Review: Assassin’s Creed 3

The Assassin’s Creed franchise is arguable one of the biggest franchises for developer/publisher Ubisoft, and when the third title in the hugely-successful series was announced, gamers rejoiced that they will once again get the opportunity to don the famous assassin’s robe.

A screenshot from Ubisoft's Assassin’s Creed 3 (image: Ubisoft)

While Assassin’s Creed 3 is the third official game in the franchise, there has been a number of other Assassin’s Creed titles that fleshed out the context and story a bit, just so that gamers better understand the world and intricate plot points.

Assassin’s Creed 3 turns that upside-down and everything that gamers thought they knew about the characters and the Templars will be rewritten.

Players will be taking on the role of Connor, a half-British, half-Mohawk in their quest to finally put an end to the Templar Knights and the British Empire on the east coast of the U.S.

Connor has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is generally not a very nice person, but once gamers understand what he had to go through as a child, they’ll soon understand where his rage comes from.

But before players assume the role of Connor, they will be playing as Haytham Kenway, a British assassin sent to the U.S on a secret mission (as usual). The sequences with Haytham will serve as tutorials for the new combat system, navigation and general hints.

The levels with Haytham are rather extensive, and players will assume this character for a good part of about three hours in the beginning of the title. It might start to feel like a bit of grind for returning players, and some might wonder when Connor will make his appearance, but all will be revealed when the sequence ends. While it’s only in the beginning of the game, it showcases one of the most important turning points in the title – a true OMG moment.

When players get to the sequences with Connor, they first meet him when he is only a child (known as Ratonhnhaké:ton), playing around with the other Native American kids. After a number of happenings, gamers will control him again through his teen years and then in his mid-twenties. These levels serve as tutorials for Connor’s abilities, such as hunting for food, bow-and-arrow combat and climbing trees, which will then be used throughout the rest of the title.

As mentioned earlier, the title keeps a storytelling pace that is exciting and very engaging right from the beginning and even in Connor’s early years a number of revelations are made. The pace is kept throughout the rest of the game, keeping players on their toes and wondering where the tale will take them next.

In terms of graphics, the title provides for stunning scenery and a high level of detail will be visible throughout. When the player walks in the snow, they will leave deep tracks in it, as will any other characters. The game makes use of the Anvil Next engine, which provides the title with better graphics (compared to Assassin’s Creed II), a dynamic game world and weather system and a full day-night cycle.

The combat system has also been given an upgrade, making it a bit more fluid compared to the previous titles. Players will now be able to engage with multiple enemies at a time without breaking their combat chains – making it prefect for large groups. A number of small changes as also been tweaked for the general navigation controls, but those are easily remembered once the tutorials are completed.

Speaking of navigation, Connor (and by default Haytham) will be able to get around the world in a number of ways. When horses are in the vicinity, players can mount a steed and trot off to their destination, otherwise it’s running or hitching a slow ride on a wagon. One of the major changes in navigation is that players can now make use the fast-travel system from the game’s menu – instead of searching for a travel station in-game.

But while the entire game has been given an update and some changes, not everything is running as it should. When gamers insert the title in their console, there will be a title update that fixes some minor issues – but other issues remain, such as object clipping and enemies disappearing completely once killed.

The camera can also be a source of irritation for some, as it constantly tries to focus on the player no matter what, which will often result in the gamer staring at a tree if the character is standing behind it. While it can be manually operated, the default view does need a bit of tweaking.

The new menus can also be frustrating to navigate, as most of the usual controls have been replaced with a new system. It will take some time getting used to, but luckily it’s not that difficult to remember. While the sound in general is pretty good, such as Native American chants playing while Connor is being controlled, the sound of hooves on a wooden bridge has been omitted.

Its all small things, but they add up in the end…

Assassin’s Creed 3 might have small issues that can be easily fixed with a number of patches, but the current game is probably the best that we’ll see in the franchise. Ubisoft has done everything right in order to bring plot twists, engaging characters and stunning visuals to a title that already promised to be one of the biggest games of the year.

For returning players and players familiar with the series of titles, this one is a definite must, as it features everything that they will be used to – just on a bigger and better scale. Players who have never played an Assassin’s Creed title shouldn’t worry, as there is a very short “catch-up” sequence in the beginning, bringing everything in context.

And while the game hints that this might be the end of the franchise, it seems highly unlikely that a successful series will be culled over this iteration’s success. The only question for now is, where will the next game take place?

Our score: 9.0/10

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor