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 kotaku.com, 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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “The Black Sheep of the Assassin Family

  1. Tried twice. Got to Connor Kenway both times and decided i had my fill of emotional teenagers in high school, so stopped there both times.

    It also happens to be a shit boring game. Like you i tend to have to play games sequentially, but it i had to make an exception here i hated it so much.

    I also usually will force my way through every game i start, there have been three exceptions in recent years – this, Saints Row IV, and GTA V. Twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lewispackwood

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! I had another stab (pun intended) at the game last night, and I was left infuriated and bored in turns thanks to some irritating control quirks and dull level design. I’ve still got the best part of four or five sequences to go, but I simply can’t face plodding through them all. I hate to leave games unfinished, but I think I’ll have to give up on this one. There are at least half a dozen better games on my shelf that I’d rather be playing…

      Like

  2. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m perhaps the only person in the world that likes Assassin’s Creed III.

    I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it approached history from a point I was actually taught in school. I can appreciate the architecture of Rome or Constantinople, but I no clue who most of the influential characters were.

    I also enjoyed the openness of the frontier; but considering I grew up in forested mountain areas, that’s kind of a no-brainer, too.

    I can see your points, but those type of things never bothered me, personally. I could care less for navel combat, but I was able to mostly ignore it in favor of the parts I did enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lewispackwood

      I suppose part of the reason the game interests me less than the others is that the story isn’t particularly close to me. A lot of the events I’m coming to for the first time, and it’s interesting to learn about them, but there’s also an assumption that I should know about them aready, which wasn’t in the previous games. The designers assume I’ll be interested in defending Concord because it was a defining moment in the war – but what actually happened was that I rode up and down on a horse ordering soldiers to fire and wondering “what the hell has this got to do with being an assassin?” Then afterwards I had to look through the database to find out what on earth I’d just been doing and why it was important.

      On the other hand, I’ve been to places like Florence and Rome in the previous games, so I immediately felt a connection to them, and it was fascinating to see them recreated in a video game.

      But I think my main problem with the game is the controls, which are considerably worse than in previous games. When you find yourself peering round walls instead of running up them, or crawling through grass only to stand up directly in front of a guard, you feel more like a clown than an assassin.

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  3. All points are right on target, especially 12 and 13.

    The missions are not interesting at all because the game is more worried about depicting historical events than being fun. And the whole thing only truly gets going after five tutorial-like sequences, which would be ridiculous even if it were the first game of the franchise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lewispackwood

      Exactly – five tutorials is five too many. The game has finally got going now, but it’s so haphazard that any vaguely good parts are overshadowed by half a dozen examples of broken controls or dull level design. I’m afraid it’s going back on the shelf now, and it won’t be coming down again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: From The Armchair: Leaving Things Unfinished | A Most Agreeable Pastime

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