Assassin's Creed 3
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10I haven't played all the way through any of the Assassin's Creed games. I enjoyed the gameplay for the most part, and the historical basis intrigued this old History minor, but I'd either get frustrated at some point late in the game or simply couldn't find the time amongst the flood of other games to go the distance with any of them. I got very close, but never finished them, not one.
Assassin's Creed III, however, gripped me in a way that none of the previous titles had. In my first play through (yes, I'm calling it my first as I fully intend to revisit this game after getting through the stack of others next to my TV), I spent nearly 40 hours in this world. I collected all of a couple of the collectibles, and at least tried out every kind of side mission. Aside from a couple of chase sequences, which just aren't my favorite gameplay type in any game, I had incredible fun during the entire journey.
It's rare to have two main protagonists in a game, and as the majority of it is played as Connor, the young half native american who stands (for the most part) with the patriots trying to shrug off British rule in the early days of the American Revolutionary War, you'll definitely connect much deeper with Connor. Desmond, the character in the present day who is living Connor's past life, just doesn't give you much to care about in this one. Now, if you'd played all four of the previous titles (yes, this is "3" but it's actually the fifth game), perhaps you'll feel more empathy for Desmond's plight. I instead found most of the present day sequences to just be filler preventing me from getting back in the animus and back to Connor. However, the easter egg for fans of the comic book tie-in was a welcome surprise.
Connor's tale is a pretty classic hero's journey. You play through his entire life, from young man through to the ultimate fulfillment of his life's goal, and there is real growth there. Some may view the character as petulant or even as, frankly, a bit of a dick, but when you allow yourself to sympathize with his plight, compounded with the plight of his people, it makes for a real and compelling character.
The overarc of the story is somewhat predictable; it continues the tale of Assassins versus Templars in their constant struggle for free will versus control, while following significant historical events (how did Connor not make it into the history books alongside Paul Revere? it was HIS horse! come on!) to add flare and significance to the moments. Of course the fact that you play as champions of free will, Assassins, does lead to the biggest fan complaint of the game, and an odd choice (or rather, lack of one).
Mild Spoilers between the bolded text
At the end of the game, as you're seeing Desmond's story reach its big moment, the exposition of the cutscene seems to clearly set up a choice, one that essentially lets you pick the main philosophy of the Assassins or the main tenant of the Templars… and then the cutscene continues and chooses for you. If the entire series so far has been about fighting for free will, it seems like a real win for the Templars, and a real slap in the face to you the gamer, to not give you that choice at the end. It's what keeps this game from perfection.
End mild Spoilers
The sometimes overlooked incidentals to the game certainly help it stand out as something special instead of just being another third person action game. The ambience is incredible, from the roar of crowds on the streets of Boston and New York to the beauty of the fresh American frontier. The game is gorgeous, the music soars (that intro song has been in my head a good two weeks now), and the little touches like water that drips from Connor as he emerges from a river or the subtle crunch of snow as he explores during the winter months help to pull you further into his memories.When you've finished the main story, you can continue to play to unlock all those other side missions and goals, which range from simple explore/collection to assassinations. Make sure to do the liberation missions as early as you can, though, as those unlock your cadre of Assassins who you can call down for some pain (and lots of great assisstance). The naval missions likewise unlock a new costume and lots of supplies (not to mention they're just plain fun and exciting). Having a dedicated, separate team work on Assassin's Creed 3 for years clearly paid off, and that's something I hope Ubisoft takes note of, and lets them evaluate how they continue the franchise. Maybe yearly iterations just aren't the right move for this one. I for one would rather see an impressive, strong game come out every couple of years like Assassin's Creed 3 than get a game that I simply don't ever finish every fall.