Game Review: Assassin’s Creed 3
Platform: Xbox360 & PlayStation 3
In Stores Now
After three successful titles developers Ubisoft have finally honourably discharged the most famous Italian in gaming since Mario, Ezio Auditore has left the building! After some necessary prologue exposition Assassin’s Creed 3 picks up right where Revelations left off; with Desmond Miles and his Assassin allies finding a precursor ‘Vault’ in North America, a place that contains knowledge about averting the imminent apocalypse. Before he knows it Desmond is rendered unconscious by the vault and is placed back into the Animus yet again to see what the mysterious presence wants of him. As it happens Desmond is placed into the role of another ancestor and the new protagonist Connor Kenway, otherwise known as Ratonhnhaké:ton (Rah-Doon-A-Gah-Ton), a young Native American who is inducted into the Assassin Order after his world is destroyed by overzealous colonists. Sometime during Connor’s life he encountered the same vault Desmond found and found a way to unlock its’ secrets. Faced with little other choice Desmond agrees to live the life of his ancestor to see what he discovered. The premise of Assassin’s Creed 3 takes players away from renaissance Europe and plants them firmly in mid-eighteenth century North America, a time of revolution and massive global change. It takes a while to get going but the story soon picks up and follows the new Assassin from a young age as he takes players in tow through his bloody romp through colonial America during of one of the most pivotal moments in world history.
So, how does newcomer Connor stack up against the series legend Ezio? Whilst Connor’s charisma is nowhere near that of his predecessor his story is compelling to follow all the same. Connor comes across as a bit of a straight arrow, determined to ensure the survival and acceptance of his culture as the fires of revolution and war spread. He’s an earnest young man who’s calm and collected demeanour belies his ferocious anger at the world and what it has done to himself and his people. He is a different breed (personally and literally) than that of Ezio but is an overall likeable protagonist. Asides from his personal mission Connor, as one of the few remaining Assassins, is tasked with hunting down several Templars that have infiltrated both sides of the revolution and who seek to manipulate events to further their aims. What stake do the Templars have in the revolution and its’ outcome? Why are they so intent on eradicating Connor’s people? There are several plot twists and turns along the way but the player will have to go through the story to find out. Given the setting it would have been a real task for Ubisoft to remain impartial and not descend their latest title into an exercise of “America, F**K YEAH!”, but somehow they pulled it off. Templars are present in both the British and Revolutionary forces and it is the job of the Assassins to eliminate them before their plans, whatever they are, come to fruition. History buffs will appreciate the inclusion of key historical figures and events into the story; George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Adams as well as the chance to partake in the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Everywhere you look in Assassin’s Creed 3 it is obvious that the game is running on the new AnvilNext engine, and while it allows for some breath-taking moments it also brings a fair amount of graphical bugs that while not game breaking can occasionally take players out of the experience. The mechanics in exploration and combat have been vastly overhauled as well, gone are the days in which fighting was the only option once you were cornered and gone is the ‘magic medicine’ that served as the crutch for so many series veterans. Free-running is much better this time around and exploring the American frontier and it’s cities, in different seasons, is a blast. Thanks to the new game engine Connor is more agile than Ezio ever could be; he can vault over low-lying objects, climb buildings with staggering agility, and can sprint through unsuspecting households to break away from his pursuers in ways that would have the Italian green with envy.
Better still are the much-welcome changes to the combat system. In a fight Connor automatically goes into a defensive stance with a select button triggering a parry; if an attack is parried at the right time the player can attempt to throw the attacker, try disarming them, or attempt a counter kill – the latter of which is much harder to achieve this time around in comparison to previous titles. Kill-animations are extremely brutal this time around and suffice to say that this game earns its’ R18 rating through them; staking an enemy with a rope dart and then yanking them into a tomahawk-clothesline in slow motion is jaw-dropping. That being said Connor is no superman; the series staple “medicine” is gone meaning if you get injured in the midst of a fight you cannot recover until the fight is over, enemies can call for reinforcements, can attack in groups, and can co-ordinate attacks so keep on your toes!
The best addition to the game without a doubt is the “Naval Battle” side-game which could really be a separate game itself. In these sequences Connor commands his own ship with control over navigation and cannons. It is here that the AnvilNext engine really shines; the animations and weather effects during these parts are astonishing, the environments varied, and the atmosphere intense – think of that Master and Commander movie cranked up and put in a game and you have a good idea of what to expect! At times the player will get the chance to play as Desmond himself as he goes out on missions in the modern day, these sequences are interesting but only constitute a small part of the whole package.
So, what’s the final verdict? Is Assassin’s Creed 3 the best entry in the series to date? With the graphical bugs and slow start aside I’d say it certainly is! Where does the series look like going from here? I’m not sure, but as long as there are stories left to tell then Ubisoft will do their best to deliver them!
Final Score: 9/10
Whilst it suffers from some growing pains as it takes on a new game engine Assassin’s Creed 3 triumphs above its’ predecessors and delivers the goods at every turn. It will satisfy newcomers to the series and is a must-buy for veterans and fans alike.