I love the Assassin's Creed series. The first one was good, the second one great, Brotherhood pushed it to probably the peak of fun, Revelations was a bit disappointing but still okay, and now we've finally gotten to the 5th game in the series (don't let the 3 in the title fool you.) You play as Conner, a Native American who goes on a mission to get revenge and save his people.
First things first, Conner is not as engaging or likable as Altair or Ezio, he just isn't. I never really felt invested in his quest or in the character. This also goes for the mentor figure Achilles, an old black assassin who takes Conner under his wing. One reason I think that Achilles doesn't really connect with the player is because we don't see them going through the training process, we don't see him actually mentoring Conner in the ways of being an Assassin, it just skips ahead past all that stuff. Later on it shows that Conner is emotionally attached to Achilles, having become like a father figure to him, but seeing as how we didn't really experience any of the actual bonding process it just doesn't connect. The villains fare much better, both being more interesting than our protagonist and well established in lead up before you even come close to slitting their throats with your tomahawk.
The story line isn't spectacular, but it's decent enough. It mostly follows a “There's five or six tempalr leaders, we need to focus on killing one at a time, do some missions leading up to the leader, kill the leader, rinse and repeat style formula.” There are some cool missions and story twists, there's a big twist near the beginning and I have to give the game credit for what I call the prologue section, it is really effective at setting up the rest of the game and giving you a “Wait what?!?!” moment, but overall the missions are lackluster and forgettable.
Now Desmond and the whole magical beings and the end of the world plot line fares very, very badly in this one. You periodically leave the animus and do a present day mission to retrieve power cores, then you come back and do some acrobatics then plug in the power cores, all while being regaled by the last days of the ancient ones (I can't remember what they're called.) The end of the series, the story that has taken 5 games to lead up to this point, the grand finale of the resolution of the plot of how they're going to save the world from the approaching solar disaster, is as unsatisfying as you could possibly get. Remember how Mass Effect 3 had a very bad ending, well Ubisoft must have stolen Bioware's play book because I literally could barely believe how bad the ending was. Basically Desmond does a thing, it's doesn't say what this thing is, it doesn't say what it does, it doesn't say how the heck it can save the world and why the ancient dudes didn't use it to save themselves. You don't get any resolution with any of the characters, you don't get any sense of accomplishment, you just get a very abrupt, insanely asinine, and also cliff hanger ending, because a character says something that implies that a lot of shit is about to go down.
Now nobody really plays AC for story, they play it for the awesome game play. If you've play Assassin’s Creed before then you'll be familiar with how the combat and free running works, not much has changed in any major way with the core mechanics of the game. You do go one new weapon that is a joy to use, rope darts can be used to hang your enemies, which is obscenely gratifying but sadly it's rarely the most viable option.
Climbing is a major part of any Assassin's Creed game, and it's in 3, but not to the extent that it once was. You'll spend way more time on foot or horseback than you will on rooftops or climbing, in fact a large part of your play time will just be running from point A to point B. There aren't any awesome climbing segments like the Assassin's Tombs in previous games, or giant towering structures to monkey your way around, just two story building and some trees. Underwhelming to say the least. Stealth also is vastly reigned back than in former games with fighting being more prominent.
Now where the game actually shines is the optional stuff. You can build up your homestead into a small town. There's a handful of people that you'll convince to come to your town, a couple of lumberjacks and their wives, an independent huntress, a loving farmer couple, a disgraced doctor, an ambitious carver, some kindly innkeepers, a massive smith, a caring preacher, and a few others. By the time I had done all the homestead missions, which each person has missions that you can help them with, I had become more attached, invested, and involved with my little community than the main story line could ever hope to match. I looked forward to each mission, to see what was going on in my little corner of the world.
Naval battles are a new addition in this game and boy is it appreciated. The most fun I had with this game was sailing the sea and sinking my enemies. It works really well and is more fun than it has any right to be. You can buy upgrades for your ship and that's pretty much the only thing you'll ever spend money on. The entire time I only bought one sword, I never bought another weapon because there was no reason to, you never came across anything better in the stores so ship upgrades it is. You also no longer have the property buying portion of the game. You used to be able to buy stores and renovate buildings, one of the things that I really enjoyed in Brotherhood, just buying up all the stores.
A crafting mechanic is thrown in for no real reason, you can use it to craft upgrades and some weapons but it just isn't very fun to do and simply buying these things from stores like in previous games would have been better.
Collectibles are in it, there are chests, feathers, trinkets, and almanacs. Chests give you gold, items, and crafting recipes, almanacs unlock thing to decorate your house with, and trinkets unlock missions. Here's some advice, as soon as you can buy a trinket map then go collect them all, they're easy to get and you'll unlock five or six missions plus a special item and outfit by doing so. You trade the trinkets to this crazy guy and he gives you letters from Captain Kidd, you then go and find clue pieces and eventually find his treasure. These missions are very fun and pretty awesome, like the frozen ship in the Arctic from the trailer. Almanacs are a different story, seeing as how collectibles aren't aggravating enough, they decided to make almanacs run away from you and if you don't catch it within a certain time it'll disappear and you'll have to come back again later. Worst idea ever.
Once you beat the game and do a few post credits missions there's a strange new thing that happens. Something about finding sync points and whatnot, too bad I can't play it. An entirely single player game and then at the very end now you new to connect online to be able to do this sequence, guess I'm just plain out of luck, thanks a lot Ubisoft.
I could go on and on, there's a lot more to say, both good and bad, but I've given y'all a fair overview of the experience. Overall Assassin’s Creed 3 is a decent game but a let down compared to AC2 and Brotherhood. Lackluster, several things have been scaled back to almost non existence or taken out completely, horrifically bad ending, and lots and lots of bugs and glitches all make AC3 a waste of potential. Even though there is a lot of disappointment, there is also a lot of fun to be had and with it's 30+ hour run time (if you're doing everything). If you've played all the Assassin's Creed games then go ahead and finish up the series with this, if you're new to the series then what the hell is wrong with you, go back and play the other ones and by the time your done AC3 will have gone down in price.
7 leaps of faith out of 10.
Now that the Assassin's are done, although I doubt it since it's left way open for sequels and one characters says “Even after this is over we'll still be fighting the Templars for long to come”, Ubisoft should totally make a Pirate's Creed game.