Beautiful. That is one of the first things you will notice as you boot up Assassin’s Creed 3 (AC3) and arrive in the middle of the ongoing war between the Assassin’s and the Templar’s, with a bit of the American Revolution thrown into the mixture. The landscape never ceases to amaze, and the game itself lulls you into a sense of unlimited exploration over the fledgling Americas rolling hills, rather than the actual restrictions every game has. Atmosphere is complimented by a sharp combat system and a hugely compelling narrative, though the game is by no mean without its, sometimes glaring, faults.
You are another one of Desmonds ancestors, Connor Kenway, a half Native American, half English, protagonist whom you take from child to manhood as you train in the footsteps of Altair and Ezio and kill off the Templars whom threaten his village and America in its entirety . The control scheme is essentially the same since the first Assassins Creed, so veterans shouldn’t have many problems. Combat is slightly different, forcing you to attack as well as defend rather than being static, and the kills are as visceral and satisfying as ever. What mars this whole experience is how much your hand is held through the first hours of the game, expect Metal Gear Solid levels of cut scenes as well as tutorials still being thrown at you after a good 5 hours in game. The only thing that carries this section properly, is the vast amount of storyline which has always been a strong point in the past Creed games. Connors development is interesting, with a good splashing of humour as you meet and greet the leaders of both the Redcoats and the Patriots ,though Connor himself is in no way comparative to the series best hero, Ezio.
As a Brit, there was worry that the whole game would be a consistent British bash of how evil we all were; its pleasing to notice that Ubisoft balance it well, and give equal credit to both sides for dirty tricks and less ‘holier than thou’ methods to get what they wanted. The game has one of the best twists I have seen in any game for a LONG time, merely hours in, and it is almost guaranteed that you will be thrown by it,. creating an interesting proposition to the new Templar enemies you spend your time killing and maiming. Story elements in and out of the Animus are engaging and actually give long reviled hero Desmond a bit more personality and back-story, allowing some present day Assassin adventures, though these are subpar in comparison to the ones you do as Connor.
The now standard ‘build your own town’ element is included again, which poses a nice, if not slightly dry, alternative to the main games storyline. Collectibles litter the landscape, with the usual viewpoints, feathers and other paraphernalia to keep collectors and magpies happy. Connor gets his own set of toys, with a distinctive Native American theme, varying from rope darts that allow you to literally hang enemies from ledges to the trusty tomahawk and bow and arrow. None of the weaponry feels necessary to achieve your goals, allowing a free choice in how you want to approach each mission. Naval combat is also a very welcome, simple to pick up, and hugely satisfying to play.
It’s a shame that such an expansive universe, with a very strong storyline is hampered by some rather buggy execution. Popup is horrendous in both of the cities you continually visit, with NPCs and enemies alike dropping out of thin air. Some of the subtitles are also incorrect which, although minor, is poor for a that was advertised so heavily and that had obvious huge investment by Ubisoft. Enemy death sequences can be enacted without Connor making contact with them and, in some of the missions, its possible to fail completely as the game universe doesn’t recognise that you have actually killed the target you were supposed to. Furthermore, horse riding is pretty atrocious, with tiny branches being nigh impenetrable on horseback causing you to get stuck in the scenery. There is also a complete inability to gallop in the towns which, whilst accurate, makes travelling the length of the cities hugely tiresome and, apparently, horses are inherently afraid of water and can barely walk through streams.
Some of the missions are also borderline dull, and fall into the GTA trap of continuous fetch quests. The American Frontier is a huge, expansive place that can actually hinder in the same vein as it can surprise, making travelling doing these quests rather more annoying than enjoyable. Other side quests manage to use the same dialogue, word for word with the same voiceover, over and over again, which becomes even more tedious. Thankfully, this tends to be in the minority, as almost all of the other NPCs you encounter, whether main characters or not, are well presented, excellently voiced and have favourable comparison to the likes of LA Noire in terms of facial realism
AC3’s grandeur is both a blessing and a curse, as its pluses are so strong that its negatives tend to be highlighted even more. Newcomers to the series should by no means start here as the storyline is relatively confusing even after playing the previous AC games. What will make or break the whole experience for you is the amount of investment you have already put into the storyline previously, as this is the only element that carries the game from monotony in its early hours. When you are finally allowed to roam free, all the different parts that you have slowly been spoon fed hang together very well indeed and push the game into the upper echelons of software for this very long console generation. The fact that the veneer of upmost quality is rubbed off, especially when all of the AC games have been built primarily on a reality within a reality, think Inception, makes it all the more grating. A very good game, but only a must buy for previous fans of the series.