Saturday, November 10, 2012

Assassin's Creed 3 (Non-Spoiler) review

    The spoiler review of this game is available here.

    I think I may like this more than Assassin's Creed 2.

    This is fairly high praise, indeed, from me because Assassin's Creed 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Ezio has a tighter story than Connor, so far, and was consistently awesome from the very beginning. Assassin's Creed 3 has more of a slow burn feel and I'm not nearly to the end yet.

    Still, Assassin's Creed 3 successfully manages to integrate a quality that I had previously only assumed Bethesda knew how to properly do. Which is, bluntly, make it enjoyable for me to just wander around looking at stuff.

    In previous Assassin's Creed games, it's wonderfully fun to soak in the scenery as you're plotting the death of your next target. Still, I was never particularly compelled to go-quest all that much. Yeah, I went off-quest it involved Leonardo Davinchi's designs or a new set of armor but the main quest was where it was at. I never felt compelled to go after the feathers that were present specifically to pad the time.

    Here, I honestly am not all that tempted to continue the main story. There's endless hours of fun to be had simply exploring the staggeringly massive maps and appreciating the scenery. Hunting game is a lot more fun when cougars, bears, and packs of wolves might ambush you at any minute. There's also a ridiculous number of characters, both from history and otherwise, padding out the setting.

Those damn Continentals. You'd think they'd thank me for murdering the guy!
    I think I knew I would love Assassin's Creed 3 when one of the first people I met on the Frontier was Daniel Boone. As a man from Kentucky, this is like meeting our state's version of Christopher Columbus. The game could have incorporated the character more, had him befriend Connor or interact with him more, but it was nice to see him included.

    I could go on about the setting detail for hours, really. While there's none of the beautiful Old World architecture of the first two games, the wild forests of 17th century America are breathtaking. While there's not that much to climb in Boston or New York, there's an endless amount of fun to be had jumping from treetop to treetop.

    The storyline of Assassin's Creed 3 is excellently written but perhaps is taking on a little too much at one time. The designers at Ubisoft attempt to tell a balanced story of the American Revolution and may have made the gameplay suffer a bit. There's a HUGE amount to do but the personal story is a bit small. Whereas Ezio fought a very personal war of revenge, poor Connor Kenway is a man who who is stuck in a conflict well beyond his control.

    It's not a spoiler to know that Connor Kenway (a.k.a Ratonhnhaké:ton) is fighting for freedom. Unfortunately, he's fighting for all peoples' freedom and the fact he's a Mohawk while his mentor is a black man underscores this isn't going to end well for either of them. America, especially in its first hundred years, had a pretty despicable civil rights record.

     For all of our "land of the free, home of the brave" rhetoric, we have a responsibility for what happened to those who weren't white Englishmen. Assassin's Creed 3 doesn't shy away from that. I love America but those expecting a 'rah-rah' portrayal of the USA will be disappointed.

    Still, I wouldn't say the game is anti-Revolutionary War either. For all the hypocrisy the Founding Fathers get called on, you also get a sense plenty of them are decent people at heart. I'm especially fond of Samuel Adams who is a wartime propagandist and cynic but personally impressive. Benjamin Franklin also gets to recite his lengthy, "the merits of seducing older women" treatise, which is as hilarious today as it was meant to be in the 17th century.
I could spend all day wandering around the Frontier. In fact, for the past few days, I have.
    Perhaps my favorite feature of the game is the addition of a naval sailing mechanic. In addition to being the man who single-handedly wins the American Revolution (as much good as it did the Mohawks), is also an accomplished sea captain. Piloting the Aquila (Latin for Eagle), Connor wages war on British privateers and performs all manner of fun missions. All of these missions are optional but sailing is far-far more fun than the base defense mechanic of Assassin's Creed: Revelations.

     Is Assassin's Creed 3 flawless? Well, not really, no. Part of the problem is the game really wants you to experience all this new stuff and Connor sometimes feels like he's perfunctory to the plot. How does Connor feel about the ocean? What does he intend to do after the Revolutionary War is over? These are questions which could have been used to develop Connor's character more without detracting from the existing plot. Sadly, Connor too often feels like he's going along with stuff because he's the hero and knows it.

     Despite this, I'm going to give Assassin's Creed 3 a ten. This is not a measure of the game being perfect but a measure of how much fun I had playing it versus other games of its type. I'm going to continue playing the game indefinitely, collecting goodies and enjoying the scenery, which is about the highest praise I can give it.


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  1. I am not really that into Assassin's Creed. I have been playing X-Com: Enemy Unknown and it is fantastic. The game is great at portraying your small squad of soldiers with a small amount of resources against a technologically superior force and trying to figure out just want they want and how to kill them. The tension ramps up quite considerably and you will second guess a majority of decisions you make.