Assassin's Creed 3 review | gamesTM - Official Website

Assassin's Creed 3 review

Assassin’s Creed III review

Ubisoft has settled into an admirable regularity with the Assassin’s Creed saga, but it’s the first time since the second chapter that the series has undergone a major revision. It’s a far cry from the iterative plodding that predates this entry, and the key to this revitalisation is the American Revolution – a more compelling, dense and grounded backdrop to the eternal Templar-Assassin conflict, but also one that at times feels needlessly bloated.

That is to be expected, given Ubisoft’s penchant for milking each setting dry for historical reverence, as the game transpires over the 30-odd formative years of the United States. But not content with a sequel based around a more complex narrative, driven by infamous events of the era, Ubisoft has created an open world that dwarfs its predecessors in both scale and ambition.

Assassin's Creed 3 review

Through its atmosphere and meticulous faithfulness to its facsimile of 18th Century America, Ubisoft has created nothing short of the benchmark for which all other open-world games will be measured in years to come. No doubt other developers will look upon this sizeable expanse, mouths agape, and the sheer wonder of its art direction is not lost on the player either. Whether it’s the critters that roam the frontier and can be skinned for profit, Red Dead-style; the snow-flecked rooftops of Boston; or the undulating waters of the Atlantic, the scenery is incomparable by today’s lofty standards.

It’s a world, stunning as it is, that the game takes a leisurely pace digging into. The first five to ten hours of the game are spent during new protagonist Connor’s (tongue-flummoxing real name: Ratonhnhaké:ton) pre-Assassin days, establishing narrative footholds in various small pockets of the game’s map, and this flip-flopping around the epochs of his life come with the subtlety of a daytime soap opera. It’s only once the trademark garb is ceremoniously donned, all the predictable narrative twists and turns are spelled out and the hit list of timely villains – whose early introductions belie their later laughable pantomime wickedness – is outlined, that the game finally proposes to kick-start.

Assassin's Creed 3 review

But it doesn’t – at least not with in the manner that it should. The backbone of missions are formed by notable incidents of the age, front-ended by cameos that’ll have historians rolling their eyes in derision, and it soon becomes abundantly clear that Ubisoft’s self-indulgent fascination with its own storytelling impedes the gameplay on a fundamental level. One mission involves Connor taking command of three firing lines repelling the advance of Redcoats, later mounting a cannon to stave off a similar advance, while another sequence has him escorting Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride; each differs slightly in gameplay terms, but what they share is a lack of meaningful agency. Such missions devoid of interactivity are rife, and often everything just falls back on a blood-drenched skirmish or a ropey exit to maintain interest. But perhaps the most surprisingly dour note is how linear everything feels. Somehow Ubisoft has taking a prosperous open-world setting and made it feel like a corridor.


Assassination missions come out worst in this regard. A very precise route, while perhaps not immediately obvious, is often the only way to reach an enemy undetected, the game ushering players towards executing its handful of big bads in a way it has already predetermined, either with patience masquerading as strategy, or blunt assault within the game’s large-scale set pieces. There was a time when Assassin’s Creed enabled players to track targets, study routes and decide which of these two methods would prove most fruitful, but Ubisoft has reinstated the training wheels in an effort to appeal as broadly as possible. Occasionally the game decides it can’t even trust the player to dispatch a target, switching to a cut-scene to finish the job and commence the victim’s sanctimonious parting words. It’s a blow that fundamentally undermines the player’s actions up until that point.

Assassin's Creed 3 review

It’s often these areas of fragmented gameplay and misjudged relinquishing of controls that outline the wayward focus of a developer more concerned with spinning a yarn than crafting a fulsome game. While chapters featuring Desmond have always been the least invigorating of the narrative’s two timelines, one particularly ill-judged sequence has the former mixologist scaling a skyscraper, parachuting off the crane protruding from its rooftop and landing on the helipad of a neighbouring tower. It sounds enjoyable enough on paper, with the game’s signature parkour mechanics put to spectacular use in the trappings of its modern-day setting. But as Desmond reaches the apex of the construct, the running, jumping, parachuting and landing are all interrupted by multiple cut-scenes. This is not a lone offence, as the game constantly disrupts otherwise enthralling sequences with incessant breakers, leaving a game that was once trumpeted for its fluidity feeling needlessly fractured.

But by no means should the quality of Desmond’s brief chapters be a barometer of the overall worth, with Ubisoft more or less embracing their direness by appearing to commit as few resources as possible to these meandering excursions.

Assassin's Creed 3 review

It’s wise, given that the world inside the Animus needs as much nourishment as possible. The nascent municipalities of both Boston and New York are a staggering sight to behold, and Ubisoft has wisely cut the chaff to bolster these pockets of Colonial America with engaging side quests. The most notable are the Liberation missions, offering a wider freedom of approach as you seize forts from Redcoat control, while outside the main cities the Frontier offers tracking and Homestead quests that do much to paint a beguiling picture of the time. They succeed, much like Revelations and the games before that, because of the diligent balance between activity and story, input and spectacle; where previously the series has been plagued with features needlessly bolted on, here is a choice crop of supplementary diversions, confidently delivering where the majority of main missions struggle.


