Assassin’s Creed III is not Assassin’s Creed II. This needs to be understood at the outset, this needs to be made clear before you delve into this game. Assassin’s Creed II, the sequel to a highly atmospheric game rooted in one of the best concepts in modern gaming, but one that fell flat somewhat, was borderline perfection.
It was a game that achieved everything that it set out to do, and more. It was a game that expanded on the original’s concept, premise, and potential, a game that addressed the flaws of the original, a game that simultaneously, while redeeming the series, also irrevocably moved it forwards. Assassin’s Creed II was a classic. Its direct follow ups, Brotherhood and Revelations, were great games in their own right, but never again will gaming probably have a revelation on par with what Assassin’s Creed II was.
Therefore, that is my longwinded way of saying that no, Assassin’s Creed III is not better than II. If you were expecting it to be, you set yourself up for disappointment. It is not the leap over II that II was over the first one, it lacks the same monumental impact that II had, and in every way possible, it stays in II’s shadow. It is quite like The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that was expertly made and handled in its own right, but doomed to forever be unfavorably compared with its predecessor. So too will Assassin’s Creed III be judged.
And that is unfair. Because after you strip away all the anticipation and unfair expectations that would have been impossible for any game to meet, you are left with an incredible game, a daring game, a game that makes good on the promise of every game that came before, a game that dares to take its story into unconventional directions, a game that decides to chart uncharted territory- literally- with its gameplay. Assassin’s Creed III is a great game, it is one of the best game released this year so far, and easily the most ambitious game in the series. Judged on its own merits, Assassin’s Creed III is breathtaking, exciting, addictive as hell, and bursting at the seams with content.
It is often a victim of its own ambition. Assassin’s Creed III, in a daring step forward, moves away from the jam packed, densely populated urban locales of the previous games in the series by essentially setting itself in the still-being-settled Colonial America. And yes, while you are given nascent American cities like Boston and New York to romp through, the true strength of the game lies in the unsettled wilderness of the Eastern American coast that it allows the player to explore.
And what a wilderness it is. Vast and expansive, there is no place that you can see that you cannot reach. Using the game’s newly refined free running navigation system, you traverse and negotiate logs, trees, cliffs, rivers, bushes, all the while getting distracted by some new place in the distance that you see that you absolutely must reach, or a rabbit or a deer that you must stalk and kill. Or how about that invitation you just received for the brawlers’ club, maybe you can go there and take on a few brawl challenges? Oh, but there is a building barely visible in the distance, under the outcrop of a rock, hidden by trees, wonder what that is? Assassin’s Creed III gives the player a vast, lush, beautiful countryside, glorious to behold, and even better to traverse. And it avoids the trap that other games its size often fall into, in providing the player with a massive world but nothing to do with it. No, in Assassin’s Creed III, you’ll never be short of things to do.
In how big the world is (or how big it seems) and how beautiful it all looks, the game often resembles last year’s runaway hit The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In fact, like Skyrim, you will often be traveling through beautiful, natural organic locales, replete with rivers, rocks, fords, distant mountains, waterfalls, trees of all kinds, wildlife, and more. You’ll see the seasons change, you’ll see a pack of wolves attack deer, or see two elk start fighting each other, you’ll see the tracks you leave in the heavy snow, and see the tracks of everything else that walked through it, which you can follow to wherever they are now.
It’s staggering, it’s overwhelming, and unlike any other setting in an Assassin’s Creed game, it is completely immersive. Considering the heritage of the series in creating staggeringly immersive atmospheric recreations of historical locales, that’s high praise. And the beauty of the Frontier is only furthered by the cities proper, each of them vast, spread out, full of people, speaking to each other in loud voices in authentic language and authentic accents, dirty, grimy, loud, with the distinctive wooden architecture of this period. Being in the cities feels completely different from being in the great wilderness, and all of it goes towards crafting the most believable world an Assassin’s Creed game has had yet.
Aiding the world is the fact that this is the best, most refined, smoothest that Assassin’s Creed has been yet. Ubisoft took all the complaints directed at the previous games to heart, and redid several aspects of the game from the ground up.
The combat, notably, has improved. Previous Assassin’s Creed games had a crippling dependance on defensive combat: you could block and parry, and in your enemy’s moment of weakness, you could respond and strike him down, but trying to attack him first would be of no avail, as you would be blocked and deflected yourself. No more. Now you can attack, block, parry, disarm your opponent, chain blows, chain kills, and basically go on a one man killing rampage. The combat in this game is considerably spruced up, although it is now easier than ever before. It does go towards making Connor feel like a one man Assassin army, but a bit of challenge would have been nice.
Improved combat; great AI, friendly and enemy; the game world is incredible; the naval battles play great; the animations are swift and fluid, and at a distance, graphics look great; great music; great voice acting; Connor's story is sweet and moving, if a little slow; Desmond gets some screen time, and it doesn't suck; the multiplayer mode is better than before; stealth is harder, and better; free running best and most intense in series, especially out in the wilderness; you will never run short of things to do in this game, because there is simply too much
The combat is so good, the game starts feeling a bit too easy; baffling bugs and glitches; graphical problems, ranging from pop ins, low draw distance, bad textures and low quality models, and frame rate drops; the story is slow paced; Desmond's story is hard to care for, and the ending will universally leave you cold; story and characters compare unfavorably to the Assassin's Creed II games; urban free running feels stilted; heavy focus on story and narrative leads to the game feeling too restrictive or even QTE heavy at times
It is quite simply the most daring and ambitious Assassin's Creed game yet, and a brave new step for Ubisoft's flagship franchise.