As Gamestyle mentioned in the preview for Assassin’s Creed 3, pre-orders for this game are at a high. On the 25th of October, just under a week before release, Ubisoft confirmed that AC3 is the most pre-ordered game in their history. Expectations are through the roof for the fifth major AC game, but can Ubisoft meet the expectations?
Without going over too much old ground, AC3 picks up where Revelations left off. Our main character Desmond is in possession of one of the Apples, and along with his companions Shaun and Rebecca, and his father William, is heading to the central vault. This vault, as advised by the messengers of the First Civilization, is where they will be able to save the planet from a solar flare that will engulf the planet.
With a great amount of difficulty, Gamestyle will keep this review spoiler free. But after some said that the story of Ezio went on for too long, AC3 has a new hero in the guise of Connor. There are however, various unknown elements to the story that were kept tightly-wrapped in development. Players will go through several twists and turns with the story, and any thought that perhaps AC was becoming stale will instantly disappear. After the ‘straight in to the action’ approach of the previous two games, AC3 has a more gradual build up which may not be enjoyable to all, but it is all worth it in the end. However, we can talk about what we do know, and that is a new character and setting.
Gone are Altair in the 1100’s, and Ezio in the 1400’s. The playable character is Connor, a half English, half Native American man, and the location is the USA in the 1700’s. The differences jump out right away. Whilst Altair was silent and moody, and Ezio was cocky and forward, Connor is actually…nice. The typical picture that is painted of Native Americans is that of respect, and peacefulness. Connor matches this perfectly. Polite and calm, it is a pleasant change to the typical gaming protagonist. The setting is what is really noticeable however. The older AC games often came across as being somewhat bland. Town areas blurred into one, and there wasn’t a great deal that stood out. AC3 and the USA however, really is a whole new world. The game feels alive. There are port areas, living sections, bars, shops and everything else that would be expected in a town. The NPCs are more active also, with conversations and actions coming across as much more natural. This is all noticeable from the start, but the greatest part of AC3, is the Frontier, or the area between cities. Forest, plains, canyons and settlements, everything is there, and it is absolutely stunning. It would not be too far fetched to compare it to Skyrim, that great is the level of detail. Weather conditions are a new feature, with the snow being a particular beauty. Whilst it is clear that AC3 is pushing the 360 to the limits (also being a two disc game), Ubisoft have made one of the most visually impressive games out there.
Trailers and previews revealed many additions in actual gameplay, and this is where AC3 really stands out. Whereas previous games revolved around simply finding hidden items, and purchasing various objects, AC3 is so much more. Again, listing all of them would spoil the game, but a couple that have been revealed include hunting, and naval warfare. The hunting is reminiscent of Red Dead, and involves tracking animals, setting traps, and skinning them. This gives the players materials for trade, such as meat and fur. The sailing aspect however, is something straight out of the films. Sailing along the seas, controlling the sails and firing the cannons, all that is missing is Johnny Depp on deck.
The base of operations (or Homestead) has also been greatly modified. Now in the form of a worn down country manor, the player no longer just watches the upgrades happen. NPCs are recruited to live on the land, which increases available supplies. Hiring lumberjacks (or the 1700 equivalent), gives supplies of timber for example. All of the mini games and side quests are just as immersive as the main story, and add another dimension to the game.
Linked to all of the side quests are various clubs and challenges. Performing certain requirements will result in the player being invited to join a club. For example, killing X amount of animals will gain an invite to the hunting club. These range in difficulty, and are well worth completing as they net the player much needed cash and other rewards.
In terms of controls, AC3 has been tweaked slightly. The right trigger still causes more attention attracting moves such as running, but there is no longer a need to hold the A button for free-running and climbing, as the right trigger causes it to happen automatically. Large jumps that could cause damage still need to be triggered with A, but generally it is a much smoother system, which should result in less misplaced jumps or unintentional movements. The combat system has also changed, and is no longer as easy as previous games. Holding block in armed combat does not work anymore, and each individual attack has to be blocked. From this, counter or disarm moves can be performed. As is the way for many games now, AC3 is yet another to borrow elements of the fighting from the Arkham games. This has resulted in more fluid battles, and due to the increased number of animations, they look even better than ever.
Due to the more advanced time period, firearms are now a bigger part of AC3 than previous games. This is not to mean that the game will descend into a shoot ‘em up however, as we are still running on basic gunpowder. So that means one shot, and then around 5 to 10 seconds to reload. Swords and stealth is still the primary choice, especially when up against large numbers.
The multiplayer mode returns, and as expected, has been improved. Again using the ‘story’ of being an Animus training programme, the player has a variety of modes to choose from. These range from a simple mode where the aim is to assassinate a target, to team based capture the flag. It is great fun, although is very unforgiving for lower level players. Something of note is that some customisation options are unlocked through the single player, which gives another incentive to 100% the single player mode.
A more unusual feature to be discussed in a game review is the historical content. There were concerns before release that Europeans would be portrayed in an excessively negative light in this game. What Gamestyle found however, was a fair and balanced view of the event, with arguments both for, and against, the American Revolution. In fact, it was even funny at points, with Desmond and Shaun (a proud Englishman) arguing about the events. So not only is this a fun game, but it is educational!
Annoyingly, the only negatives that can be levelled at AC3 are technical ones. As is almost to be expected in a large game, there are lots of bugs. The collision system isn’t always accurate, leading to limbs disappearing through walls for example. Guns can be found floating in mid-air. A particularly amusing glitch during reviewing involved Connor jumping a fence, and for some reason being catapulted 500 feet straight up in the air. However, Ubisoft are on the case, and there is already a patch for some issues on release. As these bugs can be ironed out, it is not a huge problem just yet, but they do need to be looked at.
Quite simply, one of the greatest stories of this gaming generation has just released its greatest chapter. Some complained of a lack of extras in the previous games. In this case, they will be complaining that they don’t know where to start. AC3 is one of the best games this year, and even the minor flaws can’t take that away. This is a must buy for fans of the series, and is a reasonable starting point for those who are yet to play any of the previous games. Hopefully this isn’t quite the end of Assassins Creed just yet, as the levels in the present day were very enjoyable indeed…