Assassin’s Creed 3: Review

Posted: November 14, 2012 by Connor MacDonald in Gamenomics - Video Games, Microsoft/Xbox, Sony/PlayStation
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Throughout the Assassin’s Creed series we’ve traveled through different periods in time following the stories of Altair, Ezio, and Desmond as they fight the nefarious Templar order. In the final installment of Desmond’s story, Assassin’s Creed 3,  we become Connor, the Native American freedom fighter from the Revolutionary War era. We, the fans, were expecting an epic conclusion to the roller coaster story that we rode throughout the series, waiting for the inevitable bang at the end where we would most likely be left wanting more, but knowing the story of Desmond had reached its end. What we got  with Assassin’s Creed 3 instead was a plot line full of twists that went nowhere, unlikable characters, and one of the sorriest excuses for the end of a franchise that I’ve ever seen in gaming.

The game has many positives to it, the first being the upgrade to movements in general. Connor runs through landscapes quickly, leaps over smaller obstacles, and can fast travel instantly to any unlocked fast travel locations on the map, rather than having to seek them out as in previous games. Traversing the landscape is fun and easy, whether you run through the underbrush, climb buildings, ride a horse over the rolling hills of the frontier, or swing through the trees that litter the landscape.

Collectibles often appear in your path, but gathering them is not the chore that it was in previous games. From very early on, maps can be purchased that reveal the location of all of the hidden feathers, chests, and almanac  pages scattered throughout the world. This cuts exploration down considerably, and adds an ease to collecting the vast amount of items.

In an earlier post I spoke of the naval segments, and my opinion of them has not changed. They are fun, fast paced, and a lovely way to break up game play by fighting pirates, attacking forts, and finding the lost treasure of Captain Kidd. Along your journeys you also run into people who are down on their luck, and you can trigger a Homestead mission. These optional missions add people to your base of operations, bringing in news items for you to purchase, and later sell at a higher price. These missions are quirky, quick, and a nice way to build up some cash for new weapons, outfits, and so on.

Another fun series of quests that break up the main story are the management of your assassins. Once you complete a certain number of objectives, all involving helping citizens of Boston and New York, you are rewarded with a new recruit. You can send these recruits on missions throughout the colonies via an early map of America, where they gather you money, trading supplies, and experience. The experience they gain levels them up and makes it easier for them to take on tougher missions in the colonies. This also feels slightly broken. For example: while playing through a particularly tough section of the game, I kept sending my assassins on missions. They would complete their objectives, earn me money, and I would send them back out. Following this method while continuing to fail at my objective earned my 50 thousand dollars in the span of an hour. The games are notorious for giving you too much cash too quickly, and while everyone might not take advantage of this, I certainly did, so there are bound to be others.

The multiplayer has also been improved, though not by much. My friend and I sunk countless hours into Wolfpack, a new, objective-based multiplayer mode. It’s a  game where you and your friends murder targets, trying to gather bonuses for stealth and style to boost your combined score and shoot you into higher, and tougher rounds. It’s super-addicting, fast-paced, and a blast.

But the biggest complaint with multiplayer is also a problem with the main game: menus. The menus are extremely convoluted and bloated with sub-menus. Once, I picked up a quest to gather items. Not seeing the quest show up on the screen, I began digging through the menus in search of it. After around 10 minutes of searching, I found the quest listed under the collectibles tab, buried under all the actual  collectibles. Moving the left stick when opening your menu cycles you through the different tabs, while the right stick controls all movement of the map. This system takes a long time to get used to, and I still end up blasting through my tabs when I simply want to glance at my map. The menus in multiplayer are even worse. Finding your list of challenges or upgrading a character takes far longer than it should. The radical change of the style from the last game is unwelcome, and hard to navigate. I’ve always said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and usually this applies very well to games. When companies completely change the structure of an easy-to-use system, it just makes the player less inclined to want to do anything outside of the norm.

I won’t go into the story, for fear of spoiling what little is actually good, but suffice to say that I found this game fell short of its predecessors. The main character was gruff, and most of the time unlikable because of it. It’s sort of explained that he had a rough life, but most of his angry outbursts seem out of nowhere, toward the wrong people, and unnecessary. Twists happen that completely shock you, but then are never followed up on or are completely brushed aside. A large twist is thrown right in Connor’s face, something that should have completely changed his views of everything he has been working toward, but he simply shrugs it off, saying that the matters at hand are more important.

