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The Backlog: Assassin's Creed III

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 09:56 — ChunkySoup

Welcome to The Backlog, where older games we have (but haven’t yet played) finally see the laser light of our disc drives!

This edition looks back at Assassin’s Creed III. Last December a buddy mine took advantage of a Best Buy trade in program and snagged me Assassin’s Creed IV for free. I was ready to play it when I realized I still had AC III in its wrapper. Well I couldn’t very well play the fourth iteration without playing the third now could I? I unwrapped the game with anticipation, plopped it in the Xbox 360 disc tray and settled into my chair.

See video


In The Beginning...

I always liked the story aspect of the Assassin’s Creed games, even when it gets a little too high and mighty for its own good. I enjoy the gameplay, but I will admit that I despise the collecting aspect of flags, feathers and cryptographic markers. I view those as non-essential elements designed only to extend the length of gameplay, which I have neither the time nor the patience for. By the end of Revelations I was also getting a little tired of Rome and Italy, so I was looking forward to the next chapter set in early America.

Over the course of the adventure you play as three characters: Haytham, Connor and Desmond. The story in AC III started off well and held my interest in the beginning but when Haytham is on the boat I started to become pissed off and frustrated. If that was to be the tutorial at the beginning, it gets a big ass fail. Half the time Haytham would get into an attack stance and refuse to attack, block or even try to break defense. I would have to let myself be killed and start again and again and again.


That “attack stance but do nothing” bug plagued the entire game. I have yet to actually throw a controller during a game, but I got damn close with this one.


Stupid Trees

The game bragged that the animus and, therefore, my controls were streamlined and improved to allow a more free-flowing parkour type transitions between elements. Basically the console tries to make a decision for you about where it thinks you are trying to go to help make the transition between elements easier. Sorry, but nope…didn’t really work. For example, in the forest both Connor and Haytham could run on a downed tree with a clearly placed horizontal branch at the end that both could jump to.


Easy right? Well, almost the end of the tree both would randomly leap 90 degrees to the left or right. So I’d walk back to the beginning and try again. That would almost be okay if more than 50% of the time they would get back on instead of running smack dab into it from every conceivable angle. After a couple minutes of that I gave up and just ran. Running was quicker as I could run the distance in less than half the time it would take me to try and use the trees. The only time I climbed one was:

  1. I needed Haytham to chase after a native lady that eventually becomes Haytham’s lover and Connor’s mom.
  2. Hide from wolves, and bears before jumping down to kill them.
  3. Hide from enemies before jumping down to kill them only because the game made me do it that way.


Stupid Horses

I have a question for Ubisoft: why is riding a horse in this game so damn difficult? Getting on the horse is easy, staying on the horse is easy. Making a small gradual adjustment on the path you are supposed to follow is next to impossible. The smallest movement would see the horse leap into trees and bushes and get stuck. Then, like with the trees, I tried to just run but after dismounting I would get stuck in the same damn trees or bushes, unable to move. Once I dismounted and managed to fall through a wooden dock and could no longer move. I hate restarting a level because of crap like this.

The Desmond, sailing, and hunting missions were pointless. I had to play through the sailing and Desmond missions to finish the story, but neither set added value to the overall game. Thank jeebus hunting was optional, and I exercised that option to the fullest. Yes, I am aware that I could have traded goods for money in which to buy upgraded weapons and such, but I got through the entire game without upgrading or buying anything.




Navigating in the map reminded me of a Disney show my kids watch: “Wizards of Waverly Place”. One episode has the kids play with a magic stick one of them bought out of the back of a wizarding magazine or something (think X-Ray goggles from the back of comic books). They would hold it up to their head and say “transport” beaming themselves three feet away while anyone around them would fall asleep. That was what Fast Travel felt like.
Here are the steps to get from your homestead to New York:

  1. Open the map click the New York Fast Travel icon
  2. Nap while game loads
  3. You were transported to the edge of the map. Turn around and take two steps
  4. Nap while game loads
  5. You were transported 3 feet away but in a new map. Turn around and take two steps
  6. Repeats steps 4 & 5 until you actually get to New York


Roam Where You Want To...

