Review by rubicon14
Not Worthy to Call Itself an Assassin's Creed Game
AC3 Review: Not Worthy to Call Itself an Assassin's Creed Game
You can tell from the title of this review and the overall score that I am very unhappy with AC3. But while I intended for the title to grab your attention, I promise I am not giving this game an unfairly low score, nor am I trolling. This review is a fair, unbiased, honest attempt to review AC3. You should know that I am a huge fan of the AC series - AC2 and Brotherhood are two of my favorite games of all time, and I spent months looking forward to playing AC3. It just doesn't deliver on the promise of its predecessors. With all of its flaws, glitches, story gaps, lack of detail and gameplay disasters, my score of 4 out of 10 is, unfortunately, fully merited, in my humble opinion. It is so flawed that the AC series would have been better off without this entry.
GRAPHICS / VIDEO / AUDIO
At first glance this game is breathtaking, but as with so many things in this game, a wonderful first impression gives way to frustration and disappointment.
AC3 boasts the same attention to detail in its urban and wild landscapes that made AC2, Brotherhood, and Revelations into masterpieces of video game design. But you never really feel immersed in the environment. Cities feel dull and lifeless, populated by NPCs that hardly speak, and when they do, they often glitch into saying the same thing like a broken record. Buildings are attractive and feel like real colonial brick structures, but because you can't go in or interact with them in any real way, it never comes together to form anything that feels like a city. Contrast this with the Grand Bazaar in Revelations, or the open courtyards in Florentine villas in AC2, for example. I'm not suggesting that every building be open to exploration, of course, but some of them should be. I can only think of a few buildings in the entire game that I actually spent any time in - such a missed opportunity, especially when exploring the cathedrals, mosques, and towers of the previous games really made you feel like you were in a big open place. While there is no Hagia Sofia or Il Duomo in Colonia America, there were large churches, meeting halls, taverns, etc., that this game should have made an effort to bring to life. The frontier environments are very nice, however, and I did enjoy those areas of the game, but there's not enough to do in them to really make you feel immersed. The whole thing has a fake "movie set" feel to it - the world might look nice, but you're never really a part of it.
How the characters look and sound also fails to impress. Desmond looks like a Darwinian nightmare, with a deer-in-headlights cross-eyed state permanently on his face, and his character model often glitches, which is distracting. The voice acting is poorly done, again a downgrade from previous AC games. The use of a native american language is unnecessary and distracting, unlike how Italian was used in previous games to add a bit of authenticity and romanticism, but never to make the reader read subtitles for long stretches.
The game makes a great first impression, when you take control of Haytham in the opening scene and move through an Opera House in Britain, filled with rich colors and dialogue that really sucks you in. But sadly, it's all downhill from there. Frequent bugs and glitches have caused blurry cutscenes, NPCs that drop into the earth, broken-record dialogue, dialogue that is totally disconnected from mouth animations, etc.
In sum, the game is so plagued by glitches and bland interactivity that the ugly sorely outweighs the beautiful.
My biggest gripe with AC3 is that you are never truly an assassin - at best, you alternate between warrior and butcher, and stealth rarely factors into the gameplay. Actual assassinations involving stealth, planning, quick kills and escapes are rare in this game, which forces you to rely on brute force most of the time. That means a return to the repetitive gameplay mechanics of the first AC game. The same types of enemies make the same attacks and counters every single time, making combat boring and repetitive.
Making matters worse, the game forces you into direct combat with a horde of enemies at every possible turn, replacing strategy and stealth with mere button timing. If you try to take out a guard, even by a silent hidden blade strike or bow and arrow, nearby guards will often notice, sending every enemy within earshot charging with bayonets affixed. Parts of combat make no sense - block one attack, and you have a narrow window to execute a counter; block two simultaneous attacks, and you automatically launch into a cut-scene like takedown of both enemies in spectacular fashion, using attacks you as the player cannot actually use. Causing all that with one press of the X button looks cool, but it feels cheap and fake.
