Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360) Review

I am a huge fan of the first two Assassin's Creed games.  Yes, I really did enjoy the first one, believe it or not.  However, Brotherhood and Revelations were big disappointments to me, so I felt that the next game in the series, Assassin's Creed III, might be the title to make me stay with the series, or leave it entirely.

The beginning had a lot of promise.  The game looks nice, and I like the more organic scenery in the Frontier.  They also streamlined the controls a bit, which is nice, but really just means you hold less buttons.  The auto-parkour climbing is nice, but doesn't seem any more accurate at figuring out where you want to go than in previous entries in the franchise.  At least you are now cramping your hand less.

The attack targeting doesn't seem quite as good as AC II, especially the chain kills.  Maybe they reduced the distance you can travel for them, or made the button inputs more precise, but I had difficulties doing chain kills.  I still got them, but not nearly as frequently as I had in the previous entries.  Even normal attacks seemed to not be as precise.  Many times I would push the analog stick in one direction, trying to indicate my intended direction, and the game would auto target another enemy with my attacks.  I do remember this being a problem in previous games, so I think it's more something that hasn't changed than a problem with just AC III.

Assassinating targets is about as fluid as ever.  Running, walking, drop and ledge assassinations worked almost flawlessly, as I only had problems with a few ledge kills.  Drop assassinations would sometimes get me a double kill, which are always fun to do.  Strangely, that was the only way I got them, so I'm wondering if they took them out the normal standing ones.  Connor has two hidden blades, and guards would stand close enough together, but I didn't get any double kills that way.

That's not the only things that changed.  Armor is no longer in the game, and the health is revamped.  You have the same meter throughout the game with no way to increase it.  It takes significantly less damage to kill you, but you heal between fights.  I actually really like this system.  It never felt harder to me, only better.  Counters are also easier, since you don't have to press as many buttons to pull them off, and it's just as easy to counter with the hidden blade as any other weapon.  In fact, I rarely fought with anything else, since the hidden blade counter kills were so satisfying.  Also, it felt easier than just attacking guys.

Although the counter system is better and more streamlined, combat is still not advisable.  Guards easily surround you, and reinforcements come in from seemingly nowhere.  That's what makes it a shame that a lot of times the game forces you into fights.  Many side quests involve open combat and even most of primary targets have fights as part of them.  I miss in the older games where you could get a majority of the primary targets by assassination, and then just escape.  Unless you have to fight for your task (such as liberating a fort), or are far away from civilization, it always seemed better to escape than fight entire brigades.  Escaping had its own set of troubles, from near psychic guards, inconvenient spawns and lack of suitable hiding places.  It was usually a chore to escape, but still better than hunkering down and killing the lot of them.

Besides the main story, there are many extra things to do.  You can recruit people for the homestead (your main base of operations), engage in hunting or brawling clubs, trading and even privateer missions on the high seas.  I enjoyed recruiting people for the homestead, but sadly most of it wasn't available until after the main story.  The naval missions were kind of fun, but could drag on much too long for my taste.  If I was into seafaring and pirates, I probably would have liked them better.  There's almost too much to do in the game, and some strings of quests seem to go on and on with no end in sight.  Although, they were a fun diversion from the main game, and I'm glad I didn't have to purchase any more banks or blacksmith shops.

Story wise, the game is a decent follow up to the second Assassin's Creed.  Without giving much away, there's a cool plot twist near the beginning, but the ending is a bit of a let down.  It's also a pretty slow moving plot that takes a while to really get going.  Most targets you kill will wax philosophical about how you each side thinks they are right and other such things, attempting to portray the protagonist's side as the one in the wrong.  I'd be fine with that if Connor would respond in kind.  Instead, he just kind of listens to them, and then moves about his business.  It's nice that he sticks to his guns, but I'm not a fan of just one side giving their views to the other.  At least have our hero respond, so his position doesn't seem as week (since he's not defending it).  Although, I like that they portray both sides in the Revolutionary War as selfish, with both good and evil in their ranks.  It's more realistic.

Overall, the game kind of came out average to me.  I was expecting to either love or hate it, to chase me away from the series forever or welcome me back.  Surprisingly, it didn't do either.  There was some really fun stuff, but also frustration.  It wasn't as good as Assassin's Creed II, but better than Revelations, so it ended up just being in the middle ground.  I think fans of the Assassin's Creed franchise should give it a try (if they haven't already, considering when I was able to play it), but I'm not sure it would convert anybody new to the series.

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