Wot I Think: Assassin’s Creed III PC

By Alec Meer on November 22nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

Assassin’s Creed III is the fifth in Ubisoft’s open-world action series. Like its predecessors, it has you playing a historical ‘assassin’ who divides his time between free-running across rooftops, hunting down and killing members of a sinister conspiracy and collecting feathers, with sci-fi diversions into a modern-day tale of one of his descendants trying to prevent an apocalypse. This time, though, we’re in the New World – America in the throes of revolution against its British rulers/oppressors. A few weeks after its console version, it’s not out on PC – here’s what I made of it.

Picture a very fat man.
No, fatter than that. Much fatter.

Now picture him eating a cream cake.
Now picture him following that up with 300 more cream cakes.
Now picture that he has a lactose intolerance that causes temporary but rapid expansion of his guts.
Now picture that he eats 300 more cream cakes.
Now picture that he drinks nine gallons of Coca-Cola, pre-shaken for maximum gassiness.
Now picture that, belching and wheezing at the sheer quantity of food, liquid, bile and phlegm sloshing around inside his obscenely swollen belly, he pulls a dinner jacket onto his bloated, horrible torso.
Now picture that he waddles to the mirror, looks his heavy, sweating, bulging, swollen bulk up and down, and beams with pride.

Assassin’s Creed III: lose some goddamn weight. It doesn’t look good on you.

What a lot of bloat for no good reason. The policy here is only ever insult the product, not the creators, but God help me that’s hard with this one. Having already struggled through on console, it was playing through Assassin’s Creed III’s preposterously long and self-regarding tutorial/introduction for a second time that took me closest to writing a torrent of invective about the humans who created it. Even now, I quiver with something like hatred as I think about those five hours (two times over – so ten) spent being told what to do, sitting through that steady stream of irony-free exposition, waiting, waiting, waiting to be allowed to play this game on my hard drive – a game I knew full well how to play not only because I’d already played it, but because the vast majority of it is Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: No Real Revelations in an attractive and large new setting with a few new toys. Were I to right now be in a room with one, some or all of the team behind this fifth Assassin’s Creed, these are the questions I might shout, spittle-flecked, at their bemused faces.

1) Do you understand the difference between fixed-narrative, non-interactive mediums such as movies and games? If yes, do you just not care?
2) Do you truly believe most of your players have never played an Assassin’s Creed game before?
3) Are you proud of making millions of people wait around five hours to play the game they purchased?
4) Why did you opt not to give your lead character a personality much beyond ‘a bit grumpy’, given you were so determined to force him into our faces in so many scenes of drawn-out conversation?
5) Do you truly believe people buy this series for its storyline over and above its free-roaming action?
6) Will you forgive me for shouting at you like this?

Thank God, I am not and very likely will not ever be in a room with one, some or all of the team behind this fifth Assassin’s Creed. I suppose I might be should I attend a press tour of a future AC game, but by that point I’d have calmed down and probably forgotten about this. So my questions can go unanswered, but I can feel better for having spoken them, and now I can turn my attentions to the game and the game alone.

There is a decent third-person action game right down in here somewhere, in the same way there has forever been a decent game deep down inside every AC to date, underneath the cheerless sci-fi meta-narrative, the puerile and hollow item collection mini-games and the finding of three hundred and ninenteen thousand different ways to say “go and kill this man” in as long-winded a fashion as possible. But AC3 goes so damn far in its self-indulgence and patronisation that it winds up being the worst game in the series (Revelations wasn’t bad on its own terms – trouble was it was a straight-up repetition of the last game). I would take a short, lean game that jettisoned the hours of obnoxious, tedious exposition and the dead weight of new or superficial features in favour of just getting the hell on with being a free-running muderdery guy in nascent America over this swollen, insulting exercise in 100-hour self-indulgence in a heart-beat.

Once the fat game finally – and only temporarily – takes off some of its many overcoats and lets me play it, I have a good time. I run or ride through a beautiful, snow-bound forest, I coo at the evocatively 18th century red brick architecture, I observe the slow shift from English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish culture to the new, hybrid, diverted one of early America, I experiment with the many tools offered with which to trigger and resolve small and/or large-scale combat. To AC3′s eternal credit it doesn’t often drag me out of its atmospheric and lavish if rather mechanical world to visit the petulant Desmond and his dreary involvement in gaming’s current go-to narrative magic bullet, ancestor races. Unfortunately the drip-feed of access to features old and new and the regular interruption by talking bits between largely unengaging characters undoes this improvement. The mid-game move to New York is even more egregious, dangling the enticing prospect of a new setting but immediately plunging the player into punishing new degrees of scripting, linearity and instant-fail conditions before they’ve had a chance to explore.

Also, the obsession with contriving reasons for lead protagonist Connor to play a critical role in every major event of the American war of independence also adds a lingering smog of absurdity. Yes, the historical research and recreation is a laudable thing for an unashamedly mainstream game to do, but the idea that no-one ever noticed that a surly guy who looks like a wrestler wearing a leather wizard costume was lurking around and splitting skulls with his tomahawk at the Boston Tea Party, the ride of Paul Revere, the battle of Bunker Hill and so forth clashes a dozen heads a second with any attempts at realism and gravitas. That said, it’s for that very reason that I don’t take any concern that AC3 is jingoistic against the English particularly seriously. It’s very silly fantasy, and no kind of political statement whatsoever.

