RISE or fall?
Review written by
Giles K W
July 19th, 2013
The Wii U is a curious console. Despite not pushing some elements of modern gaming further than other consoles we have seen, other features of Nintendo's latest unit are notably ahead of the competition. But regardless of these ups and downs, the Wii U has allowed Nintendo to step out of the franchise ridden shadow that has sometimes plagued its previous consoles in the past. This has allowed Nintendo as a whole to step confidently into the light of new, more adult IPs. Assassin's Creed III is possibly one of the finest examples of a franchise that, until now at least, Nintendo fans have had little exposure to. But is this the best introduction to Ubisoft's flagship IP? The answer strangely is both yes and no as AC3 somehow manages to take simultaneous forward and backward steps.
For a long time it seemed that the franchise was never going to move away from AC2's popular protagonist Ezio and his travels around renaissance Europe. However with his tale brought to a close in the most recent spin off (AC Revelations), Ubisoft decided it was time to move on to a new setting and a new ancestor. Enter Connor, the son of a Native American who is struggling to save his people as the American War for Independence portrays an incredibly interesting backdrop to the tale. This change in setting and protagonist is not only a welcome one but is also to the advantage of newcomers to the franchise. It has to be said that AC3 does an outstanding job of catching players up on the story so far and no one should be put off from jumping into the timeline here.
It is unfortunate however that Connor himself is more than a little bland as a character, making for some flat story sections throughout. Luckily, the same cannot be said for some of the other characters. Without spoiling anything, it is safe to say that you will have enough vested interest in other elements of the story to carry you through to the game's climax.
As fans of the series will be aware, there are certain sections of the story that take place in the modern day and concern a second series regular, Desmond Miles. However, over the years the so called 'Desmond sections' have proved unpopular with many fans and it is unfortunate for those who enjoyed Desmond's tale that Ubisoft seems to have taken this on board in AC3. Little time is spent bringing his story to a close and this unfortunately leaves you with a somewhat underwhelmed feeling at the game's conclusion.
Despite these issues, what AC3 does do is take some bold risks with other elements of its pacing. Unlike other games in the series, this latest instalment does not open up to the player fully for some time, leading to somewhat mixed results. Although I do commend the risk taken here, it is hard to commend all of the results and players should steel themselves for a much more forced experience for the opening 6 hours or so.
What this does allow however is AC3 to cover an extremely long period of time in its narrative and it is fair to say that Connor's origins are by far the most in depth of any character in the franchise to date.
Once the game does open up however there is more than plenty to do and explore. As the biggest surface area to date, AC3 prides itself on creating an incredibly well sculpted, living world that in many ways serves as its best feature. From the boat over to the new world to the sprawling frontier and the streets of a pre-industrialised New York, AC3 is both historically correct and incredibly atmospheric. Although not a new quality of the franchise, this period in history is one not visited all that often by any medium and is also a far cry from those visited by the series in past instalments. It is a testament to the developers and historians at Ubisoft that they were able to create such a believable world.
There are a few bones to pick with some of the design decisions here. The 100% sync options for every mission can make you feel that you are constantly failing and some of the 100% completion parameters are a little ludicrous. There is also the issue of bugs which are seemingly more common in the Wii U version. Despite the off-screen play which is one of this version's strengths, expect more than a few freezes and clipping issues throughout the lengthy campaign.
When it comes to game play, Assassin's Creed has always been somewhat of a mixed bag. The climbing mechanics can frustrate in part and some of the button configuration decisions seem a little strange at first but these are problems that will never be solved without a complete redesign of the game's fundamental controls. For the most part it is a system that you will either love or hate and AC3 never strays far from its heritage in this area. However the same cannot be said for the game's stand out boat combat sections which are, in a word, brilliant. They control well, are satisfying to play and look incredible. My only gripe is that there wasn't more of them and also that this mode was not included in the games multiplayer.
On this score, there is very little different in AC3's multiplayer package than in previous instalments. Most games are team or solo based and involve assassinating members of the opposition in the most casual way possible. There is also a new mode dubbed 'Wolf Pack' which is not dissimilar to a 'horde mode'. You and your team have to work together to hit score goals in timed waves of enemies. As with every other AC multiplayer, little can be complained about here and it will continue to divide fans of the series. If you have played the franchises other multiplayer modes and didn't like them there is not enough here to convert you. However if you are a fan or feel like jumping in for the first time as a Wii U only owner, this is by far the most definitive version to date.
Assassin's Creed III is by no means a bad game but it may not be the leap forward that fans wanted. Its occasionally bizarre pacing and frustrating design is in the most part offset by a wonderfully realised world and some bold risks that, at least in part, pay off. If you are a fan of the series or are looking for something new to play in this lull of Wii U software, you could do a lot worse.
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