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Assassin's Creed 3 Review
An Enjoyable Series
Assassin's Creed has been, and continues to be, an enjoyable series of games.
The combination of modern day technology (in the loosest sense of the term) and historical story telling, amidst fun game mechanics has been a heady mix, for all but the most critical of players.
Although titled AC 3, it is actually the fifth game in the series.
After AC 2, there were 2 more games, "Brotherhood" and "Revelations".
These expanded the tale, but kept the action firmly in the Renaissance time period.
With this iteration, we jump forward from the Renaissance in Italy (and Constantinople), to America during the time of the Revolution.
We also exchange fan favourite Ezio Auditorre for a new protagonist, called Connor.
I have to tell you now, this is both a good and a bad thing.
On the one hand, we get to play with a new set of weapons and skills, such as hunting and rope darts.
On the other, we don't start off as Connor and by the time we do, he feels like a bit of a let down.
Instead, we are treated to a very long introduction/tutorial that follows an enigmatic character as he travels through different missions on his way to the States.
Many gamers were upset by this sequence, feeling restricted for far too long - the opposite of how an open world game should be - and that Ubisoft had unnecesarily forced training wheels on them.
I must admit that I enjoyed most of this part and there were some nice twists to the tale, which I won't spoil here.
However, even I began to get frustrated that I couldn't get going as Connor, until I was quite far into the game.
Once I got there, I found that the trouble with him, is that he has about as much personality as a cardboard cutout.
There are various places where he does his hunting thing, or speaks in his native First Nation tongue, which should be really cool, but comes off totally dead pan and yes, boring (there, I said it).
I don't know whether it is the basic premise, poor dialogue or just poor delivery of his lines - there's just something lacking in his character that makes me want to go back to Ezio.
The original game, which broke new ground when it first appeared, to give us a unique take on the stealth genre.
For the first time in video games, stealth became "social": it was no longer about hiding in the dark, but about blending into the crowd.
Opening Up The World
However, once you get past that (and if you have been patient enough to make it that far), then the world opens up and you can see plenty of the brilliance that has made this series so popular.
The map is littered with activities, animals to hunt, items to collect, treasure chests to plunder, trees and buildings to climb, mysteries to uncover, conversations to have and forts to liberate.
This is a non-exhaustive list and doesn't include the actual story missions.
Like many open world games, the side activities are optional but you would be missing out if you ignored them and just steamed through the main plot.
Part of this is enjoying the richness of the world (not to mention getting more hours out of it for your buck), but there are other benefits too.
For example, hunting gives you animal pelts, which tend to get you more money when you trade.
If you hunt animals the right way - perhaps with your bow and arrow, rather than your gun - then the skins are better quality and fetch more cash.
You can then get all kinds of upgrades with the profits, which in turn can make future missions easier to complete, and so on.
Bigger by far then number 1.
The sheer size of the game world blew me away when I first played it.
Ubisoft listened to fans and critics alike and created what many still regard as the best in the series.
They mixed up the mission structure and removed many of the slower sections that plagued the first iteration.
They seriously upped the ante in the protagonist's moves and story line.
And the best thing about it was that you got to spend significant time with Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the most memorable non-player characters I have had the pleasure to meet in a game.
There is a new trading system in place, which takes a bit of time to get used to.
You get to build up a "homestead", in a similar way to improving your mansions in the previous games, and you can employ artisans and farmers to work the land around it.
They can craft items for you, some of which will become your own personal supplies.
Other items can be sent off in caravans to general stores for a hefty profit.
In turn, you can use the proceeds to buy upgrades for your caravans, house and ship (yes, you get your own ship!)
There are some really good ideas here, but I found the interface counter-intuitive at first.
Now that I have got into it, I like the complexity and options that it brings, but I do have one, fairly big, bug-bear:
Say I want to send half a dozen Elk hides to Boston, I should be able to select the Elk hides, and then just select that I want 6 of them to head off.
Instead, I have to scroll through the options to find the Elk hides, add one to the caravan and then scroll through it all again to get the next, and so on.
It's not game breaking, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is very annoying.
Do Not Adjust Your Picture
You may feel I am being harsh on the game, but I do really like it when all is said and done.
On the positive side, the graphics are great, there's plenty to do, and there are lots of hearty conspirators to keep you entertained.
You can build up your list of recruits and train them up, sending them on missions and calling for their help, just like in previous installments.
And you can sail your ship around the open sea while firing cannons at the enemy - one experience that really shouldn't be missed!
The naval element is new to the series in AC3 and they have done a stellar job with it.
The ships all have a feeling of weight and turning the thing around in a gale, to get the upper hand on the bad guys, is exhilarating.
Now I have a tough choice to make : can I truly recommend it?
Overall, I can give you a definitive "yes".
While the story doesn't quite mesh with all its constituent parts, leaving me wondering sometimes where its 'spark' is, there is plenty of good stuff for you to get your teeth into.
And of course, there's the gold standard when it comes to video games - despite the negative points above, it keeps me coming back for more.
© 2014 Tim Bader