I get that it wants to tell a story rather than be mindless action. I can certainly see the character-bulding intentions behind a prologue that encompasses the adventures of lead protagonist Connor’s father in Boston before seguing into Connor’s own Native American childhood and long journey to becoming an adult Assassin. That doesn’t mean I think it works, or even that it’s the right decision. AC3 is, to me, plagued by bad decisions – decisions that regardless of noble intent serve to diminish and dilute a deft open-world action game and its smart new features (i.e. animal-hunting and naval combat).

Connor, meanwhile, is even more of a non-entity than his notoriously dull descendant Desmond. His Native American heritage, fish out of water status in Boston and New York and involvement in a critical moment of history would seem to suggest a fascinating firebrand. Alas, he just glowers and monotones through long hours of being told what to do – forever a dour passenger to someone else’s interests. I do feel a certain sympathy for those who have to write Desmond’s scenes, as no matter how well-written or performed that character ever was, his inherent status as an interruption upon the player’s past-life power trip means he can’t help but be irritating. But when the lead character proper winds up such a cold, unsympathetic fish despite his mad adventures and tragic backstory, something much more critical has gone wrong.

Perhaps AC3′s war of independence setting requires another Brotherhood to liberate it. There’ll be another game next year I’m quite sure, and I’d be very surprised if it changed setting or character given the towering and impressive quantity of world and assets built for this one over the last three years. So I hope it can shear off much of the bloat and just get the hell on with being a party. If Brotherhood was the club remix of AC2, AC3 is its director’s cut – as cut by a director badly in need of an editor who can keep him mindful of audience needs and patience rather than auterish pride.

So it’s not that this latest AC setup is beyond redemption – far from it, its underlying foundations are strong and proud and its PC version especially is one of the year’s finest opitcal treats. Some seven hours in finally I had the run of Boston and the wilds outside it, and at last I wasn’t praying for the game to end. I played with the weapons and trapping tools, I marvelled at the size of the city, I liberated areas of it from British oppressors and gained summonable allies (as introduced in Brotherhood) as a tangible reward, and happily ignored the legion of collectormania frippery. I would have been happy with that game, even if it’s only a slight departure from the last three: I certainly didn’t need all the flab either side of it.

That said, I don’t reserve all my barbs for AC3′s retrograde and arrogant narrative indulgences. It’s at least as much of a disaster zone in terms of mechanics. There’s an awful reliance upon (near) instant-fail stealth missions which require tediously tailing an NPC for what feels like an eternity, or its adrenaline-free partner piece slowly walking or horse-riding alongside a friendly character who lacks Connor’s fast movement abilities. The ‘Assassin’ in this series’ title has been somewhat oxymoronic since the second game diverted into relatively open action, but here its meaning is entirely abandoned – in terms of action, this is a game about big fights, comparable to a less complex and less satisfying Arkham Asylum. More than that though, it’s about following. So much following. Is it that the game is for some reason afraid to let players loose, or is it ‘we’ve built so much and you must therefore be shown it all?’ Or is it just a mystifying lack of sympathy for players who want to play?

Underneath and indeed during these dread following marathons, player movement and its long-held problems remains unchanged bar some minor tweaking. Your master Assassin will still regularly hurl himself to a messy death instead of onto the roof or wall you clearly wanted to reach, he will still fruitlessly try to jump vertically up a sheer surface while you’re desperately hammering left to go around it, he will still remain stuck squatting on top of a bit a fence while you’re trying to pursue someone at speed, and his horse will still find itself mysteriously glued to bits of rock instead of jumping over them.

That so much time, money and effort has clearly been put into AC3′s oppressive, cutscene-burdened twin narratives but fundamental issues with the game’s fundamental appeal – fluid, free movement in an urban environment – have been left essentially unchanged is a deeper disappointment to me than is all its time-wasting. I wanted this game to make me feel good – powerful, mobile, a near-superhuman athlete with the run of a fascinating environment. Instead, I feel like a hapless prat who’s laid low by fences and small walls far more often than he is by an army of redcoats. (A note on PC controls by the way – despite earlier assertions that this version would all but require a gamepad, I’ve been quite happy with mouse and keyboard. The exception to that is the lockpicking mini-game, which was designed around gamepad rumble motors, but in fairness it’s horrible on gamepad too).

Both this and the surfeit of cutscenes are grown from the same root issue – this is an intrinsically mechanical game despite what the open environments would seem to suggest. You can choose, between missions, where to go and what route you take, but there’s no real flexibility of combat, choice of behaviour or option to find your own way out of a mistake. You do it the game’s way or you fail. Or you stop playing, which would be entirely understandable. I struggle to understand why the game goes to so much effort with its huge environments only to be so prescriptive about how you may interact with them. If it wants to be a linear action game perhaps it should just be one, instead of teasing us with unmet possibilities.

That said, there’s all manner of secret or at least unmentioned stuff bubbling away underneath the surface – such as hunting challenges, searches for mythical beasts, collecting pirate booty. A lot of this is uncovered naturally and even accidentally in the course of play rather than being locked inside the slightly tedious rollercoaster of the main game, and it’s much more like the organic game of experimentation and discovery that I wanted AC3 to be. Alas, it’s incidental and ultimately purposeless, there for Achievements rather than sense of achievement.

