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Monday, July 15, 2013

Game Review - Assassin's Creed III

OK, I'm gonna come right out of the gate with this one.  I loved the first Assassin's Creed.  Not so much the third one.  There are some upsides, but overall, it felt disappointing to me.  Perhaps it was that my expectations were too high.  It's always hard to make a game worthy of being a sequel to an already good game.  It must draw upon the previous, yet also transcend.  Do more with the material.  In that light, Assassin's Creed 3 really just felt like it was Assassin's Creed 2 with a different texture pack.

Don't get me wrong, though:  I was SO on-board with this game early on.  A native american assassin?  Hell to the YES.  Unfortunately, I feel that the creators put a lot of thought into the settings, missions, and NPC personalities... and not a lot into the main character's personality..  Connor himself is rather bland and seems to go through his life saying things like "You want me to go where?... OK" or "No problem, I'll just murder that guy for you."
I mean, I guess you can be that callous in your life decisions when you can just waltz into a redcoat fortress and murder the entire regiment single-handed... seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Seriously, the game's tutorial for the first fort forced you to take it via subterfuge.  It was challenging, and because of that, awesome.  Then you get into the real game and the easiest way to clear a redcoat fort is to literally walk through the front door and murder them all in a giant burly-brawl right inside the courtyard.  Then just loot it and raise the flag.  Done.

...When the controls worked, at least.  The other thing that was irksome about even the first Assassin's Creed game was that your run button was also your parkour button.  Trying to run from guards and turn down a narrow alley was often a dangerous feat, as you're quite likely to derp against a wall by merely brushing against it in your turn.  You'd abruptly stop, turn 90 degrees to face flush with the wall, and try to run up it.  This was especially infuriating if the wall was too high, as often he'd try a second or third time before I could get him to face away.  Often by that point, the guards were on you.  In the first game this happened so often that we took to just screaming "ALTAIR!" in frustration... as if it was him being stupid, not us.  In our house, this carried over to other games.  The other Assassin's Creed games would often bring shouts of "ALTAIR!" even if he wasn't the character.  It happened a few times in Arkham Asylum too, lol.  By Assassin's Creed 3, I'd hoped they had made that a little smoother, but no.  Too often for my tastes, Connor would run along a rooftop chasing one of Ben Franklin's papers, and instead of hopping to the chimney-top right in front of him, he'd veer off to the left for a tree-branch then tumble to the ground as it wasn't the kind of tree branch that the game allowed you to stand on.  Altair would be blamed.

Of course, there were other weird-but-funny glitches too:

Coming back to an earlier point on how others' personalities felt so much more interesting to me than Connors' own (and I won't even get started on how little I cared about Desmond):  The Davenport Homestead missions.  I liked those missions more than the main story missions!  It felt like you were building something (and you were), and there was clear and obvious progress towards goals!  I ended up constantly coming back just to see if there was some new side mission to improve the homestead.
Anything for me to do, old man?
Knock it off
What a lovely party
Oh.  Right... these guys.
The realization that there was nothing left to do but go back to the main story missions was actually kind of depressing.  There was this whole crafting system at the homestead for building up supplies.  Wow, whatever for? -I would ask myself.  I looked through what was available for a bit and thought to myself what I would do if designing this game.  Shit, I'd have the Templars come and besiege Davenport, making your progress in the homestead missions affect the outcome.  I'd have the stockpile play a large role as well.  Having a high stock of military weapons would make sure more homesteaders would be armed themselves when the time came.  More medicine would make the homesteaders last longer against the enemy forces as you ran around taking out officers and breaking their lines... it can't ALL be there for trade, can it?

SPOILER ALERT: It totally doesn't culminate in some kind of awesome raid/mission on Davenport, and it totally can just be there for trade.  Seems all that crafting stuff is mostly just used for trade.  But why?  Why would I bother selling medicine or fine hats for some paltry amount of cash when the beaver pelts sell the most?  Seriously the pelts always fetch the best price... what's the point of the rest?  Why bother with a heavily tiered crafting system to culminate in items whose only use is to sell for less than a beaver pelt?  And even with the beaver pelts: to what end?  To gain a lot of money?  The only real place to spend your money is on the crafting system, crafting more items... to sell for more money... that crafts more items.  It's an endless loop that culminates in nothing!  Seriously, that felt like the biggest let-down of the game.  Such a missed opportunity.

And then there's the historical figures.  I get it, we're playing a game in a historical setting... but I can't help but feel put-off by how many you run into.  For a freaking assassin, Connor sure does keep a high profile.  When not fighting George Washington's war for him or collecting Ben Franklin's notes, you can be found rubbing elbows with Sam Adams.  Did you know Connor pretty much single-handedly threw all the tea overboard in Boston while fighting off the redcoats?  Or that Paul Revere rode on Connor's horse (behind him, even) while doing his "The British are coming!" shtick?  Seriously, when that scene came up, it felt like the game had finally jumped the shark...

But OK OK, enough dumping on the game from me.  You want to know what I liked the best?  The naval missions.

Ready the port cannons, lads, we're bringing her about!
Seriously the naval missions were FUN. AS. SHIT.  I played the hell out of those.  They were amazing.  Hell, I'd play an entire game of naval missions!  Maybe one where you're a pirate assassin...

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