantheon with the likes of Marathon and Half-Life. The story is the perfect blend of historical fiction and sci-fi, and even manages to implement a “sort-of” version of time travel without having to deal with the various plot holes that time travel normally introduces. In short, even if the rest of this game sucked, it would be worth it for the story alone. I’d also suggest that if you’ve played none of the previous installments, you go back and play from the beginning. Yes, all four previous games. You won’t be sorry.
Fortunately for you who aren’t story snobs like me, the other aspects of the game are fantastic as well. The concept, as I touched on briefly earlier, is brilliant. Rather than actual time travel, you enter a device called the Animus, which allows you to relive moments in history as long as a genetic ancestor was there. Luckily enough, many of your ancestors were members of an ancient order of warriors called the Assassins, a mysterious sect devoted to securing and maintaining freedom around the world, and were present at many crucial events and battles. In Assassin’s Creed III, you relive the experiences of your ancestor Connor, who lived during the time of the American Revolution. Surprise, surprise, the Revolution was merely a front for the larger (but secret) war between the Assassins and their ancient enemy, the Knights Templar.
You interact with several well-known historical characters while in the Animus, and it’s always interesting and sometimes hilarious to see Ubisoft’s take on these famous personalities. I was particularly amused by Ben Franklin’s lengthy treatise on the benefits of older mistresses versus young ones, complete with eight or ten different detailed reasons. Ah, Franklin, you old horndog.
Lunch Meat: The game of course follows the natural progression of the storyline, and goes a bit more in depth with the history of The Precursors from what I recall of the previous titles. If you are new to the game you can jump in and not feel lost, while if you have played the series before, you pretty much pick up where you left off.
The story is confusing a bit though, as I try to figure out where Connor and Nathan become aware of each other. Connor seems to know Nathan is his father, without ever having met him, and the first time Nathan and Connor come face to face, Nathan calls him by his English name, yet there is nothing to indicate he knew who he was, before, despite having seen him in the prison. There is nothing to tie the two together, and I get the sense that the story was edited after the timeline was established, or portions cut out altogether.
The graphics are excellent—remember, this is the last run of games before the next gen comes out, so the developers are holding nothing back and wringing every last bit of processing power out of the hardware. The characters and animals move so realistically, and the long timespan of the game’s events also allow the game to show off the landscape in various seasons and weathers. It’s fascinating for me to explore the same landscape in late summer as, a few hours of gametime ago, I was navigating in deep snow.
The one problem I have with the graphics is the short pop distance. It’s common to approach a town or compound and have characters suddenly appear out of thin air. The writers account for this by explaining it away as “glitches in the Animus” in a previous game. I must admit this is an extremely clever excuse—but an excuse nonetheless. A longer draw distance would help my immersion.
Lunch Meat: I saw a few things that are worth noting. During one cutscene early in the game, two characters are interacting. The sound is normal but there is no lip movement and the effect is rather odd. A few areas show clipping, but it is worse during the lock pick scenes, at times with the picks not even being in the lock. Shading sometimes appears pixelated, and rounded edges when viewed closely are not smooth in a few areas. All in all the graphics are great, but the portions where they are not are common enough to warrant a ding.
I love the sounds as well. Lunch Meat has already said it much better than I was going to.
Lunch Meat: The sound of bone crunching, and the tomahawk crashing into meat is enough to make me cringe. The voice acting is good, and I talked with Stone Chin regarding the language spoken by Connor and his tribe early on, it is an actual Mohawk dialect. The voices seem to “fit” the characters as they are rendered.
Gameplay is what makes this series so unique. No other game does free running so well. Sure, not even experienced free runners can hang by their fingertips from a half-inch ledge on an otherwise sheer cathedral facade for hours, but if I wanted realism, I’d go climb up a church and kill myself, um, myself. The tree-climbing mechanic is excellent (I was worried it would be clunky when I saw the trailers) and feels completely fluid. It makes me, a pasty pale game nerd who avoids the outdoors at all costs, want to go climb a tree.
The combat is very satisfying. Combos are fun to explore and chain together, new weapons yield new combos, and it’s fascinating how some of the kill moves are so vicious that they’ll make you want to cheer and cringe at the same time. Some of them just look so damn painful that you feel sorry for the bad guy—to quote Last Man Standing, “I can’t say they didn’t deserve it…still, it’s a rough way to check out.”
The only part of the gameplay I dislike is the trade mechanic available at your manor or a store. Buy materials, craft recipes to build new products, and sell those products in merchant caravans. It can be very profitable in a short period of time, but the menus are so damn unintuitive. I shouldn’t have to scroll all the way down and over to put a single fox fur on the caravan—only to have to do the same thing for each empty spot in the wagons. When I’m selling to the traveling peddlers on their huge wagons, I can sell all the fox furs at once, which is great. So why can’t I do that when sending caravans? The crafting menu is difficult to navigate as well. None of this is a drag, I must emphasize; I just don’t like their menu systems.
I also love the new naval warfare mechanic. This, too, worried me when I saw it in the trailers. But they got it right. Just the right amount of difficulty without making it infuriating. It’s not terribly deep and involved, but it’s fun for short periods of time before you go back to jumping around roofs in Boston or trees on the frontier.
Lunch Meat: I love the naval battles, they are challenging and rewarding. Some of the mini games, not so much but there is nothing that says you have to play them. Cutscenes add to to the story, rather than fill gaps.
I like the economic system, and the assassination missions, though they are not central to the game they give a sense of accomplishment.The selection of weapons, free running and combat have me going around and attacking every damn thing that will offer a fight. Hunting is an interesting feature, as his having to defend yourself against wolves, bears, and bobcat.
Lunch Meat: Hell yeah, I have been at this thing for weeks, and still not done. Additional DLC in the future will keep things interesting too
I concur. This game is LONG and will just get longer when the DLCs start dropping. If you hate games that you finish in one night, then you won’t be disappointed here.
I want to ding this game for the couple of small flaws I found, but then I considered the meaning of our “value” ranking: do I think this game is worth every dollar I paid for it? I realized immediately that not only is it worth the price I paid, but I’d have gladly paid double. Ubisoft not only deserves kudos for making these games, but immense praise for cranking them out at the pace of one per year with no drop in quality. That’s an incredible achievement, one which I’m not sure has ever been replicated.
Lunch Meat: Definitely get your money’s worth here, gameplay is measured in weeks, not hours. Ubisoft has the formula right for creating a game you want to come back to in this one.
I’d also suggest that if you’ve played none of the previous installments, you go back and play from the beginning. Yes, all four previous games. You won’t be sorry.
Final Thoughts from Lunch Meat:
As of this writing I have finished the main campaign and found the overall game to be outstanding. Assassin’s Creed III is challenging, long, and ranks up there with some of the best games I have ever played. There is hardly anything about this game that I do not like, it’s full of surprises and has a wonderful story.The game features some of the most important events of the American Revolutionary War, pays respect and then entertains.
Assassin’s Creed III concludes the storyline, but I hope that this is not the end; I hope the series continues in some way not only with DLC but with new directions for the story, perhaps other Assassins or even Templars unrelated to the quest to find out what the Precursors were up to. With so much potential, it’s hard to imagine that this will not be the case.
*This review was conducted with both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game.