When we last saw Desmond and Ezio they had both just learned that the first civilization had built various vaults around the world so that they could study methods to save the planet from destruction. Just as Desmond awakens from a coma he states that he knows what he must do, meanwhile the central vault activates. This is where we rejoin our protagonists in Assassins Creed 3 – in a vault in New England.
There’s been a lot of publicity about Ubisofts new AnvilNext game engine which has been made specifically for Assassins Creed 3 – they even released an entire trailer just showing off the new game engine, so I like many others was interested to see what it actually does and how it stands up through the course of the game. Well I can tell you now that it stands up amazingly well! Everything is a lot smoother and quicker and just looks much better. It really comes into it’s own once you start climbing buildings, finding viewpoints and free running (something which the Assassins Creed games are famous for) as the way your character climbs just looks natural and you can really see him looking for hand and foot holds.
It isn’t long until you’re put into the Animus and into the historical shoes of your ancestors so you can find out where and what the power source for the vault is. However you don’t start the game playing as Connor – the native American we’ve heard so much about. No, instead you find yourself playing as a man named Haythem Kenway who is an English Gentleman of noble standing by day and an assassin by night. Who after successfully performing an assassination in an opera house in England, is sent on a boat to New England to spread the word of the order. However not all goes to plan on board the ship as not long into your journey, your ship gets attacked by pirates, and it’s here that you are introduced to the naval battles. The naval battles are very good and look fantastic and sound fantastic as you’ll not only have to battle the enemies on the boat but also the wind, rain and the listing of the boat. Once the battle is over, you can spend some time walking around the boat, getting a real sense of what it must have been like on a boat of that size at that time as you can talk to your shipmates – not all of whom like you – and you can play a choice of games with some of the shipmates. Games like Nine Mens Morris, Six Mens Morris and Fanorona (a traditional Madagascan board game) all of this is very addictive, in fact after the pirate threat had been eliminated I spent a good chunk of time just walking around the ship taking in the view (which was fantastic) and playing these games as they were just so addictive!
Eventually you land in Boston and the first thing that strikes you is just how nice the city looks and how busy it is, you’ll see British soldiers and early settlers all going about their business, selling their wares, drinking in the pubs and working at the docks. You’ll also see stray animals such as dogs, cats, pigs and turkeys walking around the city which you can pet as you walk around (Yes I’m aware this sounds silly but petting the animals is very addictive!). You’re then introduced to the first of many historical figures from Americas history – Benjamin Franklin and his general store where you can buy ammo for your gun or new swords and upgrades to your pouch allowing you to carry more ammo etc. You can also chat to Ben Franklin and although he doesn’t mention electricity he does mention many of his other inventions along with other things, in fact I had a peculiar conversation with him in the game about the pleasures of the older woman. Was a little uncomfortable!
Once you’ve spent time looking around Boston and getting to know your surroundings you’ll be doing the things which Assassins Creed is famous for, things like climbing viewpoints and jumping off into a pile of leaves (this is New England after all) from impossibly high places and doing side missions – of which there are many – including things like courier missions, and assassination’s and again, it’s just fun to run through the city letting the new game engine do it’s thing.
So all I’ve done so far is bang on about one new character in one new city, but what about Connor, The new native American character we’ve all heard so much about? Well after one HUGE plot twist (which I am not going to give away here, but all I will say is it comes at you completely from left field when you’re just not expecting it and makes you go “wait, what?!?”) you finally get to play as him. You first meet him as a child as he is going out to play hide and seek with his friends in the forest – which acts as a kind of tutorial to introduce you to the basics of tracking,hiding and generally learning the skills that a native American man would have in the forests of the frontier – As Connor gets older you’ll go off into the forest with your friend of many years and teach him how to track and hunt animals using a variety of different methods like bow and arrow, snare and bait and of course sneaking up on the animal and stabbing it, you’ll also learn the wonders of free running through the trees and it’s here where the AnvilNext engine can flex it’s muscles, and running through the trees is so much fun and easy. It’s like nothing else I’ve done in an Assassins Creed game. Climbing up to the top of a very tall tree to look out over the frontier is a thing of beauty. However I spent a large chunk of time falling out of trees and dying as it is not always easy to spot a leaf pile or anything suitable to jump into from the tree and while trying to climb down it was all too easy to jump off onto a rock and kill yourself.
