Following the slightly stale experience that was Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Ubisoft found one of its flagship series on the brink of franchise fatigue. Luckily for fans, Assassin’s Creed 3 innovates more than any entry in the series to date, completely steering clear of all-too-common issues that come with yearly releases in a franchise. By introducing a new setting, a new assassin, and new game mechanics, Ubisoft has done more than just deliver on every promise made to fans during development; Ubisoft has put out one of the most immersive games of 2012.
Assassin’s Creed 3 — Welcome to the Revolution
Assassin’s Creed 3 brings players to a new locale that starkly contrasts 12th century Europe: the American Revolution. While this 18th century setting may be entirely different from the first four games in the series, upon exploring the diverse landscapes and bustling cities, it would be difficult to argue that colonial America is a poor choice for an Assassin’s Creed game. Free-running through the unspoiled wilderness that was the east coast in 1775 is rewarding and majestic in a way that has not been experienced in the franchise to date. In addition, the setting enables Connor, the new protagonist, to combat the Templars in many fresh, new ways.
The free-running and hand-to-hand combat systems have received noticeable upgrades. With colonial America having some serious forestation, Connor possesses the convenient ability to run through the treetops. Not only does this help remedy one of the biggest problems of past Assassin’s Creed titles, where climbing felt mindless, with the character doing all of the heavy lifting while the player just held forward, but it also adds an excellent new dynamic to stalking prey and moving from point A to point B. This also helps out with one of Connor’s most brutal new weapons: the Rope Dart, which can be used to string up enemies and hang them from trees. The only downside with the new free-run mechanic is that it has a tendency to activate climbing even when the player is only pushing the button to “fast walk,” making it quite difficult to stalk at times.
Once engaged in hand-to-hand combat, players can grab nearby enemies and use them as human shields in order to counter the new prevalent threat of conventional firearms being used in battle. In addition, the counter system has received an overhaul, making it so players must press another button to follow up the blocked blow in order to have any kind of effect on the enemy. While this is a seemingly small addition to the system, it does wonders for making combat seem less passive.
Beauty beyond visuals
Assassin’s Creed 3 is, on the whole, a technically impressive game. Ubisoft Montreal has expanded the maximum number of populated NPCs at any given time from 200 in Revelations to 2,500 in this year’s game. While looking over a crowd consisting of thousands of independently-spawned AI characters is impressive, what strikes me most about Assassin’s Creed 3 are the little things: the footprint left in that one tiny muddy patch on the ground when Connor walks through it, the way Connor’s running changes based on depth of snow or water… Most importantly, Assassin’s Creed 3 succeeds in creating an ambiance that sets this game apart.
The sound design is unparalleled, which does wonders of the game’s atmosphere. There were numerous occasions where I would just stop and listen to the various forms of wildlife surrounding Connor. The silence that exists between the various bird, bug, and mammal sounds only accentuates the natural feel this game has. The sound is its most brilliant in its calculated absence, but that doesn’t take anything away from Lorne Balfe‘s outstanding scores. The only part of the sound design that really has any holes is the voice acting. Ubisoft Montreal went to great lengths to improve upon previous releases by bringing in actors who are authentic to the heritage of the character they were voicing (for instance, Connor’s voice actor is half Blackfoot), but there is still an occasional misplaced voice that has the potential to take the player out of the experience.
Heading back to the technical aspects of Assassin’s Creed 3, there are, unfortunately, some serious falters in that area. Glitches have the potential to run rampant in any given playthrough of a mission, ranging from mildly annoying to game-reset-required-crippling. The oddest glitches consist of paths appearing to be accessible, but not allowing passage until the player does some finagling, Connor getting stuck between environmental items, Connor being unable to interact with certain mission-critical objects, and graphical glitches such as characters walking through one another or appearing not completely grounded on the plane.
A slow burn
Assassin’s Creed 3 takes its time getting the player acclimated to the story and characters, but once it truly gets going, there are few games that do it better. Unfortunately, for the first five or so hours, the game moves at a snail’s pace. The story very slowly falls into place, however, as players get to know all of the major players on both sides, making the set pieces and plot lines seem that much more meaningful in the end. The slow intro that builds into a climactic ending is more reflective of a movie than most video games. The payoff is certainly worth the trudge through the beginning, but getting through the first five hours and into the “actual” game is the trick.
The multiplayer, which was introduced in the stellar Brotherhood, has always been hit or miss within the franchise, but Ubisoft has managed to nail it with Assassin’s Creed 3. The maps are more conducive to the player vs. player scenarios and the mechanics feel much more balanced. Everything adds up to bringing the player a more fluid and natural-feeling experience. Leveling up and honing one’s assassination and target identification skills proves to be more addicting than ever, giving Assassin Creed 3′s multiplayer the potential to be as much of a time-sink as the single player campaign.
Assassin’s Creed 3 gives players a complete package, from its engagingly cinematic campaign and a much-improved multiplayer component. With Ubisoft marketing the title heavily to a mainstream audience, casual gamers may find themselves turned off by the slow start, but if armed with the knowledge that it will reward the patient, many will eventually come to forgive the game for its early sluggish pace. The gameplay improvements, technical prowess, and spectacular storytelling more than make up for any shortcomings found in the pacing or polish of Assassin’s Creed 3. Ubisoft can rest easy knowing that it successfully gave the franchise the shot in the arm it needed.
- Release Date: October 30, 2012 (NA), October 31, 2012 (EU)
- Genre: Action
- Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
- Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- ESRB Rating: M
- MSRP: $59.99
Our Score: 4.5/5
Review Statement: An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.