Jenn talks to Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director, and Jonathan Cooper, Animation Director for Assassin’s Creed III about Connor, his ship, how the Vita game – Liberation – links to the main game, and even a bit about certain love interests. Wanna see more of our Eurogamer Expo coverage? Find it all he... Read More »
Genres: Action-adventure, open world
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
Release Date: 31/10/12
Assassin’s Creed 3 Review
Right… Assassin’s Creed. Anyone who knows me, or follows anything I write for TheGameJar will know of my love for the franchise, not only because the assassins themselves are finely honed specimens of mankind, but also because of the badass way they overcome the Templar’s ploys every step of the way. The religious undertones, the secret societies, and the downright baffling ‘godlike’ Juno aside, these games have warmed us to two individuals (three if you count Desmond, although he’s pretty boring) – Altair Ibn-La’Ahad and Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Using the Animus – a device that shows the user the story of their ancestors – we have immersed ourselves in assassin history, with the aid of Desmond Miles – a modern-day assassin trying to stop the Templars (or Abstergo Industries as they like to be known now) before they establish a ‘New World Order’.
The third (but technically the fifth) instalment in the series relives the life of Connor Kenway, or Ratonhnhaké:ton as he is known to his Native-American Mowhawk tribe. He is also half-British, and these two sides of his life collide as European colonists set out to take the land that he and his family live on. From here Connor trains to one day join the fight against the red-coats in the American Revolution, which takes him to places he didn’t even know existed past the valley he grew up in. To say any more about the storyline will ruin key points that are best left unknown until playing the game. I would say, however, that Connor’s story is possibly my favourite so far; he’s a very likeable character, full of warmth and understanding, while at the same time trying to work out where he sits morally between his two blood-lines. Oh, and did I mention he’s a brutal warrior and ridiculously sneaky?
Connor’s weapons and moves are both satisfying and in keeping with his heritage. He uses tools based on hunting in the forests, such as a bow and arrow, traps and bait, and a tomahawk, which he uses to great effect during a fight. The heavy blows he delivers using his axe are a far cry from the swift movements of Ezio – it’s like watching a bear rip apart it’s prey. He also uses a pistol and the rope dart – a long-ranged weapon that, when anchored into a target, can be used to pull them say… up into a tree. The guns take a few seconds to reload, which at the time of the American Revolution was accurate, but means timing your shots well in the heat of battle is essential.
As mentioned previously, movement with Connor is very rewarding and enjoyable. He is able to flow through the trees at speed, simply by pushing in a direction while holding the right trigger. If there is nowhere left to go, Connor will stop; he doesn’t fall unless you press A to jump off. This means covering large distances and climbing high up in the canopy of the Frontier feels safe, as though he is one with nature – moving instinctively. Tracking animals or soldiers through the forest, amongst the branches, means you get a completely different perspective of the landscape and how to go about a mission. I can’t really fault the climbing mechanism, either in the trees or in the towns; it’s all just right-trigger, run… and it works extremely well. Connor can also slide over or under obstacles mid-run, and hide behind corners, or in bushes, and whistle to get a guard’s attention – luring them in for a silent take-down. He doesn’t have to learn new moves as he progresses either, which is something the previous games included, and it again adds to the idea that Connor is just naturally good with his surroundings.
Hunting and creating your Homestead are a big part of Assassin’s Creed 3. The homestead is a large area of land, in which Connor brings tradesmen and their families to live a simple and care-free life, trading goods with each other away from the Revolution. Connor can accept missions from these people; helping track an animal, collecting items etc, and in return the inhabitants will open up new workshops, providing different materials. These can then be stockpiled, crafted into new items, and sold to general stores in the towns. This is how Connor earns money, other than looting bodies (which to me doesn’t seem fitting to his character) – there’s no absent-mindedly purchasing every shop in the city, it’s all very much about the village he creates around him and the ethos he instils.
While in an area of Frontier or the Homestead, different challenges arise in the shape of hunting statistics or myths told by Frontiermen that you come across. They will tell stories of Krakens, beasts of the forest… and as a side mission you can seek them out. I quite enjoyed sitting around a campfire, listening to the strange tales these men might know. Tracking animals or ‘beasts’ in the forest often means examining clues, which can be spotted easier with your eagle sight on. Each clue will either reduce the search area, show a track, or state there is an animal nearby which will show up on your map. Connor can lay traps and bait out to catch his prey, or he can simply run around shooting things. Prized skins are killed cleanly though – a gun-shot will damage the hide and therefore the profit will be less when trading.
