Geekbox Reviews: Assassin’s Creed III

Assassin’s Creed III
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
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

Good Job, Brain!: Episode 38

This week, it’s time to talk MENERGY.

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Good Job, Brain! #38: The Man Show (2012-11-19)
Grrah! Get ready to punch trivia in the face with your MANLINESS because we are celebrating MAN stuff: important moments in beard history, etymology behind BBQ, snacks designed for men only, innovations in urinals, and the classic(?) American folktale of Paul Bunyan. ALSO: Pepsi’s new fat-blocking soda, collective nouns, what exactly “begging the question” means, E.L.V.I.S. Round. Starring Karen Chu, Colin Felton, Dana Nelson, and Chris Kohler.
Running Time: 48m 2s
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The Comic Conspiracy: Episode 84

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The Comic Conspiracy — Episode 84 (2012-11-19)
Join us this week as we discuss Superman vs Charlie West, comic tattoos, original comic art, Marvel vs DC, New Warriors Omnibus, MarvelNOW! reviews, The Worst Comic Book Ryan Higgins Ever Read, and the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Superman. Starring Ryan Higgins, Omar Brodrick, Brock Sager, Toby Sidler, and Charlie West.
Running Time: 1h 07m 53s
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The Comedy Button: Episode 54

“Lesbian gym role-play.” Yep, that happened.

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The Comedy Button — Episode 54 (2012-11-16)
This week, we whine about movie credits that go by too fast, engage in some lesbian gym role-play, confirm that flasks are stupid, imagine Teenage Mutant Sex in the City, eat the Price Is Right’s big wheel, teach Max a birthday raccoon fact, rave about Wreck-It Ralph, make fun of Food Fight, and explain why drunk texts to lady friends are never good. Starring Scott Bromley, Brian Altano, Anthony Gallegos, Ryan Scott, and Max Scoville.
Running Time: 48m 42s
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The Geekbox: Episode 194

Listener David Barabe joins us again to nerd out about James Bond, Nintendo, and super-cool mobile games. Don’t forget to vote for the Geekbox (and the Comedy Button!) in the 2012 Podcast Awards — polls close November 15!

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The Geekbox — Episode 194 (2012-11-13)
Wherein we discuss the Geekbox Christmas, CSI catastrophes, Disney-thons, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall (very light spoilers), the history of James Bond, Plague Inc., FTL: Faster Than Light, the Wii U’s impending launch, The Ship: Full Steam Ahead, and the most ridiculous Blizzard lawsuit ever. Starring Ryan Scott, David Barabe, Karen Chu, and Ryan Higgins.
Running Time: 1h 2m 48s
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Good Job, Brain!: Episode 37

Here’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart: the English language.

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Good Job, Brain! #37: Hold Your Tongue! (2012-11-13)
Let’s have fun fumbling through the English language! Think you know when to use i.e., e.g., [sic], etc.? Misheard lyrics, “eggcorns,” finger fumblers, “high concept,” and more. Is there a special profession meaning behind YOUR last name? ALSO: Drink your can of Bite the Wax Tadpole while Karen quizzes the gang on mind-bogglingly stellar examples of translation. Starring Karen Chu, Colin Felton, Dana Nelson, and Chris Kohler.
Running Time: 41m 3s
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The Comic Conspiracy: Episode 83

If you’re interested in the book binding company we discuss in this weeks episode, check out Herring & Robinson Book Binders, and don’t forget to tell them the Comic Conspiracy sent you!

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The Comic Conspiracy — Episode 83 (2012-11-12)
Bryce joins us again this week, as we discuss keeping Comixology comics, length of crossovers, some Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army talk, thoughts on Valiant, MarvelNOW Deadpool, Bendis’ X-Men, our trip to the book binding company, the cancelation of Hellblazer, DC dropping variants, and Uncanny Avengers lateness. Starring Ryan Higgins, Omar Brodrick, Bryce Larsen, Brock Sager, and Charlie West.
Running Time: 1h 07m 53s
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