They don’t all work, of course, as Assassin’s Guild side quests are an arbitrary, unfulfilling venture, much like the dutiful exploration around the dreary oubliettes located beneath the streets of Boston and New York, both of which should and most likely will be ignored. But there’s a wealth of content here that stretches beyond just delivering another annual entry, as the breadth of scope branches entirely into new genres. Naval warfare is the true showstopper of the piece, imbuing a real sense of empowerment and adventure through a series of privateer contracts that could just as well span their own entire game – which, at times given the lack of character coherency with Connor, it does.


Assassin's Creed 3 review

The protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III is portrayed as a less poised individual than the series is used to; one unsure of his abilities and own indignation, which in some respects feels like a step back from Ezio’s stoic gravitas, and in others carves a figure that’s more touchingly relatable. In some respects his personality has been reflected in his move set, the focus put on showmanship, so controls have been stripped back to further emphasise the flow of combat, with large windows to counter and little input required for the player to exterminate a whole regiment of enemy soldiers. It pales in comparison to Rocksteady’s similar work on Batman: Arkham City, with a lack of quickfire gadgets and clear directives that enable the player to lead the attack, rather than just observe it.

It’s indicative of Ubisoft’s approach, so wary of the player discovering their own enjoyment, or missing key information, that it so fervently handholds through what should be its most spectacular moments. At times this reduces entire chapters to tediously long treks between cut-scenes, a lot of which feel like less than worthwhile narrative additions. It’s an odd occurrence of a game giving and taking away in equal measure. Moving forward, Ubisoft needs to decide whether what’s more important, telling a story or making a game, because Assassin’s Creed III fails to accomplish either with any great success.

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  1. Dom

    The best review I’ve come across so far.i cannot get over how linear and unimaginably bland this game is.
    A real disappointment.

  2. teryaki

    This review is wel written, but full of wrong facts the 1st 5/10 hours r played as hathem not as connor and he dosnt seem to have played most of the best bits of the game :S

  3. truth

    Absolutely could not agree more with this review. The first 5-10 hours I spent more time with the control in my lap waiting for a cutscene to end or staring at a loading screen than I did playing the game. I might not have minded if the plot wasn’t soooooo frickin’ lame. If you’re going to devote that much screen time to story, at least hire a real writer for heaven’s sake.

  4. MTysonFG

    What the heck the creators wanted to tell us?…..

    I am very disapointed and angry (like a bird) about this creepy stuff. They pissed in our faces while they changed all the best on this game. ”

    requiescant in pace
    dear Ezio……

  5. Shooky

    What does a developer have to do to impress you maggots?? I thought the story was incredibly immersive, the combat (once mastered) is very fluid with excellent animations. The open world has to be explored to be appreciated, in my opinion it is the most beautiful and authentic open world ever created. For me this is (in the words of rockstar games) a bold, new direction and what all developers should aim for. Well done ubisoft, screw the critics!

  6. Wolfric Thorsson

    Well it took a few days, but as of last night I can officially say goodnight to the Assassins Creed series. Those games were almost the entire reason I have a PS3, I loved the gameplay, the storylines were fantastic and the entire package was entertaining. I’ve been waiting over a year to find out how they were going to wrap it all up, and given what they’ve put on offer so far, I should be able to say that I am far from disappointed with AC3….instead i’m finding myself saying the complete

    Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay changes that they have made to the economy are intriguing, definatley trying to be more realistic. The fight system as well, despite the fact its almost completely different to what we’ve all been used to so far, is still a functional bit of kit that feels fluid enough. The polish on this game has been done to a mirror finish! Unfortunately I feel the reason for this incredible polish is to try and make up for the rather large screw ups that would be hard for even a blind man to miss.

    The Ubisoft team has been working on this title since Brotherhood was released, that was 2 years ago. Granted that meant that they had a year where they were trying to develop 2 games at once (Revelations and AC3) but they then had another year where they could focus on AC3 and noting else. Given this knowledge, you would assume that blatant graphical glitches like people talking without moving their mouths, people disappearing in the blink of an eye or others sinking waist deep into the pavement would have been picked up on! But that’s not even half of them. Fortunately Ubisoft picked up on several massive glitches, putting out a patch on the release day, so when people loaded the game for the first time the patch would smooth things over, but even with this well timed plaster they still missed a ton of stuff.

    I really am disappointed with how they’ve finished off what, in my opinion, has been the best series of titles to hit the PS3 since its birth. The story has been so engaging, I found myself at the end of each game going “NO! What happens next?! Desmond?! Altair?! Ezio?!?!”, I felt like this – as the final game – would wrap everything up neatly, and give the Assassins the send off they deserved. Instead I feel like we’ve been ‘Mass Effected’ – they took a brilliant title, with a well developed story line, had loads of time to work on it properly, and instead it feels like they rushed to the finish line, leaving gaping holes in both the plot and the games coding.

    So long Assassins Creed – Requiescant In Pace.

  7. bigred

    I’m actually about four hours in, reading this site *because* I was so bored with the game and wondering when it was going to just let me run around having fun that I got worried and started looking up reviews.

    When the game feels more like a chore that browsing the net feels like fun goofing off, then you’re in trouble.

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