Assassin’s Creed 3 picks up from where it left off in the present-day storyline when Desmond awakes from his coma after being stuck in the Animus Island with Subject 16. It doesn’t even begin in medias res, unlike past games where there were wailing babies (Assassin’s Creed 2) and two angry bearded men fighting (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood).
Desmond is reunited with his fellow Assassin allies, Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane who will later on guide him through his very complex involvement with the Assassin and Templar factions. William Miles, Desmond’s father and the Mentor of the Assassin Order, makes more than just a cameo; he is given a major role alongside his son and the other Assassins who want to achieve the same goal – preventing the world from ending on December 21, 2012.
The four travel to the Grand Temple where Those Who Came Before lived before a global disaster wiped out their kind from Earth. Desmond’s main purpose and mission is to uncover what lies within the temple which can stop the upcoming catastrophe from happening. To achieve that, he must relive his next ancestor’s memories to find the key to activate the temple chamber. Simultaneously, he races to locate power sources before the Templars can, as these cells are vital for activating the chamber.
This is also where Desmond meets Warren Vidic, leader of the present-day Templar order and villain since the first Assassin’s Creed back in 2007. Only this time Vidic’s got a right-hand man named Daniel Cross…
The truth is written in blood
After creating a charming Italian, who was also a legendary Master Assassin, and ending his story arc, Ubisoft decided they would go for the strong-and-silent type to offer a brand new perspective of the world inside the Animus. Meet Ratonhnhaké:ton who later on adopts the name Connor. He’s the new main protagonist and hero. Patriotic, driven and unstoppable. But just when you begin to think you understand Connor Kenway, he turns a sharp corner and you lose track of the person he truly is.
Connor was introduced as a person going through a difficult time as he dealt with the tragedies that befell his tribe. It was only human for him to behave impulsively and display his bad case of a temper. I waited expectantly for this behavior to change but sadly, he did not mature from there. Connor was scripted to be a selfless and determined warrior, but the whole concept fell flat. He was like a lawnmower because of how he coldly pushed everything and everyone aside so things would go his way. His reckless ways strayed far from the order of the Creed and he suffered from a lone-wolf complex which often led to trouble. Big trouble. Even after he righted his wrongs, he went on with his arrogant and ungrateful ways.
His story was unoriginal and badly clichéd, so very predictable. His purpose was unrealistic, hard to believe and came off as a joke, making me wonder why his tale went completely haywire (such as the unnecessary eagle sequence in the game). Had Ubisoft chosen to create a different backstory for Connor, I would have appreciated it more. There are only so few ways a hero can be born, but Connor’s story could’ve been made much more believable. At the end of the day, though, Connor’s flaws can just be excused for having to fill in the big boots Ezio left behind.
His father, however, was a different story. Ubisoft’s mistake was overshadowing Connor’s personality a hundred times over with Haytham’s navy cocked hat and depth of his brilliant character. Haytham’s smart quips and sarcasm during the frequent squabbles with his son is, in fact, one of the main highlights of the game compared to Connor’s unlikable behavior and nasty temper. This frequently made us wish that Haytham was the actual star of the game.
In the world outside of the Animus, modern day Assassin Desmond Miles has a clearer purpose in Assassin’s Creed 3 eventhough his journey, like previous games, still resembled very boring and repetitive chores. One memory sequence was slightly more entertaining than the others because it was a stealth mission. Another quest saw Desmond wielding the Apple and, to avoid major spoilers, let’s just say it was a huge letdown. Desmond’s story gets another cryptic conclusion in Assassin’s Creed 3 but the whole plot is a rubble of mess by the end of it. Prepare yourself for disappointment, should you decide to listen to your heart and not reviews.
Gameplay mechanics and change in controls
So one day, Ubisoft decided that they’d throw players into the deep end to test the waters for themselves and they succeeded all too well. Assassin’s Creed has always been simple in terms of petty stuff like side quests and key bindings. At the start of every game, the introduction acts as a mini tutorial to remind players of the controls and help new players understand the concept of gameplay mechanics. As players progress in the game, they become accustomed to the new things and just go with the flow of newer things. Am I right? Right. For Assassin’s Creed 3? Wrong.
