(Originally written November 7th, 2012)
WARNING: This review is being handled differently from my previous reviews in that there will not be an overall score and I won’t be going into many of the overall game play and story. This will mostly just be a list of issues I’ve found with this game. This will probably piss some people off but this is based on my experience with the game. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from playing this game but if you know any of the things that I talk about in this note tend to piss you off, you might want to reconsider this game.
So yeah, Assassin’s Creed 3 is the game I have been looking forward to all year long. The trailers have been amazing; the setting of the American Revolution is rather original for a game like this, an interesting new character to the Assassin’s Creed series, and a time in history most Americans should be familiar with. This game had so much potential. Also it’s been getting near perfect scores from several game review magazines and sites. I have to ask, what game have they been playing? Because the AC3 I’ve been playing is not a perfect scoring or high scoring game. I was so sure this was going to be game of the year material for me and it makes me so sad that I cannot even recommend it for a top 5 slot for games of the year. For me, this game is just not very fun most of the time. It’s been mostly frustrating and stress inducing. That’s not why people play video games and if that’s why you play games then maybe you’re a masochist. Very rarely have I had fun with this game. There is a lot to it, I’ll give it that. It is a very big game and it is impressive in that aspect and it is a very beautiful game. Something like it hasn’t been quite done before. Sadly, that comes with a price.
The graphics in this game, while beautiful, run into a lot of frame rate and slow down issues. There are times I’ve noticed in the cities where things just don’t move so smoothly. You see slow down here and there in these massive areas. Not always but sometimes. Glitches are another issue. Granted, I’ve run into glitches in all the AC games (AC had some of the worst) but AC3 had some game stoppers. One involved me just running along and then I suddenly just fell through the ground and died. Another I hid in a pile of hay and got stuck in it, forcing me to restart the area I was in. More minor glitches include odd clipping, animals getting stuck in trees, and other silly things that you run into in open world games. Only a few of these glitches really hurt the game play but they were on the rare side. I can’t help but feel that this game is just pushing the PS3 to its limits but the minor visual errors are minor compared to other problems in the game.
Probably the biggest issue in the game is the new combat system. Wow! It sucks! It is a huge step back from the combat system from Assassin’s Creed 2. The first thing I noticed when I got into a big fight was the camera: It doesn’t follow your character. It just doesn’t. You have to adjust it manually. When you got so much shit going on around you, you don’t have time to adjust the damn camera. Something always seems to get in the of the camera too, be it a tree, wall, part of a building, ect. The combat itself feels less skill based. Every now and then, Conner will pull off some of the awesome finishing moves we saw in the trailers but I have no idea how I did them. I still have no idea how to use someone as a human shield and it is an almost mandatory move to know if you want to survive firing lines. The majority of the time you are hacking at the enemy’s defenses and countering them whenever prompted. It becomes a button masher. A lot of times I would press triangle to try and counter because I am so used to the combat from Arkham City but that’s my fault. There is also no real lock on method in this game. It seems to want to try lock on automatically in combat but it does a poor job. You end up missing your target or accidentally running up a wall or something. It’s very frustrating and takes awhile to get used to especially if you are familiar with the combat system from the previous games. It took me about 10 hours of playing the game to get a hang of combat. There is no place you can go to practice like in AC2. You pretty much just have to go pick your own fights with British patrols and learn the hard way. Shooting and firearms have been added to the game which makes sense but the shooting mechanic is trick to get a hang of but once you do, it’s pretty handy even though you have to deal with the slow reloads of the time.