The same can be said of the two major new additions, beast-hunting in a sprawling and often snowbound wilderness outside the cities and enjoyably silly-but-fluid (and spectacular) naval battles. These two pursuits are what I most enjoyed doing, but like almost everything else in the game they’re there to help fill the many resource metres that are technically about funding an in-game economy and crafting new items (the interface for which is appalling), but realistically are about hollow completism. This is, for all the mountain of features and wonderful semi-open environments, a purely mechanical game – it’s about box-ticking, not discovery.

How did it come to this? How did a series founded upon the principles of generous player freedom and sophisticated stealth wind up being arguably more risk-averse than the latest (but infinitely more obnoxious) Call of Duty? By all rights Assassin’s Creed, once so confident in throwing out what hadn’t worked in favour of a new and vastly improved approach to the same essential concept, should be at the forefront of mainstream gaming right now. Instead, it’s put all this work into a largely fantastic new engine (that ‘largely’ because, while the environments are a treat and half, many of AC3 NPCs have setup a permanent, boggle-eyed, puppet-limbed camp in Uncanny Valley) then squandered it on painstakingly replicating the last three games, problems and all, and indulging someone’s movie writing aspirations at the expense of player engagement and freedom. I’m impressed by the game on a technical level, and perhaps a quantity level, but at the same time I’m overwhelmingly disappointed that everything AC3 builds coalesces into something so boring, bloated and shallow.

It’s a game that can’t see the woods for its own impeccably-rendered trees. I can’t quite say I ever loved this series, but I have by and large always liked it. So I truly hope the high sales and breathless reviews from those who are equally complicit in spoon-feeding their audiences won’t prevent it from finding its way again.

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124 Comments »

  1. tigershuffle says:

    the “your ancestors did not kill civilians or domestic animals” screenie perfectly sums up why the games industry is so bizarre

    have that image in your head and then read the CodBlops2 WIT ……..hilarious

  2. Didden says:

    So what you’re trying to say then Alec, is you loved it :)

    • Oh Tyrone says:

      Obviously it’s a 7/10.

      • belgand says:

        Which, in the standard of the times, is a brutal pan. Being a ridiculously over-promoted AAA game with all sorts of DLC, pre-order bonuses, and a small army of collectible editions anything less than the 9.5/10 it has purchased for itself by dint of public awareness is to be considered a slap in the face.

  3. Spoon Of Doom says:

    One thing I’ve been wondering at least since Revelations: why the hell do they keep changing Desmond’s face from game to game?

    • jswitch says:

      I’ve been wondering that too. Annoying as hell, I almost didn’t recognize him in Revelations.

    • TNG says:

      From AC1 and 2 to 3 is understandable due to the new game adopting a new engine. It is the same face model. The weirdest new looks seem to be from the supporting cast, I couldn’t recognize at first who they were on the AC3 screencaps.
      But why the hell they changed him in Revelations you ask? I have no idea. Maybe it was their attempt at making a bridge between what he looked like in the old engine and the new one? Or maybe they didn’t have the face model on a contract for Revelations and had to improvise?

    • WoundedBum says:

      It’s to do with the new facial capture technology they’re using I believe.

    • RobinOttens says:

      Must be some Ubisoft company-wide guideline. They kept doing it with the prince of Persia and Sam Fisher too.

    • Faren22 says:

      He looks a bit like Daniel Craig in this one… rather strange.

    • yurusei says:

      A simple question, a simple answer – they change their faces to escape Abstergo.

      • empty_other says:

        But not their clothes? :) Desmond haven’t even once put away his backpack. What is in that thing anyway?

        • Jonesy says:

          It’s actually the same stylish one-shoulder deal Sam Fisher wore in conviction. Spoiler: Fisher is Desmond’s father, and the next Assassin Creed games will just be Splinter Cell remakes that Desmond dreams up.

  4. woodsey says:

    Christmas sale then. I guess they’ll still get my money with Far Cry 3, though.

    Turning Assassin’s Creed into a yearly occurrence is one of the saddest things to have happened to a series this generation.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Agreed… and agreed.

    • fugo says:

      YES. they should’ve skipped all of them without a number after and just got on with making good games rather than endless money grubbing sequels.

      • Herkimer says:

        Except that Bro was far more fun than 2, I thought.

        • Patches the Hyena says:

          Brotherhood was an unexpected delight, but Ubisoft learnt all the wrong lessons from it.

          • Syra says:

            Quite so, brotherhood was great but it had personality, likable characters and a glut of novel things to do and a world you wanted to keep going on and doing things in.

            Ubisoft basically only took away ADD MORE STUFF and MAKE MORE GAMES TO MAKE MORE MONEY from this whole endeavour

    • qwagor says:

      Except work on ACIII started right after ACII, Brotherhood and Revelations were used to finance the overambitious ACIII.

  5. airtekh says:

    Will RPS be WIT-ing the multiplayer portion of AC3?

    • NightKid says:

      Ditto to this.