I’ve always thought the story was what drove the franchise, and to see it fall so short hurts me. The Desmond segments are fun and full of potential, but the end result is so underwhelming that you just feel cheated out of  a real ending. After completing the game I sat for a long time, waiting for some explanation of what had happened, only to be told virtually nothing. To be left out in the cold like that after playing through the last four games leaves me feeling hurt and angry. I can only cling to the hope that some DLC will explain the story further, but one should not have to rely on extra content for that kind of gratification. What if JK Rowling had stopped Harry Potter right when Harry decided to go off on his own to face Voldemort, and told the world, “Oh, you can find out what happens in the short articles I’ll release once every couple of months. No guarantees, though.” It’s a bad thing to rely on, and I’m not even sure more will be explained there.

In the end, I was beyond disappointed with how Assassin’s Creed 3 panned out. It was fun to play, and the multiplayer is still fantastic, but the drop off of good story telling leaves me with no desire to play the game anymore. I can’t recommend playing this game if you are as invested in the story as I am. There is a good amount of game play changes that make it stronger than previous titles, but because of how I felt about the story, literally my biggest reason for playing the games… I can only say that you should stop your quest where they left off at the end of the previous game because the outcome here does not deliver what was promised: an epic conclusion. That being said, if the story isn’t your main reason for playing it, the game is a lot of fun to play, given all the elements it includes. The single player, and multiplayer are both rewarding, and I would recommend giving it a shot.  (Awful bipolar of me, I know, but there you have it.).

  1. Jordan says:

    Why was this supposed to be an epic conclusion? I didn’t get that feeling at all. Yes Rev was the end of ezios story. I saw AC3 as the real begin of desmonds story not the end. Are you just disappointed because they didn’t either kill him off for sure or give him a happy end. So ubisoft has left questions unanswered, welcome to assassins creed. It’s left on a cliff hanger (Not a good one, but it is one none the less) Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t like Desmond’s end either, It is clearly the weakest ending to any of the games so far. But other than that and the occasional glitch and one obvious plot twist this game was the best is the series by a long way.

    Combat, Graphics, Variety of enemy types, Overall pacing of the plot’s development, Main mission structure, Desmond “Present day” missions, Voice acting (I liked Connors voice actor he was subtle and dignified while also being naive which came through in his arguments with Achilles), Interesting characters from the past that your average person will have heard of, Multiplayer! Variety of side missions, Hunting, Naval Battles!! More weapons to choose from, No tacked on love story for Connor, Assassin management, Homestead is the best property management system the games have had so far. Character animations. Better way to track to collectables, and better rewards for those collectables. I could go on…

    What was worse….
    The end of Desmond’s story (which isn’t even the end) Menu system (although I got used to it quickly)

    I think you need to play the game again because your summary for your review seemed extremely clouded by the lacklustre ending. The good things about the game that you pointed out have been obscured by your over critical judgement,of the end and now your coming off as a disgruntled fanboy who can’t be satisfied even if the game is better in every way but one.

    Are you telling me you would recommend Rev to a friend over AC3? Everything was worse in Rev apart from the ending. And that’s because it was an end! This is a beginning new character new things being learned by Desmond. I think your whole point is flawed because you where expecting answers. I was expecting questions. To be honest we got neither but at least Ive seen the game for the good it has.

    Overall I like alot of the points you’ve made, and your not wrong about any of them to be fair. I think you are just making a big deal of a big flaw. Rather than seeing the big deal in the big improvements.

    • Connor MacDonald says:

