After six years and five major releases, the Assassin’s Creed franchise finally brings its epic saga to a close. Assassin’s Creed 3, the last installment in a 5-game cycle, concludes the story of Desmond Miles as he relives the events of the American Revolution through the eyes of a brand new assassin. Ripe with cinematic battles and important events, the revolution provides a gigantic historical playground for Ubisoft to intertwine its fantasy. After three long years of development, Assassin’s Creed 3 is without a doubt the biggest, best, and most polished Assassin’s Creed experience to date. While the game makes some major strides in competitive multiplayer, this review focuses on the overarching story of the franchise and will be very much geared towards players who are fans of the campaign and other single player mechanics. This review will be almost entirely spoiler free as well so don’t be afraid.
Ratonhnhaké:ton, better known by his American name of Connor, takes the leading role as the new assassin in Assassin’s Creed 3. Born to a British father and Mohawk Indian mother, Connor is raised not knowing whom he can trust and what he can rely on. The game begins in a rather unexpected way, allowing the player to relive events from other characters’ lives that appear later on in Connor’s story rather than beginning directly as Connor himself. The introductory sequences are rather lengthy and can feel somewhat slow to players who are more accustomed to jumping straight into the action. It would have been nice for Ubisoft to implement an optional action-oriented mode which would allow players to shorten some of the intro segments so that those players who are less story-driven can get straight into killing some Templar scum. For others, like myself, the opening is a much welcomed backstory that is remarkably well written and presented with fantastic cinematic quality.
It is in these very first missions that you can truly appreciate some of the improvements that Ubisoft has made using the AnvilNext engine. Character models are extremely intricate and are complemented by very well-designed facial animation techniques. The new engine excels in just about everything, from smooth character animations to dynamic weather effects. One of the major areas of the game is the Frontier, an open wilderness with vast stretches of land to explore. Mountains and foliage looks top notch and the game has some of the best looking water that I’ve ever seen in a video game. This is highlighted in what to me is the best addition to the franchise during its six year lifespan, the fantastic new naval warfare gameplay.
The announcement of naval warfare being present in Assassin’s Creed 3 scared a lot of fans. Many were worried that it was just another gimmicky game mechanic aimed at hyping up the game’s release. Not only is it the gameplay not a tacked on mechanic, it surpasses even the most advanced naval simulations in competing games that are out there today. With a fairly simple set of tools and weapons, the naval missions provide some of the most fun and addicting experiences that Assassin’s Creed 3 has to offer. The open waters look great, with waves crashing over the sides of your ship and storms often intensifying the battle at hand. With some practice you’ll become a master of the seas, opening trade routes that can be utilized in an elaborate trading system that is managed through your homestead.
In addition to some of the new mechanics presented in the naval sequences there are a slew of other features, both new and old, that show just how polished the game has become after so much development time. At the top of the list is the newly redesigned combat system which works almost flawlessly in action. Connor’s entire set of animations is completely brand new, and he is able to string together various combinations of attacks that deal lethal blows to all of his enemies. The addition of a double kill mechanic is immensely satisfying and instantly results in taking down both enemies with one smooth counter. The brotherhood of previous games returns in a simplified but functional form which lets you manage your assassins and send them on missions around the countryside. Along with calling on your assassins to aide you in battle you can also stir crowds of citizens into a riot, cursing British soldiers and providing a distraction for a quick getaway.
Varied mission types are also a major improvement in Assassin’s Creed 3. Liberation missions allow you to help citizens of specific districts in an effort to push them towards patriot control. Forts are scattered around the colonies for Connor to infiltrate, in which you must kill its officer, blow up the powder reserves, and proceed to raise the American flag, driving the British out of the area. The Homestead is another major area on which rests your estate and any villagers you manage to recruit. Although not directly tied to the main story, every side mission you complete contributes to developing and upgrading your town, adding new members and new shops. Each villager has their own stories which can be explored through further side errands and investigation. Towards the end of my play through I actually found myself caring for some of my villagers, thoroughly invested in the community that I had created. Of all the side missions in the game, these were by far the most charming and well developed.
A world as large as Assassin’s Creed 3 is sure to have some minor frustrations, and while they are ultimately outweighed by the enormous list of the other great features in the game, they are still present and undeniably noticeable. One thing that remains a frustration is the unreliability of NPCs during tailing missions, causing the target to sometimes see through walls or your allies to jump right out in front of them, automatically desynchronizing you from the memory. The architecture of Boston and New York look great, but I swear almost every single viewpoint is the exact same church that I have climbed up a thousand times. Ubisoft does give us some very cool tree viewpoints in some areas of the Frontier, but they are a pain to climb until you realize that each one is the exact same and you simply must memorize which branch to hop to next. One nice feature, however, is the ability to fast travel from anywhere on the map to specified known locations. Connor can also unlock new fast travel destinations through a challenging tunnel system located beneath the streets of Boston and New York.
Regarding Desmond’s story, which has been an ongoing mess of confusion ever since the first game, Assassin’s Creed 3 aims to wrap up the saga as a global catastrophe looms overhead. As the date slowly approaches December 21st, 2012, Desmond must find a way to stop whatever horrific global event that is set to occur. Without revealing any spoilers, Desmond’s narrative eventually wraps up and the overarching story is indeed finally over. While I felt content that the story had finally concluded, its ending was mildly anticlimactic and I wasn’t left with as great a sense of meaning as I had hoped. Regardless of the successes and failures of the franchise as a whole, Connor’s story in Assassin’s Creed 3 is without a doubt one of the best campaigns that I’ve had the chance to play through.
Connor quickly became my favorite assassin. His personality and motivations throughout the game are based solely on his perceptions of justice and the pursuit of freedom. His story is one of both hardship and triumph, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to accompany him through the various stages of his life. The revolutionary setting is crawling with creative opportunities that will make anyone familiar with American history excited to be a part of it. For fans of the series, this last installment is a must have item for your collection. For newcomers to the franchise, it is a perfect entry point that shows off some of the best features that the genre has to offer. While Assassin’s Creed 3 does have some minor flaws and technical bugs, the game provides one of the grandest and most unique experiences that has graced this console generation. Fight through history as a brand new assassin and do your part to ignite the revolution.
FINAL RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)