      Thought I was reading the SP review portion when I looked up and saw it was for the whole game. Surely manstabbing intelligent meatbags deserves some words too, particularly when it has been a strength of the series since AC:Bro?

  6. nasenbluten says:

    I liked the first AC, the second was OK but all that forced running around without fast travel was tedious, Brotherhood was OK too with new elements and more polished. I found Revelations boring and uninspired.

    The gameplay is way too easy and gets even easier with each iteration. Overall the story has gotten to a continuous inconclusive “it doesn’t matter anymore, we’ll continue next year”. I won’t pick up this one for now, maybe when it goes on sale.

  7. godofdefeat says:

    :[

  8. Lanfranc says:

    There was a long silence. Then Alexander Hamilton cried.

  9. cluster says:

    I thought I would finally try the AC series with this one (once it would be cheaper, I don’t pay 60 bock to play a game anymore, or I’m sure x 100 times, it will be worth 300 hundred hours of playtime. And then it’s another of this “unlimited and absolutely free gameplay”, that is so only in the mind of his developers.

    Only limited for our “own good” they would pretend. Yeah right. A no no for me.

  10. CptSqweky says:

    “5) Do you truly believe people buy this series for its storyline over and above its free-roaming action?”

    I actually do know somebody who bought this game specifically for it’s story and not for the gameplay.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      For me it’s a bit of both, actually. I have to admit that while the story is absolutely batshit insane and the amount of conspiracies built into it is insane, I really like it for that. Even the overarching “20 minutes into the future” plot with Desmond, the only person on this planet who can completely change his face without anyone noticing or commenting.

      Flame away if you want.

    • Bostec says:

      Would this person be the same person that brought Women’s Weekly for the “My snake ate my dog and then it ate my leg too ” story? If so then I do believe they will enjoy this engrossing storyline too.

    • malkav11 says:

      And I am another. Frankly, if I were playing Assassin’s Creed for the gameplay, I would have chucked the series out the window three games ago. Maybe four. There’s nothing there. There are two basic modes: parkour and countering (I mean, uh, combat). Parkour involves holding a button and indicating in a direction. The only time it becomes remotely difficult is when your player avatar decides apropos of nothing to do something blatantly stupid and counterproductive. Combat is completely and utterly trivial. It’s nearly impossible to die, especially once the second game introduced the concept of medicine, and while in the late game there are enemies who can’t be countered or must be countered repeatedly to kill them, it’s still mostly about countering with some occasional mashing of the attack button, and enemies still politely wait for one at a time attacking. So there you have it. Gameplay on autopilot. It’s flashy and rewarding on a basic level and I don’t -dislike- it (unless I’m on a timed platforming sequence where my character refuses to go where I tell them, or an instant fail “stealth” sequence in a game that has no stealth mechanics), but hardly enough to support hundreds of hours of play over five games and counting.

      But the story is fun, if silly, and there are spectacular historical landmarks to climb, and I love the sci-fi metanarrative with Desmond and Subject 16′s clues and all that stuff. (No, it’s not dreary.) Hell, I love it enough to play a silly Facebook game (Project Legacy) to get some additional hints and background. And when you layer that over the far-too-basic gameplay loops, spice some with occasional twists and collecting and a basic economic game, then yeah, you get a series I’ll keep buying.

      • bfandreas says:

        For me it was the historical setting. Playing as an Ismaeli of a very famous and also very obscure medieval sect in the time of the crusades had a huge appeal. Romping through Renaissance Italy(and suffering from vertigo in Santa Maria del Fiore) also tickled my fancy. I was mildly not interested in Rome which was comparatively dull as a setting. Post-Ottoman takeover Constantinople OTOH was great intheory but somehow it fell flat.
        But Revolutionary America? Humm. Problem is, that has already been done to death. Not necessarily in games but in all other media. It’s like “let’s make a game set in a zombie apocaplypse”. Truly novel. You can only pull it off by interesting gameplay or interesting narrative. Only the narrative is already fixed and the gameplay is basically your character jumping up flat surfaces when you don’t want him to.
        No aspect of this game does truly carry it. And the most interesting and likeable character is Haytham. And the French cook.

    • mwoody says:

      I enjoy both. Slightly less so, admittedly, Conner’s narrative – I don’t much like his character – but the smaller, side stories throughout and the increasingly odd sci-fi meta-narrative have yet to grow old for me. I’m more than a little surprised to see so much hate leveled against the story, when it’s far more developed than 95% of the drivel gamers put up with.

    • The Random One says:

      I too play the Ass series mostly for the story.
      I also actually like the Desmond interludes a lot.
      Then again, I only clicked on this entry because I wanted to know where Alec was going with the fat man metaphor, so I may not be a paragon of refined taste.

  11. TheGoddamn says:

    I feel much the same way about Assassin’s Creed, as I wrote in a piece for Nintendojo:

    http://www.nintendojo.com/features/specials/wii-u-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-assassins-creed

    But damn if I’m not downloading AC3 as we speak. The first remains my favorite, though, Incredible on PC, and spoke of so much potential. Revelations was horrible, and its only redeeming factor was Altair and the refreshing change in locale.

