‘Assassin’s Creed 3′ Review

Published 2 years ago by

Assassins Creed 3 Reviews

Ever since Ubisoft delivered fully on the promise of Assassin’s Creed with the arrival of Ezio Auditore, fans had high hopes for the future. While Ezio starred in two follow-up titles that did little to advance the overarching plot of Desmond Miles’ quest to save mankind, Ubisoft Montreal was working on something greater.

Now Assassin’s Creed 3 has arrived, with more gamers convinced to get on board than for any game in the publisher’s history. But does Assassin’s Creed 3 deliver the most polished, refined, and ambitious experience in the series, or merely another dose of what fans love?

Ambition is certainly a word that will be thrown around in any discussion of Assassin’s Creed 3‘s most impressive elements; as well as its shortcomings. Not every developer would build a brand new game engine for a game released near the end of a console generation, but that’s just what Ubisoft did – and it shows.

There is no comparison between the fluidity and realism of AC3‘s traversal and combat animations and those of the past. Not just in the recreated parkour acrobatics and sense of momentum evident from the game’s first tutorial, but also the clothing, shadowing, and level of detail placed into colonial New York and Boston.

Assassins Creed 3 Loyalist Camp

The improvements set a new visual height for the franchise, even if the art style of Boston and New York can’t hold a candle to Rome or Constantinople’s architecture and thriving bazaars.

Of course, that ambition comes at a cost. The loading times and screens are longer and more numerous than ever before, specifically during story scenes or as bookends to missions. Since the beginning and end of the campaign(s) are largely centered around linear missions and cutscene-laden sequences, the pace is awkward off the bat, and when nearing the game’s conclusion. Luckily, the problem is rarely a factor when taking a break from the main quests.

Ubisoft’s reps have shown quite a bit of pride in the expansion from merely suburban environments of past titles into the American wilderness of colonial America. And all things considered, the addition of hunting, tree-running and changing seasons is a resounding success, particularly for the lack of loading screens or pop-in throughout. The open world isn’t quite as well-realized as say, Skyrim, but is more comparable to games like Red Dead Redemption than previous Assassin titles.

From a technical standpoint, Assassin’s Creed 3 illustrates many of the trade-offs developers are making as the end of this console generation approaches. Visual prowess means a more broken pacing between gameplay and cinematics, but for many, the vastly improved combat and traversal animations and improvisation will be worth the sacrifice. Unfortunately, not every trade-off is as easy to accept or overlook.

Assassins Creed 3 Frontier Missions

The new protagonist Ratohnhake:ton (a.k.a. Connor Kenway) was promised to be the strongest, fastest, and most brutal Assassin players have met, and he delivers. The extended combat animations and increased counter-sensitivity means Connor will be ready to stand his ground and dispatch a squad of enemies when Ezio would have fled. To counter repetition, Ubisoft has equipped Connor with more elaborate and visually satisfying attacks and assassinations.

Connor is even less tied to accepted definition of an ‘assassin’ than Ezio, once again showing Ubisoft’s shift away from stealth towards, for lack of a better term, blockbuster moments. It’s this division of intentions – mission design and story – that the developers attempt to straddle throughout the game, succeeding as often as they fail.

Simply put, Connor is nowhere near as nuanced, well-rounded or likable as Ezio Auditore. Fans had three games to get familiar with Ezio, so perhaps the discrepancy is to be expected. Connor’s mixed parentage may have promised a tortured and devoted soul, or at the very least a protagonist that was unfamiliar in the world of video game storytelling. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. But it is not completely his fault.

Ubisoft deflected claims of British hatred by stating that Connor’s life wouldn’t be simply ‘an American story,’ and in many ways that’s an accurate assessment. As the half-Mohawk, half-British Assassin bent on revenge states, his enemy is “a notion, not a nation.” given that, it’s difficult to tell exactly why Connor makes the choices and alliances he does. Sometimes adopting the Revolutionary rhetoric of Washington, other times proving it is solely vengeance that drives him.

Assassins Creed 3 Connor Washington

Ezio Auditore’s first adventure was set against a backdrop of the Renaissance, yet the game was never about that event specifically. For most of AC3‘s campaign, however, the American Revolution and its famous figures are the undeniable stars of the game, not Connor. Instead of rising above those around him, Connor is reacting, most often with violence. He might be capable of dispatching dozens of British soldiers (unless in a cutscene, where he can be bested by one), but in discussing war or leading an army, he is consistently out of his depth.

