The two words that unfortunately best summarize the Assassin’s Creed III experience are “sadly disappointing.” Ubisoft assigned a new director, producer, and writer to helm the game and the result is an underwhelming Assassin’s Creed title. Simply put, AC3 has too many new or altered elements which do not properly blend into a cohesive title.
The game’s first several hours in which you play as the mysterious Haytham Kenway, Connor as a child, and Connor as a teenager are very boring. Much of what made Assassin’s Creed a thrilling series was gutted and replaced with an open world and hunting sequences. I didn’t hunt outside of the tutorial, and ignoring that game element didn’t hinder my play through in any way. That said, I respect the game’s expanse. You can venture through several forest regions, climb trees, build houses, and fast travel – but that’s not what I look for in an Assassin’s Creed game. In fact, the series has become less about assassinating with each entry.
AC3 has many irksome elements. The main one being that the notoriety scale is completely screwed. Notoriety has three levels: the first level causes enemies to investigate you, the second makes them attack on sight, and the third triggers a hot pursuit from afar. This may seem like a logical system on the surface, but there’s a huge flaw: Level one is essentially level three, but with a smaller range. This makes walking through town quite difficult.
Combat, too, is tweaked — but not in a positive manner. It’s woefully unresponsiveness in the heat of battle. Counter attacks, blocks, and heavy attacks never seemed to execute when I wanted them to — there was a noticeable delay. That’s a shame, as responsive combat is key to an Assassin’s Creed game. Naval combat, likewise, is overly simplified and dull. You steer a boat, shoot canons, and control sails. It felt like a colonial version of The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker.
The franchise’s first three installments feature complicated puzzles to solve as Desmond in a weird limbo-Animus stage that used real historic information to unlock secret information about the Templars and Abstero. I found these puzzles to be a key point of the game, as they added a lot of depth to Abstergo.
In Assassin’s Creed: Revelations these puzzles morphed into incredibly odd Tetris-on-steroids levels that nearly caused me to break my Dualshock in two. You don’t get any of that in AC3. Instead there are various free-running missions that demand you climb skyscrapers and construction zones to find a power source that will run the Animus. It doesn’t add much to the story.
Jesper Kyd, for the first time in the series, didn’t compose the soundtrack. Instead, Lorne Balfe handled the audio duties. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, it should. He assisted with the Assassin’s Creed Revelation‘s soundtrack, as well as Crysis 2, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight. Kyd left his mark on the series, but Balfe crafted impressive ambient tunes that mixed well with the environments. Unfortunately, the voice acting — for both the Native Americans and British — is forced and subpar.
Previous Assassin’s Creed games were a tasty cocktail of action, emotion, mystery, excitement, and relief , but Assassin’s Creed III lost the magic. The story is a bore, combat is sloppy, and the ending is mediocre at best. Ubisoft left the Assassin’s Creed saga open for another installment, so hopefully the next title will return the series to its roots. And glory.