Players are now granted the ability to accept unlimited side missions without having to finish one at a time like the past few games, an excellent change if you ask me although it was never mentioned outside forums. ‘Clubs and groups who want you to join and give you quests’ mentioned in early March last year among the first few details about the game were never found either. New key bindings were also part of the guessing game. For example, PC players have to hold down ‘R’ to select weapons instead of ‘Q’ and press ‘E’ to deflect attacks instead of the right mouse button.
Horses have always played a huge role in Assassin’s Creed games. Ubisoft took a more realistic approach to horses in Assassin’s Creed 3 by allowing players to spur horses for a limited amount of time. In a vast environment like the Frontier, this came across as a big nuisance because fast travel was only available later on in gameplay. This, no doubt, made the journey across the treacherous terrain a tedious and terrible experience.
The user interface introduced in Assassin’s Creed 3 was not very different from the previous games, except the lack of a proper and prominent notoriety meter. Only when Redcoats started chasing Connor endlessly did I realize that Connor had stepped into grounds where he had full notoriety. With the stronger and more difficult enemies (such as Grenadiers and Jäger soldiers), the absence of in-game medicine made it hard for open and direct combat. Too bloody troublesome, if you ask me.
Just like every other action-adventure video game, Assassin’s Creed 3 has quick-time events, only this time they were incorporated into combat scenes with wild animals. The QTEs are way too quick for human speed. The usual ending to facing an animal upfront is getting mauled and it only seems to get worse when you go for a second try because the buttons have reshuffled by then. Trust me on this one: avoiding the ground when treading on the earth of hunting regions is a better option.
From assassin to hunter to sailor
When I ventured deep into the hunting regions, I had expected just green canopies and random cliffs dotting the area. But as I was heading for the Frontier, I accidentally stumbled across a river which led to waterfall-after-waterfall, like a very steep flight of stairs. I walked Connor to the edge and noticed a bear. The bear roamed around the trees and bushes for a while, before it made a beeline for the river. Then, to my amazement, it caught some fish in its mouth and devoured it on the rocky shore. Another time, high up on the cliffs and crouching on the branch of a very tall tree, I saw a group of cougars wandering and one particularly majestic wildcat perched on the top of a cliff, watching the treetops sway.
The playground of wild creatures is like a ‘virtual zoo’ because the wildlife are always doing something you would see in a zoo. The unbelievably meticulous detail of animal life makes the world come alive. In the Packanack region, I caught sight of a mother bear lazing by a tree with her baby bear and, later on, a line of piglets walking in a circle not far from the sow at a farm. In the city streets, you can pet or feed roaming stray dogs, cats, cows and sheep. Careful not to step on rats because they’ll die and you’ll hear a soft bone-crunching sound. Like I said: Meticulous detail.
I was looking forward to canoes because I enjoyed the gondolas in Assassin’s Creed 2, but canoes failed to get into the final version of Assassin’s Creed 3, although I personally believe that it would’ve been a great traveling option.
But never fear because naval warfare is here! After aforementioned flaws, naval missions in Assassin’s Creed 3 redeem the game as they are incredibly fun and well-implemented. In these parts of the game, Connor Kenway takes to the seas as the fearless captain of the Aquila, calling out to his crew for half sail or full sail. The ocean is a breathtaking shade of blue with layers of colors ranging from green to grey to white. On his ship, Connor dons his navy blue outfit and a cocked hat similar to his father’s. His right-hand man, Robert Faulkner, will often bellow pieces of advice on how to sail the ship. Faulkner also bears an uncanny resemblance to Master Gibbs of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and that would make Connor akin to Captain Jack Sparrow… maybe not in looks but the daffiness.
The flawed and the flawless
Remember when the walls of towers (especially the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence had you wracking your brain for answers? And your heart was beating so fast because you didn’t know if you would solve the four trials at San Marco in time? The American Revolution is a great setting, the cities are beautiful, the weather is just perfect and the people are interesting to watch, but it’s a lackluster when it comes to scaling buildings where the rooftops are flat. Climbing to reach vantage points is straightforward and boring.
