Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Assassin’s Creed III

As one of the earliest big budget intellectual properties (IPs) to make it’s debut on current-generation hardware, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise will undoubtedly become synonymous with the high-definition (HD) era in the same way that Tomb Raider is with 32-bit systems and Guitar Hero is […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageAs one of the earliest big budget intellectual properties (IPs) to make it’s debut on current-generation hardware, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise will undoubtedly become synonymous with the high-definition (HD) era in the same way that Tomb Raider is with 32-bit systems and Guitar Hero is with both the birth and languishing of the music peripheral market. Before we step into that next generation however, the franchise is once again attempting to set it’s own bar higher; to recount the losses made with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and best all of its own previous experiences with Assassin’s Creed III.

Before even beginning the videogame it’s obvious that Assassin’s Creed III is doing it’s best to refresh every aspect of the franchise, from the significant overhaul of the navigation system to the change of era, character and continent. Setting Assassin’s Creed III in America is simply a masterstroke of design, as the location and thematic presented are Electronic Theatre Imageone with which a huge proportion of the franchise’s market can directly relate; not just through their impressions of a land a world away earned through school days and Hollywood blockbusters, but through everyday life. And this remarkably astute design exists in most all of Assassin’s Creed III’s delivery.

Assassin’s Creed III continues the story of the Templars, the Animus and Desmond Miles. Retelling the tale of each chapter in a narrated cutscene which is cleverly designed to piece together the important parts of the puzzle in a way that maintains the intrigue of previous characters for those players who may not have yet played those earlier videogames. The opening chapters introduces a new and surprising protagonist, but the experience doesn’t truly begin until we meetElectronic Theatre Image Ratonhnhaké:ton. More commonly known by his assumed name Connor Kenway, this man is our new protagonist, with a more personal vendetta than that of Altiar’s and a much more aggressive temperament than the romantic Ezio.

Kenway is a killer. While previous heroes have used their murderous training as a means to an end, Kenway is happy to rip apart his foes as he fights for what he believes is justice. He’s a black hat officer in a film about breaking the law for the greater good; he’s constantly in his sergeant’s office being harassed for wilful destruction of public property and raising the bodycount above measurable means. Only he has no sergeant, and there is no-one to argue that his violence is beyond any sane man’s level Electronic Theatre Imageof acceptance. There is no-one to keep that aggression in check, and so Kenway keeps slicing through foes with gritted teeth and a hatred for any and all things in his way.

The first gameplay the player will encounter is that of training for the free running and athleticism of their character as well as the unarmed and weapon based combat. Before the player is given any real freedom however, they are also introduced to the world in which Assassin’s Creed III resides: as this is America, the action is far different to that of the Middle East. A youthful Boston lies beyond the snowy wilderness which gives way to beautiful valleys and rocky mountain ranges in summer, all of which can be traversed with Assassin’s Creed III’s hugely improves navigation system.

The free running aspect of the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been a highlight since the very first title. The original Assassin’s Creed is often considered a perfect demo – if a heavily flawed videogame experience – showcasing just what Ubisoft had managed to accomplish within the early days of the current-generation and the new hardware it brought with it, and as such Assassin’s Creed II Electronic Theatre Imagemarked a huge leap forward not in the navigation system, but in the videogame built around it. Assassin’s Creed III does both of these things, progressing the evolution of missions tied to the storyline whilst also rejuvenating the free running mechanics. The first change is that players no longer need to hold A button (Cross on PlayStation 3) while running to sprint, with the player’s avatar now acting more appropriately in near-every instance. In line with this more intuitive implementation is the scaling of objects, which sees the player able to climb almost any rough surface thanks to the immediate visual feedback, but also being able to rely on their own reactions not to plummet to their death: assassin’s will no longer leap freely into the abyss, instead coming to an abrupt halt before walking off that ledge into the nether. The only time the player’s avatar will continue onto a new surface is when it is safe to do so – not in terms of enemy units or other assailants of course, but in terms of a welcoming footing and handhold – as they rightfully should. Gone are the days when journalists and gamers alike will refer to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s free jump as the instigator of videogame free-running design: Assassin’s Creed III has finally done that which it seems the series was born to do, pushing this envelope one stage further. From 2012 onwards, free running design will pay homage to Ubisoft’s white clad assassins rather than the curious elf in a green tunic.

Another system which has received a significant overhaul is that of the combat. It has long been a complaint of the videogame playing public that Assassin’s Creed titles would throw a dozen enemies at the player but only allow a handful of them to attack at any one time. It was an illusion of grand battles cleverly devised at the affordance ofElectronic Theatre Image high hopes and limited technical capability. As the generation has matured however, so too have the techniques implemented during the development process, allowing Assassin’s Creed III’s developers to not only throw dozens of enemies in your direction, but also to have them attack you all at once.

As would be expected, Assassin’s Creed III allows the player to accumulate skills to combat these would be killers, with a variety of parries and counters, disarm manoeuvres and guard breaks designed to give you the upper hand. Assassin’s Creed III’s combat system brings into play the usual assortment of weapons and accessories (the latter of which is permanently available on the Y button (Triangle on PlayStation 3) to allow for swift and decisive attacks) but also adds a selection of brand new attacks and evades, such as the ability to take human shields. Enemies will regularly take the smart line of melee troops charging in to provide musket and rifle units the opportunity to reload, take aim and fire. There’s little better feeling than grabbing one such distracting foe and lining them up in the split-second before the trigger is pulled, leaving them to fall to the ground as you pursue the now defenceless gunner regiment.

