Stealthily navigating your way through a group of people as nimble as a cat; waiting for the perfect time to strike. You move with the speed of a cobra, sinking your blade into your victim in seconds, and then quickly blend back into the crowd. It’s over as quickly as it started, but wait! You’ve been spotted! The enemy is giving chase, you’re running, leaping, swinging–you make like boss and dive from a cliff into the frigid river below. You’ve escaped. You try to come up for air, but then you realize you can’t move… because you’re stuck on the inside of a giant boulder.
With Assassin’s Creed 3, the team at Ubisoft seemed have had time to upgrade the technical aspects of their franchise, but the game is still plagued with the same bugs we’ve seen since 2007.
The series is finally coming to a close and the game sports a brand new “next gen” engine built from the ground up, but will Assassin’s Creed 3 have what it takes to blow away its predecessors and end on a high note? Or will its beauty and complexity overshadow the series’ engaging storyline and be viewed more as a technical marvel than a proper sequel?
Assassin’s Creed 3 is the fifth installment in the series, but the last in the trilogy. Set in North America during the 1700’s, the ongoing battle between the Assassins and the Templars has reached the Revolutionary War. Like the previous titles, Assassin’s Creed 3 jumps between playable characters with present day Desmond Miles and with the help of the Animus, an ancestor involved with the Assassin’s Order hundreds of years earlier. You take control of Connor Kenway -a half Native American, half English man that is pulled into the Assassin’s Order after his village was attacked by the Templars. You play as Connor through most of his life, although the game does take a while to get going before you finally become worthy enough to wear the assassin’s clothing.
Over the coarse of the game you will meet many historical figures and also travel to different cities such as New York and Boston. The story missions are very similar to the previous titles, but there are loads of side quests and other miscellaneous things to do to that are just as fulfilling. Like Brotherhood and Revelations, you can recruit new assassins and train them through side missions. Other side missions like trading, hunting, upgrading your homestead, and battles aboard a ship at sea are optional, but they serve to create a more robust experience for the player.
Assassin’s Creed 3 offers a plethora of things to do aside form the main story; some of which complicate the gameplay with oddly placed missions that feel random and clumsy. For instance, after engaging in some aggressive combat and escaping an army of soldiers by the skin of your teeth, you are forced to buy construction supplies in order to upgrade your homestead. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I like to do after cheating death in a harrowing escape is fix the shed. Some may find most of the side quests unnecessary–which for the most part they are–but without them you would be left with a much shorter game play experience.
The Assassin’s Creed series has always been known for its incredibly vast and architecturally impressive cityscapes; from crucifix’s at the tops of a cathedrals to the cobblestone streets below, Ubisoft’s attention to detail is second to none. Assassin’s Creed 3, from a technical standpoint, blows every other game in the series out of the water. It’s simply a gorgeous game. Straying away from the verticality as the previous Assassin’s Creed’s, prepare to be on ground level for most of this game. Scaling buildings is still a large part of the gameplay, but for one third of the story you’ll be traversing the massive frontier and substituting maple trees for cathedrals.
The games engine is brand new and is a major upgrade from the previous editions in the series. For example, as years progress in the story the seasons change as well. Whole forests lay buried in snow, green grass blooms in the spring, trees shed their leaves in fall, and the dynamic weather patterns brings bouts of fog rolling in after a light rain. All of these elements combine to make Assassin’s Creed 3 one of the most beautiful games of this generation.
Combat has seen an upgrade as well, with the mechanics much more smoothly integrated and some new animations as well. It’s still the same basic fight system–block, parry, dodge, and attack–but it feels much more polished and brutal. Connor definitely doesn’t hold back when he is engaged in battle–with takedowns deadlier than ever and armed with a tomahawk–Ubisoft certainly pulled no punches when making their protagonist a force to be reckoned with.
Even though the game is pretty to look at, it is not without some annoyances. The most serious problem with the game is the number of bugs and glitches. With texture pop-ins, floating townspeople, troublesome AI, and terrain glitches that could make you need to restart, frustration is sure to find you at one point or another. Even though the Wii U version of the game is a post, they can also be found on the PS3 and Xbox versions as well. Suffice it to say that these issues are a part of the games engine and are not specific to the Wii U console itself.
With that said, none of these issues are game breaking, but it does pull away from the immersion quite a bit, especially for a game that focuses mostly on the narrative. Call me crazy, but it’s difficult for me to feel any emotion toward a character when they are pulling a Harry Houdini and are disappearing and reappearing on screen like a phantom every 3 seconds. Also, stealth elements seemed to have been less of a focus in the gameplay. Prepare to be spotted quite often even while doing your best to sneak about the world. And forget about rooftops, it’s as if the Redcoats were avid bird watchers and posted themselves on top of every other building you see.
One thing that the Assassin’s Creed series has done consistently well, it’s the multiplayer. It’s much the same as the multiplayer in the past two editions with a few new game modes. The highlight of Assassin’s Creed 3 multiplayer in the new Wolfpack mode, where players are forced to work together to defeat their enemies. The co-op element is a breath of fresh air as players no longer have to contend with skilled real players in deathmatch type modes and can simply jump into a game and just have fun. You will, however, be hard pressed to find a good match because the Wii U online community isn’t very populated.
There is still the ugly online pass that goes with multiplayer, but it seems everyone is doing that these days. Regardless, the game allows you to play the multiplyer up to a certain level before having to activate anything.
Assassin’s Creed on the Gamepad
The experience of playing Assassin’s Creed 3 on the Gamepad was underwhelming to say the least. While it’s great to be able to play the entire game from the Gamepad, you give up some resolution as the picture quality is slightly blurry – a big difference from the other Wii U ports like Black ops 2 or Arkham City, which maintain a relatively sharp picture overall. On the other end, the entire screen can be used as your map; this can prove helpful because the size of the map is much larger and you can see objectives and enemies more clearly. Other than being able to call your horse via the touchscreen, the Gamepad offers little difference to the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions. The Wii U’s Gamepad functionality was clearly an afterthought for Ubisoft, which is strange considering Assassin’s Creed 3 was a highly anticipated launch title for the system.
Assassin’s Creed 3 is the biggest game of the series yet and it sure is pretty to look at. The team at Ubisoft’s have outdone themselves and have crafted a beautiful and massive open world for us to play in. Sure, gameplay may have a few technical issues and the story does get a bit convoluted and messy at times, but the overall delivery is better than it is worse. While fans of the series may feel as if the game is overstuffed and too big of a departure from the previous titles, it is jammed packed with a plethora of extra content. If you can get past the long introduction, Assassin’s Creed 3 is a tough one to pass up.
- The game looks gorgeous
- Massive open-world with lots of things to do
- Combat is smooth and more brutal than ever
- Graphic and performance issues are abundant
- The Gamepad adds little to the experience
- Multiplayer servers are empty
Final Score: 8/10