Add into the mix that guards will often attack you for no reason (which may or may not be a glitch, I'm not sure), and there are way fewer hiding spots in the cities than in previous games, and the result is an experience that is more frustrating than fun. Often, I would just let them kill me after trying to escape for 10 minutes because then I would at least just reload from my last checkpoint and get on with the game -- a cheap move I've never had to use in prior AC games.
Connor isn't much of an assassin either. The tools you have in AC3 dont compare to the tools Ezio uses in previous AC games. The weapons system doesnt make much sense, since price and quality seem to have no relationship. Excellent weapons can be purchased cheaper than some poor weapons, and there are few weapons options available. Consumables sometimes disappear for no reason - I found myself having to refill all my traps, ammunition, bait, and special weapons inbetween many chapters and missions, which is either a bad glitch or bad game design.
Frankly, most of the missions just aren't any fun. The missions are the usual mix "fetch this" and "kill that person", which after four AC games feels tired. Fetch missions dont provide any challenge, they just provide busy work - a way of adding "replay value" without actually making the game any more fun. The remedy for this would have been complex assassinations, epic Revolutionary War battles, and anything to capitalize on Colonial America, but the game never really pulls any of it off.
I won't give any plot spoilers, but what is distracting is that the game has a very poorly done "Forrest Gump" feel to the story, making you a part of real-life events. This should have been cool, especially for a history buff like me, but it always feels too hokey and fake, like watching a bad movie.
One major exception is the addition of naval warfare missions. These are a blast. The strategy of gauging the wind, which ships to target, how much sail to raise, all of these things made for an exciting and fun side game. The missions are mostly optional, but they are absolutely worth your time. If the ship upgrade system was better, and the missions a bit more challenging, they could probably exist as their own game. As it stands, they are simply the best part of AC3, and the development team deserves praise for great execution of a creative concept.
Sadly, most of the game just isn't fun, and is a total waste of your time. Trading and buying/selling goods is utterly useless. It takes so many side missions (most of which are boring) at your Homestead to gain access to better goods and upgrades that the whole experience feels like a chore than a video game. Same with assassins - it takes so many side quests to recruit a full group of assassins, and their usefulness is so limited, that a gamer could be forgiven for blowing off this entire part of the game. Time and time again, the payoff for completing tasks in this game is too low, and the fun times are overshadowed by the boring ones.
The result is a game that gives you a ton to do, but doesnt reward you properly for doing it, or treat you like an assassin along the way. Throw in the numerous glitches, and you have to wonder if they bothered to test this game before releasing it.
There are no spoilers in this section, as per GameFAQs rules. Suffice it to say, the plot of this game makes no sense. There are many, many more questions than there are answers. There are plot holes so big that it feels as if whole pieces of the main story were literally left on the cutting room floor during editing.
Connor also isn't a very interesting character. This would have been ok if he were a silent protagoinist in a world populated by rich, colorful characters, but most of the characters in the game are criminally underdeveloped. Desmond is no better. In previous games, Altair, Ezio and Desmond all contemplated what it means to be an assassin and what the assassin's creed is about, they had meaningful relationships with other characters, and they faced moral dilemmas about their violent actions and the resulting consequences. Because I cannot have any plot spoilers, I cannot discuss specific game events, so I will simply say that AC3 does a poor job with all of these story elements, and doesn't even bother to include some of them.
The game uses cutscenes to tell much of the story, but cutscenes are overused. There are plenty of times when I wish I was in control of Connor during the game, and was instead forced to watch the "game" play out like a movie. I felt like I was missing out on the fun because the game wanted to tell me a specific story which, it turned out, wasn't very good anyway.
In a series that has become renowned for a gripping storyline, this game utterly fails to live up to the high standards set by its predecessors.
I strongly advise anyone to rent instead of buying this game. There might be plenty to do, but the frustration outweighs the fun.
The few enjoyable moments in this game are tragically overshadowed by plot holes, repetitive gameplay that isn't true to the spirit of the rest of the series, glitches, and a serious lack of fun. I wanted to love this game, but it's just not a good game, by any objective standard. It's beautiful environments are just lipstick on a pig. Don't believe the hype and the laughable 10/10 reviews this game has received - this game is a waste of its potential.
SCORE: 4/10 - Poor.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Assassin's Creed III (US, 10/30/12)
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