Assassin’s Creed 3 – Wii U

4 Overall Score

World looks great | Naval missions oddly compelling | Hunting/trapping very well done

Simplistic climbing/combat | Numerous glitches and problems | Uninteresting plot

If you’ve just looked at the score and come to yell at me, please feel free to read the rest of what I have to say.  You may not agree with it, but it’s how I feel.  That being said, on to the review.

Assassin’s Creed and I have quite a lot of history.  The first game was when the ‘next gen’ systems finally made sense to me.  I hadn’t been blown away by anything available, until Assassin’s Creed came along.  A massive open world, an engine that could render an entire city and the surroundings, and lots of awesome climbing and hidden-blade stabbing.  Yes, a lot of the complaints leveled against the game are valid: the open combat was a bit wonky, the story wasn’t super compelling and it got repetitive.   Regardless, I loved it.  Then Assassin’s Creed 2 came out with a host of improvements, a new protagonist that you got to know over the course of the story and architecture that I recognized.  It still had some control issues and wonky combat, but it was a great game.  Then Brotherhood added on to Ezio’s story and gave you recruit-able assassin’s and a surprisingly good multiplayer mode.  Then Revelations came out, and added some bomb crafting and a terrible tower defense mode.  They still hadn’t fixed some of the key issues that had begun back in 2007, but finishing Altairs and Ezios stories overshadowed that.  Now, with Assassin’s Creed 3 we get a brand new protagonist and story.  Yes, Desmond is still there, but that story has always been of secondary importance.  So, what is this 5th chapter like?
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It’s both too much like past games and too different.  Let me explain.  To me, the series has always been about climbing around massive memorable buildings in open cities, punctuated by a bit of goofyish history and stabbing people with hidden blades like a bad-ass assassin.  That essence of the series is almost completely lost in this game.  The climbing has now been completely dumbed down to the use of the control stick.  That’s it.  Remember the hook grapple, jumping up to far ledges, working your way around to multiple paths?  The things that made the climbing so engaging? They’re all gone.  Push forward on your stick, and that’s it.  That’s all you have to do.  That wouldn’t be as bad if there were some interesting buildings to climb, but there aren’t.  In 1700’s America, there just weren’t.  You can climb church steeples, ship masts and tall trees. All three of which have essentially the identical layout to all the rest of them, which take even more challenge and interest out of it.  I could get into how the foliage looks less believable than 2007-era Crysis and the trees that are unintuitive to climb while still having barely 10% of the branches of a real tree, but I won’t.  The climbing is essentially done in this game.

So the stabbing?  Well, there really isn’t much of that.  Stealth has taken an even bigger back seat in this game.  The ability to blend in crowds is given a new graphical overhaul, which makes your blending level much more difficult to determine.  If it always worked that wouldn’t be a problem, but it doesn’t.  It would also be less of a problem if you could hire people to follow you around and help out like in previous games, but you can’t.  There is no crouch button, there is no stealth system at all, really.  In 2007 this was acceptable, but with games like Dishonoured, Deus Ex, Mark of the Ninja and even Far Cry 3 having more workable stealth systems, it’s sad.  The slight cover grab mechanic almost never worked properly, and made me edge out into view of enemies more than once.  This lack of stealth game play almost doesn’t matter as much though, because you honestly don’t assassinate many people.  Most of the plot involves you chasing people around that ‘You just missed! But here can you help out in this part of American history that we’ve shoehorned you into?’.  Often times the story missions and limited open world events push you into direct combat.  Which is just horrid.

Direct combat has been dumbed down to a quick time event.  That’s it.  Wait for a triangle to appear above an enemies head, then push counter, then mash attack.  Done.  Occasionally you’ll face a tougher enemy, so you have to wait for the triangle, push counter, then disarm, then mash attack.  Done.  The timing windows for the counter and attack moves are much larger than in past games as well.  When you hit counter successfully, the entire game slows down to give a cinematic slow motion flair, and you a few seconds to remember which button to push.  It looks cool the first time, but when you’re killing a dozen guards and it does it each time, it gets tiresome very fast.  Those huge timing windows also mean that upgrading of your weapons is essentially useless.  New weapons and armour were my reason for getting extra cash in the previous games.  That desire drove the economy of the game, and without any armour to buy or any significant weapon upgrades to buy, I just didn’t care.

AC3 Screenshot2

That cinematic flair leaks into the story, and more than it should.  If you just stick to the story missions, you have a five hour introduction to the game that is essentially a tutorial, before you get your outfit and start the game proper.  Five hours.  Add a couple more on to that if you take things a bit slower or explore at all.  A large part of that time involves you sitting and watching loading screens and cutscenes.  It really feels like they wanted to make a movie instead of a game, often times two cutscenes would be interrupted by literally 30-60 seconds of walking down a hallway.  That happened multiple times.  Add in the loading screens and it just gets tedious.  A good example is when you’ve set sail to Boston from England.  When you’re almost there you have to climb up the main mast to take a look at the harbor as you’re coming in.  This was going to be an epic moment, finally a couple hours in being able to see the world like an assassin should: above the clouds.  But as soon as you get to the top, control gets wrested from you and you get a cutscene instead.  It is, at times, infuriating.

