After three years, Ubisoft has delivered the proper sequel to the widely panned Assassin's Creed 2. Over the past two years, Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed Revelations, sequels to Assassin's Creed 2 that continued the story of in-game protagonist Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Don't get me wrong. The two games were great but they felt more like Assassin's Creed 2.5: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed 2.75: Revelations than they did evolutionary sequels. Finally, the third installment in the series is out but has it been worth the three year wait?
Was it worth the wait? Connor's on scene to find out.
I feel it would be appropriate starting off with some background information for those new to the series (though I strongly recommend at least playing Assassin's Creed 2 before starting this one). The true protagonist of the trilogy is Desmond Miles, a modern day Assassin (of the Order of Assassins which has dated back to the Hashshashin Assassins of the 12th Century), who has to come to terms with his lineage and role in the fight against the modern Templars (yes that's right, the Knights Templar from the time of the Crusades). Desmond was initially kidnapped by Abstergo (a global corporation secretly run by Templars) to help them find Pieces of Eden (artifacts with great power forged by the First Civilization to have ever existed). He was forced to enter an Animus to relive his ancestors' memories. An Animus is a technological device that analyzes the subject's DNA and allows him or her to relive his or her ancestor's experiences. Desmond relived the memories of his Crusades ancestor Altaïr Ib-La'Ahad in Assassin's Creed and Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Assassin's Creed 2. By Assassin's Creed 3, Desmond has managed to reunite with fellow Assassins Shaun, Rebecca, and Wiliam Miles (his father) and find the Apple of Eden 'thanks' to his ancestors. There is a greater problem at hand. The 21st of December in 2012 is fast approaching. That is the day when the world comes to an end (it'll be obliterated by the sun!). Now, Desmond goes back in time to relive the memories of his Native American-Brit ancestor Connor Kenway in order to thwart the modern Templars' plans to control global society and stop the end of the world.
Altaïr, Ezio, and Connor in order from left to right
Now that that's out of the way, allow me to say that Assassin's Creed 3 plays differently from its predecessors. Although free running is still one of the basic elements of the game, the change of environment to post-French & Indian War and American Revolution (1755-1783 if your history's a bit unclear) means less towering buildings and churches to traverse as seen in the iterations of Florence, Venice, Rome, and Constantinople. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on parkour and using objects in the environment (stalls, trees, and rocks) to maneuver around the in-game world. The environments look great with Ubisoft's close attention to historical and graphical detail paying off. An aspect of the Assassin's Creed series that I have generally been impressed by is the historical accuracy. From events and landmarks to people, Ubisoft has it covered. Edward Braddock, Charles Lee, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are but a few characters in the game whose likenesses are generally factual apart from Ubisoft modifying their allegiances to Assassins or Templars. Though it is not a breath-taking difference, the implementation of the AnvilNext engine has noticeably improved the graphical quality.
Ed. Braddock (Fort Duquesne anyone?) and George Washington
In-game combat has finally changed from the days of AC2. Enemies are finally capable of killing Connor in a handful of hits compared to the previous games where one actually had to try to get killed. Medicine no longer exists in the game. Instead, health automatically regenerates while not in combat but fast enough to avoid any untimely deaths. Unfortunately, there is no difficulty mode. The closest thing to it is "Full Synchronization", which involves meeting a set of predetermined objectives in most missions. As a player, I didn't find many of them to be particularly challenging. To be frank, they could get rather irritating since I had to go out of my way to complete them. The iconic hidden blade is still a weapon along with the standard sword and crossbow/bow and arrow but the tomahawk, pistol (which can be dual-wielded), and rope-dart are new additions to the game, which can be used in conjunction with the environment for all new sorts of kills. If that sounds like the same old Assassin's Creed, then fret not. Now, you don't just have to kill people. Ubisoft has taken a page out of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption and added a hunting system to the game. You can now kill and skin animals in the American Frontier using the above weapons as well as bait and snares.
The Tomahawk and other weapons
So what's new in Assassin's Creed 3? Well, quite a bit. Ubisoft has made a great effort to make AC3 a comprehensive game. The "Full Synchronization" adds replay value to story missions for achievement hunters and those who want to 100% the game. There is a homestead system that allows you to finance and develop your own land through missions and trading, much like the villa renovations and restorations of Rome and Constantinople in the previous Assassin's Creed games. The new naval warfare missions are quite entertaining. Basically, Connor manages to captain a ship called the Aquila that can be used to go on missions on the East Coast. Captaining the ship is very entertaining. Steering the vessel and blasting other ships to smithereens using your different types of cannons makes one a happy pirate captain indeed. There are several new side missions and collectibles as well, which adds more hours to the 100% time log or general playthrough.
A pirate's life for me!
I believe Ubisoft has really put in a lot of resources to make Assassin's Creed 3 a great game. They've succeeded. Before playing it for several hours I read complaints about graphical bugs and glitches, Connor being boorish, and the game being less fun due to a change of course from AC2, ACB, and ACR but I respectfully disagree. AC3 is a great chapter in the franchise that hopefully gives a satisfying conclusion to Desmond's story.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 30th October (US), 31st October (EU)
Number of Players: 1, 4-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC (released November 20th)
*Cheers to Kowbel for the developer info format*