  12. malkav11 says:

    The series has never been about stealth in any meaningful way. It’s never -really- been about player freedom. I do agree that there’s a bit of a shift from the first game to the rest of the series in that it stops being so much about carefully plotting specific stabbings and starts being about stabbing a large number of men in succession, but that’s about the only significant change in focus I’ve noticed to date.

    And really, it was never that good at that. Hitman’s the series you want for carefully plotted assassinations. (Or, at least, it was…)

  13. jumblesale says:

    I haven’t played an AC game since 1 which was a tedious slog. Are any of the other games in the series worth checking out?

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      I’m not shy in letting my pure hatred of the first AssCreed be shown, but I can safely say that I’m having a grand old time with number two, and as soon as I’m done with that I’m going to move on to Brotherhood. AssCreed 2 has the same technical issues that plagued the first one (shoddy gamepad setup, wonky movement), but they really streamlined the combat and improved on the exploration bits.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      AssCreed 2 was, in my opinion, a very good iteration on the formula, and far superior to AssCreed 1, even though it’s kind of sad that instead of improving it the stealth and escape aspects, they shifted the focus more toward action and combat. But even then, as a whole I liked it better than the first one.
      Brotherhood added a couple of nice little elements to it (such as commanding other Assassins) which made it fun.
      Revelations was rather disappointing for me, as it felt more like a “damn, we have to do another sequel” thing to me. More of the same really, without much new.

      AC3, I’m not quite sure about yet. It’s the same basic formula, but in a new setting. The addition of woods and cliffs to climb through is cool, but I’m not convinced about hunting, which feels more like a chore. The game bugs out every now and then, which can be frustrating if it happens in the wrong moment, like Connor deciding to just not continue climbing, the camera not reacting to you trying to turn it, getting stuck inside terrain, or other bugs. All that on console, I should say – no idea how many bugs are in the PC version.

      Once I got stuck in an infinite bear loop: I was attacked by a bear, with another nearby, which triggers an unescapable quicktime event (which is annoying in and of itself) with you evading the bear three times and finally killing it. After that, the second bear attacked me, triggering another quicktime escapade. After that ended, another bear had spawned there for some reason and immediately attacked me – hello, quicktime! This continued for five or six bears until I was finally able to run in the split second between the end of one quicktime fight and the start of the next, ending up with me running through the woods with two or three bears coming after me, with my girlfriend laughing her ass off as I was trying to escape the bear singularity. This absurd slapstick situation was almost enough to make it worth enduring the bug that caused it.

      All in all, I think it’s in any case better than Revelations, and I might still warm up to it. It definitely has potential.

    • jumblesale says:

      Thanks guys, think I will give 2 a punt :)

    • Solanaceae says:

      I never played the first one but I got the second one since I heard it was an improvement and frankly the best way I can think of to describe it is “a tedious slog”. I would be cautious about buying it if you really disliked the first one.

      It’s a pretty, polished game, that looks like it should be fun, but is one of the most boring games I’ve ever played period. The combat is horrendous in my opinion, basically just button mashing with almost no challenge whatsoever, and the assassinations turn into a repetitive grind.

      The free running mechanic looks cool but again, there’s zero challenge and I tire quickly of games that don’t give you that nice rewarding feeling after overcoming what at first seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

      I gave up about a third of the way through (maybe less than that).

      I tend to dislike open world games though so make of that as you will.

    • Grobmotoriker says:

      Same here, the first bored me to death and i almost fell asleep in the tutorial. Maybe it happened because I tried to play it with mouse + kb …. Horrible. And after I read the WIT I will not touch another one. Sounds like a compressed open world …. Black Milk ?

  14. mwoody says:

    Wow, that was surprising. Particularly the invective directed at what Alec calls the “tutorial” which while, yes, is linear, is also a rather astounding bit of atmosphere and story-building, the import of which is only obvious in retrospect. The game has some rough edges, sure, but all in all, I’ve found that there’s just so much game here that it’s unfair to poke fun at its faults when there’s more done right here than five lesser games combined.

    I can’t help but think this review is what happens when you make someone play through a game – twice, even – in a genre or series they dislike, and that game is huuuge. To play on the above metaphor, imagine you order a steak and they bring you a huge, delicious slab: you’d be thrilled. Now imagine you hate steak, and it’s your job to eat every last bite, and you had the same damn steak last week.

    Or to drop the metaphor: most of us know if we like the AC series by now. If you don’t, this won’t redeem it. If you do, there’s plenty here to do in this murderous playground.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      the vitriol aimed at the tutorial is accurate. it’s awful. forcing the player to wait that long to actually play the game as advertised has never been a good decision, and the trade-off for more of the schlocky narrative (death-by-a-thousand-cutscenes) most certainly is not worth it.

    • Wut The Melon says:

      True in a way – imagine you enjoy open-world stealth/platforming games, you would really enjoy a game about assassins. Now if you don’t like linear, cutscene-filled ‘stealth’ games that are about as challenging as farmville and have more effort put into animations than into actual gameplay, I suppose you wouldn’t enjoy AC.

      The criticisms are valid. Though your opinion is as well, despite my acid-spitting towards what this series has become: AC3 still isn’t a bad game per se, and I can definitely imagine a lot of people are having fun with it. It’s about as far from interesting/innovating game design as can be, though, and it saddens me that it’s this kind of game that sells well.

