Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Assassin’s Creed III

When we discuss game franchises that are iconic to this generation, Assassin’s Creed has to pop into that list somewhere. A series that has invigorated free-roaming mechanics with engaging gameplay, intricately woven storytelling and breathtaking visuals simply cannot be ignored as one of the most influential we have seen thus far. But where does a series go after continuing to bring out similar content? Ubisoft have been known to constantly update and progress their beloved franchise but never substantially. Assassin’s Creed III takes bold steps to expand the world you inhabit making this relatively similar experience more dynamic and larger in scale. As a result this installment is the biggest yet, offering exceptional highs but some occasional lows along what is undoubtedly a thoroughly entertaining journey. 
Assassin’s Creed III continues the series exceptional detail to history but this time throughout the American Revolution. You play as Connor, a character that takes time to grow accustomed to and one that unfortunately gets caught up in the political war surrounding his native people. The beautiful cities of Boston and New York as well as the vast landscapes before you come to life in another realistic depiction of history that intertwines with non-fictional key events such as the battle of Bunker Hill and many other notable events. While Connor’s story concentrates on the past, our beloved bartender Desmond continues his quest in the modern day to save the world before him. The contrast between the two is emotionally engaging as their paths throughout your time with Assassin’s Creed III invoke similar emotional responses and ideals about humanity and what really is right and wrong.

Morality heavily influences the Assassin’s Creed series, but when it comes down to gameplay, the game is a lot more straightforward. Unfortunately it does take a while to get into the heart of Assassin’s Creed III’s action. A prologue really concentrates on setting the tone and story of the game before letting you loose in its world. When the chains do come off and you’re free to explore with Connor, you really begin to contemplate the size and depth of this installment in the series. Connor’s maneuverability has been streamlined and simplified from previous games, partially to ensure a smoother experience traversing the new environments in the forests. While climbing the rooftops and scaling walls in cities feels quite similar, Connor’s ability to manipulate his movements across branches, trees and other environments is astonishing. Assassin’s Creed III really takes into account the plausible physics behind these type of movements, meaning appropriate speed, jumping distance and balance are all taken into account when Connor grabs a hold of branches, runs along them and bounds for another. As a result this is by far the smoothest and most enjoyable form of exploration so far in the series.

The same can be said for Assassin’s Creed III’s fighting mechanics that have been given a makeover for streamlining purposes. Connor still bounds elegantly in between foes hacking and slashing his way through with the press of a counter button. Combat has clearly taken even more influence from Rocksteady’s Batman series, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An abundance of gruesome finishing moves and animations keep combat exciting and fast-paced and the freedom to dispatch foes in so many ways is another welcome expansion to the series.

Of course Connor needs little reason to take on these enemies but there are missions to get involved in. When you’re not traversing Boston, New York or Homestead peacefully you’re engaging groups of enemies, ambushing convoys, leading the front-line and assassinating key political figures. Assassin’s Creed III’s wonderfully woven story is intertwined with for the most part, well-paced gameplay with few lulls throughout.

A notable side-mission type in Assassin’s Creed III is Connor’s venture onto water as he captains a variety of ships in oceanic battle. Battling your way through the mighty water while avoiding enemy fire and trying to take them down simultaneously is a thrilling endeavor and provides a much-needed change of scenery. What scenery it is too, Assassin’s Creed III impresses visually across the board and especially in these encounters with the beautiful and yet ominous tides crashing against your ship while your crew is hard at work trying to steady your vessel – it’s truly a magnificent sight to behold.

Assassin’s Creed III also sees the return of competitive online multiplayer. The aim of course is to blend into crowds and assassinate other players without being spotted. The usual rank up system is in place that allows for unlocking new weapons, perks and skills but notably here you can also spend real money to purchase upgrades in the form of micro transactions. If it wasn’t enough already that companies instigate season passes, downloadable content but now extra costumes, weapons and other accessories are purchasable with your own digital wallet – shameless.

From a technical perspective Assassin’s Creed III shines in some elements, but is let down by others. Being the most expansive and largest title in the series unfortunately leads to some bugs and glitches. Timed events don’t trigger properly and occasional AI gets stuck in walls or crevasses – these types of issues are seen in games like Skyrim and it is largely due to the size and depth of the game. However these problems aren’t large enough to ruin the experience and indeed the wonderful graphics, exceptional gameplay mechanics and wholly intriguing story are more than enough to let you very easily overlook such nuisances.

Ultimately the Assassin’s Creed series is a victim of its own success. The constant need to evolve the series has forces Ubisoft to expand the series in a direction that for the most part pushes the game forward, but not without expense. A much larger and more expansive world gives the gamer even more freedom to explore and take in the world before them. More variety in missions, side quests and the engaging sea-warfare help keep things fresh too. On the flip-side this large scale has left Assassin’s Creed III with a few notable technical hitches that while don’t spoil the party, still feel like a spilled drink on the carpet – something you just can’t quite ignore.

8.5 | Gameplay |
Climbing new environments is more fun than before thanks to a change of scenery and some streamlining to the whole process. Combat has also been tweaked to provide more a smoother style of battle. Lots of different things to do in an expansive world will keep you invested for a considerable period of time.

8.5 | Presentation |
Assassin’s Creed III and the world it embodies is beautiful to look at. The historical referencing is spot on and how the game mixes with real-life events is wonderful. Slight technical hitches frustrate what could have been a truly gorgeous technical experience.

8.5 | Replay Value |
This is certainly the largest Assassin’s Creed game to date and as a result, there’s a lot more single-player content. Some of it is more worthwhile to invest time into than others. For example, you could spend a lot of time in homestead building up the economy and giving the people an opportunity to thrive – or do you just ignore that and go straight to the story missions. The online multiplayer is a lot of fun and that’s definitely worth checking out too.

8.5 | Final Thoughts |
It’s a big step for Assassin’s Creed and one that they might have not been prepared for. The vast expansion in size has left the game’s usual completely polished feel behind but as a result there’s plenty more to get stuck into. Another excellent story is woven through an exciting and interesting portion of history where a host of interesting characters come to life. If you’re a fan of Assassin’s Creed then you should definitely check this out.

Similar games: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Igor Kharin.

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