"Worthy of the Brotherhood... Sort Of"
Right out the door, the best comparison I can use to describe Ubisoft's latest entry into the infinitely popular Assassin's Creed franchise, Assassin's Creed III, is that the game is much like the protagonist, Connor. He's a pretty great guy, no denying that, and a top-notch Assassin to boot. At the same time, he's got a major chip on his shoulder. He's often moodier than an angry teenager, and he doesn't quite understand how Western society operates. More than that, when measured against Haytham Kenway (who you spend the first several sequences playing), he feels bland, flat, and boring. In short, he's more than a little rough around the edges.
I hate to say it, but putting the player in Haytham's shoes first probably wasn't a great move on Ubisoft's part. Imagine you're at a restaurant, and the chef gives you a few bites of the richest, most delicious cheesecake you've ever had. Once you're partway finished, he takes it away and shoves a tasteless piece of pie onto your plate. It's still dessert, and it's still filling, but the whole time you're eating it, you can't help but think of that cheesecake and how incredible it was.
That's how it feels transitioning from Kenway to Connor. Jarring. Disappointing. As though something's missing. Connor doesn't have Altair's quiet dignity, nor does he have Ezio's sharp wit and natural charm. He just sort of... moves from place to place, motivated by revenge and a spirit vision, inserting himself in history in such a fashion that one can't help but think of Forrest Gump,
One final problem with Assassin's Creed III's story before we move on: if you haven't played previous entries in the series, you're probably going to feel a bit lost at certain points. That's often one of the problems with story-driven sequels: anyone who hasn't played the other titles ends up scratching their head in confusion. That aside, the story is reasonably engaging, all things considered. In any case, that's enough about the story - let's move on.
The controls in Assassin's Creed III have been noticeably improved from previous entries in the Assassin's Creed franchise, and while some veterans of the series may have a bit of trouble adjusting to the new layout, it feels a lot more streamlined, simple, and natural. Free-running, in particular, has been vastly improved, and it requires the player to do little more than hold down the trigger and point in a direction. That Connor can free-run from tree to tree and kill opponents without even jumping down is awesome.
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a nerd, I felt on more than one occasion as though I was the Predator from the movie of the same name.
Unfortunately, while Ubisoft takes a few steps forward with the new controls, they take a few steps backward with a few core mechanics. Assassin's Creed III's stealth mechanics, in particular, are incredibly nit-picky, and more than a little obtuse; there were several points where my character either didn't hide when he was supposed to, dove into cover instead of killing a target, or jumped out of cover and revealed himself. In a game that relies so heavily on stealth, it's rather unfortunate that the stealth mechanics are so frustrating.
There's also the chase sequences. Dear lord, the chase sequences. At several points, I found myself facing away from my target when the sequence began, desynchronizing almost immediately due to the time it took me to turn around. The massive, glorious battles don't feel as epic as they should, either. There just doesn't seem to be as much going on as one might expect in such a conflict.
Another problem with Assassin's Creed III arises with the ever-present loading screens. They're bloody well everywhere, and occasionally they'll even interrupt lines of dialogue. They feel far too numerous, and I may have spent about a quarter of my time playing through the title staring at a loading screen.
One last thing: Ubisoft, escort missions are bad, and you should feel bad. Stop including them! The fast travel system isn't so great, either. Half the time you don't actually wind up anywhere close to where you expected to travel, and it's sometimes hard to tell if you can fast travel to a location or simply place a marker there.
It might sound as though I hate Assassin's Creed III at this point. I don't. Because for all the things it does wrong, there are several it does very, very right. The music is absolutely brilliant, the naval battles are incredibly fun and have you fighting against the wind and waves while cannon fire booms in the distance and wood splinters and explodes. The controls are simple and easy to use, yet nevertheless feel as though you're actually manning the wheel of a ship. Oh, and there are also pirates and lost treasure. So, yeah. Manning the Aquila is actually pretty awesome.
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