      • malkav11 says:

        Once again, it’s -never- been a stealth series. Assassin’s Creed has always been pretty much this. And it’s perfectly understandable if that’s not to your tastes, but it’s weird to claim that it’s lost its way, or complain that they’re not providing something that’s never been offered.

        I do suspect that Alec’s view has been tainted by having to replay the same game he’s just played on console, though. I know that any faults I’d perceived in a game would be magnified dramatically by the repetition.

        • Jahkaivah says:

          What Assassin’s Creed lost it’s way from is being about stabbing someone important and then running with the entire city guard after you. Sure the original struggled with this as well, what with having combat then made the enemies you run from of little threat, and a run mechanic which made outrunning the guards too easy.

          But AC1 actually treated the run sequences as the climax of each mission, with proper chase music and a city bell ringing in the background which put all the guards on a kill on sight mode, it gave you a retreat point with the assassin’s bureau and didn’t forget about you until you successfully lost the guards and reached it without being caught again.

          The sequels lost the chase music, lost the city bell, and lost the point of retreat. You were just required to escape the guards in the area of your assassination assuming you didn’t choose to just kill them all. It’s a massive shame that the series didn’t keep the tone the original had and instead worked on making the chase sequences more intense and exciting.

  15. Spider Jerusalem says:

    ac1 still the best for my money. altair was just plain cool.

  16. MistyMike says:

    Splendid review mr Meer.

  17. Wut The Melon says:

    Thank you! Thank you so much. You have no idea how vindicated I feel in all my criticism (read: hating) on AC. I’m now going to force all of my friends to read this : P.

  18. haradaya says:

    I only beat AssCreed II a month ago. Today I installed Brotherhood. It actually infuriates me how much tutorial I have to go through before I get to the assassin part. It’s not like I didn’t play both previous titles. At least let me skip. Ultimately it made me quit. Seeing AssCreed III does the same thing… Yeah I’m in no hurry.

    • GreatUncleBaal says:

      Ha! I just did the same – finished AC2 and started playing Brotherhood yesterday (Gamersgate sale). What immediately struck me was the change in tone and apparent slide towards increased tediousness. Desmond and Ezio seem drastically different characters, suddenly, too, which threw me a bit. (The bloody double act with whatsherface getting through the Villa was wince-inducingly bad).

      • malkav11 says:

        Really? I mean, the opening act “oh yeah you don’t have your stuff anymore sorry” is pretty crap, but the two things that immediately struck me about Brotherhood (having similarly just finished ACII and launched into Brotherhood) were a) wow, this is way prettier, and b) oh hey, guards have less HP therefore their complete lack of challenge is so much less of a slog! Awesome! I guess maybe I’ll have to delve deeper.

        • GreatUncleBaal says:

          I’m quite early on in the game myself, so these are just my initial impressions. It definitely looks better, I completely agree, but my main issue (which is settling a little as I play on) is that the main characters seem to have changed a little too much between games (which is no time at all in the actual game continuity, such as it is). It’s not a game-breaker at all, and probably more noticeable if you’re playing the series back to back; I’ve played a bit more since and Ezio is ok (I have mentally excluded that fucking awful love scene), but Desmond has definitely had a kick in the bum script-wise about his general interaction, which just doesn’t seem to fit well given what has gone before.

      • soulblur says:

        I actually think Brotherhood was the best of the lot. Ezio showed some character trajectory. Commanding assassins was (and still is) cool. A few more neat gadgets.

        One of the several things which irritated me about AC3 was that the state of assassinry (err… you know what I mean) has really gone downhill since Ezio. Where’s my poison blade? Ezio’s poison dart was far superior to the poison dart in AC3. The claw/hidden blade has disappeared. Plus, no one appears to know how to be an assassin anymore. The game doesn’t even really give you the option. I hope any sequel with Connor sends someone from another country to 1. teach Connor to be a real assassin (and that goes for his band of merry misfits/pyschopaths) 2. lighten the hell up.

        • malkav11 says:

          Out of curiosity, what did the poison blade do in ACII? I could never find a use for it.

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            It made the guards spasm out and start hacking away everyone around them with their swords. Throw money into them, and watch a crowd of people being butchered to death for 10 florins.

  19. brulleks says:

    I spent the first two hours of Revelations shouting ‘Get on with it’ at the screen, so the thought of playing for five hours before the gameworld opens up is just inconceivable.

  20. jealouspirate says:

    This has been my problem with the entire franchise. I try to enjoy some free roaming but have to deal with a bunch of bad exposition, so I end up passing on the games altogether.

  21. Fwiffo says:

    I was going to write a similarly long rant about this game, but I’ll just say that after about 10 hours of play I’m getting increasingly fed up with the game taking my goodwill and willingness to gloss over the mechanical faults and throwing them back in my face. Every 10 minutes there’s something that wipes the smile off my face, and I’m not sure how farther I can pushed before I give up entirely

    The designers need to take a long hard look at what they’re adding or altering next time. Most egregious example is one most used: the weapon switch menu. What the hell were they thinking switching it from an elegant wheel that allows split-second changes, to a clumsy full screen list-based interface that can take 10 times as long for the same result?

