Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Plot: In Colonial America, a Native American, Connor, discovers his assassin heritage and his destiny to protect a sacred piece of Eden from the Templars.
The problem with Assassin’s Creed is that it is quickly dragging itself down into monotony. There is nothing wrong with wanting your gaming series to be a successful and popular franchise. Assassin’s Creed prides itself on being one of the biggest gaming giants around now. It has achieved this with a) it’s mesmerisingly intriguing narrative and b) having a release every year. However, somehow Assassin’s Creed has achieved the opposite of obscurity. We are almost sick of it. Why do you think Grand Theft Auto V is currently the biggest game out there, perhaps closely followed by the fifth Elder Scrolls? Why are we so hyped the second someone whispers Fallout 4? Because we have missed those titles. A new addition to a game should feel like a milestone. We should be clinging to every rumour, so when it hits the release date, we are practically throwing our money away to get it to us as fast as possible. With Assassin’s Creed, I am drowning. As I just start Black Flag, I am aware that I am behind by two games, a spin-off, and a brand new Assassin’s Creed, is just around the corner. It’s not just the quantity of Assassin’s Creed games out there – they are getting rushed. And that is the main reason why Assassin’s Creed III just does not work.
Problem one: the bugs. I hate criticising games for bugs, which is why they rarely crop up in my reviews. However, Assassin’s Creed III is appalling for them. In racing to meet Ubisoft’s impossible deadlines, the developers have given us an unfinished product, so rough around the edges that it almost insulting to be given the next chapter of the story in such a rote and half-arsed way. Everyone has an Assassin’s Creed III story involving a glitch. One mission sees you rush through the forest, chased by wolves, only to trigger a cut-scene. Connor gets wrapped up in a conversation with a female protagonist. The wolves’ AI does not recognise this break in the action. The female will be talking to Connor, as he gets ravaged to death by the wolves, without as much of a change in facial expression. The guards’ AI is just as dull, clunky and stupid. Guards a few biscuits short of a packet are a staple of Assassin’s Creed. It is fun outsmarting your enemies, hammering home the idea of you being this master assassin. But sometimes it is embarrassing taking on the bad guys in this one in a fight. Sometimes, the fighting is just far too buggy. A finishing movie graphic gets caught on loop. Since when did Assassin’s Creed become so clunky? Assassin’s Creed II was astonishing, because of how smooth the gameplay was. Here, it is a struggle to get from Point A to B. A simple mission is made exhausting, because the combat is frustratingly hit-and-miss. Locking onto an enemy is a ‘hope for the best’ experience. Switching to your gun can be a fatal error, because your character is so slow at getting his head back into the fight, once he has drawn his sword. I never felt like a stealth master in this game, rather slipping back into the novice I wished I was long ago finished with playing.
Problem two: it is so routine. Assassin’s Creed Revelations felt stale thanks to the return of Ezio and his timeline. We had spent too long there and Ezio was overstaying his welcome. He is still my favourite assassin to date, but his character arc reached its conclusion in Brotherhood, meaning yet another story with him felt slightly redundant. Sadly, inside the city, Connor’s gameplay isn’t too different. Again, this is down to the developers being rushed to get yet another game out, by the time the year came around. That is not enough time to do the usual routine of breaking down a game and building it back up again to see what new ideas fall out of the mix. Assassin’s Creed is trapped in this state of mind, where changing the historical setting and continient equates to a brand new experience. Alas, there is still too much of the old games, hanging around the crevices of the third Assassin’s Creed game. Altair’s and Ezio’s installments were completely different from each other. Connor doesn’t break away from the pack, becoming a rather meaningless hero. The differences come more aplenty when you leave the city. Rather than clambering buildings, you use the trees to access your free-running abilities. It makes the levels outside of Boston feel a little more Assassin-like, something the other games struggled with, whenever Ezio or Altair left the populated areas. Sadly, rather than being free to Tarzan across the jungle, the routes you can take through the woods are heavily scripted. There is often one way to go, if you fancy heading in a specific direction, which means the new tree-climbing gameplay is a little stale. The more exciting element of the game is the addition of wildlife. When the wolves aren’t killing you during a cut-scene, they are quite fun. Sadly, more could have been done, something the developers could have realised if they had more than a year to make this game. Fighting bears in the forest just makes you want to go play Farcry 4 instead.
I was set to give this game a one star review. I haven’t done one of them in a while. I hate the gameplay in this game and it was a terrible struggle to get through it. However, Assassin’s Creed always has a saving grace: the plot. It feels like a cop-out to praise a game for story, because arguably that shouldn’t equate into the gaming side of this discussion. However, the story is a pretty intelligent one, packed with twist reveals and shocking plot developments. There is an early twist, which took Assassin’s Creed III out of the mundane for a brief moment, because it was so unexpected and fantastic writing that you are pulled right back into the adventure you were about to condemn. We are heading down one road of narrative and with a click of the fingers, the writers turn the game on its head and gives us a totally different experience than we were expecting. When the game hits its lowest points, it is the personal connection with the various supporting characters that fuels your desire to carry on playing. And the ending: it is just as out of the blue as that early twist, rewarding you for sticking with the game with a jaw-dropping finish. In fact, it puts gamers in that awkward position, where they need to see this game through to its ending just to keep up to date with the series. Perhaps the purpose of this review is to just applaud at how far gaming has come in terms of story-telling. By investing effort into creating a cinematic experience, Ubisoft has pretty much saved its fifth entry into turning into a forgettable waste of time. It is definitely me making the best of a bad situation, but hell… for just a moment, I was entertained.
Final Verdict: I condemned Revelations for being an unnecessary game. Assassin’s Creed III isn’t unnecessary. No, it is just bad.