Assassin’s Creed 3 Review: One Step Forward, Two Back
But the two extremes mitigate one another, and the fact is that Assassin’s Creed 3 overreaches and underachieves, falling flat on the little things way too often. For some reason, opening up your list of objectives on what the hell you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment is weirdly difficult, and that causes you to miss “full synchronization” by missing optional objectives you didn’t know you had. The Notoriety system is amped up so much that when you are trying to reduce your Notoriety through a number of options in the game, you can’t — because you can’t get near the town criers, print shops or posters in order to lower the level, since guards are constantly spotting and engaging you. And the story, between undulations of apathy and excitement, provides rounded characters, only to turn them into cartoon caricatures soon after.
There’s just so much missed opportunity, and it’s a very good thing that there’s a ton of extra things to do to make up for the clear missteps. Sure, the stealth might be mostly untenable and occasionally broken because of eagle-eye guards and wonky bushes, but the combat system is great and tense. Yes, the story and protagonist leave you slightly apathetic about what’s going on (mostly because Connor goes about meddling and murdering with no idea what he’s doing or why), but the world you can explore is absolutely huge. There’s balance there, I suppose, that at least makes the $60 you spend on AC3 guarantee that it’ll keep you busy for a while.
There’s also the continuation of the stellar multiplayer portion of the game, which was extremely innovative two games ago, requiring players to sneak about arenas attempting to assassinate each other, remaining hidden primarily by pretending to be computer-controlled NPCs. There’s more of that this time, along with the now-obligatory Horde mode variation in Wolfpack. In that mode, players band together to assassinate a certain number of targets within a time limit in order to continue advancing, and it rebalances the multiplayer dynamic by forcing you to weigh speed against stealth — the more sneaky you are, the more points you score, which is key to advancing through the waves. But every second wasted leaves you less time to perform. Since it builds on Assassin’s Creed’s already phenomenal multiplayer formula, Wolfpack is a lot of fun, with both random players and a team filled with three friends.
But Assassin’s Creed 3 is not Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the series’ best entry so far. For all its improvements, like adding fast travel from anywhere, AC3 stumbles by including systems that just aren’t fleshed out enough to matter, such as naval battles, which are fun but quickly become repetitive.
Mostly, though, Assassin’s Creed 3 feels like corners were cut along the way, or perhaps like it was rushed to hit the yearly Assassin’s Creed iteration cycle. The bugs in the game (even after the huge Day One Patch), like characters dropping into existence in front of you during a chase, ridiculous clipping, arrows that hit a single guard but cause two guards to fall over dead, broken events, and broken cover — just shouldn’t have made it into a retail release of this magnitude.
If it weren’t for the breadth of stuff Assassin’s Creed 3 crams in, it would be tough to be positive on it. We’ve seen games in this series do more with less, and it’s hard to stay engaged all the way to the end of Connor’s tale with the weak story and systems that are presented here. Assassin’s Creed 3 stumbles in too many places that should be no-brainers by now, presenting us with a final product that feels like it’s pulling the franchise backward, rather than driving it into the future.
- Absolutely huge game
- American Frontier is a great addition
- Lots of improvements to free-running and combat
- New Wolfpack mode is a lot of fun and a good addition to multiplayer
- Naval battles are a nice change
- Lots of variety in settings, lots of great historical set pieces
- Narrative attempts to challenge ideas about Founding Fathers and history
- You can play bocce with George Washington
- Many more bugs than should be in a release of this caliber
- Connor is a pretty boring character, and the story lacks real drive
- There’s a whole lot of busywork included in the huge setting
- New systems, like naval battles, are fun for a bit but tend to grow tedious
- Stealth feels wrongly tweaked: enemies spot you constantly, some cover is broken
- Many situations have a single solution, despite appearance of openness
- A lot of weak design choices that feel rushed, like bad menus, poor objective system
- Once you start playing a game of bocce with George Washington, you can’t cancel it, and a generic voice is used for an established character
Final Score: 70/100