Assassin's Creed III Review

November 4, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
Review Platform: PS3
Release Date: October 30, 2012

Ubisoft’s endeavor is truly commendable. To achieve such monumental triumph and introduce brand new characters and setting without sacrificing the franchise’s traditions seems like a gargantuan task. Assassin’s Creed III carries its predecessors’ genes while delivering a completely distinct experience. Fans who’ve spent countless hours with Ezio will transcend time without ever loosing grip of the Assassin’s Creed universe. Players new to the series will undoubtedly immerse themselves in Colonial America’s breathtaking environments and never feel excluded from AC’s established lore. While the game’s technical shortcomings are noticeable, and oftentimes frustrating, the entire experience is so rich in content and attention to detail that the result is an achievement of historic proportions.
  • Breathtaking environments
  • Superb narrative and characters           
  • An incredible amount of content
  • Improved combat
  • Naval battles
  • Shockingly disappointing ending
  • Still feels too automatic and easy
  • Loaded with small bugs throughout
  • Chase and eavesdropping missions are terrible 
A lot of games try to entice players with a preliminary hook, commonly setting the stage with grandeur and flamboyance only to taper off as the narrative carries on. Assassin’s Creed III takes a calmer, almost complacent, approach to bring you into its world. It might feel like the game is holding your hands for the first few hours, but in fact asks you to become invested in the characters and their intentions. ACIII feels like reading an epic novel, one that needs to be absorbed page by page in order to establish a deeper connection. It’s around the fifth hour that the game reaches its esteemed tempo and you’re let loose to roam, but the introductory chapters carry powerful moments that dictate our protagonist’s path to becoming a deadly assassin.

One could argue that the driving force behind Assassin’s Creed’s narrative has never been its end of the world plot, but rather the historical ties to powerful characters and their personal struggles with political and religious injustices. Assassin’s Creed III continues that trend with our new hero Connor Kenway. Unlike the charismatic and playful Ezio, Connor is reclusive with a burning for revenge. Ezio’s conflict developed at a slower pace and his passion for the cause matured over three games, whereas Connor’s fate was decided within the first few hours. This consequently gives ACIII a more immediate urgency and darker tone. From its opening chapter in the London Opera, ACIII elevates the series to remarkable heights. You feel encompassed by the most profound allusion to the 18th century as you pass chatty aristocrats and their exquisite attire.

The developers have crafted an interactive journey through the American Revolution while simultaneously tying in their own conspiracy-laden tale. You encounter iconic figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many more, while witnessing decisions that shaped the course of history. Connor’s pertinence to revolutionary consequences may seem far-fetched, but these moments are such vivid insights to the time period that all fictional liberties feel constituent.

On the other hand, Desmond’s half continues its flimsy trend of fetch quests and abrupt missions. His story, while technically the main plot, continues to feel like a distraction to an otherwise richly crafted world. Your enjoyment of the final chapters will ultimately depend on your expectations. If you play the series for Desmond’s ancestors and don’t feel too invested in the convoluted end of the world plot, you’ll feel content with how Connor’s narrative wraps up. But if you’re expecting a satisfying finale to Desmond’s tale, you will be infuriated. Desmond’s ending is lazy, brief, and a big slap in the face. What a shame.

The gameplay hasn’t changed per se, but it’s been refined with more fluidity and grace. The Parkour still feels somewhat automatic since all it takes to traverse the scenery is pressing the right shoulder button and pointing the analog stick in the desired direction. But the Assassin’s Creed series has always been about building momentum and the introduction of tree climbing adds a great dynamic to that principle. Animations have been diversified to an astounding degree. As Connor emerges from the lavish treetops of the frontier onto the rooftops of Boston and New York, you feel empowered by his flawless agility and rhythm.

However, break that flow and you subsequently face one of AC’s flaws that’s plagued the series since the first installment. The “sticky” environments make chase missions feel aggravating and broken as you get stuck on objects while running. When you’re forced down a particular path, you feel tempted to take shortcuts, but the game insists on its predetermined course. The same is true for missions in general. They’re linear with little room for exploration and tactics. You take steps that the game wants you to take. While this ensures a more cinematic venture, it would be nice to see the game step away from the director’s chair once in a while. But despite occasional handholding issues, ACIII continues to be the most enjoyable playground in the sandbox genre.

