Special Series Playthrough - Assassin’s Creed
Up next in FBT's quest to find the ultimate AC game and the best Assassin, he invents America.
Part three; Assassin’s Creed III
Whereas Ezio had just Italy to unite, our new hero Connor is caught between Patriots and Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War, while defending his tribe and way of life, while scuppering the Templars plans, getting revenge for the death of mother, establishing a community, reclaiming Boston and New York, re-starting the Assassin chapter in America and working through some daddy issues; meanwhile, Des has to avert the end of the world. Epic.
We begin as Haytham Kenway, who is in the Colonies to track down an Isu thingie. After getting in with the natives, one of them reveals a cave her tribe is sworn to protect. Haytham is unable to get in, so gets off with the tribeswoman instead. He also becomes the Grandmaster of the Templars. Whoa, a Templar?! We’re playing as a Temp - wait a minute, that’s it, we’re moving on? That was just a tutorial/intro?
Years later Haytham is an absent father to little Ratonhnhaké:ton. Templar toady Charles Lee burns down the village and orphans Rat; Juno pops up and sends Rat to Achilles, the last of the Assassin order in the US. You couldn’t have done all this in a cut scene?
Years later again and Rat, now ‘Connor’ is a young lad who’s Assassin training hasn’t quelled his desire for revenge against the Templars; especially after he gets blamed for the Boston Massacre and forced into hiding; I feel another Years Later coming on.
Years later, the Patriots and Loyalists are at war, and the tribes are being drawn in. Connor sides with the Patriots and their leader, George Washington while the Templars back the Loyalists. I think, I've kinda stopped paying attention, I just want to play the game not an interactive backstory. Oh, Connor's grown up, we're gonna begin the game? Nope; I forgot about Desmond.
Des and the modern Assassin gang find Haytham’s cave. Inside, they discover an Isu machine intended to deflect the solar flare that killed the Isu the first time around; if they can get it running, they can stop the flare headed for Earth now. Sounds thrilling. But it’s not.
I had really warmed up to Des, but this time he’s central to it all and isn’t really central at all. As he works through Conner’s memories to uncover the key for the machine, he’s occasionally roused out of the animus to go on adventures; I was excited about this, finally a modern assassin parkouring about, but they’re tightly linear, controlled mini-missions that rely on stealth – at one point he’s at a huge stadium and still gets spotted by guards in an instant. It’s just not very satisfying, especially after his grim determination at the end of ACR.
Once you’re into Connor’s era though, you suspect ACIII doesn’t really want to be an AC game; for starters, the Assassin’s Creed is secondary to Connor’s revenge. Now that’s fine, it’s largely what Ezio’s initial motivation was, but Connor’s not even really an Assassin, he’s protecting his village and helping the Patriots; that he's crossing the Templar's path is just coincidence really. And Des’s world-saving plot is a b-story – the modern era might be filler, but it underlined why we’re doing all this. Now it’s just rushed though in favour of Connor getting mixed up in the Revolutionary war, not the Assassin vs Templar one we signed up for.
I’ll admit I moaned that Ezio never really tangled with the Borgias, only witnessing their acts from afar. But this time Connor is so involved he should be up on Mount Rushmore; it was Connor who dumped tea in the Boston harbour, was at Lexington and Concord, gives Paul Revere a lift for his Midnight Ride – Connor was even there when they signed the declaration of independence! I’m all for experiencing history but he single-handedly wins the war. It is thrilling stuff and doesn’t paint the Patriots in any better light than the Brits but the game twists itself to involve Connor until you’re a Patriot not an Assassin.
I love the idea that the Templars are guiding history from the shadows, but ACIII’s insistence that Connor be in the thick of it strains logic – why am I the only one on the battlefield able to use cannons? Why am I’m commanding a battalion of troops across three posts and they can only fire when I tell them to? This is supposed to be a war within a war, not the war. And we're at war with the game too.
In an effort to be challenging ACIII invents scenarios that just don’t make sense; many are timed missions which is just lazy tension, and completely takes you out of the moment. One mission has him reach a hilltop surrounded by soldiers. Do we do the assassin stealth thing? Steal a uniform and infiltrate? Nope, he runs directly into gunfire. It’s not heroic it’s stupid.
The objectives are often fun, plausibility aside, but the unrealistic limitations remove any excitement at besting it. You’re just glad it’s over. And the Full-Sync tasks are idiotic; I’m racing to save my village and … I can’t touch the ground. Is it made of lava? And then you add in good old AC controls and a few 'bugs' …