Once you’re done teaching your friend to hunt and free run you return to your village, however when Connor arrives back at his village he finds it under attack from the British and vows to take revenge on the man responsible. So he embarks on his journey eventually meeting a man named Achilles who teaches him the ways of the assassin order.
There’s a wide variety of missions available for you to complete, such as missions you get from frontier-men who are sitting around a camp-fire telling stories and these missions usually involve investigating strange occurrence’s like the lighthouse ghost, the UFO or the sea monster and although these missions are fun – not least as it allows you to free run some more around the forest – the very fact that you are investigating a UFO or a ghost doesn’t seem very 18th century to me. You can also do homestead missions which allow you to help tradesmen like lumberers and blacksmiths which in turn allow you to make better equipment, upgrade your homestead and trade to make some money so you can buy arrows for your bow and ammo for your pistol. But you can get through the game never firing either of these so you don’t need to spend the money, and to be honest, the only thing you really need money for is to upgrade your ship for the naval battles (but more on those later) as things like doctors have been replaced with regenerating health. Which is something I found to be annoying, especially given the fact that Connor has lived in a forest his whole life so foraging for food to give him health feels like it would have been a natural thing for him to do.
Trading isn’t the only way to make money in AC3 as you can also hunt a variety of animals from small ones like wolves and raccoons to bigger ones such as elks and bears, once hunted and killed you can then skin them and sell the skins for money, the cleaner the kill the better the price though so I would recommend killing smaller animals with the snare and bigger ones with your hidden blades and avoid using your bow and arrow or pistol as this ruins the value. However the very point that you don’t really need money to get through the game means hunting, although fun, is ultimately a little pointless.
Speaking of weapons though, Ubisoft have a given Connor a brand new type of weapon – a tomahawk. The tomahawk is a great weapon and it will likely be everyone’s “go to” weapon as it’s just so versatile. The combat has also had a bit of an overhaul, you can still do the normal things like countering an enemy’s attack, throwing and disarming. But, in a way that will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Rockstar’s Batman games, a handy red triangle appears above the enemy’s head as he’s about to attack, prompting you to press the “counter” button. You can even use an enemy as a human shield.
Once you get to a certain point in the game you’ll have access to a ship which like I said you can upgrade to go faster or add things like a ram, extra cannons or upgrade the hull so it can take more damage. The naval battles are fantastic too! Not only do they look fantastic but they feel fantastic and are thrilling battles to be a part of, as you need to take into account not only the other ships around you, but rocks in the water, the wind strength and direction and you also need to be on the lookout for incoming enemy cannon fire. Thankfully though the ships are easy enough to control – the A button controlling the speed allowing you to go to half sail or full sail, whilst the triggers control your cannons and the left stick controlling direction.
It’s not long after these naval battles when you find yourself fighting alongside some more of history’s great leaders like George Washington, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams in the Revolutionary War and sees you in charge of great armies taking on the British. Being in the middle of a battlefield with 300 men firing guns on your location is a little scary but brutally brilliant! You’re even present at the signing of the declaration of independence!!
Eventually Desmond and co find out where the power source and last piece of Eden is located and off they go to find it. It’s actually in a place that will be very familiar to fans of the series. All of this culminates in what I think is one of the best endings seen in a video game in a long time. Now, I’m not going to give it away here as I’m pretty sure Ubisoft would kill me if I did but needless to say it leaves it open for another game. But, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. AC3 is without doubt, the best game of the series and they would be hard pushed to better it. And even though the world they have created, or recreated to be more accurate, and the character of Connor is rich, deep enough and well developed for probably 2 more games, they should leave it as it is. As the saying goes – it’s better to burn out than fade away.
[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]
Review Score : [starreview tpl=16] Title : Assassins Creed 3
Format : Xbox 360
Developer : Ubisoft
Publisher : Ubisoft
Release Date : October 31st
Ubisoft provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy.