Assassin’s Creed III follows Native American protagonist Connor Kenway as he seeks revenge on those who destroyed his tribe. While seemingly simple and generic, the brilliance of the plot comes from how it incorporates real events and individuals from the American Revolution. Players get to (virtually) relive the Boston Massacre, Tea Party, and many famous battles in the course of Connor’s journey. However, the narrative gets all sorts of convoluted, and as someone with little knowledge of history, I found the game lacking when it came to conveying important details and distinguishing the supporting cast. Fortunately, Wikipedia was there to clarify any of my confusion.
The campaign takes place across three locations: colonial Boston, New York, and the frontier. The former two are each divided into three districts which can be liberated from the British via side quests. Liberating a district earns Connor an Assassin recruit and a skill. Unlike previous games in which the recruits were nothing more than killing machines, the new skills now allow them to act as body guards or set up ambushes. Standing in contrast to the bustling city life is the frontier, a mixture of lush forests and sprawling plains populated by wildlife. Describing it with mere words would not do it justice, but I will say that upon finishing the main story, I found myself compelled to revisit the wilderness just to explore.
Other new game mechanics include the ability to whistle around corners and participate in naval battles. The former must have been nice conceptually, but its execution was extremely poor. Its purpose is to lure guards, but frustratingly enough, it does not always work. On the plus side, the naval battles are easily my favorite addition to the series. These side missions allow players to commandeer a warship and sail the Atlantic Ocean, defending merchant ships and fighting British vessels. The sounds and visuals when blowing up enemy boats are extremely gratifying. Also worth noting is the quality of Connor’s character animation. Everything he does, from combat to swinging from tree to tree is graceful and hypnotic. The animators at Ubisoft Montreal have really outdone themselves!
Two of the most glaring faults I have encountered are with the controls and multiplayer. Very often, I found my character doing stupid things like climbing up the wrong object, jumping off something in the wrong direction, or incorrectly assassinating people in a crowd. The bottom line is that the controls just do not feel as smooth or responsive as they should. From what little time I spent in the multiplayer, I found it to be extremely imbalanced, and this is coming from someone with plenty of experience in Brotherhood and Revelations. The broken matchmaking system often grouped the novice players together against experienced ones. Some of the level requirements to unlock useful skills are ridiculous, putting newcomers at an extreme disadvantage. This stands in contrast to the previous titles, in which skills were unlocked in custom order as long as the player could afford it.
I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. I had planned to say much more, but Steam’s recommendation limit prohibits me from doing so. I would like to note that by the time I finished the game (40 hours), I came to the shocking realization there were at least a handful of features I had not even touched. As with many ambitious games, this one also has many flaws. But the one thing that separates the Assassin’s Creed titles from everything else is their potential educational value. It is a solid and expansive game that is more than just a piece of mindless entertainment.