Assassin’s Creed III is the final episode in Desmond Mile’s trilogy of Assassin’s Creed games. Following a bartender who unwillingly finds out he is an Assassin who is due to save the world, Assassin’s Creed III seeks to close the story arc laid out in the previous four games and considering just how much has happened at this point, it’s a little bit disappointing to see no catch up story told for those who might not have played the game previously. There is a brief recap at the beginning of the game, but many players who might be new to the franchise will be missing out on some fine details and will be notably ignorant of the intricacies of the story thus far. Either way, the story really isn’t anything *that* special, it’s a rather tropey “rush” to find something that could prove to be the key to saving the world. The only difference with Assassin’s Creed III is that most of this “rushing” is done in the mind of Desmond’s ancestor, Native American Connor.
Visually, Assassin’s Creed III is a bit of a messy mixed bag. Sometimes the characters and the environments look fantastic – the Frontier, a huge open world area for Connor to explore, looks amazing. Dynamic and alive, particles fly through the air, animals forage for food and the odd soldier or travelling merchant is travelling down the beaten path. Things change quite a bit when the game snows too, Connor visibly wades through thicker snow levels and of course, foliage is less dense during the winters. The game does a great job at creating a believable world for the player to experience, but unfortunately falters in performance. Much like the other consoles, the Wii U version is plagued with frame rate drops during more intense moments of the gameplay. I admit it’s not a huge deal breaker, and I personally didn’t find it jarring, but some really sensitive players will probably find it hard to get through.
The soundtrack is also quite disappointing, at least when compared to other scores featured in previous games. Jesper Kyd unfortunately does not return to score, instead with Lorne Balfe’s handywork being featured in III. There are some nice pieces here and there, but most of it is quite generic and honestly doesn’t feel like it belongs in the Assassin’s Creed universe, at least based on what we’ve heard in the series thus far. The voice work is great too, with most characters having understood the nuances of their role and delivering their lines impeccably. Connor, the protagonist, delivers his lines with a very deadpan tone and quite frankly it makes his character seem very boring.
The gameplay has remained largely unchanged from the original games. Players have free roam of a large open area, with two major cities (modelled after real-life New York and Boston) as well as a home base. Much like many open world games on the market, players can also take on missions that progress the story, or immerse themselves in other smaller side missions instead. The greatest of these easily is the naval missions, which allow Connor to command a full size naval warship and not only sail the seas but brave rough and dynamic storms while battling other Templar warships. The need for players to get synergy between when your sails are withdrawn or out in the air, as well as bracing for enemy fire and waves gives these battles a very authentic feel and they are, unfortunately, the biggest standout in Assassin’s Creed III.
There are a lot of systems for the player to immerse themselves in too – including hunting (where the least damaged animal provides the greater gains) and crafting. Both of these features are quite well thought out and in depth – Connor can track them based on their droppings and such and narrow down their latest location to a certain area. Hunting isn’t a huge (mandatory) part of the game, but it feels rather authentic and gives the player something to do if they want to upgrade Connor. Crafting is a little bit more confusing, but the system in place allows Connor to not only craft items himself but also schedule regular convoys to sell the goods that his homestead produces. This is a great way to get extra income, but if your convoy is attacked during gameplay, prepare to rush out to defend it (or send your trusty assassin recruits, of course).
The Wii U features are used to an okay-ish effect here with the maps, menus and inventory being accessible from the GamePad without actually pausing the game. This is a godsend for some features, like the horse whistle, which required a manual visit through some messy menus in other versions available on the market. Instead, all players have to do is tap the screen. It’s very intuitive, it’s very simple, and it improves the experience quite a bit. As with most games that don’t require motion controls, players can also play the game off-screen on the GamePad independently, though the option is hidden away in menus and thus needs a TV to turn on the mode prior.
The game itself plays rather well, though there quite unfortunately quite are quite a few things wrong here. During our full play-through, we saw all kinds of glitches including floating rifles, dead yet standing corpses, the game failed to load at least twice and we fell into nothing and had to restart. Thankfully, despite the numerous frame rate drops, there was no hard freezing either. In some weird kind of good fortune, this is roughly on par with my experiences with the game on other consoles, so I guess this isn’t anything terribly out of the ordinary for an annually released franchise. The other problem is that Assassin’s Creed III doesn’t really explain much of its own depth to the player, with many features and subsystems being hidden for the player to discover (and even then, it might be too complicated for some to even bother). Given that these are non-essential, I understand the lack of focus on these aspects, but to have absolutely zero given to the crafting system seems a little bit slack on the developer’s part.
The single player campaign will last players quite some time – most will take between the twenty and twenty five hour mark or rushed through it for about fifteen. But to truly experience everything in Assassin’s Creed III most players will have to invest at least fifty hours. It’s quite a meaty experience though there will be points where the player will question how much of this content is quality rather than quantity. Additionally, like all Assassin’s Creed games, the game is simply too easy and doesn’t provide much of a challenge.
Given that the single player is so lengthy, it’s great to see the multiplayer mode is also featured in the Wii U version in full capacity. At launch, we had a bit of trouble getting a few games due to activity being quite low, but as of writing we’ve been able to have quite a few matches quite consistently. It’s great to see absolutely everything from the other versions carry over to the Wii U, including comparable online performance. With so many different game mode varieties, rankings and levels to climb (with equipment to unlock) as well as a kind of meta-story attached to it, the multiplayer mode is a very substantial addition that many will find surprising at how much they enjoy it. Whether you want to go head to head with your friends in the deathmatch, protect a VIP or play co-operatively to rack up as many assassinations in the new “Wolfpack” mode, Assassin’s Creed III’s multiplayer has you covered. And what’s even better, you don’t need a uPlay Passport to play, unlike other versions currently on the market.
Assassin’s Creed III is a fantastic addition to the Wii U’s library and a great Assassin’s Creed game, though I acknowledge that it probably won’t be for everyone. Given how regularly these games come out, some may be beginning to tire of the formula and are looking for something fresh. Despite being a new numbered title and not a spin-off, Assassin’s Creed III fails to innovate as much as I managed to from the original, however it is still a very enjoyable experience. A definite must have for those new to the franchise, but those who’ve already played it elsewhere (or were bored after the last game) could probably steer clear quite safely. Just be warned that the much talked about ending might not be what you expect.