Combat takes a few notes from Batman Arkham City/Asylum and is more barbaric than ever. Connor is a ferocious beast that slays enemies with great vigor and speed. His tomahawk slices through bodies like butter and you can cut through waves of foes without getting a scratch. Targeting works significantly better this time around, you point the analog in the direction of your enemies instead of manually locking on. A newly introduced counter-command freezes the action for a split second allowing you to return attacks, throw enemies, or disarm them. Compared to previous AC games, the new combat feels more involved and precise. Enemy AI is still dumb, waiting around for your counter attacks and rarely taking initiative, but when you partake in Connor’s bloody dance, all is forgiven.

But the real stunner is the naval combat. There are over two-dozen missions that take you to the high seas for some of the most impressive naval engagements in video game history. The physics feel unbelievably authentic. Waves sway your ship across the ocean and the force of nature effortlessly pounds away as you struggle to maintain control. As enemy vessels approach, tactical positioning is key when firing cannons, especially when you’re trying to dodge incoming fire. Additionally, Connor can hunt between missions, liberate residents, collect hundreds of treasures within each area, and there’s even an economy system that let’s you upgrade and maintain your homestead. And to top it all off, the acclaimed multiplayer makes a comeback. To say that ACIII is four games in one is an understatement.

The Assassin’s Creed games always boasted spectacular environments and meticulously designed architecture and the latest installment is the most impressive thus far. Ubisoft’s latest AnvilNext engine pushes the current generation of consoles to their max. The vast frontier is filled with wildlife and dense forests and the city streets are overflowing with merchants, patrolling soldiers, and farm animals. The implemented weather system adds great realism as the summer days shift to colder seasons, covering everything in sight with deep snow and a thick fog. Accompanying the spectacular graphics is top of the line voice acting. Noah Watts does a brilliant job as Connor and the orchestral soundtracks sets the dramatic tone perfectly. ACIII’s presentation is truly spectacular with only a few minor frame rate drops interrupting the experience.

Assassin’s Creed III is nearly perfect. If it wasn’t for the disappointing ending, reoccurring bugs, and mission rigidness, it would have achieved a perfect score. But with such an ambitious title, many of these issues are easily overlooked. The sheer scope and amount of detail is staggering. For fans of the series, this is a fantastic new chapter that restores life to the assassins universe without abandoning its roots - and if you’re new to the franchise, there’s never been a better time to delve in.       

Final Score “Revolutionary” 9.0
Absolutely breathtaking environments. The world is huge and radiating with life. From the gorgeous forests of the frontier to the crowded city streets of Boston and New York, each area is beautifully crafted. This is one of the best looking games of the year.
Gameplay has been refined and is more fluid than all predecessors combined. But identical problems of the past return and those frustrated by the automatic nature of the controls will still encounter the same issues. But despite its faults, ACIII is an absolute blast to play, especially the naval combat.
It takes five hours just to get the narrative going. This is a game that sucks you in and doesn't let go. It's massive with an unbelievable amount of content. You can spend hours between missions collecting secrets and engaging in side quests.
The series continues to provide some of the best voice acting in the industry. While Connor might not be as charming, or interesting, as Ezio, Noah Watts does a superb job of bringing his character to life and making him relatable. Same goes for the entire supporting cast of historical figures and secondary characters. Just brilliant.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Artciles by Tin. 

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  1. Yeah, and you forgot these cons:
    - There is no armor in the game, and there is very tiny difference between the weapons
    - Useless and boring side missions (since there is no armor in the game, and there is very tiny difference between the weapons, you need money only for ammo. Side quests are more repetitive than ever: all assassination assignments have the same parameters - even the same target model! - it feels like in a bad MMORPG). There are no templar agents (multiplayer characters) in the game.
    - Story telling is awful. I was a good at history but i had no clue about most of the characters in the game, but the game treated me like i should know who is Israel Putnam, and how charismatic man he was (i knew he was a hero of the war but that's all).
    - Misleading HUD - eg. it writes that RB reloads your pistol (actually Y does it on X360)
    - Horse riding is worse than ever (yeah it was never good).
    - Too few haystacks (you will continously die from falling down)

    I think it's not a very bad game, but it's not good at all. I'm afraid that this game will be the last AC game. It's as awful compared to AC2 than Prince of Persia (2008 - the Elika stuff) to PoP Warrior Within

  2. oh yes and Synchronizing View Points does not reveal all mission icons on the map (especially in North Boston and North NY), therefore you can miss easily FreeMason missions. :/

  3. Really disappointing game, being a big fan of the series this turned out to be unworthy of the hype it recieved...

  4. - There is no armor in the game, and there is very tiny difference between the weapons
    - Useless and boring side missions (since there is no armor in the game, and there is very tiny difference between the weapons, you need money only for ammo. Side quests are more repetitive than ever: all assassination assignments have the same parameters - even the same target model! - it feels like in a bad MMORPG). There are no templar agents (multiplayer characters) in the game.

