Revolving Indians

The Assassin’s Creed series has a problem. That problem is the yearly release schedule. Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed III is the result of a schedule that is untenable.

Producing a continuous series with an iteration every year is a monumental effort. Even more difficult, though, is ensuring that each entry into the series is fresh and interesting enough to pull players in. I don’t think Assassin’s Creed III has managed that.

From a gameplay standpoint, little has changed about the Assassin’s Creed games since Assassin’s Creed II. Equipment, weapons, and tactics all remain virtually unchanged. Yes, there are now firearms, but they mostly don’t matter. Their damage output isn’t extraordinary and most enemies only ever fire once.

What has changed, however, is uniformly for the worse. Enemies now seem to spawn endlessly and to be nearly unshakable once alerted; it is common to spend several minutes escaping from a single bad exposure. Double assassinations–a great feature that was added in Assassin’s Creed II–are gone without any explanation. The countering system has been made even more finicky with combo assassinations now failing randomly. Worse yet, the “rock-paper-scissors” of the countering system has now been replaced with “rock always works” as  long as “rock” is either a gun or the bow and arrow.

If the system changes weren’t bad enough, they’ve also brought in a wonderful smorgasbord of general bugginess. I was once attacked in the middle of a cutscene. The attack wasn’t part of the cutscene, the game just didn’t properly disable the logic to prevent me from being attacked. On many occasions, I had enemies fail to die because the air assassination technique just failed to hit. I had to redo many an optional objective because the game decided that I simply wasn’t killing correctly enough. And of course, I spent countless hours filling in the “Encyclopedia of the Common Man” because an NPC decided to repeatedly do the same action without ever switching to one that I hadn’t seen.

I could probably have taken the bad gameplay changes and the general bugginess if there had been a worthwhile plot underlying it.  There is not. The whole game seems disconnected and random. Connor’s motivations are rarely clear and often entirely bizarre, especially when coupled with general gameplay. He seems to flip back and forth between being a cold-blooded killer and a man trying to take no life. It seems like he has no narrative inertia. Whatever is convenient to the plot is what happens without anything really tying it back to the character development or existing narrative.

I don’t know who at Ubisoft greenlit this game, as it is. I do know that that person should be fired.

Assassin’s Creed III: 0

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