Between its original release on consoles and this slightly delayed PC port, I've had a lot of time to think about Assassin's Creed III. That's not a luxury I have with a lot of reviews, and sadly one that does not bode well for UbiSoft's biggest holiday release. Despite its big budget production and impressive set pieces, I found myself liking this sequel less and less with the passage of time. From the way it handles Desmond's story to a hero I just couldn't connect with, much of Assassin's Creed III left me cold.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. This is the much-anticipated final chapter for Desmond Miles, a bartender who may be the man to save all of humanity. It's the exciting conclusion we've been waiting for since Altair Ibn-La'Ahad killed his first victim in 1189. After three games starring Ezio Auditore da Firenze, we finally have a brand new assassin and, more importantly, a fresh time period to explore.
Forget 15th century Italy, the storyline jumps several hundred years into the future to depict an era that is personal to many Americans. Set in the mid to late 1700s, Assassin's Creed III is about the birth of the United States. Instead of hobnobbing with Leonardo da Vinci, we spend our time working alongside George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and other historical figures. If you're a high school history teacher, UbiSoft's newest game is simultaneously your best friend and biggest nightmare.
Assassin's Creed III starts out strong, thanks to an extended introduction where you play Haytham Kenway. Over the course of several hours we see this man make his way from England to the new world of America. Haytham is on a mission and not even an insanely long boat ride across the Atlantic Ocean is going to stand in his way. At the same time, we're taught the basics of hand-to-hand fighting, manning a boat and patience.
Just as it looks like the tutorial is coming to a close, the game hits you with a few major twists ... and two more hours of learning the ropes of this brand new world. Now the emphasis is on climbing tall buildings, tracking enemies, traversing the dangerous countryside, hunting and working to save a struggling Native American tribe. It's in this final lesson that Haytham falls for a Mohawk woman named Kaniehti:io. And even though this is not a love affair that can last, it does create a mixed race baby that will go on to change the world for the better.
At long last, we're finally been introduced to young Ratonhnhake:ton, who we (and the game) will call Connor from here on out. Connor is a lot like any other kid; he's full of energy and loves playing hide and seek. But his carefree days come to an end when he witnesses his village burned to the ground by Charles Lee, a friend and colleague of Haytham Kenway. To make this situation even more tragic, Connor's mother dies after being trapped in her burning house. All this is too much for our young hero, who vows to get his revenge on the men responsible for this vicious attack.
Before Connor can avenge his mother's death, he must first train to become a master assassin. He does this with the help of Achilles Davenport, inarguably the most interesting character in all of Assassin's Creed III. Achilles is an old assassin who doesn't seem very interested in taking on a student. He's a recluse who lives far away from the rest of society. His house is broken down and a little rickety, which could also be said about the aging black man. But Connor won't take no for an answer and eventually wears the elder assassin down. Cue training montage.
After hours of set-up, we eventually get to a point where Connor can take missions that resemble past Assassin's Creed games. We do this in Boston, where there are people to kill and missions to take on. All of the old mechanics come in to play here, including sneaking through large crowds, tearing down wanted posters and climbing tall buildings to sync the feed. We also meet up with many of this nation's founding fathers, each with their own problems to solve. Occasionally these misunderstandings can be worked out by simple communication, but most of the time it takes a hatchet to the forehead to enact real change.
Many of the missions revolve around well-known historical events. At one point you're there helping dump tea during the Boston Tea Party. Another instance has Connor riding with Paul Revere as he warns that the British are coming. All this is pretty goofy, though in the loveable way you expect from the Assassin's Creed series. With so many big events to choose from, it's a shame Connor didn't find his way into even more historical moments.
When not rewriting everything we know about American history or training with Achilles, Connor is forced to take on a lot of very familiar mission types. He sneaks behind targets listening to their conversations. He hides on rooftops waiting for the perfect time to pounce. He chases after bad guys through burning structures. The setting may be different, but this is the Assassin's Creed you know and love.
Assassin's Creed III may not be the sequel I hoped for, but it remains another solid entry in the time-bending franchise. The setting is a lot of fun to explore and the first half really works on a storytelling level. Unfortunately the quality is thwarted by a weak villain, boring hero and frustrating mission designs. Couple that with a disappointing ending and it's hard to be enthusiastic about UbiSoft's latest Assassin's Creed game.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!