I can respect that Ubisoft wants me to roam and discover the world they worked hard to build, but how about a goddamn option menu? When I click on the fast travel icon please give me the option to go directly to New York without passing Go.

I really needed some inspiration to finish this game, and I found it in a Reddit AMA from one of the former designers/programmers. Reading through the AMA confirmed that I wasn’t entirely alone in my disappointment and it provided some insight to some of the issues within the game. Knowing that others suffered as I had oddly renewed my desire to see it through to conclusion.


The Verdict
In the end, even after all my frustration, it was a decent story, although I would not rank it up as the best of the series. At times it felt as if the entire American Revolution was fought single handedly by Connor, yet I enjoyed the twists with the characters and, overall, I am glad to have completed another chapter in the story.
My goal this year is to finish AC IV by the time AC Unity ships. Wish me luck!.

ToxicEve's picture

I'm sorry for your pain. Your review is spot on. I'm a huge AC fan and I bought AC3 (Collector's Edition no less) when it came out years ago only to practically break down and cry for what Ubisoft had down to my beloved franchise. The game was terrible and I never got past Connor's teenage years. Fast forward to Xbox One release last year I decided to rent AC4 for the heck of it and it was wonderful. It's beautiful, interesting and will make you an Assassin's fan once again. I just recently decided I had missed a lot of story so I rented a copy of AC3 and forced myself through the story. It was brutal and a complete chore but I finished it. Let's hope Ubisoft doesn't make the same mistakes with future games. Good luck with AC4, you are in for a fun time.

ErinAS's picture

Thanks for the review.  I picked this up pretty cheap but haven't popped it in yet.  Sounds like it can collect dust a bit longer still we run out of other stuff to play

AcidSnow's picture

I got it on PC some time back, I put about 6hrs into it, and liked what I played.  But other games came out, and I've never really cared about the AC series, I just wanted to see what it was like.  ...I visited a friend for a week, and I bought him AC4 on the PS3, and that looked like a really solid fun open-ish world game.  I wonder what this years AC game will do differently?  How do they keep realeasing these each year?

SarcasmoJones's picture

I agree with everything you said. AC3 was the first Assassin's Creed game that I played and didn't finish...and have no intention of finishing.Fuck Haytham, fuck Connor, and fuck Desmond Miles. I'll take Ezio, Altair,  or Edward over that guy any day.

loki619's picture

Good to know that I'm not the only one that thought AC3 stunk like the skunk that I skinned since I last played it. If I wanted to skin animals, I would have stuck with Red Dead Redemption. That said, I guess I can finally just put this game away without finishing it and finally just pop in AC4 and play away.

ToxicEve's picture

I looked up all the cutscenes on youtube from AC3 before starting AC4. That way I knew WTF happened with all the end of days stuff. Also skinning animals is back in AC4 but it's easy and doesn't play a huge role. 

TANK's picture

AC3 was a steamy pile of monkey shit, especially given all its hype.  I should have been more suspicious when they weren't letting anyone play it at events like pax.  But i bought it and suffered through it because I'm a fan of the franchise.

Thinking back on this however and seeing all the hype, delays and anti-letting people play it at events has made my worried about Watch Dogs.  I won't be picking that one up at launch because I think UBI's being shady.  I'll wait and see what people really think about WD before i put my $60 down for it even though it's a game I was very much looking forward to much like AC3.

SarcasmoJones's picture

Tank nailed it. I'm giving Watch Dogs a trial rental run before I lay down another $60 for another Xbox One near miss.

SoulTerror's picture

I'm a huge fan of AC (Have the logo tattooed on my wrist) but I agree ACIII was awful. I played the whole game just to find out that one, 1 of the home stead missons was glitched and happened to stumble upon it on a town. I hated that you didn't have to upgrade Conner at all, you started with the best weapons in the game. I loved the fighting engine of the game, was so fluid feeling to me, but it was lacking a lot of the AC things. IV was such an improvment and I cannot wait for the next one.

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