The constant cutscenes would be more manageable were the story actually interesting or engaging.  Connor never really grabbed me as a character I cared about.  Despite you literally being with him from birth, he doesn’t have much of a character arc.  He goes from wanting to save his village to… wanting to save his village.  That’s it.  At times in there he gets a bit of a revenge motive, but I just didn’t buy it.  I didn’t feel for him, or feel any kind of passion in his delivery.  The emotion was lacking, and I just didn’t care.  The evil guy actually is the more likable and interesting character, which is a pretty huge misstep in my opinion.  This is made the more distressing because we actually have a balanced respectful approach to Native Americans and the historical American figures.  (Aside from the very stereotypical drum circle music when you’re a young boy going out to play tag.  There was no drum circle, I looked everywhere.  It was very out of place and felt tossed in.)  For example, George Washington is a real person.  Not everyone likes him or agrees with him and he makes mistakes.  He isn’t the demi-god that he appears in popular American fiction.  This is great, and really could have used more expansion.  Not being an American I’m sure my opinion of this is different, but I wanted to have some of those historical figures expanded upon.  Benjamin Franklin bumping into me and asking me to find some papers of his and then leaving was a weird moment.

Those weird moments come fast and don’t stop.  Although it was touted by Ubisoft that this was in no way going to be a ‘ra-ra go USA!’ kind of game, it actually kind of is.  You help out the patriots at every turn, and as the British = Templars, you’re just supposed to go along with it.  You pop up at historical events like Paul Reveres ride and you witness the signing of the American Declaration of Independence  but not for any real reason.  The plot has you showing up looking for someone, which is half the game at least, but they’ve already left and you should help out the patriots.  Why?  Why don’t I just assassinate the Templars and then see how things play out?  Especially when (SPOILERS) I find out later in the game that the patriots actually want to destroy my village. (/SPOILERS)

At times during the game, you have your sworn enemy right there in front of you. You could kill them, easily, if the cutscene was following the rules of the game.  Those two guys holding you by each arm?  You just killed a dozen of them 2 minutes ago, but for some reason you just give up and stop fighting when you trigger the scene.  That makes no sense.  Then when (SPOILERS) you’re captured and tossed into a prison, you can’t fight.  You’re not allowed to, until you’ve done a few cutscenes and then you kill the guards without any problems.(/SPOILERS)  Why couldn’t you do it previously? Because your input doesn’t really matter.  You’re a passive observer of the story, and are constantly reminded of it.  Then the biggest insult, (SPOILERS) you team up with your biggest enemy, the head of the organization you’ve pledged to destroy. You just decide to, because your interests kind of align for a little bit.  Forget that you’ve been searching for this guy for years and training for even longer to take him down.  Forget that because of him you think your entire village is going to die, and that he was responsible for killing your mother.  No, that’s fine, he can live.  WHAT? (/SPOILERS) You’re an assassin.  How about you assassinate someone.

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At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m just being negative for the sake of controversy.  Well, I haven’t even mentioned the massive number of graphical glitches (Like NPCs walking through each other during cutscenes), the recruits that often don’t work for no obvious reason, the inexplicably complex UI that makes you not even want to bother with the economy of your homestead, resetting mission objectives that were already completed, bonus objectives that make no logical sense together or don’t activate logically (so if I shove somebody off a boat and not pick them up and throw them, it doesn’t count?), story missions that don’t get explained if you miss a line of dialogue in the middle of a fight, the quicktime events, the missions that have a tightly defined path even when more are obvious in the world, or the fact that it takes 5 loading screens to go from a city to your homestead.  Yes, 5 loading screens.  Or the worst of all, the final mission that some people took hours to finish, that only took me about a dozen tries because of terrible level design.

So that’s the negatives out of the way after a couple thousand words, what about the good?  The wilderness does look pretty great.  The way you move in snow is interesting, and the hunting and trapping is done well.  I wasn’t really motivated to do the homestead upgrades because of my previous complaints about the economy, but it was very well done.  You save/recruit artisans and build up your little village.  That part of the game could be fleshed out into something else entirely, its really a shame the game didn’t really ever push you in that way.  I know some people would say I’d complain if I was forced to do it, so don’t force me.  Motivate me to do it with things I want to buy that I care about.  Also fantastic are the naval missions.  I was surprised at how well they’re done, simplistic but innovative.  Sailing a battleship into pitched sea warfare at full sail is incredibly compelling, and it’s a mode I think there should have been more of.  There are upgrades to the ship, which although they don’t make a huge difference, do provide some motivation to make money.

The fine-tuning of the free running has helped in one important way: you are less likely to jump off in a random direction.  There is still the confusing decision to map run and climb to one button that should have been changed years ago, but I lept to my death less.  The counter point to that is when I did jump to my death it didn’t feel like my fault.  In previous games I did it, but I knew it was my fault.  This time, it’s the games fault because I have so much less control, and that somehow makes it more angering.

The Desmond over-story isn’t bad, though the pay-off of five games is far, far less epic and satisfying than it should have been. Also on the theme of positives, the gamepad makes switching weapons far easier than on the other consoles.  I picked up the Xbxo 360 version for a little while and had to sit through a completely different menu popping up and taking over the screen whenever I wanted to switch gadgets.  This is a small advantage over the other versions, but it takes some of the annoyance out for sure.

The multiplayer is also not bad, though admittedly there weren’t many online playing it on the Wii U.  I took to the Xbox 360 version instead, and found it largely the same as past games.  It added a WolfPack mode that is more co-op versus AI, which is a nice change.  It works well, but shamelessly asks you to spend real money on upgrades.  Mass Effect 3 tried this as well, and it was no less annoying there.

Now, I could go on. I have more complaints in my head, and that is mostly because I’m such a huge fan of the series.  If you were brand new to Assassin’s Creed, I could see you enjoying the game in a lot of places.  There would be areas that would annoy and frustrate you, but there are things to enjoy.  The naval combat and hunting/trapping are well done, and the goofy thrill of ‘I’m in American history!’ could contribute to you having some fun.  My problem is, I’ve mastered the controls and I have an idea in my head of what makes the series unique.  I’ve had 4 games and well over a hundred hours to form in my head the idea.  Assassin’s Creed 3 just isn’t it.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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