    • malkav11 says:

      Probably the wheel was getting overstuffed. Which doesn’t really excuse the loss of usability, granted.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yes, it does serve to highlight the fact that there’s very little practical difference between hidden blades, tomahawks, knives, clubs, swords and axes. The combat really needs a proper overhaul.

  22. GreatUncleBaal says:

    The intro to this piece just made me picture Mr Creosote. “And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint”…

  23. Demiath says:

    Although the level design (main missions etc.) in AC3 is horrible, I’m still a huge fan of the game’s masterfully atmospheric introduction despite those unnecessary tutorial bits. I can only shake my head in disbelief and try to accept the fact that Alec Meer, for all intents and purposes, lives on another planet than I do. Indeed, the mere suggestion that “irony-free exposition” is a bad thing in and of itself sends shivers down my spine…

  24. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    It was this or Far Cry 3 and I plumped for a pre-order of FC3 – I think it was the right choice.

  25. Reinou says:

    I pretty much agree with everything. AC3 isn’t a bad game, but it’s easily the worst game in the series. The naval battles are nice though. It would be interesting if they could make a completely separate game based on that (with some tweaking obviously). Pirate’s Creed, anyone?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Personally I thought it was the best of the series, though I do agree with most of the WiT above. But yeah, a full game built upon the naval battle system would be grand. I found myself humming sea shanties for a few days after I bought the game. Pirates is good.

    • fooga44 says:

      If AC3 is the worst in a series then by definition it is a BAD GAME. AC1 was balls, AC2 redeemed the franchise in terms of gameplay but was still wobbly in the gameplay department, Bortherhood and revelations were rehashes that didn’t fix the fucked up gameplay elements of AC2, then AC3 just bothces the whole thing.

      AC3 is a bad game. Just because you like the story and atmosphere doesn’t mean it’s a good game.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        The same thing can be said about Deus Ex, and I don’t see many people railing about that. A game that’s just story and atmosphere can be a good game, look at all the adventure games.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        “Just because you like the story and atmosphere doesn’t mean it’s a good game.”
        If I enjoyed playing it (for whatever reason) then it’s a good game. In my humble opinion(tm).

  26. Ateius says:

    Thanks, reply function. Just stick me all the way down here, I wasn’t talking to anyone specific or anything. *deletes all previous commentary*

    Um, general comments I guess … it’s a shame the new title continues the feature bloat I so disliked in AC2. I was also hoping for a leaner, meaner gameplay experience, but it seems they’re not going to deliver.

  27. Vandelay says:

    If you read the words again you will see that playing another AssCreed game will show how this one plays.

    Edit: whoops. That was meant to be a reply to… Someone who doesn’t seem to be there any more.

  28. fco says:

    You guys are tolerant. I already felt this way about AC2..

  29. Penicillin says:

    Thank you so much for this review! In all seriousness, you have saved me a lot of time and money. I’m so sick of all the “baby’s first videogame” non-sense that mega-publishers are intent on feeding us. Hopefully Ubi takes this review into account as they post-mortem the game. Sounds like they really need to look at Batman: Arkham City for an example of how to do an open world right, starting from the first minute of gameplay.

  30. LennyLeonardo says:

    I liked this game. But enough of that rubbish.
    As I was playing it I realised that in AC: Revelations (SPOILERZ) Desmond relived the memory of Altair’s death. His death. The genetic memory of his great great etc. grandad’s death. Death.

    Genetic memory of his death. Someone help me. How did that happen?

    I know the animus is hokum anyway, but this realisation made my brain hurt a lot. Urg. I need a job.

    • cjlr says:

      No, don’t worry. That bothered me, too.

      I mean, yeah. Genetic memory. Let’s just roll with it. Memories encoded in genetics somehow. As in, it’s in your genes. The genes you inherited from your parents. That they gave when you were conceived…

      Just cause something’s made up doesn’t mean it shouldn’t at least be interally consistent.

      • Xanthu says:

        It’s not a genetic memory in that case.

        Altair records his experiences on those magic disks. Ezio finds them and experiences Altair’s life and death. Desmond is experiencing Ezio’s memories of Altair’s memories.

  31. Jesus H. Christ says:

    [quote]So I truly hope the high sales and breathless reviews from those who are equally complicit in spoon-feeding their audiences won’t prevent it from finding its way again.[/quote]

    I love RPS.

  32. Melliflue says:

    Why isn’t there a “wot i think” tag on the article? Otherwise thanks for the thinks, I always respect RPS for being so honest and critical. It’s why I come here :)

  33. iucounu says:

    I’ve only ever played Brotherhood, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wonder if I lucked into the pinnacle of the series?

  34. zin33 says:

    “How did a series founded upon the principles of generous player freedom and sophisticated stealth..”
    when did any AC game had sophisticated stealth? dont get me wrong i like the games, or rather used to. (especially liked the first one, loved the arguments with the targets before they died and with the assassins master )
    but stealthing never felt “sophisticated”, it was rather simple and hardly ever required any planning beforehand.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yes, they never had much stealth. In fact, I reckon AC3 has the most stealth of any of them. I think people expect there to be stealth, because of the word Assassin, but they don’t really pretend to be stealth games otherwise. I found it easier to like them when I gave up on any hope of them being the “Historical Hitman” games that I imagined the first would be before I tried it.