      You’ve said a lot here, so let me try to respond in order.
      Ubisoft had said that this was going to be the end of Desmond’s story, and in following with the traditions of the past four games, I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect an epic conclusion to the end of a story arc.
      I’m not upset with questions unanswered, I think those are good. That leaves new venues open, and hopefully points will be brought up again later on. Larger things should not avoided however. If a moment comes along, like the one I mentioned in the article, it should not be brushed aside to run off and gather supplies. It should be a chance to really show how the character, Connor, responds to such a shocking moment.
      Improvements: Combat was much of the same, maybe a small tweak, but it’s been the same since Brotherhood. You can still kill one enemy, then ride the kill streak through the rest of the crowd. (Other than the tougher enemies, of course.) I didn’t mention this because I’m indifferent. I noticed no change to a system that is basically the same. I mentioned the update to the graphics in my previous post about AC3, so I didn’t rehash that here. The pacing of the plot was one of the things I had a problem with. When a twist would come along, (*SPOILER*) such as working with the Templars, namely your father, nothing comes of it except Connor thinking that perhaps the two orders should come together. But that is never addressed either. He simply talks about the subject a few times, and then cuts ties with his father.(*END SPOILER*) I mentioned the Desmond missions being fun, but they are so short that I’d rather someone play them then listen to me describe them. The voice acting was good, but nothing I’d feel the need to bring up in an already long post on a casual review site. The characters brought from the past are what you’d expect. More people have heard of Washington and Franklin than a Prince from the Ottoman Empire, or a leader from the Crusades. I went into the biggest change about multiplayer, and didn’t feel the need to discuss what hadn’t changed about it, which was most everything. I talked of side missions briefly, but it’s not the best practice to go into detail of every mission. That leaves nothing for the reader to experience. I spoke of the naval segments both in this review, and my first impressions article. The weapon choices were not varied much from the last couple of games, save the rope dart, but I didn’t feel the need to write a paragraph about that, nor would I bring up the lack of a romantic sub plot. It’s unnecessary to mention something that isn’t in the game. No one said anything about Altair not having a romantic sub plot throughout the first game. I spoke of the assassin management, and the homestead briefly, again, you can’t give away everything in a review. I also talked of collectibles.
      I, like many others, have always considered the story of the franchise to be the best part, with excellent game play around it. Just because the game play continues to be good in AC3, doesn’t mean the story can suffer. The story should have been better in this game, and I’m not backing down from that point. As an end to Desmond’s story, and an introduction of a new character, elements could have been much stronger to give you a better sense of finality. If I come off as a fanboy, so be it, I am one. But I’ve always recommended the games based on the story first and game play second. Because of that, I stand by what I said. I would recommend the others before this one. The story does not deliver in my eyes, which is also something you must remember. Like it or not, opinions seep into reviews, most are colored by it. You can’t agree with everyone about any subject, that just doesn’t happen. I’m glad you are as passionate about the game as I am, but in the end, I think this just comes down to a differing of views, not a case of me not giving a good/bad review. And I’m not just saying that to defend myself. I’m glad you enjoyed the game, but I’ve made my views known, and I won’t change my stance.

  2. Jordan says:

    Maybe you saw something I didn’t, I never heard Ubisoft say this was the end of Desmond’s story. (I try to avoid any pre game info if I already know I’m going to buy a game) So if this is the case then it does change my opinion slightly in hind sight. ((*START OF SPOILER*)) I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure he isn’t dead, so maybe they will continue. But if he is then I’m pretty much on your side about the end. ((*END OF SPOILER*))

    My long list of positives wasn’t to point out things you didn’t take into account. If anything it was to remind you of things you had mentioned. Plus a few things I liked. As I was reading the review you seemed positive about so many things until you talked about the story (In particular the end) then suddenly it seemed to change and in your summary saying that people shouldn’t bother with the game just seemed quite extreme to me. Especially when in the previous sentence you said that the gameplay changes make it stronger than previous titles..

    I could argue all day about how much the combat has improved and the amount of new weapons and change of emphasise towards the weapons you pick up rather than buy, but I’ll save you from my fanboy rant. One thing ill say though. In your reply you mentioned a few times not wanting to talk about something in detail (for example the Desmond missions). There is no point in holding back on details and info from the game in your review if you recommend people don’t play it. Your not saving them from spoilers if they take your advice.

    If story is the most important thing to you, and you didn’t like most of that then you opinion makes sense. But maybe my main gripe with your review was saying people shouldn’t play it after mentioning so many positives. I think that the good points far out way the bad. To me it’s worth putting up with a bad story (not my opinion but for the sake of argument) for a lot of gameplay that is fun and.rewarding.

    As you said it just comes down to different views. But thanks for the honest and considered reply. It’s nice to see someone who can take criticism and argue back sensibly on the internet, seems rare to me.

    • Connor MacDonald says:

      I see more clearly what you mean, upon another reading, and I did a small amendment to the final paragraph, stating that if you are as invested in the story as I am, stay away, and if you just want to play a fun game, this is for you. Thank you for being a gentleman about the entire situation.

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