Without spoiling any of the mysteries of Connor’s parentage, Assassin’s Creed 3‘s first chapters absolutely deliver on the surprise promised by Creative Director Alex Hutchinson, and offer new dynamics that imply a strong finale, but ultimately return to formulaic plotting. It isn’t hard to see why, since Ubisoft was tasked with spending more time on Desmond’s portion of the game than ever before.

After the exposition dump at the end of Revelations revealed who and what had led to the Earth’s impending doom, the writers had quite a lot of answers to provide. And provide them they have, explaining once and for all what Desmond’s role has been all along.

But in regards to the actual idea of the game ‘concluding’ anything, or promises that AC3 wouldn’t end with a cliffhanger, well…let’s just say that the way in which Ubisoft sets up the future of the series (our predictions weren’t far off) will have many asking whether Mass Effect 3‘s ending was such a travesty. We won’t try to spark a similar debate, since more high-quality games are something we’re happy to see. But what ‘closure’ means in a video game franchise is a discussion that might be worth having.

Assassins Creed 3 Desmond Team

As seems to be the case with ‘final chapters’ in game franchises, the most satisfaction is found in the depth of the campaign, not its conclusion. We could endlessly compliment the naval warfare missions, with visuals and attention to detail so stunning fans will wonder how Ubisoft found room for the addition. The seafaring quests and new base-building elements are vast improvements over the past, immersing the player in Connor’s life in pleasantly surprising ways.

It’s hopefully clear that Assassin’s Creed 3 consists of outstanding components, whose imperfections and disappointments are due to the narrative and presentation designed to unite them. Revelations sacrificed gameplay innovation for story, and AC3 could be said to do the opposite. The combat, recruit implementation, animations, graphics, naval missions and base-building are better than ever before, but when constricted to resemble the story being told, not the other way around, serious problems arise.

The writers show enough sides of Connor’s personality to prove that he could offer something new, but is ultimately overshadowed by one of America’s most oft-explored historical periods. The need to balance two plots explains the somewhat underwhelming drama and morality of the experience, and the final scenes Ubisoft has cooked up for Desmond, Juno, and others could impact the fan excitement for Assassin’s Creed 4.

Assassins Creed 3 Naval Missions

The characters and story (almost completely devoid of racism aside from mission set-ups) may not have been what we’d hoped they would be, or what was optimistically described by the developers, but that isn’t the final word. Once the campaign has drawn to a close, players will be more motivated than ever to jump back in to the game world and lose themselves in the naval campaign, side missions, not to mention the multiplayer.

Ubisoft may not have topped all their previous efforts with Assassin’s Creed 3, but they have succeeded in delivering the best-looking, most fully-featured overall world to date. The story may sour some longtime fans, but the effort and ambition that the studio has shown from a technical standpoint may show enough promise for what’s to come to keep players invested.

Assassin’s Creed 3 is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360. A PC release is scheduled for November 20, with a Wii U version coming November 18.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

TAGS: Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed 3, PC, PS3, Ubisoft, Wii U, Xbox 360

  • Dante

    I have to say that as I play this game I am blown away by quite a few things. The best of which has to be the tree traversal. It is so smooth and so perfectly implemented. I find myself seeking out trees to climb and in fact building climbing has lost its appeal by comparison.

    However, as you mentioned, the story seems more an American Revolution story than Conner’s story. It distance me from this assassin, but perhaps that was their intent as they have only this game to explore him.

    • Dovahkiin

      I just got Liberation, it is just as perfect there.

  • oueta

    4 star nono 5 star

    • Dante

      With all the bugs and glitches, no way could this get a 5/5.

      Character models disappearing.
      Characters falling through the map (NPC & playable).
      Character lips not moving.
      I had numerous NPCs fail to trigger the next mission resulting in a reload checkpoint.

      And oh god, the horses, the horses.

