I started Assassin’s Creed III unsure of what to expect. I had a general feeling that AC3 had not been well-received, but other than that I knew little about it, except that it was a departure from the previous versions.
First thing’s first: The game’s new engine looks beautiful. I mean, drop-dead gorgeous. I’ve always thought Assassin’s Creed was one of the most realistic-looking games out there, even back to the first version, but this new version raises the bar higher than ever.
The game controls seem to have been simplified a bit, which I think is probably a good thing. For example, in previous games, you had to hold the right trigger and the A button to sprint, but now you only have to hold the trigger. That seems like a logical change, since you always wanted to sprint anyway. (Actually I *did* do a lot of jogging, but I don’t really miss it.)
At the same time, it seems like the combat controls are slightly more complicated. Or maybe it’s just that they moved the buttons around a little, so I have to use more brain power.
Synchronize is back on the B button, instead of pressing the right POV stick.
In previous Assassin’s Creed games, you spent most of your time in big cities, first in the Middle East and then Renaissance Italy, running around narrow streets and jumping around stone buildings. Now the game has moved to Boston right before the Revolutionary War, which is a substantially less urban environment. The buildings are spaced much farther apart. There are huge expanses of wild forest. It’s radically different for an Assassin’s Creed game. I don’t mind that it’s different. It’s kind of cool, actually. But I don’t understand why there are big wilderness areas with nothing in them. There’s occasional points of interest to visit, but mostly it’s just a big place to hunt in. And I’m not really clear on why I need to hunt at all.
The story seems disjointed. I was very confused for the first few sequences because it was my understanding that the main character was a Native American Assassin, but you actually start out playing a British super-spy. (I thought of him as Roger Moore’s James Bond in Colonial Times.) Then there’s a big surprise, which I did not see coming at all, and *then* you play the Native American. I was actually kind of disappointed when the character change happened. I liked the super-spy.
It’s a bit weird to play two different characters in one game. Shortly after the change in POV, you — now playing a young Native American — have a vision that you need to seek out Assassin symbols. This vision comes from a "Piece of Eden" that a village elder happens to have. Weirdly, even though your character hasn’t done any assassin training, you have a lot of assassin skills, including climbing and killing, before you even get to your trainer.
Then you find your trainer, and he’s a Magical Negro. I groaned out loud when he opened the door. Assassin’s Creed usually has compelling storytelling, but this was a major clunker.
I don’t know. Something just feels wrong with this installment. We saw Altair and Ezio grow to become master Assassins over time, and their journey made sense, more or less. They started out with limited abilities and grew to have a lot more abilities, growing to embrace the Assassins and their mission. And we as the viewer grew to like them. In this game, we don’t really see our guy embracing the Assassin culture. He just sort of "turns into" one, for no particular reason. His motivations to become an Assassin seem very flimsy or non-existent to me. Also, I can’t say I’ve really grown to like this Conner guy yet.
But I’m still playing. :)