Assassin’s Creed 3 is a cut above the rest and worth the hype. It has to be one of 2012’s best ways to spend fifty hours of your existence. Go buy it now. Seriously. The game is everything you would expect from the Ubisoft series: epic in size and imagination, dense in plot, full of innovative action and arguably the best game of 2012.
AC3 continues and concludes the story of memory traveller Desmond, who relives the past through a special mind-machine and, in this installment, is joined by a half American Indian, half British Mohawk assassin called Connor. Even if the name does sound a tad Irish, we can surely forgive the considerably mismatched cognomen. The epic, breathtaking spectacle is, after all, what we paid good money to see and this game doesn’t disappoint.
War of Worldsimage courtesy of egmnow.com
Connor’s relived time setting is, of course, the raging War of Independence in late 18th century America, with modern-day Desmond being chased by Templar agents. Meanwhile, in a parallel world back in the 1780s, the Templar-controlled British army confront the rebel American Patriot army.
Connor, as part of the Assassin brotherhood, stands apart from either of the warring sides, seeking answers for his people, while his allegiance ostensibly to neither. He embarks on various stealth missions to assassinate, as would be expected of a man of the creed, and through the course of the game becomes entwined in the grand historical events taking place in the background. Grand is perhaps not the right word for the size and scale of the world that this game allows you to inhabit; one feels that the New York and Boston settings alone must have taken the designers half-a-year apiece to depict.
Ubisoft have been careful to make things a little harder and response-orientated for the user this time around. This is a welcome adjustment from the prior two titles, in which stunning death moves seemed to be summoned at a nonchalant flick of the controller, cheapening the gaming experience. The fighting action is determined more by speedy in-fight blocks and counterattacks, feeling slightly more realistic as a result. There seems to have been a design compromise: free running only requires one button to be held down to sprint, but the actual combat relies a lot more on agility than on the usual button-bashing frenzy.
The player movement retains its hallmark gracefulness and fluidity, but some of the old mid-mode quirks also remain present. One minute you are leaping Crouching Tiger style from branch to branch through dense Redwood forests and the next you slip off a roof onto Bostonian pavement.
Glorious Side Missionsimage courtesy of egamer.co.za
The promised grand battle sequences of the Revolutionary War are a little disappointing – assisting the munitions crew and mincing around the fringes means you are rarely in the thick of the fighting action. But battles form merely one part of this multifaceted game. Perhaps the most unexpected part of AC3 is the homestead aspect of the game, where you are given a small enclave cum trading post with a community and port thrown in. Here, you can rule over your people, arbitrate and build new structures. This area also comes with its own micro-missions, which help to broaden our understanding of Connor’s character. This is a significant and welcome detour from what you would expect from this genre of game, especially if you care to remember the detached and simplistic cutscenes witnessed in the first title of the series.
Somewhat ironically, considering the size of the landmass allotted to the player, the best part of the action actually takes place on the big blue sea, me hearties! As a pure side-adventure, you can take to the waves with fully-operational ship-steering abilities and piratical inclinations, taking on Pirates of the Caribbean-style missions to find lost treasure. Burning fortresses, crashing waves and Men ‘O War all included.
AC3 would have perhaps been popular enough with just the standard Creed-ite fare of beautifully embroidered graphics and absurdly large worlds, but with the rich narrative, the forest stalking, the Jolly Roger naval side shows, the enhanced gameplay and just the sheer breadth of ambition here, you have to take your hooded cloak off and acknowledge that this is almost certainly one of the best action games of the year.