The Black Sheep of the Assassin Family

Assassin's Creed Wii UI’ve been intrigued by the reviews of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. Although it was brought out in the shadow of its bigger, next-gen only brother – Assassin’s Creed: Unity – most reviewers agree it outshines its graphically superior sibling in terms of gameplay. And certainly, its bonkers mix of narwhal hunting and assassinating assassins looks like a lot of fun. The only problem is that I’m still two years behind in the Assassin’s Creed series, and I’m far too anal to start playing the newest game without having played the previous ones.

In an effort to bring myself up to date, I’ve recently been tucking into Assassin’s Creed III, which came out in 2012 and has been sitting on The Mantelpiece since not long after its release. Sadly, it’s not that good.

Rather than list all of the things that are wrong with the game, I refer you instead to this article on, which pretty much nails the problems. I bridled at Kirk Hamilton’s use of the word “jank” (eh?) but otherwise he speaks a lot of sense. However, I’d add a few more points to his list of ten.

11. Boston just isn’t that interesting

In previous games we’ve been given medieval Rome or Constantinople to explore, and I’m afraid 18th century Boston just doesn’t cut it. In the 1770s the city was tiny and lacked landmark buildings of any note – there’s no equivalent of the Coliseum or the Blue Mosque here. In fact, most of the city looks the same, with only the tall ships in the harbour giving you any sense of bearing. And whereas exploring a city in previous games was a joy spread over many hours, here you’re only given the option to look around Boston sporadically, with a huge chunk of the game instead taking place in trees. Which are even less interesting than Boston.

Eighteenth-century Boston: not as interesting as Rome. Or Florence. Or Paris. Or...
Eighteenth-century Boston: not as interesting as Rome. Or Florence. Or Paris. Or…

12. The history gets in the way of the gameplay

More so than in previous games in the series, the history gets in the way of the fun. The designers have made the fatal flaw of looking at historical events and then thinking “how can we depict that in a game?” rather than thinking up something fun to do and then working how it could fit into the timeline. Some “missions” simply involve walking between characters and listening to interminable speeches, whereas another just involves following a revolutionary around and watching him start riots.

13. It’s So. Slow.

You only get your assassin costume halfway through, for pity’s sake. This being the fifth game in the series, you’d expect the designers to allow those who’ve been following from the beginning to just jump in and start assassinating. Yet the first five sequences of the game are essentially a tedious tutorial.

14. It’s stupidly over-complicated

Ubisoft seemingly hate to throw ideas away, even the not-very-good ones. By Assassin’s Creed III, we can now add hunting and ‘peg leg missions’ to the teetering pile of pointless distractions that litter the already over-cluttered game map. No doubt a certain percentage of people delight in mining the Assassin’s games for all they’re worth, collecting every last feather and finding every last weapon. Yet most of these activities are exceedingly tedious and pointless, and utterly overwhelming in their number.

And yet… and yet I’m still playing it. Partly it’s a feeling of obligation, a need to see the end of this game before I start the next one (and Assassin’s Creed IV is reportedly very good). To this end I’m speeding through it as quickly as I can, avoiding all superfluous missions. The naval combat is also fun, if underused, and it’s interesting to learn about the lead up to the American revolution, a subject I previously knew very little about. But I’m also impatient for it all to end.

What I’d really like to see is Ubisoft take the brave step of sweeping away all of the current conventions of the Assassin’s series and starting again from the basics, in a similar way to Square Enix’s approach with Tomb Raider. The series is crying out for some fresh thinking, and making it simpler will only make it better.

Hunting in Assassin's Creed III: like Red Dead Redemption, but not as good.
Hunting in Assassin’s Creed III: like Red Dead Redemption, but not as good.