Assassin’s Creed III review

5 out of 5
£40

For

Time-period, graphics, massive world to explore

Against

City can feel a bit sparse, nothing hugely new

Concluding what has to be one of the longest spanning storylines in videogame history, Assassin’s Creed III is the game fans of the series have been waiting for.

Set during the American Revolution, a period very rarely featured in games, Assassin’s Creed III looked exciting from the moment the first trailer was released. But how does it play? Is this just improving on the formula, or is there something new and exciting here?

Story

Assassin’s Creed III is going to appear incredibly complicated on the story front to anybody who hasn’t played through the earlier games, 

The story of Desmond Miles and the Assassin’s Guild has been going on for so long, and the last game left things at such a cliffhanger, it would take quite a cut scene in order to bring you up to speed. The game does offer you a few helping hands at the start, but our advice would be to get yourself on to the Assassin’s Creed Wiki and read up on the lore.

You'll be glad you did, because the story in Assassin’s Creed III is a real corker. It takes about four hours of gameplay to really get going, with one major twist early on that we guarantee will be unexpected. After that, everything gets fairly animus-tastic, with things switching between Desmond in the real world and Connor, the Native American protagonist.

We have to say, things get fairly Star Wars-like. Connor is tasked with getting rid of his father, who is in charge of the Templar, the group of bad guys that every assassin has been up against in every game.

To be perfectly honest, there are so many twists and turns in the story, that it wouldn’t be right for us to reveal much of it to you. One thing's for sure, what you’ve seen in the trailers and adverts is a long way from the start of the game. This is an epic, which takes time to get going, but once it does you're going to want to explore every nook and cranny of the story.

The actual time period - as is always the case with Assassin’s Creed games - is also perfectly executed. At nearly every corner someone famous from history pops up - Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams to name just two such cameos.

The Native American cast and storyline is also refreshingly different from previous Assassin’s Creed titles as it does away with a lot of the grandeur over Ezio’s adventures. You are one guy, against a much more convincing set of odds.

Gameplay

At its core, not a lot changes with Assassin’s Creed III - it is more what the game adds to the formula that makes it exciting. Expect plenty of running, jumping, tearing down wanted posters and generally causing lots of pain to lots of people using lots of weapons.

The free running system from previous games returns, albeit with a slightly more convincing mechanic. Because it's set in frontier America, Connor needs to be able to run and jump between trees as well as scale mountain faces. For the most part, it works, as you can simply hold one button and then run and jump about easily.

Problems arise when it becomes unclear whether or not you can scale a surface. You might be being chased by a group of enemies, heading toward a cliff face, only to find you can’t climb it.

The simplicity of its mechanic, which works brilliantly most of the time, can also cause issues on occasion. By having only one button to run and leap, you can at times find yourself accidentally leaping in the wrong direction, only to by discovered by a guard. If you are playing a mission that requires you not to be seen, then this can be extremely annoying.

As for the fighting, rather than dishing it all out at once, the game gives you access to new moves in bite-sized nibbles. Connor starts off as an Assassin in training, but by the end he is a near unstoppable force of destruction. Through him, you can craft all sorts of kit to help you on your quest, as well as buy it from shops, making Assassin’s Creed III a much more customisable game than the previous titles.

It being set in the American Revolution, guns are much more abundant than before and represent a serious threat to Connor’s safety. We particularly like the firing line mechanic, which, if enemies manage to hit you with it, can cause lots of damage. Connor can rush to grab a nearby bad guy and use him as a human shield, making for a very cool effect.

In fact, as well as getting stuck into open combat, there is a lot Connor can do to make good his escape - like grabbing a rifle while running at an enemy, or even rapidly stringing them up from a tree branch, using a clever new gadget you pick up in the game.

He also has a bow and arrow, which at first feels fairly underused, until you discover how handy it is as a stealth aid. This is a harder game than the previous ones, and you need to work hard to try to keep yourself undiscovered.

Connor also gets access to an upgradable homestead, which, like the houses of previous games, can be used as a source of income. The concept is taken way beyond what was offered previously, however, as you build a full village and create trade routes.

There is also a ship-based fighting element to the game, which, while not featured that frequently, was very enjoyable. The boat you eventually unlock is incredibly powerful and it feels great chasing down enemy boats, breaking their masts with chain shot and sinking them.

The new gameplay tweaks are an improvement on an already great formula, but there's still with the odd minor niggle. If you have played Assassin’s Creed games before, you might find things a touch too samey; if not, then this game is going to impress with the wealth of things you can do.

Multiplayer

The multiplayer element of Assassin’s Creed III is also fairly well fleshed-out, although it does still feel like an aside to the main single-player rather than a game all unto itself. It is definitely good, but those who want a multiplayer-centric title will likely look elsewhere.

You get a standard death match mode, which is always fun; a wolf pack mode where you all work together to kill as many targets as you can in an allotted time; and a domination mode, which is essentially a competition for different parts of the map.

Your multiplayer character can be customised, as well as given different perks that last the duration of each individual mission. Then you can choose sets of skills from a number of classes.

Fighting friends and stabbing each other in the back is always going to be fun, and the maps here are perfectly designed for it.

Frankly though, with the number of hours it takes to get through the title’s single-player campaign, multiplayer is very much second fiddle. It certainly is good, but exploring the towns and wilds of frontier America as Connor is just that little bit more exciting.

Verdict

The difficult bit about reviewing Assassin’s Creed III is that it is so chock full of surprises, we just don’t want to give anything away. This is, without doubt, the best of the series and represents to us the completion of what the game initially set out to do.

The environments can be a tad bland at times, compared to the sights and sounds of Venice, say, but then they are vast, and this is a different sort of game. Assassin’s Creed III is about wandering between forts, or dipping in and out of Boston to get up to mischief. It is a huge, sprawling epic of a title that takes you all across the world of Connor and Desmond.

Graphically, character models are amazing, as are the huge environments. Things are fairly glitchy at times however, particularly with the local flora and fauna. Horses for example regularly get “stuck” in the environment.

Then there is Connor himself, who is definitely a different person from Ezio, but just as enticing to play.

What really makes it for us though, is the time period. It is just such an exciting setting and one which we have never really experienced before. The game reminds us slightly of that feeling you got when first playing Red Dead Redemption: the breathtaking vistas and those moments when you find something new and interesting just by exploring.

Soldiers, horses, music and muskets decorate every scene in the game. Connor himself looks fantastic in his Assassin’s gear and the fun of mixing up his world with that of the founding fathers of the United States, is a brilliant idea.

Ultimately then, this is the Assassin’s Creed game you have always hoped for, and should, in time, go down as a classic. It isn’t without its faults - it doesn’t do anything drastically different from previous releases. But in the end, all this is forgiven the moment Connor’s story really gets going.

We loved every minute of playing through Assassin’s Creed III, glitches, faults and all. It’s the final part of a series that dares to do things differently, and easily the best yet.