As stated above, the mission structure follows the flowing design of Assassin’s Creed II, with players moving freely between objectives before becoming locked into specific activities in order to progress the story. There are some truly imaginative objectives that take on greater life than the typical hunt and kill missions – though Electronic Theatre wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise here – but there are Electronic Theatre Imagealso some more questionable inclusions. Assassin’s Creed III relies far too heavily on the ‘do X without being detected’ situation, and there are many occasions when it’s just not a welcome design, let alone those when it’s simply infuriating given the difficulty and the lack of mid-mission checkpoints.

More successful are the variety of sidequests available to the player. Although dozens of different features are available – including the much discussed naval combat – the two most enjoyable distractions Electronic Theatre would like to highlight are those of the brotherhood and the homestead. Despite not being a headline feature, meeting each of the characters available to join your brotherhood, managing their actions and increasing their abilities is a management scenario that simply hasn’t been cast enough light in the run-up to launch. More fully explored than in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and more welcoming than the deep-end introduction of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the brotherhood aspect of Assassin’s Creed III does the mechanic justice, embedding it in every aspect of your adventure and yet at theElectronic Theatre Image same time allowing players to ignore it for large portions of the videogame, if they so choose. The homestead is another kettle of fish altogether, with it’s own deep rooted trading an upgrade system that you’d simply be foolish to ignore. The satisfaction that comes with improving your personalised accommodation runs far deeper than Assassin’s Creed II’s villa and is perhaps only equalled by the accomplishment of receiving an invitation from another character to work with them in the progress of its development. The mechanics of developing, processing and retailing new materials are far too deep to fully explore in this review, and doing so would surely take away some of the pleasure of discovery, but if the intention of the homestead was to pull the player through the story as they search for their next addition/improvement/companion, that mission has most certainly been accomplished.

Assassin’s Creed III features a number of repurposed historical icons in the same manner as Assassin’s Creed II’s Leonardo Davinci. The first you meet, not long after the videogame’s opening, is a certain Benjamin Franklin, a comrade that offers players goods in exchange for capital. Gambling mini-games, hunting and collecting manuscript pages via feats of agility are also welcome respite opportunities too, and completing everything which Assassin’s Creed III has to offer is certain to take months rather than weeks.

Of course, this is before you even begin to consider the multiplayer gameplay of Assassin’s Creed III, which in itself is a significant enough time sink to warrant a similar investment. Clearly building upon that which was established in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and refined in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Electronic Theatre ImageAssassin’s Creed III isn’t simply more of the same in multiplayer; it delivers exactly what would be expected. Bigger and bolder for its third outing, the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer gameplay now offers both competitive and co-operative gameplay, with the latter worthy of particular note.

The Wolf Pack gameplay is, for all intents and purposes, the got-to gameplay mode for friends who want to experience the traditional Assassin’s Creed gameplay with like-minded friends. A co-operative skill-based game type in which players are rewarded not for individual achievements but for synchronising their plan of attack, the Wolf Pack mode is a welcome addition to the already fill-to-burst multiplayer component of Assassin’s Creed III. Furthermore the multiplayer is now qualified by the inclusion of story elements and huge array of unlockable items for Electronic Theatre Imagethose who progress through the level system. More than ever, there’s evidence here that adding multiplayer gameplay to Assassin’s Creed not only deserves a wholly separate studio, it requires one.

From a technical standpoint Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t break the same kind of boundaries as it’s predecessors, improving on past outing but failing to par with the biggest titles on consoles, such as the forthcoming Halo 4. That being said, Assassin’s Creed III is undoubtedly the HD generation’s current poster boy for stereoscopic 3D technology. As Ubisoft pioneered the technology with the underappreciated James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, it’s seems obvious that it would be another of the publishers title that would be best positioned to push that envelope, and yet the precision delivery of Assassin’s Creed III’s depth remains nothing short of remarkable.

The sound quality is also delivered in an incredibly high standard, featuring a soundtrack that would stand-up next to any of the current-generation’s most prized creations and a voice cast that, for the most part, are entirely believable in their portrayal of love, hate, venom and despair. Kenway is worthy of particular note, as his bile filled Electronic Theatre Imagedialogue only further serves to present a character that is easily despised for most of the videogame; he’s a not a man who is easy to relate to in any measure aside from that of his quest for vengeance, and for those of us who loved Ezio’s disarming wit and characterising charm, that’s exactly how it should be.

Launching as part of the busy fourth quarter, Assassin’s Creed III certainly has its work cut out to secure a position of one of the biggest titles of the year. That being said, the huge established audience and is surely more than enough to push the videogame into the collective conciousness before the likes of Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 begin lining retail shelves, and once word of mouth spreads the unequivocal breadth and depth of each and every aspect of Assassin’s Creed III it’s surely only a matter of time until Ubisoft’s latest is highlighted by the gaming public as one of the biggest and best videogame experiences of the year. Assassin’s Creed III offers the same quantifiable leap from the original Assassin’s Creed that Assassin’s Creed II presented four years ago, and given the path the franchise has taken it that time, we can only expect bigger and better things from our adventures in the Animus yet to come.

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