The story is another issue and the one I have the most mixed feels about. I won’t go into details or spoilers or anything but I will talk about the pacing. The first 5 hours of the game is very slow paced but does have a good pay off with quite the bombshell of a plot twist. Then it bounces around from being fast paced, to slow paced, and just jerks around a bit too much for my liking. Other people don’t seem as bothered by it as much as me. It does have some good moments like some epic battlefield scenes and the naval battle missions that, thankfully, actually live up to the hype! You could make an entire game based around the naval missions and naval combat system. It’s fun. But there are only three mandatory missions where you control a ship on the seas. There are side missions for this in addition the many, many, many diverse side missions you can find though out the game. There is over 70 hours of content in this game, so it’s not short. You do get your money’s worth in terms of content with this game. I usually had more fun just running around doing all these side missions than the actual main missions.
The next major issue I felt that goes along with the problem of the story’s pace is that the first 7 hours feels like a very long and slow tutorial that spans out over this time. If you’re a veteran of the series, some of this stuff isn’t new to you but things like learn out to use the shooting mechanic could have been handled in a better way. You learn how to actually shoot your weapon in combat simple enough but right after that you have to shoot these powder kegs to blow open a door. Okay, simple enough. At this point you think pressing the triangle button will let you shoot at anything and L1 is what you use to manually aim. There is a wagon with these BIG barrels on it and the game just told you to shoot at the barrels so naturally you aim at try to shoot them but nothing happens. I sat there for like 5 minutes pressing every button on the controller trying to figure out why the shooting button just no longer works. Then I notice that if I drag the little aiming cursor over these small barrels below the big barrels, the small ones light up and I can actually shoot them. It doesn’t tell you to shoot the little barrels that light up. WHY NOT?! I know for a fact I am not the only one who has had this problem! It’s turn into a little meme on the internet, I think. The game has several moments of poor conveyance. It introduces new mechanics poorly such at the Battle of Lexington and Concord where you have to run back and forth between ranks and order Colonists to fire on the British. This is a really cool mission but when it starts they don’t tell you how to give orders and it took me a few minutes to figure this out and ended up failing the mission a couple times. You have to stand in little circles that appear in order to give the commands. They could have made that much clearer. A lot of things could have been made clearer on how they work and this goes back to the combat system. You can’t just equip whatever weapons you want when you want. You have to go to a general store (the place you most likely bought your weapons and equipment) and you can only equip things there. These general stores are not common you will only find two or three in the two main cities of the game, New York and Boston. If you know how to equip weapons in a different way, please let me know!
Every mission has sub-objectives to complete each synchronization and I HATE THESE THINGS! They are completely optional but if you’re looking to complete this game 100%, you’re going to have a bad time. Some of these are nearly impossible and half the time I end up failing them before I even know what they are because they only flash on the screen for a brief moment on the corner of the screen. They make missions unnecessarily difficult. If you want that kind of challenge, go for it. There is one where the game expects you to chase someone through a crowd without pushing anyone. Ha! Good luck with that. Speaking of chasing missions, they make for some of the MOST frustrating missions, especially this one near the end of the game. All of this stuff together ultimately leads to this game being very frustrating and just not as fun as it should be. There is nothing wrong with a challenging game but that challenge should be fair and not based on issues with the overall game play.
Now like I said this is all based on my game play experiences. Maybe you have or will have better experiences but for me, ultimately this game is a big letdown. Assassin’s Creed 2 was just so much better in just about every way and was way more fun to play. If you are not familiar with Assassin’s Creed, AC3 is not game to start with. Now I can’t stress this enough, this is all my opinion. Maybe I just suck at the game and there is something I just completely missed and I am playing it wrong. Don’t let this review completely steer you away from the game as it is something that should be experienced to a degree. This game is an impressive technical achievement in many ways and it is a HUGE game. It’s just too frustrating and ultimately unenjoyable to me overall which is very disappointing as I was really looking forward to this game.
I know this isn’t my best review if you can call it that. This note was something I had to get off my chest and just take this with a grain of salt. Please tell me about your experiences with this game and maybe explain something’s I might have been doing wrong. I’d love to know if you guys have been having issues with it as well. I’ll get back to the regular reviews soon with Halo 4, Boarder Lands 2, and Black Ops 2 coming within the next month.