Monday, November 12, 2012

[REVIEW] Assassin's Creed III

Release Date: October 30, 2012
System Reviewed: Xbox 360
Plays Like: Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Red Dead Redemption

What's Great: I initially gave a skeptic's eye to the idea of the Frontier: a land devoid of buildings, save for a few shacks or outposts, full of Red Dead Redemption in Colonial America. It turned out to be better than I anticipated, considering the vast amount of trees and cliffsides that allowed for climbing/free-running.

The hunting, while given more of a spotlight during the the games various tutorials than Red Dead Redemption, is more robust, what with snares and bait. You can even scan clues laying about that will indicate a certain creature, which will add to the database for that region, and will ping one for you to track and kill. But unlike RDR, you shouldn't sell the pelts or teeth you get, but they end up being supplies for crafting.

Even though Ezio is no more, I enjoyed him up until Revelations, where he became kind of annoying. Connor is actually pretty cool, but he wasn't worth his salt until he became an adult and donned the Assassin's gear. After that, the game came together, and felt like a new entry in the franchise. It's more Assassin's Creed, which is something I love.

What's (Not So) Great: Free running feels worse overall, especially in trees. They say they made it better, but it's just as convoluted as before. They mapped free-running to strictly [RT], away from having to hold the (A) button in conjunction, as well. Holding (A) while free-running now invokes parkouring, which casuses Desmond/Connor/Haytham to hurdle over waist-high edges, rather than mount them as if you're climbing. Unfortunately, free-running around town causes you to start climbing unnecessary shit; you wouldn't believe how frustrating it got just trying to run through town and climb every little piece of furniture through the streets of New York or Boston. When you are climbing on purpose, handholds aren't clearly defined, or simply missing on cliff edges or homes. I was climbing a cliff somewhere in the Frontier, and he started climbing hand holds that weren't there. Obviously they were in the design/models of the cliffs, but they weren't defined to the player.

I found a few tutorials that weren't clearly written or defined, such as reloading - it made it seem like you had to hold [RB] - or even the tackle mission early on, where it didn't mention you had to tackle him, and I sent my hidden blade right through his back. The Homestead missions are terribly paced and horribly implemented. While looking through the crafting book, I found that this is where I would go to upgrade Connor's gear; no more buying them at the store with oodles of money. I also found I needed different artisans to do so. As I progressed through the game, I found a few new Homestead missions. I figured that, by the end of the game, the Homestead would be this wondrously robust and thriving area. Sadly, I only enabled 3 artisans (no other artisans ever appeared), and their missions never fucking enabled. How the fuck am I supposed to do anything with the Homestead if their missions don't activate? I beat the goddamned game, and there are no Homestead missions anywhere! Nothing in Homestead, the Frontier, or either of the two cities. I've Googled around for answers, and the only thing I'm finding is what each artisan does, and their missions, but nothing on how to enable them. I found that, while I had materials for crafting upgraded pouches and belts, I never could upgrade them because I didn't have the right artisan; hell, the fucking cutscenes in the game started to show Connor with two gun holsters, but would then revert to one during gameplay. Good job with breaking the Homestead, Ubisoft.

Finally, I found Haytham's missions (Connor's dad) boring as hell. Some may see it as a way to break into the new era, giving you a taste of the different factions, but I felt I was being dragged through the first 3 sequences or so. There were two missions during Haytham's 3 or so sequences that were intriguing, but I walked into this thinking I was playing as Connor, but got slapped with his dad; it's like going to play Metal Gear Solid 2 not knowing that 75% of the game, you're playing as Raiden.

Bottom Line: When starting as Haytham, I was scared for the game. I felt I was being forced to grind through his missions; I could not wait to start playing as Connor. Fortunately, when I thought I had enough, Connor came into play, and helped me back into the game. Despite some problems that should not have been there with a new engine and a three year development cycle, the game ended up being fairly solid. I'm glad Ubisoft is taking a break from the series, saying they're done with the yearly installments. Hopefully this will give them some fresh ideas, and can help bring the franchise to the next gen in a fantastic new package.

Grade: B

(I completed the game, earning 27 out of 50 Achievements, totaling 520 GamerScore. I found myself investigating the chiming of feathers, chests, and trinkets more often that they should have, and performed the Fort Wolcott naval mission. I ended up yelling at the game and throwing the controller quite frequently, which didn't surprise me, as this franchise has a tendency of doing.)