It's been five years since Altair put Assassin's Creed on the map. After his moment in the sun, Ezio starting prancing around and decided that counting to three wasn't his style. Because of this, it's been awhile since the Assassin's Creed story has really moved forward. That is, until last winter when a new assassin was born.Assassin's Creed III follows the story of a young Native American boy named Connor as he makes a new life for himself as an Assassin in the new world. Along the way he'll cross swords with the Templars as he tries to figure out the secrets of his destiny. His largest quest however, is to pull a franchise from the pit of stagnation that Brotherhood threw the series in.
BACK FROM THE PAST
I Can See Their Dimples - It's rare for me to take visuals into account as I'm the kind of guy who still plays MUDs in this day and age, but Assassin's Creed III is pretty. In fact, it's one of the prettiest games to be released last year. The characters are really well designed, and all of the main characters look unique. The up close shots are especially beautiful, and I feel like the developers were really trying to make some of the characters look human. It doesn't stop there though, the world of Old America is just breath taking. Watching your character create tracks in the snow is simply impressive. Even some of the most minor details are accounted for, creating a visually stunning world that can pull a gamer in.
Historical Accuracies - Most Americans take the birth of America and what happened to be nothing short of biblical. The story of how the oppressed little guys stood up against radical tyranny and threw the British out on their crumpet eating rumps is something that true patriots recite to their children as if they were there. Needless to say, it probably wouldn't have been a good idea for Ubisoft to ruin the story. Fortunately, they did a pretty good job. Historical characters make appearances and go on to shape America they way they should. And, aside from the Templars and assassins running around, the game is somewhat historically accurate.A Half Decent Story - I'll be honest, I got lost in Assassin's Creed II's story about the same time that Ezio turned the pope into a skewered delicacy. It's one of those games that simply has too much going on both the modern age and the history, and they haven't done a great job of tying the two together. Not to mention that whole Subject 16 side story that really didn't help things. This installment hasn't done a great job where the other games failed, but the self-contained story is very enthralling. Watching Connor coming from a very simple Native American background to help change the world is quite interesting, and it stands well enough as a separate installment of the series to be played without too much prior knowledge of the last few games.
Run Faster - When Altair was getting chased by the Templars in the first Assassin's Creed, it was a real challenge to get away. A challenge that was lost when Ezio decided to prance around for three games. Connor, on the other hand, seems to lack the ability to magically hide in a hay bale and avoid all problems that his Italian forefather had and actually has to put in effort to avoid enemies in America. This is a refreshing change for the series as the chase scenes require the player to put forth effort in evasion as opposed to just running straight for thirty seconds.
GO BACK TO THE PAST
Free Run into that Wall - I've never really loved the Assassin's Creed series because the right trigger does entirely way too much. It makes you run fast as well as activate the free running feature. This means that if you have to run from bad guys and you just want to take a sharp turn, you'll probably grab on a window sill and pull yourself up a building as the entire British navy turns you into Swiss cheese. The issue here is that despite four previous installments, Ubisoft has never quite figured out how to make it so your character can run away from enemies without wanting to dry hump every wall he sees.
My Fist is the Best Weapon in the Game?- I thought the combat was pretty intense at first. Swinging my axe as I desperately tried to block British muskets. That's until I discovered that Connor has the "God Hands." Two fists of unspeakable power that knock almost any enemy unconscious after three strikes. While that may not seem too impressive, compare three punches to the 9 strikes from any other weapon that it takes to kill someone. As soon as I figured out that punching and shooting things in the face were the most effective forms of combat, the rest of the game became a breeze.
It's a Linear Sandbox - Sandbox titles are fun in the fact that you can spend hours at a time hitting old ladies with purple dildo bats. It's the free kind of fun that says “Sure, you can do that mission, but isn't punching cops a more entertaining way to spend your afternoon?” Occasionally there's a sandbox title that says “Oh yeah, you can free roam, but there's not much to do outside the linear missions.” This is Assassin Creed III's problem. Yes it has some random objectives, hunting, and a few other side diversions, but the game isn't fun outside the missions that reign you in and seize all creativity from you.Convoluted as Can Be - Assassin's Creed II decided that a game focused on exploration and stealthy assassinations wasn't enough, and that city building should also be implemented. It then proceeded to force this way of thinking onto Brotherhood and Revelations. It was a convoluted mess that pulled away from the actual game and instead filled the player with frustration as they built brothels and trained wannabe assassins. Unfortunately, Connor hasn't strayed far from Ezio, and instead of doing things he enjoys, he is restrained to the chains of his ancestors of constantly needing to build and build and build. Let's all give that an exasperated “Hooray”.
Health Regeneration - Due to one minor change in the gameplay, the thrill found in previous installments is gone. Completely gone. A regenerating health system turns frantically trying to escape a swarm with only 5% of your health left into a “Oh hey, as long as I avoid damage for a few seconds I can stay alive as long as I want and fight whatever I want without repercussions.
Assassin's Creed III wasn't the right step in the franchise that it should have been. It was a decent game, but it carries too much baggage from previous installments. With a new protagonist it had a chance to take the game in a new direction like Assassin's Creed II did. Instead, it took everything the previous titles had and tried desperately to drag them along in hopes that they would make it a better game. Instead, Assassin's Creed III shows that developing a sequel every year is not good for a series. My only hope is that I don't see an announcement for the next Assassin's Creed to be released in 2013. There's simply too much to work on for a series to be good and have annual titles. Assassin's Creed III is a testament to that.
*This review was based on the Wii U retail version of the game.*