Swinging through the treetops certainly doesn’t seem like a particularly colonial pastime. And yet reviewers seem to love it.
The newest entry in the Assassin’s Creed saga takes to the 18th century and the heart of the American Revolution. Can Boston and New York, in their fledgling states, measure up to Damascus, Rome, and Istanbul? How about the forests full of trees and wildlife—are those as thriving a source for intrigue as the courts of Europe’s most powerful political players?
The answers, it would seem, are yes. Though reviewers are mixed about mechanics and can’t help but compare Connor Kenway’s taciturn countenance to Ezio Auditore’s natural charm, the overall feeling is definitely players who would like to keep stabbing their way through history—and perhaps save the world, while they’re at it—would do well to have a look at Assassin’s Creed III.
When it comes to the main missions, you tend to feel like a neutered killer with your path plotted for you, or a glorified stuntman who has to hit the marks in his big action sequence, lest he repeat it over and over. There’s no sense of empowerment in connecting the trivially spaced dots, or walking from one cutscene to the next, or chasing a man in a circle until you take the correct path and tackle him. By the time you get to the assassination, it’s been robbed of any planning or sense of accomplishment.
The social stealth element of Assassin’s Creed was stretched thin in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but it’s almost at its breaking point in Assassin’s Creed 3. Being able to blend into crowds doesn’t cut it anymore — it’s too easy to get caught — and the addition of brush to blend into barely makes up the difference. This is especially problematic during mobile eavesdropping missions, where being spotted or not keeping up will result in automatic failure. But it also makes pulling off perfect assassinations exercises in trial and error.
These are small sections of Assassin’s Creed 3 comparatively speaking, but they are a thumb in the eye of what might be the most ambitious Assassin’s Creed game. It’s so disappointing because everything else is so good.
Assassin’s Creed III is a big game that gives you a lot to do, some of which is fleshed out relatively well, and some of which isn’t. It is not, however, content to rest on the series’ laurels. It takes chances with its opening, with its story, and with its characters. It expands the series’ gameplay in enjoyable and sensible ways. As with many ambitious games, not every arrow fired hits the bull’s-eye, yet this big, narratively rich sequel is easy to get invested in. Other games stimulate emotion with manipulative music and teary monologues; Assassin’s Creed III rouses your mind and your heart by giving you a glimpse into its characters’ souls and letting you judge them on their own merits.