Imagine a game where Richard Simmons has to stealth his way through Revolutionary America and assassinate a bunch of non-fabulous Red Coats. Except instead of “stealth,” he yells a bunch of supportive babble, and instead of “assassinate,” he fumbles around aimlessly, alerting every enemy in the vicinity while also getting attacked by packs of hungry wolves. Have a good image in your head? Now you have a pretty clear idea of my playthrough of Assassin’s Creed III. Congratulations.
Assassin’s Creed III is my worst nightmare in video game form.
A non-linear game? Strike one. Watch me meander around the levels, seeking direction and hand holding that just isnt’ there. Included in this free tour is me trudging through snow for 40 minutes because my horse got killed. As a bonus, we’ll throw in repeatedly jumping off buildings to my death.
Stealth kills? Strike two. I wasn’t joking before; I’m literally the worst stealth gamer you’ve ever seen. Enemies have this uncanny tendency to turn around whenever I decided to make my move. “Just wandering down this hall, looking at my feet and NOW I FLIPPED AROUND AND SEE YOU, BITCH!” Unbelievable.
Desmond Miles? Strike three. Maybe it’s because I never played the original game or the 85 spin-off titles, but I don’t really get the whole “Animus” subplot, and maybe I’m in the minority, but the series’ protagonist has only come off to me as a whiny douche fish.
So clearly, I hate Assassin’s Creed III. Except, here’s the funny thing – I don’t. I’ve actually quite enjoyed my time with the third entry in the juggernaut series, but that has more to do with the characters and story then anything. Allow me to elaborate.
Assassin’s Creed III takes chances. The game design plays it safe, relying on the innovations forged in the AC II, but the story is grand and ambitious. The “beginning” of the game takes a few hours to get through, and introduces a great new character. While I won’t spoil it, a wrench is thrown into player expectations on how this plot is going to play out.
The new characters introduced are fantastic, and like all AC games, the real strength lies in the historical segments. While obviously not really accurate, it’s still a blast to play through these events and locations that you know from history books. Maybe it’s because I’m an uncultured letch, but for me, early America is the most interesting location that’s been featured in the series thus far, and is ripe with storytelling potential that is mostly taken advantage of.
The gameplay in this game doesn’t really make any strides forward, but it does feel smoother than in past entries. Effortlessly running across rooftops is as entertaining and fluid as the “counter” based combat. In most cases, you feel like a god among men, which is never a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoyed every encounter, and in many cases, the tight gameplay reflected the epic story moments, elevating the entire thing and making it completely engrossing.
I love games when they involve choice. Titles like Deus Ex and Dishonored are great because players can move through the level silently like a ghost, or introduce a sharp blade to the face of every villain. This is the part I struggle with in AC III; the segments where you are forced to stealth through are too common, and ruin the great pace. Furthermore, the sporadic and sometimes sparse checkpoints put a steep price on failure. Instead of feeling tension and being rewarded for risky maneuvers, players must slog through these levels to ensure they’re not caught and relegated back to their old checkpoint. It’s poor, punishing game design, and one of the most disappointing aspects of a well-thought, polished game.
I suppose I should mention something about the atrocious bugs. Apparently, they exist, even post patch. I haven’t had any problems in my playthough, but they’re there, and should be watched out for. I guess. I don’t know, I’m just going off what people tell me…
While it may not reach the same heights as other franchise such as Uncharted, AC is one of gaming’s blockbusters that continues to push the boundaries in cinematic storytelling. Enjoy AC III for what it is, but hope that the fourth entry is as forward-thinking and ambitious as AC II.
I give Assassin’s Creed III three and a half bitchy Desmonds out of five.