Tree-climbing and explorable travel stations in Assassin’s Creed 3 are, what you could call, substitutes for the path climbing puzzles of previous games. Despite having its annoyances, let’s face it – climbing trees in Assassin’s Creed 3 is fun, even more so than watching Ezio grab flower pots to swing around building corners in the Renaissance era. It’s fun because the branches are aligned in the right arrangement for swift leaping and climbing Tarzan-like activities. The view from above is just as impressive as it is on the ground.
The underground journey through fast travel stations is claustrophobic but definitely noteworthy. Random enemies can be found conspiring in the underground tunnels and there’s the occasional cave wall to climb. Lighting up torches will help you find your way through, but the question is, if you can even find a way out? Following the pathway, I stumbled across four crossroads, chose one and ended up at the same place. It’s an easy place to get lost, unless you follow the rats (uncommon encounters, I might add).
On the bright side, the new hiding spots are ingenious although some are rare encounters. When fleeing from enemies, Connor can run through doorways into buildings or crash through windows and escape on the other side of the building. These are very creative additions but there are too few of them around the cities.
The ability to crouch in bushes is very useful when it comes to stealth missions (i.e infiltrating a Templar fort) and blending in with civilians was taken to a whole new level in Assassin’s Creed 3. Connor can sit down at the pier with other fishermen, pretend to admire some fruits at a stall, lean against the wall with two random strangers on both sides and other incredibly brilliant options to remain incognito.
Despite positive feedback, the Assassin tombs and hidden locations strangely didn’t make return in Assassin’s Creed 3 for unknown reasons. What a bummer because I was really looking forward to more puzzle-solving.
Instead, lock picking was introduced; it takes a combination of listening skills and patience to complete these tasks. Players are required to twist the lock from left to right slowly with their mouse or controller until it goes ‘click’. When reaching the right amount of tension to pick the lock, the clicking sound will become louder and faster, and eventually the chest will open. This addition reminded me of Batman’s cryptographic sequencer in Arkham City because both are equally enjoyable features.
There are several pretty good plot twisters incorporated in the storyline, unlike how stereotyped Assassin’s Creed: Revelations story was. Also, if you’re a history enthusiast or looking to improve your knowledge of the world out there, I suggest you read every entry on the Animus Database. The historical details stated are an excellent and very informative textbook during gameplay. Amusing, too, if you don’t mind Shaun Hasting’s snide remarks about Redcoats and American heroes. Before you question someone why Connor Kenway wasn’t named one of the Founding Fathers, take note that some profiles are fictional.
Assassin’s Creed 3 has a unique multiplayer mode, which Ubisoft started including way back since Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. This isn’t your typical “kill every bad guy you see” multiplayer commonly found in most first-person shooters and some third-person games.
Like in its predecessors, you’re thrown into maps filled with AI-controlled townsfolk and bystanders. Your targets are always somewhere among the crowd and it’s your job to hunt them down. It takes quite a bit of skill and some patience as you wade through the sea of people, pretending to be one of them. It’s really a test of how well you can contain your excitement to rush out at your target upon spotting them and also being aware of your surroundings, after all, you too are being hunted.
A new Wolf Pack mode allows you to buddy up with a few partners in a race against the clock. Wolf Pack makes you kill a set number of targets with each sequence becoming tougher with less time and more spread out targets with reducing tolerance before you arouse their suspicion. It’s a great game of teamwork and working together, instead of against one another, and bonuses are dished out the nearer together you and your teammates perform assassinations.
It’s a pity that the unique multiplayer mode of the last two Assassin’s Creed titles wasn’t embraced by a lot of players, despite the game’s success in sales. Hopefully this time around, people will be getting Assassin’s Creed 3 for more than just its singleplayer story as we think that the multiplayer mode is different from your average game and incredibly fun. Time will tell if the playerbase for Assassin’s Creed 3’s multiplayer continues to stay strong.
The element of nostalgia in music
Since the first game, the introductions have always been like a scene out of a movie, especially when the words ‘Ubisoft presents’ fades in onto the screen. I was especially excited for this moment in Assassin’s Creed 3 because of how the introduction for Assassin’s Creed 2 captivated me with Ezio’s Family playing in the background. But having expectations is just a horrible thing to do.