    ^ Totally agree with that. It wants to be the size of an RPG but forgets to include ANY equipment upgrades that are worthwhile. It's pathetically constructed.

  5. I found revelations to be a huge disappointment and a bad sign of what was to come for the franchise, not to mention the departure of the game's creator and lead designer from ubisoft after brotherhood. I was going to give this one a shot, but based on this review I am definitely going to pass.

    Though based on the points made here, I'm not sure of the score of 9 is appropriate, it seems like more bad points than good came out of this game. Alot of games are pretty, AC brought something special to the party for a long time, and then it didn't.

  6. @Eli- I'm sorry you feel that way. I think Revelations was superb. While it lost some of its charm, it made significant gameplay improvements. Considering that Ubisoft is trying to keep the series alive gor much longer and considering the poor single player campaign of most AAA games this year, AC III most definitely deserves praise for both great gameplay and overall excellent storytelling.

  7. You make a fair point, my disappointment in Revelations was not what was in the game, but what they took out. Losing alot of the puzzles for the sake of mediocre platforming and making an overall shorter game. I racked up something like 40+ hours in Brotherhood and completed Revelations in less than 8. Alot of the subtext was subdued in Rev and Ezio's ending was not a twist, but seemed more a slap in the face as the character just "gave up" The ability to tell a story was still present and they did it well, it was just not of the quality or story I had come to expect. I don't claim to know anything about AC3, as I havent played it, and I may make the effort at some point, but from your review it sounded like alot of what I didn't like in Revelation is not only present, but has become the core of the game. Alot of the subversive flavor of AC2 and Brotherhood was lost in Rev in favor of a more mainstream approacht to story and gameplay.

    Gameplay is obviously the reason why we play these games, but personally, I finish games for the story. So I'm glad improvements were made to what was definitely an aging system, but praise-worthy gameplay improvements aside, what else is there for a game that touts an epic generation spanning storyline? What separates them from let's say Halo or any other franchise that's had as many years to refine their mechanics as they have? If an MMO tried to maintain its player base by just fixing bugs and adding new ways to fish, that game would not survive. Its why they add story content. People come back for that. If if according to your review, Desmond's story falls flat, what then was the point? If the word "Lazy" can be used to describe a story at any point that story has failed. Desmond's story is not separate from Ezio's or Connor's or Altair's, that was the whole point of the story, their connections to one another.

    I feel like Ubisoft dropped the ball by taking a safe approach to game making. They're definitely not the company that introduced AC1 so many years ago. They sold that game with a demo of realistic walking, they were risk takers.

    As for the quality of poor single player AAA games right now, well, you may be right, but its no excuse to give people "good enough". As industry leaders they should be raising the bar.

    Just my two cents though. And thanks for responding, I tend not to voice my opinions on sites like this because it's just an invite to get harassed or ignored. This has been pleasant. :)

  8. I agree with you on all these points. But at the same time, I had a blast with both Revelations and ACIII, so I was being very honest with my review. Please understand, it's only my point of view and I certainly understand why someone wouldn't enjoy the last 2 sequels as much,... but I did...and I know a lot of other people did too. I suppose it depends what players expect from the series by this point. I actually didn't look forward to AC III when it was announced because it seemed like it was going in an entirely different direction, but I very much enjoyed the end result.

    AC II is still my favorite and I do agree that none of the recent installments live up to its level of quality. But from a developers standpoint, you have to keep certain things traditional and make innovations at the same time to invite new players to the series. With AC III, I think Ubisoft did a great job of giving veterans a solid package while offering newcomers and exciting entry point.

    In my personal opinion, Halo 4 was ok. It fell into the same "super-short-single-player-campaign-category" of recent FPS games and made 'very few' changes to the series, as well as the genre in was still an excellent game. Same goes for AC III, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's just a very big, enjoyable open-world action game with an excellent narrative. Sometimes, that's all you need in a game. :)


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