Lasting First Impressions of Assassin’s Creed III
Developed by Ubisoft
» About this time last year, I wrote my review for Assassin’s Creed Revelations and I admitted then that I had yet to actually finish the Assassin’s Creed series. Finally, in May of 2012, in anticipation for the release of Ubisoft’s ambitious and most exciting release yet, Assassin’s Creed III, I began playing the series from the very beginning. I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing the entire series back to back and completed AC: Revelations a mere 10 days before the exciting new title hit the stores. Now, Assassin’s Creed III, the 5th game in the series, featuring the 3rd assassin protagonist, Connor, has hit the ground running. Complete with a brand new game engine, called Anvil, Assassin’s Creed III is ready transport players into a fully living, breathing history lesson set in Boston during the American Revolution.
Like Assassin’s Creed II before it, this new game begins the story with our hero’s origins. So much so, in fact that you won’t even meet the new assassin, Connor, until around the 5 or 6 hour mark in the game. That’s right, the first six hours of the game is not only a very long, detailed tutorial section, but it serves as an intricately laid plot development with Connor’s own ancestors at the heart of the story. When we finally do meet Connor, the learning continues as the player is taken through some new but interesting gameplay elements such as investigating clues and hunting and trapping animals. In Assassin’s Creed III, animal pelts, teeth, claws and other hunting trophies are used as currency and trade in and around the towns. The detail in Assassin’s Creed III is astonishing in every way. Be prepared to live Connor’s life and be a part of his learning his own history and how he finally becomes part of the Brotherhood of Assassins. Even after all that is done, the game is really just getting started.
Assassin’s Creed III is the most beautifully detailed game in the series yet. Walking through the late 18th century Boston is simply astonishing. The buildings and environments are unbelievably lifelike and the city’s inhabitants go about their daily existence truly bringing the city to life. There are even animals wandering the street: cats, dogs, chickens, lamb, and more, each of which Connor can pet as he walks by them. As I wander through the city, I feel like I’m actually reliving history. The buildings look nearly photo realistic and I am reminded of many building still standing today that were probably erected in this era. I am more fascinated with the scenery in this game versus the previous titles because of the proximity in time to our own which provides much more of a history lesson than the other games ever did.
Assassin’s Creed III is also an absolutely huge game in terms of world size and the number of missions and side quests to complete. The cities of Boston and New York aren’t the only environments you will find here as some of the action will take place in wide open, uninhabited forest and plains areas. Trees are now climbable (Connor is the fastest climbing assassin to date), bushes and foliage can be used as hiding places (along with the usual hay and leaf stacks), and the wilderness is alive with animals, both timid and predatory. Additionally, and new to the series, is a dynamically changing weather and day/night system. Rain will begin to fall, fog will impair visibility, or it may start snowing and blanketing the ground (as seen in the image above). Snow in the wilderness will be thick enough to slow Connor down and the amazing amount of character animation will show just that: Connor will actually perform larger steps to get through the snow just as one would in reality. The weather system here is nothing short of brilliant.
Although there are many new features created for Assassin’s Creed III, it never falls short of being what it is: an Assassin’s Creed game. At its heart, it is still the same series we have grown to love. A new game engine is expected to bring new offerings to a game, in this case weather, time of day, naval battles (which are absolutely stunning), and much more, but if a game changes from what it once was, it will have failed. Assassin’s Creed III is far from a failure.
That’s not to say the new engine is not without its faults, however. There are glitches every now and again. At one point I watched as a character, right in front of me, disappeared and the broom he was using just dropped the the ground, and a boat I was standing on simply vanished out from under me. In other cases, weapons that Connor was using just weren’t there, and invisible walls are found from time to time when trying to climb a small rock. Other changes to the overall interface are also somewhat annoying. After becoming accustomed to the map on all the other Assassin’s Creed games, Ubisoft, for some reason, felt it necessary to change how the map in AC3 works. In previous games, the left stick was used to move the map around, with the right stick used for zooming in and out. This was a natural way to use the map as it corresponded to actual gameplay. Now, the right stick is used to move the map cursor with the left and right triggers used for zooming. This may sound rather insignificant, but since the main game uses the left stick for movement, suddenly having to learn to use the right stick for movement is a frustrating endeavour. The left stick is now used to move through a mapping menu that changes what you’re seeing on screen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally changed the map because I want to instinctively use the left stick to move around. Ultimately, Anvil is a new engine designed specifically for this game so I can certainly give it some benefit of the doubt. I’m sure, with more time, Ubisoft will perfect the engine and some of these issues will be fixed. Well, except perhaps the map issue.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed III is a welcome new addition to the family. It is gorgeous, fun to play with plenty to do, including some varied tabletop games like checkers, and loads of side quests to keep you busy for many, many hours. That doesn’t even include the multiplayer action that in still included here. The weather system is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a game before and Ubisoft should be rewarded for their efforts here. There is so much in this game it is hard to mention it all without writing a novel.
It may have taken much more than an hour to get to the real meat of the game, but that journey was well worth it. Would I have wanted to come back to the game after only one hour? Absolutely! Assassin’s Creed III is proving to be the biggest and most detailed game in the series yet. Fans of Desmond’s journey through his ancestor’s lives certainly will not be disappointed with this new entry and newcomers will find one of the most detailed game environments ever created.
Well done, Ubisoft, I am extremely IMPRESSED!