  35. DK says:

    Could you shut the eff up about your “I HATE THE SCI FI PLOT” opinion, which is flaunted in every single Assassins Creed review as though it was the commonly accepted opinion of everyone?

    AC is boring as all hell not because of the Desmond Story, but because they’re dragging their feet on the Desmond story for an astonishing 5 part trilogy (seriously? you’re doing a trilogy on your part 2?) and nothing happens in the future.

    AC2, AC2 part 2 and AC2 part 3 were boring because they were the same pseudohistorical wank in perpetuity, not because every 5 hours you get a 10 minute section of a setting that could be interesting if they ever got around to showing it off.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      If the devs threw in a stupid sci-fi plot just to break up the potential monotony in the rest of the games, they did a terribly shitty job of it.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Adding insult to injury, Revelations had no rideable horses. At least outside cutscenes. And had that crappy tower defense bit. It was really awful. I played it through the end to see where the Desmond’s story was going but it end nowhere. :(

  36. RoTapper says:

    I like how he’s supposed to be a secret assassin, yet he dresses like an obvious troublemaker-misfit surely up to no good in every episode.

  37. Jezebeau says:

    In the italicized intro, did you perhaps mean it’s “now” out on PC?

  38. Vander says:

    Perhaps i missed it in the review, but i have a question: Does this game has, excuse my french, a fucking difficulty slider? No, because in the last i played, the one with Ottomans, two guards coulnd kill me after hitting me for five minutes, and this was just bloody awful. Or at least upped the totally absent difficulty?

    • Oh Tyrone says:

      I believe they have upped the difficulty, as it took me no more than a minute (minute and a half, tops) to die when I let the redcoats kill me without resisting them.

      Mind you, there were three or four of them, but, as British sportsmanship dictates, only one of them is allowed to attack you at a time, so that shouldn’t complicate the comparison.

      • Vander says:

        Thanks for the answer mate. I still dont understand why they don’t put a bloody difficulty slider in the game tough.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I concur: AC3′s combat is the hardest of the series, but not actually difficult in any way at all. Why they can’t add a ‘hard’ mode is beyond me. It’s completely baffling.

  39. Alexrd says:

    Not a single mention of the first game of the series (and my favourite)?

  40. omNOMinator says:

    Don’t hold back man.

  41. aDFP says:

    My iThing doesn’t want to let me reply to individual comments, so I’ll just say this here.

    If anyone would like to know what a decent writer could do with the series, I recommend you track down Robert Anton Wilson’s 1982 novel The Earth Will Shake, and its two sequels. The parallels between novel and game are fascinatingly (and suspiciously) close, but Wilson was far more knowledgeable about his subject than all the Wiki-research that went into this, plus he was a Damn Fine Writer.

  42. adam.jutzi says:

    That horse will haunt my dreams (picture six), there’s a murderous glint in it’s eyes.

  43. agitatedclimax says:

    The “revelation” that I had playing Assassins Creed: (v 2.66) Revelations, was that I had wasted a lot of time and money (perhaps that is two revelations). The only possible reason that I would play number 3/5 is if you told me that the money I would spend on it would go towards buying sharp things with which to poke the developers/publishers/marketers/sales people (or whatever force it is that keeps this gaming atrocity alive) in the eyes and other sensitive fleshy bits. I’m relieved that you hate it because if you had said it was fab I would have started questioning my judgement.

  44. Sayori says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I didn’t find any info about the options menu or how controls feel on PC.

    • malkav11 says:

      (A note on PC controls by the way – despite earlier assertions that this version would all but require a gamepad, I’ve been quite happy with mouse and keyboard. The exception to that is the lockpicking mini-game, which was designed around gamepad rumble motors, but in fairness it’s horrible on gamepad too).”

      You’re correct that he doesn’t mention the contents of the options menu other than noting that it looks great on PC, though.

  45. Potocobe says:

    I have to say my favorite part of all the AssCreed games was the part in the end of II where Desmond gets a pokey thing and thrashes some Abstergo gaurds without the HUD from the animus. I think I have kept playing the series so I can have more of that if they decide to put it in. I actually enjoyed running around more as Desmond in the future without all the crap on the screen than I did playing as Ezio. Here is to hoping that the series at some point skips the next two hundred years and let’s me play in the modern world with Desmond as he finally sticks it to those damned Templars once and for all. And in modern times at least we could get away from the “Synchronization Fail” message when you want to do something different than your ancestor would have.

  46. Arkhonist says:

    I for one definitly buy the game in great part because of it’s awesome story so…
    Also, looks like Alec is extremely impatient compared to most gamers.

  47. Yar says:

    I must be the only one who preferred AssCreed 1. I recognize its flaws, but I wish they had stuck more to the style of gathering information and planning your attack. The first one felt like an actual assassination simulator, which is the feel I think they were originally going for. If they had only made the “mission clues” more obvious, instead of burying them three levels deep in menus, and if they had not made it quite so reptitive to collect them, that game would have done way better with players and critics. Instead they turned it into GTA:HistoryTimes. Which has been a lot of fun in its own ways, too, but I seriously saw all this coming once they made the switch. It isn’t an assassination game and hasn’t been since the first one.

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