The Assassin’s Creed franchise is back with its next major iteration in the cannon with a brand new protagonist. While Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood and Revelations chronicled Ezio’s epic journey, Assassin’s Creed III focuses on Connor, a half British and half Native American Assassin recruit in the war against the Templars.
While this iteration continues to follow Desmond Mile’s overarching story, the new chain of memories in the Animus focuses on Ratonhnhaké:ton, also known as “Connor,“ and takes place around 1754 leading up to the American Revolution. Notable historical figures such as George Washington, Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson play pivotal roles in the story.
This change of scenery from 15th century Renaissance to the pre-American Revolution is definitely welcomed as the series has started to become stale prior to Assassin’s Creed III (AC3). The way the story unfolds is actually unique and is something Ubisoft has never done before.
Assassin’s Creed III starts out in England, putting you in control of Haytham Kenway, who later fathers Connor in North America. You actually play as Haytham for a decent amount of time near the beginning of the game before moving onto Connor as a child.
You will play as Connor during different stages of his life before getting into the meat of the game – first as a young child, then as a young adult and finally as a mature adult. The game does start out slow for the first three hours as Connor as you really can’t do much as a child.
While this is one way of providing a tutorial around the plethora of new gameplay mechanics introduced in Assassin’s Creed III, this is also another way to build up the main character’s background history.
Out in the real world Desmond is dealing with his father and their dysfunctional relationship while pecking away at the Templars. The game does throw some mandatory missions out in the real world giving Desmond the chance to test out his Assassin skills. While Desmond’s story does have a much larger role in Assassin’s Creed III, getting pulled out of Connor’s story after a long period can be a bit jarring and leaves you wanting to get right back into the Animus.
Assassin’s Creed III is by far the most impressive looking title in the franchise to date. The game was built on the new AnvilNext engine, which can generate impressive real-time weather effects such as snow, rain and fog. Gamers will be able to tell immediately the difference in graphics and improvement with the fluid animation movements not seen in any of the previous games.
The world of Assassin’s Creed III is also populated with wild life, such as wolves, bears, deer and rabbit which can be hunted and pelted tying back to the game’s economy.
In-game economy makes a return in AC III in the form of Homestead, which is Connor’s base of operation throughout the game. As in the previous games, Homestead can be grown but is now done so through interactions with various NPCs such as carpenters and tailors that may wander into the area. By helping out these NPCs, Connor will be able to convince them to settle down in Homestead.
Pelting and crafting all contribute to the Homestead economy allowing you to also utilize caravans to trade and sell to other cities. The in-game economy is fairly straight forward but fails to live up to how integral it was in Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood. I recall hustling the in-game economy in Assassin’s Creed II, just to work towards purchasing the rather expensive Sword of Altiar or armor.
After spending some time with Homestead it never really feels like there is a need to continue with this side game as I was able to easily complete the story with the tools provided initially. Reducing the number of rare weapons and armors is a misstep as it contributed to the addictive loot aspect of the game.
The majority of the game takes place in Boston, New York and a good part of it in the wilderness, which covers most of the map. While I had some reservations going into AC3 without the tall castles of the Renaissance period, the colonies and the forest provides a new set of challenges.
With Connor, players will be able to run and jump from tree to tree with ease. The controls do take some getting used to, but ultimately provides a sense of exhilaration that is rarely provided in the urban setting.
Ubisoft has improved the combat mechanics, making for a more fluid and natural combat system. The whole lock-on mechanic is not needed as players will be able to counter and parry with ease when an indicator pops up on top of the enemies’ head.
While there is still some fluff in the game such as Samuel Adam’s side mission to collect pages from his Almanac or the whole meta game to build Homestead, broken mini-games such as the Tower Defense missions are not present in Assassin’s Creed III.
The naval battles are truly epic and intense as you steer these massive wooden ships in order to fire the cannons off the starboard. There is a bit of strategy involved in each of the naval combat situations, as turning too fast may make you lose your shot against the enemy ship while turning too slowly makes you a sitting duck. This is one feature I would definitely look forward to in the next iteration of the franchise.
In the multiplayer arena, Ubisoft continues to refine the formula with Manhunt (player vs player) and Artifact Assault (capture the flag), without making too many changes. With Assassin’s Creed III, a new mode called Wolfpack is introduced which is a co-op multiplayer affair. In Wolfpack, the main objective is to communicate with your teammates to perform a coordinated attack against each of your target objectives.
While, Ubisoft’s attempt at trying to bring mission based co-op to franchise is commendable, it unfortunately falls short of replicating that feeling of being in a guild with other Assassins as the matches can feel anti-climactic.
In a franchise that has become annualized like the Call of Duty series, Ubisoft has somehow found a way to keep things fresh as Connor’s tale immediately draws you into the world of Assassin’s Creed III. Ezio started out in Assassin’s Creed II as a rebellious young adult whose family is struck down by tragedy. Connor’s story mirrors that of Ezio’s in many ways, but having to follow in his footsteps since his childhood definitely helps build the character up in ways it wasn’t possible previously.
There are concepts in Assassin’s Creed III that seem promising such as Homestead that need a little more work and standouts like the naval combat missions. While new ideas such as the Lantern puzzles seem tacked on and boring in contrast to the amazing puzzles found in Assassin’s Creed II.
Ultimately Ubisoft has created a fresh and solid platform that the next iteration of Assassin’s Creed could definitely improve upon in the same way Assassin’s Creed II greatly built upon the first game.
Newcomers and fans of the series should definitely give Assassin’s Creed III a try as the brand new story of Connor is a perfect entry point if you haven’t played the previous four games.