It hasn’t been a big secret around here that I have been excited for the latest in Ubisoft Montreal’s game series, Assassin’s Creed. I preordered my copy pretty much as soon as the game was announced, and with every new detail that’s come out about the game, I got even more excited. I had the opportunity to play some at FanExpo Canada, and it left me a tad underwhelmed. But it was only the multiplayer and a naval mission, which are probably the most boring parts of the game (at least for me). Now that I have a full copy of the game, well, I’m just going to say it — it has exceeded my expectations.
The entire game has been overhauled — from combat to graphics to gameplay, this is a slicker, meaner, and faster Assassin’s Creed game than any of those that came before. The graphics are incredible — crisper, clearer and more realistic than the past games in the series. The voice acting too is of a higher calibre than the other games — the casting of everyone, even minor characters, works perfectly, and I have to say, the lack of silly Italian accents is not missed by me one bit. The team went to a lot of trouble to find out how people spoke in Revolutionary America, and I think this attention to detail only elevates the gaming experience. There’s even singing in the background in this one, and I just loved that little detail, especially when you’re on the ship at the beginning and you’re listening to the sailors sing their sea shanties. And this attention to period detail and accuracy doesn’t stop at just the voice acting — you can see it everywhere. You have the opportunity to play board games that were popular at the time — Nine Men’s Morris and Fanorona (Fanorona in particular is really fun). You can pet passing dogs and goats. The streets are milling with animals and carts and loud-mouthed orphans. You can have more random conversations with allies and get to know them a little better (instead of just reading about them in the Codex). The details on the costumes are also really stunning — you can even see the intricacies of the stitching on the close shots. All this comes together to make this game what I always wanted it to be — a historical simulator that immerses you in the time period. For massive history nerds like myself, it’s an almost-perfect experience. My absolute favourite part of the game so far has been the opening sequence, where you climb all over an opera house during a performance of The Beggar’s Opera in order to take out a target. You climb all over even though the place is packed with people, and even travel across the top of the set while the actors are performing (and Ubisoft actually did go to the trouble to bring in actors and opera singers to perform it). It’s SO GOOD.
The writing also feels a lot tighter this time around, particularly with regard to characters’ personalities and development. Everyone has a very distinct personality, which makes them feel like real people. I find myself growing quickly attached to them, even if they’re jerks. There’s also a lot more backstory that you can discover by talking to people (which is optional for those not really into that so much), and it’s all been impeccably researched, written, and delivered. There’s a certain character (who I will not name due to spoilers) that I can’t even look at without thinking, “There’s no way this guy isn’t related to Ezio somehow.” The story itself is much more nuanced and complex as well — nothing is as black and white as it was in the first four games. There are even some really good twists!
As for the gameplay itself, it’s even faster than before. Climbing is lightning fast, combat is so fast it takes some getting used to in order to keep up, and all of this makes it a harder game, which is a common complaint for past Assassin’s Creed games. A full counterattack takes more than one button, and because it goes so fast it’s easy to miss it, and NPCs no longer wait their turn to attack you. Enemies are also more likely to detect you. They’ve even added a thing or two from the original game that wasn’t in Ezio’s tales as much — eavedropping and clue finding. But it all works better in this game, and is much, much less repetitive than it was in Assassin’s Creed.
All in all, it’s an impeccably crafted game, and proof of what a big studio can do if they’re willing to take a few risks and really put their massive resources to good use. I think those new to the series would have no trouble getting into it, and as a long-term fan, it’s even better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t so sure that I was going to like playing the American Revolution, since I’ve never had much interest in it, but this game just makes it DELIGHTFUL. I knew it was going to be fun, but I think I’ve had even more fun than with any of the others.
Assassin’s Creed III is currently available for PS3 and Xbox, and is available wherever games are sold, as well as each console’s respective online stores for digital download. The PC version will be released November 20th, and the Wii U version is coming out November 13th.