      • tankD

        Yea I pretty much only played this game for the story and even THAT was a let down I thought I could be invested in the whole American rev BS but it was so boring and lame I couldnt wait for it to be over. Desmonds parts were the best. I mean have any of the Dev of this game ever did their research on what an assassin IS??? like wth these games are horrible when it comes to characters. I thought desmond would grow into a true assassin but no we got 4 parts of mini levels as desmond im done buying these games. they kept you invested with the damn spinoffs that never felt satisfying then this??? Im trading this for Halo good by AC im done giving you my money.

        • The mighty avenger

          So I haven’t played this yet. Getting it Friday when payday comes but spoilers brother, now I know bout Desmond so that’s a downer.

  • oueta

    skyrim had major bug problems but everyone gave it 5/5 10/10 A+

    • COREY_1993

      This ^

      also still managed to get GOTY awards that should hav been Uncharted 3 or Batmans.

      • Jak Frost

        Those were games of 2011 not 2012 so this still can win next year

  • Andrés

    Another “it’s the journey, not the destination” review? Ubisoft has simply proven they never did care about Desmond’s story. That’s too bad, because I did.

    • http://gamerant.com/author/dyce/ Andrew Dyce

      I think I was saying that sentiment describes the game, not the review. Hence our scoring and pointing out the problems and lack of a satisfying ending.

      • Andrés

        Sorry, I’m a little pissed about underwhelming endings, that’s all.

        • http://gamerant.com/author/dyce/ Andrew Dyce

          Oh I completely agree with you that the destination is a massive disappointment. Frankly, I’m surprised at how many reviewers don’t even think it worth mentioning that ME3’s ending and this one are more alike than they are dissimilar.

  • Kevin negron

    The game was goodi was blown away by good it was no matter the bugs,glitches I still give it a 10 not to mention the storyline is great also I hope that they kept the story on Connor but it was good since it was set on the revolutionary war, not to mention introducing naval warfare which in my opinion was amazing.

    • Smikal

      The age of sail naval experience is so engrossing that I’m seriously hoping for a all-Naval-and-how-’bout-some-multiplayer-NOWWITHBOATSYO! DLC pack.

      I have no clue how this game gets rated less than 4.5. I can believe you found half a star worth of flaws, but a game so expansive in scope so well implemented is at least 4.5 stars in my book.

  • boogoo

    The filthy little street children are horrifically annoying :(

    • http://gamerant.com/author/dyce/ Andrew Dyce

      Their laughs! I’m hoping their was some kind of audio nightmare where there five laughs were compiled into one terrifying nightmare-clown giggle. Ugh, creeped me out.

      • boogoo

        Haha it’s definitely unnatural. It’s a good thing we aren’t allowed to harm them. There would have been a massacre…

  • gfunkpalace

    I’ve been waiting for this review. I’m not done with the game yet, so I can’t comment on the ending. I will say I have been conflicted with this game. As Dante mentioned, there are so many issues with the game that I’ve contemplated returning it to get Halo 4 tomorrow. Ubisoft had YEARS to work on this and they hyped it up with a huge media blitz, and then they failed to work out all the kinks. I feel like I overpaid and wish I had waited until it was used. I give the mechanics 3 stars.

    As far as the story, I find it REALLY compelling. I myself am Native American and have been waiting for this game to see how they would portray him, ethnically, but also philosophically. I have to say that Connor is a bonafide representation of men that I know and I would say myself. Literally, his size, facial features, the sound of his voice, etc. all line up with what I would say is a Native American man.
    My favorite treasure of this game is his desire for truth. All Assassin’s are taught the creed: Nothing is true, everything is permitted… EXCEPT Connor. Achilles never mentions this. And throughout the game Connor is questioning: Where is truth? And he doesn’t believe everything is permitted (he protests the need for the death of a minor character).

    So far I am happy with Connor’s story. It has a lot of grey area, much like the birth of the nation. I will say that It’s a little bit stretched, from saving his village to the missions chasing Templars. But, I feel his zeal and youth and immaturity focused around a positive hope that there is a good future for him and his people (evidenced by his ravings about GW).

    Ultimately, I have to say I am disappointed I paid full price for a game that I feel wasn’t fully finished. The first third of the sequences are so horrible, I feel jipped. There are white seams everywhere, as well as all the documented glitches. I won’t even ride a horse.

