Assassin’s Creed III
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (October 30, 2012), Wii U (November 13, 2012), PC (November 20, 2012)
Genre: Stealth action-adventure
Official Website: Assassin’s Creed @ Ubi.com
Reviewed By: Eric Neigher and David Wolinsky
Eric Neigher, Midnight Rider: So, in Assassin’s Creed III, much like every other Assassin’s Creed, you go around in a cowl, chop bad guys down with a knife or tomahawk, and generally just be a badass. In this one, you can jump around on trees, which is cool — and you get to kill British people, which is… actually kind of guilt-inducing, but still cool.
But one thing I’ve had an issue with as I’ve been playing is that every time the historical setting, Colonial America, gets to an apex, you’re pulled out of it to the game’s familiar frame story, about a dorky guy named Desmond living in some city in the future. The narrative, to me, is greatly harmed by this device. What are your thoughts?
David Wolinsky, Paperback Writher: Well, hold up. I think it’s great that the game is set in the colonial era. I am predisposed to love it; I mean, I’m a guy who, in high school, wrote and recorded a comedy hip-hop album about Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin battle-rapping against George Washington and Thomas Edison. (Yes, really. Really.) I’m not bragging about that, but just saying: I really, really love this time period. So, a game that takes place in it? I’m down.
That said, I’m shocked at how much Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t really deliver. It’s very slow to take full advantage of everything the setting offers. It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch, where you think you’ll be riding with Paul Revere and teabagging George Washington (seriously, screw that guy)… and instead, it starts off with Desmond per usual, and then you ride a boat to America. It takes about an hour or two before you even hit the colonies.
I don’t know. I feel like Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed is firmly in the “smell the farts” phase of its success. Ubisoft’s paid its dues and built a legitimately huge series, but I think the developers are getting lazy. I mean, its awfully telling that we’re — how many games into the AC series now? — and none of the fighting systems work decently. They still aren’t intuitive, they still don’t feel natural, and combat in a game like this is something you should be excited about, not suffer through. It should have been fixed in Assassin’s Creed II, but niggling frustrations like that still remain in 2012. But, hey, do you want cut-scenes bursting with melodrama set in not just one, but two different time periods? Because AC3 has plenty of that.
But, Eric, once you’re past all the initial tutorial stuff, how do you feel about the game’s flow? Is this a better game? Is it a necessary sequel? What works for you? What doesn’t?
Eric: I agree 100% about the fighting system. Just rip off Arkham Asylum already, jeez. Sleeping Dogs did that, and that game was really fun. I feel like you just use the same moves over and over on the guards/redcoats/whoever, and all the other key presses become irrelevant fodder.
Whether AC3 is necessary is a complex question. I guess we should take this time to remind ourselves that video games are a business, and that Ubisoft has a valuable property that it wants to exploit, so why not just throw up whatever it can and then cash in? OK, that’s harsh — this game does feel lazy, but not to the point that it feels like a craven cash-grab. It just feels… like a retread. I’m really beginning to hate Desmond and his stupid cadre of idiots that he uses as sounding boards for exposition, too.
As for the ship-to-ship combat, it’s definitely an interesting addition… but I feel like we’ve gotten so far from Assassin’s Creed’s original core that we might as well be playing Sid Meier’s Pirates! The ship fighting is fun and epic and whatever, but it’s not always very “assassin-y.” It’s also not very realistic for a game that pays a lot of lip service to realism — billing how you kill all targets at the real time and location of their actual deaths, for example.
Regardless, without its core, what remains in AC3 is a hodgepodge of different game types now: third-person naval action, Final Fantasy-esque cut-scene drama, tons of minigames for no reason, big epic wargame-ish battles — oh, and Assassin’s Creed is in there somewhere, too.
What did you think of the historical setting? Did you feel that it does right by the American Revolution, the political situation, and the whole thing with the Indian protagonist? Or did the story fall flat for you?
David: I dunno, man. Yes, much of the game falls incredibly flat — it’s almost like AC3 gets far too caught up in creating the world, rather than making it fun. I found myself frustrated and bored, and I suspect it’s because the series is finally falling prey to the same downfalls that plague so many open-world games: too much to do and a lack of any real depth. And we have a triple-whammy here, as the AC hallmarks are just getting old. I mean, what is this series really about? Answer: climbing and killing. Ubisoft’s wrung a lot of mileage out of these two key ideas, but they’ve lost their luster. Even with Ben Franklin in the game extolling the many virtues of bedding elderly women, I didn’t find it too entertaining.
Eric: In keeping with my usual practice of not playing one second of a game before I review it, and making many factual mistakes in my reviews, I would like to say that I’m glad Assassin’s Creed finally has a zombies mode. That was the most fun part of this game for me. That, and the title screen that I looked at for exactly eight seconds before writing this.
Anyway, I should be clear: Assassin’s Creed III is a good game on its own merits. If this had been the first game in the series, it would be really cool and interesting. But because it comes at the tail end of multiple similar games, what we really get here is a skin with some new minigames. The skin is pretty; it has put the lotion on itself. Between the new bells and whistles, the upgraded setting, and the generally competent execution, Assassin’s Creed III might be enough to completely satisfy some folks. But then, I know not what others might say. As for me: Give me originality, or give me the uninstall icon.
FINAL SCORE: 1,404 out of 2,160 cracks in the Liberty Bell