- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Pros: Amazing Environment, Epic Scope, Days of Gameplay
- Cons: Lackluster Missions, Hours of Cut Scenes
The commercials have made clear how "Assassin's Creed III" takes place during the American Revolution, however, they don't capture the stunning scope and size of this game, a scope that includes multiple story arcs over different time periods with different playable characters. It's the kind of gigantic, epic experience that makes nearly every other game released this year seem downright lazy by comparison. It will take days of your life to complete and, even then, you'll have seen only a portion of this world that feels as alive and remarkable as the most acclaimed open-world games of recent years like "Red Dead Redemption" and "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim." The only problem is that sometimes this massive environment isn't used to its best advantage, in that the epic scope sometimes comes hand-in-hand with a lack of focus and disciplined storytelling. "Assassin's Creed III" features some absolutely amazing chapters, but also features some extremely tedious mission design. It's one of those games that includes a little bit of everything, for better or worse.
The world of the American colonies in 1775 makes for an incredible storytelling background upon which the developers of "Assassin's Creed III" paint an increasingly interesting story. You start on a boat. It's a long pre-credits series of scenes and the story feels purposefully confined. Go below deck. Go above deck. Climb the mast. You're learning the mechanics here, but the developers are also playing games with your expectations because this enclosed world will open up in about an hour into one of the most expansive universes in video game history. Across Boston, New York, and dozens of small villages in the largely-empty frontier, you will be tempted to merely explore and encounter whatever this world has to offer.
Of course, there's a story to tell and it's such a unique one that I won't spoil it here. I will say that the first character you play will not be the last. The game jumps in time and protagonist, offering a remarkably original take on not just the Revolution but also the tenets that inspired it. The game is more about what inspires revolution than just the physical act of it. It would have been easy to merely set an action game during the war-torn times of the American Revolution but the developers of "Assassin's Creed III" focused more on character and a unique approach to the time period than I ever expected.
Having said that, there is a surprising amount of linear mission design, especially in the early hours of "Assassin's Creed III." There's a whole lot of "cut scene, go to icon on map, watch another cut scene." As impressive as the visuals and screenwriting can be in this game, it can be fairly exhausting when it all it feels like you're doing is pushing forward to another cut scene. There's SO much story in "AC3" that there are missions where you're doing more watching than playing. Granted, it’s an action game in which eavesdropping and staying hidden are essential, which is respectable, but it can also get tedious. There were times when I wanted "AC3" to have more of a beating heart. For example, the missions where you play a young Native American collecting deer pelts do add some elements of character depth, but they’re just really not that engaging. Playing hide-and-seek with other Native American kids? Not a horrible concept, but the execution left me about as bored as I've been in a video game this year.
The fact is that epic games often come with inherent flaws. My friends often complained about the amount of exposition through horseback riding in "Red Dead Redemption," but I found that issue much more prominent here. To be blunt, I got bored. "Assassin's Creed III" sometimes lacks focus even within its own remarkable achievements. When it finds that focus again, it has the potential to blow you away. Like so many epics of any medium, it's filled with peaks and valleys. Yes, the valleys are deeper than I hoped they would be, but the peaks are undeniable.
There's also a deep multiplayer offering in "Assassin's Creed III" that plays off the world and mechanics of the story. You take on a character who is randomly assigned a target to be assassinated. Of course, someone is trying to kill you as well. And the multiplayer maps are filled with dozens of characters not being played by anyone. Blend in to hide from your enemy, but don't forget to accomplish your kill before time runs out. It's a fun, addictive multiplayer mode that feels wholly original in a world that typically just contains variations on Team Deathmatch.