I’ve been fighting this war for six long years. I’ve loyally pledged myself to the Assassins, freeing the world from the machinations of the Templar order. I’ve traveled through the very fabric of time itself, following Desmond and his Assassin lineage from the Holy Land to Renaissance Italy to Constantinople. Not once did I question my actions or the motives of those I controlled; this was the right thing to do, the true path to salvation.
Now, however, I find myself questioning everything I’ve done for three games. Assassin’s Creed III does a terrific job of injecting some ambiguity into the Assassin’s actions, leaving me to wonder if what I’m doing is indeed right and just. Is the Revolution I’m sparking good for the country I’m trying to liberate? Am I following the right path? Have all of these deaths been worth it? My journey through the game raised plenty of questions and garnered plenty of answers… when I was finally let loose, at least.
Now I’m normally fine with lengthy, story-establishing prologues. For the most part I enjoyed the beginning of Assassin’s Creed III, mostly for the loop I was thrown through after Sequence 3. The problem is not the length of the prologue or how long it takes to set up the story, but rather that the prologue ends up being half of the game. By the time I can explore the entire world of my own volition, I’m in Sequence 6 of 12. Looking back, I can think of plenty of moments in the prologue that could have been replaced by more content later in the game.
Slow story or not, getting lost in Assassin’s Creed III’s gigantic colonial American world is exhilarating. Boston and New York are bustling metropolises, while the Frontier is a natural wonder to behold. All three settings are brimming with things to do and people to talk to. Benjamin Franklin lost some pages of his almanacs to a gust of wind, but I can track them down and collect them. A group of colonists are showing their disdain for a pack of Loyalist soldiers, so I can pick a fight with a Loyalist and incite a riot. Out in the wilds, a plethora of animals can be caught and skinned, giving me goods I can sell or trade. I never ran out of things to do in this giant colonial world… if only I could enjoy it for more of the game.
The Assassin this time around, Connor, certainly did not fit my expectation. I was a big fan of Altair’s strong resolve and will. I really admired Ezio’s debonair attitude and personality. Connor is a volatile, irritable man, who cares for his mission and his mission alone. There were times I wanted to grab Connor by the shoulders and slap him around. There were others where I jumped out of my chair in support of his actions. Perhaps I expected a more compassionate personality after playing as Ezio for three games, but Connor’s cold demeanor was a big surprise.
I may not like Connor’s personality as much as the other Assassins, but his moves in combat are a sight to behold. Fighting the Redcoats is fluid and instinctive, improving upon the already excellent combat system of previous Assassin’s Creed games. Enemies will surround Connor and attack him at random, but the best assassins will survive the onslaught with nary a scratch. Different enemies need to be countered in different ways, but after a successful counter all of them die with a brutality that must be experienced firsthand. I reveled in picking fights with soldiers just so I could watch the carnage again.
After the single-player campaign is finished, there’s just as much fun to be had in the multiplayer. ACIII’s multiplayer is presented as a commercial Abstergo product, where the general public can assume control of a colonial personality and wage war on other players. Throughout the experience, video clips can be unlocked showing the wonderful Abstergo Corporation. But there’s a catch: a group of hackers calling themselves Erudito modify these videos on the fly, changing them to show what Abstergo is truly all about. It’s an interesting story arc for a type of gameplay that normally doesn’t get its own story, keeping players interested and wanting to learn more.
Actual multiplayer gameplay hasn’t changed too much, but the addition of two new modes keep things fresh. Domination requires teams to capture and defend three points on a map, much like the mode of the same name in the Call of Duty series. More strategy than action, this mode will require teamwork in order to hold the line. Wolf Pack, my favorite of the two, is a cooperative experience placing random targets on a map and unleashing a group of Assassins on them. Points and time extensions are awards for consecutive kills, but be warned: someone acting alone could cause the entire group of targets to be alerted, ruining any chance for big points. It’s a fantastic new take on the tried-and-true Assassin gameplay, and I can see myself enjoying it for a long time.
If I have one major gripe with Assassin’s Creed III, it’s the ending of the story. Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers here, but having finished the game I can understand why Ubisoft made it a point to call the game “the end of Desmond’s story.” This was intended to be a TRILOGY, even with the side stories published between ACII and ACIII. I expected, at the end of the third game, to have a definitive ending free of cliffhangers and outside possibilities. Perhaps that was naïve of me. While some definitive events do happen at the end of ACIII, there is a clear direction that future games in the story will take, and that, to me, is disappointing.
Assassin’s Creed III is huge. It’s ambitious, and it offers a lot to the player. However, in some of the most important places, namely story, it falls flat, leaving me with that questioning feeling again. Combat is beautiful and brutal, the world is huge and vibrant, and there’s more content in this game than many other games can speak for… and yet the one aspect I wasn’t worried about, the narrative, is the part that’s left me wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, Assassin’s Creed III is a fantastic romp through colonial America, but I just wish there was a more definitive climax.
Review based on Xbox 360 release.