    3.5 stars

    • http://gamerant.com/author/dyce/ Andrew Dyce

      Well it’s nice to hear that Ubisoft’s dedication to accuracy and respectful portrayals delivered, even if Connor’s Mohawk background is used more as….influencing his identity than defining it. On a philosophical level, I can completely get behind that. It does seem like the developers only had enough time to either show Connor in action and unable to grapple with the loss of his mother and family, OR bring him into the Assassin teachings.

      I realized after the game had been completed that his role as an ‘Assassin’ was minimal at best: he doesn’t know Ezio, or Altair, or any of their wisdom per se.

      It did cross my mind that Connor’s more monotone, less compelling dialogue was more reflective of an 18th-Century Mohawk male, since his fluency in talking with his family seemed to be more familiar to him. It may be a positive sign for the world of gamers that their criticism lie not in a Native American hero, but that the writers didn’t go far ENOUGH into his cultural background and tradition as they would have liked.

      I’m with you on the small issue though. From conversations being cut short by cutscenes (why would you not time these exchanges better, since I was simply following the NPC to the destination…?)

      • boogoo

        I thought Conner’s introduction was a rushed mess and was really disappointed by it. I can completely appreciate Ubisoft’s dedication to historical accuracy and respectful portrayal’s but you’re really hit hard with what seems like inexperienced and dull voice work that made his opening cutscenes and missions awkward and distracting. I don’t want to try and discuss it TOO deeply because really, I don’t want to sound like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to storytelling and characterization but it really bothered me for about the first hour or two when you’re introduced to Conner.

        • http://gamerant.com/author/dyce/ Andrew Dyce

          No, I completely know where you’re coming from. The times when Connor would actually get agitated or flat-out angry, it seemed like that should have been the base-level of emotion, not the exception.

      • gfunkpalace

        I came back over here after reading the interview comparing Ezio to Connor. I still haven’t finished the game (too much school), so maybe my hopes will be answered soon. I agree with you that we don’t get to see him interact with the other Assassin’s. There was so much pride when Ezio enters the chambers and sits next to Altair. Yet, I still am very happy with Connor and his persona. He’s more like Altair than he is like Ezio. Altair was passionate, hasty, chastised for rushing to judgment and acting on it. Ezio was a lady’s man and was more confident in his identity. With Altair, we had to discover it fight to find truth along the way. Ezio knew exactly who the enemy was and chased them down mercilessly.

        I have to say that the more I play as adult Connor, the more I forget and forgive all the little glitchy things.

        And Yes, I am happy that they are not being criticized for the structure of their character, but rather for other things, like the flow of the story and mechanics. I commend them, because they took on a character and a history that is not their own (Canadians diving deep into American lore).

        I am looking forward to the Season Pass and I hope they have maybe another spinoff like Revelations or Brotherhood to further develop Connor. Once again, I haven’t finished the game, so I may be asking for Romney to win the election yesterday. Not gonna happen.

  • Martin

    -I kept spoiling the story by reading the codex’s. Ubisoft should really think of putting in story elements after we actually complete them.
    -Connor’s lack of common sense was his biggest flaw, or the fact that through the whole game they portray him as a child.
    -The lack of racism was surprising, I was expecting a lot of it. We all know how Native Americans were treated
    -I didn’t really encounter any big glitches. Connor would be facing away from an npc while talking is the biggest one.
    -Didn’t really care for Desmond’s story
    -Overall I agree with this review, the gameplay was good, and the story wasn’t bad, but could have been better.

  • Rabbit93

    I think the only big glitch I had was when getting the doctor for the homestead. When I was told to protect him. His attackers were just frozen in one place and I was only able to assassinate them from behind. Was kind of annoying.

  • Psyko

    The whole “british hate” thing is deserving of their role during that period. The aristocrasies in europe were evil to the core.

    Gameplay was good, the hunting and sailing were the most fun parts for me. But what i missed was the lack of doing hidden free running levels to unlock armour. And the shops in ac3 give you the best weapons straight off the bat. lastly the trade system was a huge pain in the balls. I like collecting things to use in battle. what i hate is chasing after almanac pages that dont really do anything.
    And the story was terribad and “connor” was not worthy of being an assasin. Not becuase he is native american, but purely that he wasnt clever enough to play a pivotal role during those times. I swear a chick directed this game, its so hastily assembled and frantic trying to do loads of things at once without any balance. I noticed that the programmers and artists were awesome, but the creative director needs a boot up the hole.