I thought my plan to go through my video game library and play all the games that I hadn’t finished was a good one. It also gave me the idea to write a review for each one as I went, always nice to have a new vein to explore on the blog. I figure, perhaps a little ambitiously, that I’d do a game review about once a month or so; then I played Assassin’s Creed III.
I was genuinely excited for this game. I loved ACII and ACII Brotherhood and while ACII Revelations was a bit too much of a good thing, I still enjoyed it. I was intrigued by the time shift we were getting in ACIII, going from Renaissance Italy to Revolutionary US and the ambitious storyline of weaving our game into the events of the War of Independence. The reviews I read were positively glowing, the world that had been created was something to see, the game play was fun and challenging and the overall story was good, at least according to the reviews then I played it.
The world created for ACIII is impressive, no doubt about that. The colonial cities of Boston and New York are well defined and each has a different feel, which I didn’t always think was the case in the ACII games, sometimes Rome and Florence were just too similar. That can’t be said for ACIII. The addition of the frontier as a location for the game was interesting as well. Unfortunately, much of what we did in these locations wasn’t that interesting. In the cities the interactions with courtesans and healers is replaced with beggar children and stray dogs and cats. On the frontier, there is a lot of running and if you’d like hunting, but after the first few times of hunting for animals, it gets pretty boring. I mean, the main character is an Assassin, hunting bunnies isn’t why I bought the game. And really, for all that was made of it, climbing trees and running through the forest isn’t all that great. I get that it is a feat of programing and such, but I hate to paraphrase Ronald Reagan here, you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all.
The main character, Connor, is also a bore. He is presented as a brooding, angry, driven young man. At first that might seem similar to Ezio in the ACII games, but Enzio had personality. He was a rogue and scoundrel in the best sense of the words. Connor is a humorless dolt. Ezio was driven by revenge as well, but the writers of the game make Connor’s pursuit of vengeance so all-encompassing it leaves little to no room for the character to grow. Quite frankly, I didn’t care what happened to Connor. He was just a whiny, surly young man who was no fun to play.
The other aspects of the game play reminded me a lot of Assassin’s Creed I. There was far too much pointless travel and uninteresting side missions. Every time I saw one of Poor Richard’s Pages blow by, I just had no interest in chasing down a piece of paper, largely due to the fact that one of my least favorite thing to do in any of the Assassin’s games is chase stuff. In ACIII in particular we do far too much chasing, especially in the “climatic” scene. We spend a great deal of time chasing our white whale as it were, only to finally kill him in a cut scene, perhaps the worst ending to a video game I have ever played.
It wasn’t just the final cut scene that was awful, pretty much all of the cut scenes were awful. As I stated, Connor sucks. Having to watch movie, after movie, after movie, after movie starring him was just sequential torture. It seemed like every time I was really getting into a groove within the game, there would be another movie. Yes, I saw the button allowing me to skip the scene, but I had up until this game, actually enjoyed the Assassin’s world. I admit most sheepishly even until the end, I was hoping for the game to redeem itself, to make all of this time worth it. It never did.
Even worse, if it could get any worse, for my experience anyway, was the greater inclusion of Desmond and his entire story. A little Desmond goes a long way, especially after playing the final sequence of ACIII. Running around the cave from hologram to hologram only to encounter yet another Matrix-like explanation of the forerunner race was easily the worst part of the game, in a game with lots of bad moments.
I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the follow-up game coming this fall, Assassin’s Creed III Black Flag because the one aspect of ACIII that was inventive, fun to play and interesting seems to be a big part of the new game, namely the naval warfare aspect. Unfortunately, teasing me with a ship to fight with and decks to board isn’t enough to get me to put a deposit down and reserve a copy of the game. ACIII, at least for the time being, has regulated the entire franchise to the used bin of the video game store.