A “revolutionary” departure for the Assassin’s Creed series here then (eh, readers?). No more Renaissance Europe. No more splendour of Constantinople (Istanbul) splashed before our eyes in its vivid glory. Nope, this time the series takes us to the time before, during and after the American Revolution – around 1753 to 1783 AD.
As usual, one of our heroes is a hoody wearing fellow called Desmond – veteran of the other games (by the way there are many more than three of them). Again, as usual, the convoluted plot device called The Animus is used for our Des to relive his ancestor’s genetic memories. No Ezio or Altair this time, we meet some new people here…
The game draws you in very quickly with its prologue. It opens with a charismatic, urbane, nobleman / assassin called Haytham arriving at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in the 1750s. No time to enjoy the play that is in progress there – a mark has to be stealthily assassinated. Naturally this requires climbing up and along the VIP boxes of the house and then swiftly dispatching the target.
With this, Haytham recovers a medallion that contains details of “those who came before” – cue some exposition and our man is duly tasked with travelling to the American colonies. So, a 10 week perilous sea crossing ensues. Even the ship is a detailed, intriguing environment – full of enemies and plots to be uncovered. There are even a fine selection of venerable old board games to play against the recalcitrant crew.
Anyway. Soon we arrive in Boston – at this point a thriving, cosmopolitan coastal settlement of the young nation. The game opens up another notch here – there are buildings to be explored, a map with a choice of locations and missions to attend to, goods and weapons to trade and more. Brutal redcoat soldiers must be carefully avoided or dealt with to accomplish the various deeds our hero must carry out. And then a few missions later…
Just as I really began to like Haytham’s character – the focus switched to his son, a half English, half Native American called Connor. So the game is actually about him. Quite a large bait and switch here – it was a real joy to play as the father. The game also initially leads one to get attached to Boston. The graphics really are very good, the old buildings stand proudly in their white timber fronted magnificence. You meet such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin and more… It’s a wrench to be taken away from there and from Haytham.
But from there the story really unfolds – with missions leading you from Boston, to New York, to The Frontier… very contrasting environments with real freedom of gameplay. You can pick and choose the missions you wish to take, or take time out to trade and hunt – somewhat like Red Dead Redemption.
A huge single-player game then – impressively so. Unfortunately the controls aren’t anywhere near as enjoyable as you’d hope. It’s possible to free run and climb just by pointing the character at a building and holding one button. All the climbing and jumping is taken care of for you. When it is time to jump to another ledge, sometimes you can end up throwing yourself off of the building you’re trying to scale – a traditional quirk of the Assassin’s Creed controls.
It is slightly buggy at the moment too – there was a substantial day one patch to be downloaded on the consoles, nevertheless characters can occasionally walk through each other during cut scenes and the game hung on my Xbox one or two times.
But, for my money, this is a far more likeable game than any of the other Assassin’s Creed titles. There’s something about the exciting cities of Boston and New York, just starting to grow and thrive. The Frontier sections are beautiful, immense environments. Haytham is such a compelling character at the beginning… Too bad about Des and Connor, but hey.
And there is the multiplayer mode, a solid and playable extra aspect to the game. It provides a familiar mix of modes and can add a little more gameplay, but to be honest, there are tens and tens of hours to be had in the single player campaign.
So… it’s a familiar feeling game, with the most compelling setting yet. Still has a few bugs and control issues, but overall I do like this more than any of the other Assassin’s Creed titles I’ve played. And it’s big! It really is quite a sandbox to explore…
Best one so far then, and a fitting end to one of gaming’s important series. This isn’t a perfect game, but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would. I was never a huge fan of this franchise, but with this final instalment, I really have been won over. Now that is revolutionary…
Assassin’s Creed 3 is out now for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. PC and Wii U versions coming later in November. (Xbox 360 version tested)