As with the previous games, there are still items to collect along the way, but not quite to the extent of hundreds of feathers or flags. These come in the form of pages from books that get blown around by the wind as you approach them. They show up on the map though, which means they’re not hard to find… just hard to catch. You can also search for ‘Pegleg’s Trinkets’, which when given to a man called Pegleg (obviously) you are given maps to secret treasures across the seas.
This brings me on nicely to the ship – Aquila. I won’t disclose how Connor acquires the ship, but during the missions where it is needed, the ship is very responsive, but also feels heavy when you have it in full speed. The faster you go, the less control you have of her, and occasionally through particularly rocky areas you have to stop altogether just to turn. The clashes on the seas are pretty intense, and you have to line up the Aquila almost perfectly to get the best shot. Smaller swivel guns can be used to aim at all angles, when you’re not in range with the bigger cannons, and a selection of ammunition can be used, depending on the situation. At one point I had to use the chained balls to take down the masts of a ship so we could board it. That being said, there are only a few main missions in which you need the ship – the rest are side missions, which I found rather alluring. It’s nice to know you don’t HAVE to use to the ship all the time if you don’t want to, as it is quite a slog to get it from port to port at times, but it’s a great addition for when you fancy a change of pace from running around.
Aside from the ship, Connor can also ride a horse. He carries a whistle with him, which when equipped can be used to call a horse to his side in any situation. Although I chose to run to my destinations, mostly to explore, or fast travel long distances, it’s nice to have the option, as again the change of pace is needed after seeing Connor’s back as he run for miles on end. You will also encounter quicktime events, mostly when surrounded by predatory animals, where Connor can take them down as they attack, or if mis-timed can mean getting mauled to death.
The weather engine in Assassin’s Creed 3 is beautiful – the land that you knew to be lush and green can change in the next mission to be covered in snow, so deep in places that Connor struggles to run through it, showing the passing of time. I was climbing a large tree in the Frontier as it started to rain, and as I reached the summit to synchronise the area, huge lightning sparks lit up the sky. It was an amazing moment, and actually made me jump – I wasn’t expecting the weather to be quite that dramatic.
From these beautiful landscapes you are pulled out occasionally to join the people of the modern time. Desmond’s story is, again, something I won’t spoil, but he seems to have a lot more character than the previous games. I mentioned in the opening paragraph about him being ‘boring’, but I think there is some life in his character yet. Again, based in a secret location, the team have to collect power sources to open up new areas and uncover the mystery of the ‘god-like’ race. This takes the team to different locations, rather than the idea of one area such as the town of Monteriggioni. The places Desmond visits are somewhat cold compared to the rich world shown in the Animus, but I enjoy the contrast. It shows how much the world has modernised, and not necessarily for the better. Without the use of any HUD, you must navigate Desmond through various situations, using the skills learnt while with Connor. It’s definitely a weird experience to not have on-screen prompts to show you when someone is attacking, or which direction to take, but in the ‘real world’, compared to that inside a virtual one, you wouldn’t have these, so it makes sense.
When Assassin’s Creed 3 showed up in the post, I squeaked. I am a huge fan – I’m not going to deny it, but I felt the last few instalments (Brotherhood, and especially Revelations) weren’t that strong, so I was apprehensive to approach this one with so much excitement. Luckily, I have been extremely convinced, and from the moment I got it in the Xbox to the time of writing I haven’t been able to put it down. I’ve been told my eyes look sore, and that I’ve got gamer rage because I haven’t socialised… but I don’t care. This game is great, and I still need more. Everything about it brings Connor to life, and gives him a character in a way that the other titles were attempting, but didn’t quite manage. His mannerisms, his ideology, his story – he is an Assassin and a great one at that. When playing as Connor he feels realistic – he gets hurt, he’s agile, and you get the sense that he really knows the land. This might all sound overly romanticised, but trust me when I say that’s how it feels.
For me this is the best Assassin's Creed to date; not just graphically, but by bringing a new character to life. The story is fast paced and exciting, with side missions or just general exploration to take the edge off when you want to try something else. Connor as a character feels one with nature, and everything seems to come naturally to him. He is a great assassin, and this is definitely a game you need to try.
- Connor feels fluid and instinctive
- Story is excellent
- Modern day missions bring a new edge to Desmond
- A few minor glitches - not game-breaking
- My eyes hurt from playing it too much
Assassin's Creed 3 is a near perfect game. Everything about it feels right, from the movement, the fighting (which is considerably more brutal than previous games), the side missions, and even the modern-day plot. There's nothing to trip you up in the way of learning new moves, or tower-defence missions - which, let's be honest, was a load of crap. It's just all... great.
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