Waiting for Assassins Creed 3 to come to Steam was a cruel, cruel period of time for me. Sure, I had Dishonored and Guild Wars 2’s Lost Shores weekend to distract me, but I could not wait to dig into the Colonial world being promised by Ubisoft’s next addition to the Assassin’s Creed series.
While I was pleased by the game, it wasn’t for the reasons that I expected. The elements that I thought would be gimmicks were solid additions, and the things that I was sure would be the solid cornerstones of the game ended up being unimportant, and largely, uninteresting.
The story of Assassin’s Creed 3 picks up right were Assassin’s Creed 3…. I mean Revelations, ended. You are in New York, using a Piece of Eden to open up a vault of the mysterious Ones who Came Before (or whatever they’re called..). To those players that have not completed the other games, the short recap at the beginning of the game is hardly enough to catch you up, and you’ll likely feel a little lost.Veterans of genre shouldn’t have any trouble.
Desmond is…Desmond. You’ve likely already come to an opinion on this character, and more than likely its negative. I tend to agree.
The first bit of the game is actually more of an extended story-based tutorial than anything else. You play as Hatham, who is a tough and serious character, traveling from London to the New World. I really enjoyed this part of the game, and while some might find the process of collecting your team tedious, I enjoyed it, thinking of it as a sort of Colonial-Era-Avengers-Team Up. Of course, all this changed after the shocking realization that…[TWIST].
You then pick up the story by playing as young Conor, who suffers through a series of tragedies, one funky Spirit journey, and a number of tutorials on how to hunt. You make your way to the Davenport Homestead and meet Achilles, who will be your mentor as an Assassin.
After a few more story missions, the world opens up, letting you run about and explore, or continue on with the Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams, and your hidden blades. It seemed to take quite a while to get to this point, longer than I remember in Assassin’s Creed 2, but in the end I think the wait made me appreciate the freedom a little bit more.
Conor is less interesting than Ezio as a character, but luckily has an incredible cast of characters to call on. The richness of the secondary characters in this game is amazing. Paul Reverie is rather hilariously incompetent, and I loved Stephane Chapeau, the first Assassin you recruit. Who couldn’t love a cleaver-wielding French-Canadian that can insight mob violence? Ultimately the colorful characters save the story from the dead weight of Conor and Desmond’s bland turn as protagonists.
Likewise, there are a few elements of the gameplay that save the game from those that really threaten to drag it down. Take a look at the Assassins Creed Trailer:
Awesome, right? Well, the games actual set-piece battles are NOTHING like that. They are rigid, linear, and have no sense of freedom. You are never truly free to run around and beat the faces in of a few lobsterbacks. The Battle of Lexington-Concord was a huge disappointment, in which you essentially ride your horse back and forth, pressing one key over and over again. The main story missions are also fairly linear, and involve far too many escort missions. Luckily, you have naval missions.
I have never, in almost all my years of gaming, experienced anything like the naval missions in Assassin’s Creed 3. Relatively early on in the game, you’re introduced to the Aquila and its, sorry, her care keeper, Mr. Faulkner. The game’s naval missions will put you up against a variety of obstacles on the high seas, from raiders, to rouge waves. You can really only understand it through experience, but it really does feel like you are in command of a ship. The Aquila is a lumbering beast, but you’re able to do some pretty accurate turns by reeling in the canvas quickly. I spent many of the battles playing around with the tactic of dropping anchor, wheeling about and unleashing a broadside into the enemy, and it was great fun. This ship is also the way in which you will likely be spending the majority of the money you earn. The upgrades are well worth it and give you access to rams, grapeshot, and thicker hulls.
But how to get the money? Well, while there are plenty of chests to find, but the real money comes from managing your homestead. Throughout the world you’ll find people in need of help, such as an injured hunter, or a merchant being attacked by bandits. Helping them out will reward you with their services. Thus, by helping out the lumberjacks and then rescuing a woodworker, you’re able to make barrels. These can then be sold via land or sea convoy. You’re able to keep raking in money no matter where you are in the world, as you can always access the ledger of your homestead from any general store. It’s an addictive minigame or management and growth, and I really like how much time and effort you can dump into a feature that is, ultimately, fairly useless after a certain point.
Combat has not changed much from Assassin’s Creed 2. You still rely on countering enemy attacks to succeed, and still dart about the battlefield. I did enjoy the addition of black powder weapons to the game. They are not all that effective, and take a long time to reload, but THAT’S HOW THEY SHOULD BE! The weapons had a nice feel to them, and as I did in AC2, I still relied on the blunt weapon, bashing in skulls with a war club. Hey, I like playing things wrong…
Now, I haven’t even begun to try Multiplayer. I’ve completed the tutorials, which are extensive, and I’m incredibly impressed with the variation in characters, gameplay modes, and even the ways in which you can achieve victory. Once I’m tired of sailing around the Caribbean, I think it is safe to say that I’ll be spending more than a little bit of time in the multiplayer modes of Assassin’s Creed 3.
Ultimately, Assassins Creed 3 is a game with some severe flaws, saved by some shining features that are able to drown out the blemishes. My one true hope is that, sometime soon, someone will develop the Naval combat of AC3 into a full-fledged pirate RPG. Then, I could die happy.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5-8.5 Boxes of Tea out of 10
(Variation dependent on your love of the Colonial Period and Ships)
The Good: Naval Combat, Engaging Cast of Characters, Solid Combat
The Bad: Uninteresting Protagonists, Underwhelming Battles, Some Tedious Quests