The camera panning to a wider angle to the beautiful surroundings was great and typical of an Assassin’s Creed introduction cutscene, but the music was hardly what I call impressive or epic. This applies to the rest of the game’s music, which lacks the eerily beautiful feeling I experience whenever I hear songs from the Assassin’s Creed 2 soundtrack. Admittedly, I was dubious when I heard Jesper Kyd wasn’t going to compose the music for Assassin’s Creed 3, but I decided to put my faith in Lorne Balfe, who produced the music, instead of judging him.
Don’t get me wrong, the few songs I heard while playing were pretty good but they just didn’t live up to the music of the past games. This case is similar to how Connor had to fill in the legacy of Ezio’s huge shoes. The absence of background music was deafening. The few times I heard music was during scenes when Connor gets detected, synchronizing at viewpoints, singing crew members on the ship, when Desmond plugs in the power source in their respective places (now that orchestral music was epic) and the occasional burst of music at the Homestead. Other than that, the cities have no background music and the cutscenes rarely have any. The credits simply recycled the same songs from earlier with a lot of silence in between.
Details, details and even more details
With AnvilNext as the new game engine, facial animations were improved greatly. The level of emotion expressed in the eyes and eyebrows of the characters was evident, deeming the game more cinematic than ever. The wide range of expressions further improved the realism Ubisoft was aiming for. From the aggressive personality of Charles Lee (except the permanent glimmer in his eyes) to the remorse displayed by Connor when he apologized to mentor Achilles Davenport after a heated fight and how Haytham’s gaze softened at the sight of Connor’s mother… the deep emotions throughout Assassin’s Creed 3 did a great job at offering players a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be in the shoes of a fictional character.
We already had an idea of what rain looks like in an Assassin’s Creed game (the Vatican chase scene from the Romulus Lair sequence in Brotherhood) and man, were we glad to see how atmospheric it looked in Assassin’s Creed 3! Rain or snow, thunderstorm or blizzard, bring it on, because Assassin’s Creed 3 welcomes all the seasons with the open arms of stunning graphics. When it snows, Connor has to trudge through the thick layer of slush, instead of running freely like he does on flat pavement. An excellent take on realism, I say.
One of the strong points in the entire Assassin’s Creed series has been providing an advantage to those who play by reliving history through this different but advanced way of education and integrating a gripping fable about the battle of two factions known as the Templars and Assassins, as well as weaving a usually tragic but epic tale of the iconic hooded hero whom gamers have grown to love and understand.
Assassin’s Creed 3 failed to deliver a compelling and believable storyline. Connor Kenway, the main protagonist lacked the appeal of his Italian ancestor, Ezio, and the countless supporting characters in the game were unimportant and forgettable. Despite the great, in-depth Animus Database, we did not learn much about the American history through actual gameplay and the significant historical moments that did happen were far too brief to make full-on impact.
Assassin’s Creed 3 does somewhat redeem itself by offering, without a doubt, the most gorgeous graphics we have seen in an Assassin’s Creed game yet as well as a brilliant multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode is refreshing and filled with heart-racing moments – not from stereotypical killstreaks or blowing things up, but from trying as hard as possible to stay blended in the crowd as you approach your target.
Ubisoft paid plenty of attention to little details in the game which made Assassin’s Creed 3, despite its meh storyline, incredibly immersive. The forests, townspeople, interaction between living things in the environment and even lockpicking interactions were all so finely created and portrayed, it’s almost as if you’re in the game itself. They did miss out being this meticulous in one area, and that’s the soundtrack/in-game music.
With Assassin’s Creed 4 confirmed to be in the works, we hope that Ubisoft will not repeat these same mistakes again if they plan to continue toppling other triple A titles from the charts in the future. As George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
- Nicely detailed environment and immersive gameplay
- Brilliant refreshing multiplayer
- Well implemented naval missions and naval warfare
- Unappealing storyline and main character
- Soundtrack a notch below previous games and background music is lacking
- Gameplay mechanics (especially quick time events) could be improved