Whenever I see a guy wearing a hood on the streets, the first thing that comes in my mind is “Whoa, there’s an assassin!!!”. I am quite sure that many of you assassin’s creed fans also feel the same way. Such is the craze that Ubisoft has been able to generate in their yearly instalments of this mega franchise that folks literally die to play the next one.
So now there is a new one. But how does it fair against the previous ones? Does it really offer a refreshing experience as Ubisoft claimed? Is Connor Kenway a better protagonist than the charming Ezio Auditore?
AC3- THE STORY
Ubisoft has introduced a brand new character this time around who is half British and half Mohawk. The funny thing about him is his name- ‘Ratonhnhaké:ton’ (I prefer calling him by his English name ‘Connor’ due to obvious reasons). The assassin’s story has been intertwined with the American Independence struggle. As usual, the story of conflict between the assassins and templars has been conveniently inserted in this Independence backdrop.
The story begins with the present day protagonist ‘Desmond Miles’ (whom I completely forget a lot of times) who along with his accomplices is on a mission to prevent a global catastrophe. He finds a temple built by the precursors and then begins to relive the memories of his American ancestor using the Animus (Seriously, this is the coolest device I have ever seen in fiction). But it begins with a rather unexpected protagonist. Connor doesn’t come into picture for nearly a third after the game begins. But when he does, the story progresses quickly and becomes very interesting. He is a much more developed character than Ezio and has a purpose for his actions within the game. He meets various historical characters along the way and also plays an important role in the signing of Declaration of Independence. In short it is a satisfactory one.
Those who have played the previous instalments will immediately find themselves at home. The core gameplay is still the same including running over rooftops, climbing high locations to synchronise, recruiting new assassins and sending them on missions for levelling up, doing side missions, killing guards for fun etc. But there’s a lot variety this time.
To begin with, Ubisoft has gone with a brand new engine which they call ‘Anvil Next’. It has enabled them in creating extremely beautiful visuals with fine details. Also Connor has been blessed with lots of contextual animations which help in bonding with him. The trademark hidden blades return. But it is more fun to use the traditional tomahawk. The two cities in this game, Boston and New York are teeming with life and beg to be explored.
The game has a plenitude of side missions such as courier missions, assassinaton contracts, delivery requests, liberating forts, chasing almanac pages, mini-board games. The recruiting assassin concept has been expanded with each recruit having a little story of his own. Then there are various guilds like thieves, brawlers, frontiersmen, hunting society who offer four sets of quests each. Feathers and treasure chests also return which give you a reason to explore every corner of the map. It’s all very exhaustive.
This is something completely new to the AC universe. Alongwith the two sprawling cities, there is also a huge forest to explore which is rife with various wild animals, water streams and small human settlements. The list of animals includes foxes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, bears, deer, elk, hares, racoons, beavers, pigs, turkeys and many more. What makes this an interesting affair is the fact that Connor can now climb trees and jump effortlessly from one branch to another without a whiff to those below.
Of course it is possible to hunt these animals and sell their parts for money. Connor uses baits, traps, bow & arrow and very attractive rope darts to kill the animals. The thrill of planting a trap and then luring a hare towards it using bait is just unparalleled.
Remember Monteriggioni from AC2? It was fun to renovate that desolate town. The same concept returns in AC3 but with a bang. It is called the homestead which serves as the assassin’s base far away from the cities and its enemies. In the beginning, there is just one house in the entire property. But as Connor invites people from various professions to open their shops in the homestead, it goes on populating with people and the number of houses also increases. The various professionals include hunter, tailor, farmer, miner, woodcutter, doctor and a missionary. All these characters have their own side quests which result in levelling up their skills. There are about 37 missions related to homestead itself in addition to the above mentioned side missions.
They produce various goods which can be bought at extremely lower prices and then can be sold in the cities through convoys to earn large profits. Connor also helps them in their difficult times. In one instance, he aids two characters in their wedding and also performs the rituals for the same. A short pig herding section is probably the funniest mission in any AC game yet.
When naval warfare was first announced at E3, everyone seemed a bit sceptical about how it would work. The tower defence missions in AC Revelations were quite frankly boring and hence it is a surprise to see that the naval missions are absolutely fantastic. We have full control over the ship’s steering and its weapons. Also the dynamic weather system changes a calm sea into a deadly sea with raging waves seamlessly in no time. The water effects are great as are the battles itself.
There are a couple of naval missions in the main story. Then there are privateer missions which have us scout the seas for disturbances. There are 12 more missions in which we free trade routes from British ships so as to lower the tax rates for our convoys. If that’s not enough, there’s more. There are many trinkets hidden all over the cities and frontier which help in finding a treasure map which ultimately leads to the famous sailor Captain Kidd’s lost treasure. Naval warfare is perfect and if Ubisoft decides to, it can make a great standalone game of sea pirates.
NOW THE INCONSISTENT PART…
You must be wondering why the title mentions this game as an inconsistent excellence. Well, the thing is it isn’t perfect. Ubisoft tried to do a lot with this game and most of it is well implemented but the things that aren’t stand out like a sore thumb in the midst of this amazing accomplishment.
The game was being touted as the one with the most accurate portrayal of the American Independence and it surely does not disappoint. But the story progresses very slowly for the first one third part and it is likely that the newcomers to this franchise could be put off by the slow progression. This section plays a very important role for setting up the stage for Connor but I felt it had been extended a bit too much. Further in the game there are some brilliant battle scenes and engrossing missions which look alive with the help of Anvil next engine. But a few of the missions lack a bit of sense and do not have well defined objectives.
Most of the gamers play AC3 for the sake of story and the amazing situations that the missions put us into. But here I always found myself running past that exclamation mark without caring for it at all as I was chasing after an Almanac page or a feather or a courier or completing one of the many guild missions or undertaking naval missions or just exploring the vast frontier jumping around on trees and killing animals or performing an errand for homestead dwellers. The side missions overshadow the main quest. They are just so much fun. The initial ideology of the game which was stalking and assassinating targets quietly has now been taken over by earning more money to purchase items and levelling up various characters to gain skills and crafting items to improve Connor’s inventory. It now has a RPG-ish quality to it which might be detrimental to fans who were expecting a solid action filled experience.
AC Brotherhood introduced a new set of optional objectives within the main missions which were supposed to increase the replayability factor of the game. They continue in AC3 but most of these objectives feel out of place with the mission’s main objectives and tend to be more of a nuisance. Also when a mission is completed a message pops up saying full synchronisation failed which detracts from the overall experience.
My another gripe with it is the frame rate drop in crowded areas which has plagued this series since its inception. This is the fifth one now but still the problem persists. It is not at all a serious concern but it just doesn’t feel right with this game which was being marketed as one of the best gaming experiences this year.
Ubisoft made an earnest attempt to deliver a perfect experience. But their insistence on including a lot of things and also the pressure from the marketing team to release it a year after AC Revelations has clearly affected the final product. The lack of polish is evident in many cases and it falters under the high expectations many had. Maybe a bit more time was what was needed. But it still is the best AC game up to date and is an absolute bang for buck. It’s just that we expected more (well we always expect more, don’t we?).
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Expected gameplay : 15-20 hours (Just the main story)
40-50 hours (Including all side missions)
Reviewed on : PS3
Also available on: XBOX 360, WINDOWS, WII U
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