Ubisoft is back in the ring with one of their most ambitious projects yet, Assassin’s Creed 3. With this game, they brought a bold new approach, reinventing their traditional combat system and story formula. But “reinventing the wheel” doesn’t necessarily mean that a good game is a result. Keep reading to find out just how this installment in the series stacks up against it’s predecessors. [Warning! Spoilers Ahead!]
Assassin’s Creed 3 returns to the story of Desmond Miles, a reluctant modern-day assassin trying to prevent a worldwide crisis by reliving the memories of his ancestors housed inside of his DNA through a machine called the Animus. These memories, known as “memory sequences” last left Desmond reliving the memory of the death of his Italian ancestor, Ezio Auditore. Now Desmond is reliving the life of Connor (who has a long and super hard to pronounce Native American name), a Native American alive during the time of the Revolutionary War. Connor has taken up the sign of the Assassin under the direction of the leader of his tribe and has joined the cause of those looking to separate from the rule of England. However, the truth is not always as it seems.
The story introduces you to a plethora of historical figures, including John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Each of these men are involved in the story, either indirectly (such as Franklin asking you to reassemble his Almanac) or directly (such as John Adams helping you start the Boston Tea Party). For each piece of history that you touch, an alternate reality on how things really happened is shown, each one involving a touch from the order of Assassin’s. All of this integration is done in a very interesting (and believable) fashion as an alternative history.
Gameplay and Visuals
Assassin’s Creed also took a leap forward in both graphics and environment. Traditionally, the world in which you interact is a large, densely populated city, filled with crowded buildings and small streets that allow you to run freely from rooftop to rooftop as you traverse to your objective. When multiple cities were involved, there was a short interval of wilderness that you would traverse on horseback. The wilderness wasn’t really all that developed because it was only used to travel from one city to another.
Assassin’s Creed 3 transforms that wilderness into what is called the Frontier, which houses several main storyline missions and battles of the Revolutionary War that require your critical involvement for success. Not only this, but it also incorporates a new form of free running, taking advantage of your Native American character. This free running involves climbing and jumping through the trees in order to dodge around the impressively detailed forests that make up the Frontier. These trees are used for everything from hunting to killing redcoat soldiers.
Assassin’s Creed 3 also introduces two important cities to the story, New York and Boston. These towns become the center of the upcoming revolution against the British. As you explore these towns, you must navigate underground drainage tunnels and classic colonial rooftops.
Also introduced is a new combat system. Gone are the days of mundane “wait and counter” combat styles and quick healing with medicine any time things get hairy (you can only slowly heal over time now). With AC3 comes the introduction of a more complex system that requires you to be more engaged as you participate. Yes, there is a counter feature, but that counter then must be accompanied by another button in order to progress passed an ordinary blocking of the attack. When you begin a counter, a new set of options will occupy your button field, letting you choose to either throw your opponent, attempt to disarm him, or attempt a counter attack. Depending on the enemy, these different options have varying ranges of success. On the most formidable opponents, grenadiers and officers in the army, a simple counter counter-attack combo won’t work, but will instead get you wounded. You must first either get behind him or disarm him before you hope to kill him. This, among other new things added to the combat system (such as human shields) have helped to enhance and increase the difficulty of the game tremendously. I found myself having to restart entire sequences, sometimes multiple times, simply because I would die in combat.
Admittedly, sometimes it does feel like a chore as you help the story to progress. There are many times where it feels like you are simply running from one cut scene to the next, sometimes no further than a few feet. While these cut scenes are well thought out and visually beautiful, they can begin to bog down the story with superfluous breaks in gameplay.
As stated before, other things that were changed were the controls, particularly the combat controls. While it is refreshing to see a refresh in the controls of the series, it also presents new challenges, sometimes in a frustrating way. There were many times I found myself having a screaming match with the redcoats and game developers over how ridiculous it was that I was expected to complete the mission with the current set of controls (and I always won the argument).
The End of an Era
At the end of AC3, Desmond is faced with a difficult decision. More than ever before, there are spoilers in this section, by the way, so stop before you read any further if you have not already completed the game. Seriously, stop now. Fine, your funeral.
Turns out, everything Desmond has been working for has been a lie. The whole trail of clues that he has been following to save the world was a mask for a terrible truth; a truth that would not be revealed until the very end. So far as Desmond knew, the world was going to be consumed in fire from a rather large sun flare, but there was a way to save it. Under the guidance from a god from the past, Juno, Desmond has been following clues and battling modern-day Templars in order to save the world. But what he wasn’t told, is that it would come with a terrible price; it was one that would end his life and unleash a terror upon the world.
At the last second, another god, Minerva, reveals that everything Juno had been telling him was to mask the horrible reality of what would happen if Desmond saved the world. Juno could save the world as she had claimed, but in order to do that, she must be set free from her prison. Sounds all well and good, right? Well apparently, she also has a rather large (and not masked at all after it is revealed) lust for power, and intended to rule the world with an iron fist after saving it. Minerva explained that the Earth was historically periodically burned by the sun, resetting the clock back to a more “dawn of civilization” time. Each time, Minerva hoped that a true cure could be found without the need for Juno. But each time, the world failed to find the answer. Minerva warned Desmond that it would be better for the Earth to face near extinction of the human population than it would to set Juno free. She revealed that the underground location they were in would preserve them, allowing them to re-emerge later and start civilization anew and restart the cycle. Desmond, however, had already made up his mind. He was of the mind that those who remained would find a way to defeat Juno, and chose to sacrifice himself and set her free.
….And then the credits roll. This is certainly not the ending that I had imagined (though, what kind of Assassin’s Creed game would it be if it didn’t leave you with a cliffhanger?). This is not an ending that will leave you with happy feelings and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. After the last credit rolls, you see a triumphant Juno begin to walk away from Desmond’s lifeless body, pronouncing that it was time for her to rule those who remain on the world.
You are only given one seed of hope. The animus interface once again boots up, and you are put back in control of Connor, hearing a voice that you’ve never heard before talking about restoring corrupted animus files and reading a secret hidden code within the world. Perhaps this was not the complete end, but rather simply the end of Desmond. Still, no matter where the story goes from here, even if it finds a triumphant end, it is hard to be happy with the fact that you played through 5 Assassin’s Creed games for the story of a man named Desmond, only to see him die in what appears to be one of the most hopeless of situations. I know you can’t please everyone, but this seems particularly heartless.
Of course, there is certainly a lot more meat to the story, but hopefully you already knew that after beating the game.