Monday, September 22, 2014

Game Review: Assassin's Creed 3

 I've recently finished another installment of one of my favorite video game series, Assassin's Creed.

Assassin's Creed III is another virtual trip back in time to another era in history. Unlike the previous 3 Assassin's Creed titles, which took place in the "Old World" mainly in Renaissance Italy & Constantinople, this game is set in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

You still are playing as Desmond Miles, a modern day Assassin who can virtually tap into his ancestral memories, using Animus technology that unlocks past experiences from the information in one's DNA. The game is basically a virtual reality simulation, experienced by the virtual character within the video game itself. Virtuality within virtuality...

The enigmatic "First Civilization" still plays a role in the series, as a society of advanced humanoids who were destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of solar energy, many thousands of years ago. Their holographic personalities remain embedded in certain locations, to guide the human race toward preventing another mass extinction event like the one they experienced. There are various technological artifacts they left behind, "Pieces of Eden", which grant the user extraordinary powers. The historical conflict between the Templars & the Assassins is a race to find these powerful devices, in order to use them to further their own agendas.

I think this series should really be called "Time Traveler", because the amount of detail put into recreating the look & feel of each time period is nothing less than astounding. My biggest complaint about the game is that I personally find colonial America to be an incredibly dreary time period. Even though there were many pivotal historical event going on, the architecture, dress, and lifestyles of the day were dull & uninspiring.

Despite my personal lack of enthusiasm for the time period, the Ubisoft team did an extraordinary job of capturing the feel of America's early days. You get to experience first-hand the major events of the Revolution- The Boston Massacre, Paul Revere's ride, Lexington & Concord, and The Boston Tea Party.

There are also many locations recreated with meticulous detail- such as, colonial Boston with the famous Green Dragon Inn where the Revolution was planned, British-occupied New York City, the encampment at Valley Forge, and several British forts. There is also an expansive wilderness with seemingly endless areas of forest, streams, mountainous terrain, and wildlife that can be hunted to use for trade items.

The wilderness is also the location of a Native American village, which is the home to the main character, Connor. His real name is Ratonhnhaké:ton, and is half-European & half-Iroquois. He got the name Connor from the old Assassin, Achilles, who trained him at the Davenport Homestead- which becomes like a home base during the game.

You actually start out playing the game as Connor's father Haytham Kenway, a British Templar. As Haytham, you travel by sailing ship to America, to start the journey that will lead to Conner's birth and eventually reunite father & son later in the game. The way in which the game has you travel to the colonies by ship & makes you feel like you are en route to the new land is a very immersive way to introduce the game.

Besides the main characters, you also interact with some of the famous figures in early American history- including a raunchy Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, Marquis de Lafayette, and even George Washington, who is shown as the powerfully charismatic (yet flawed) human being he undoubtedly was in real life.

The gameplay is very much in the tradition of the other AC games, with stealth elements, easier free-running (with the ability to travel through the treetops), an array of weapons from the period including the customary Assassin's blade, and improved combat mechanics- which makes taking on large groups of enemies very fluid.

There is also the added element of naval missions, in which you take the wheel of a large sailing ship to steer it and direct cannons at enemy vessels. At first I wasn't too impressed with the naval aspect, but as I played through more of the missions I really got into captaining the ship & sailing into the intense battles at sea.

The main campaign of the game is characteristically expansive. Due the limited amount of time I devote to video games nowadays, it took me a couple months of sporadic playing to complete the main sequences. Unfortunately, instead of feeling a sense of wonder at exploring, as in Renaissance Rome & other locations like in previous episodes, I mostly wanted to just get through this game & finish it- so I could get the hell out of the dismal Colonial experience.

This was probably my least favorite Assassin's Creed so far, for the reasons I stated above, but that doesn't take away from the monumental achievement that the production of this game represents. If you want to get a taste of the events & life in America during the Revolutionary War, there is no better way than Assassin's Creed 3.

• Official Monkey Buddha Rating: 8.0

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