I'm going to start off by saying that I really was not a big fan of Assassins Creed II, nor Brotherhood or Revelations.
You can hate me for that, I don't mind, but be that as it may, it meant that I was conflicted when I saw the first trailer for Assassins Creed III. Just in case you don't remember it... well, here you go.
I was conflicted because on one hand this trailer made me feel the way I felt when I saw the trailer for the first Assassins Creed, but on the other hand, my dislike of the other games jaded me. As each new trailer was released however, the more I wanted to play this game... and finally on release it was one of the games I had been looking forward to most all year.
Does it live up to the hype however? Were my expectations justified, or was this just another running, jumping, somewhat formulaic Assassins Creed game?
Well let's take a look shall we? And start at the beginning... What is Assassins Creed III actually about, and how does it tie in to the story of Altair, Ezio and Desmond Miles?
The game is set in Colonial America and as always the Assassin/Templar war is a bitter one that is now amplified by the setting of the American Revolution and the slave trade.
You play as two main characters in this game (besides Desmond), albeit one only briefly. You start the game as Haytham Kenway as he sails to America in order to track down and attempt to access a temple with a medallion he possesses. You later switch to playing as Connor, Haytham's half Mohawk son (I won't go into the details of that, you can let the story play out for yourself), and the story then spans 30 years of Connor's life, from the time that he leaves his village to begin his training as an Assassin, to his battle with the Templars.
As always, Desmond Miles plays a part in this story, on his quest to save the world from some or other threat. Without spoiling the story I can only say that there are some wonderful twists, and equally wonderful moments in this game that really push the enjoyment of the series to new heights.
Gameplay wise there a couple of new additions, including muskets, rifles, mobile hiding places and disguises, all of which greatly enhance the gameplay and provide and added sense of depth to the game. Overall though, for anyone who has played any of the previous AC games, its essence remains largely unchanged and the learning curve is definitely not a steep one. A couple of minor tweaks to the freerun system as well have also made for an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Another addition (and this is the kind of feature of which I am particularly fond in games such as these) is the improved fast travel map. This of course makes it infinitely easier to travel between locations, a feature that is essential to people like me who are lazy and don't want to travel through miles of countryside a million times over.
Two other features that I feel the need to mention, mainly because I feel they are significantly improved and deserve notice, are looting and blending. Both have been tweaked and are now infinitely more intuitive overall.
As per usual there are a multitude of side quests, but somehow I enjoyed them more thoroughly in ACIII than in any previous AC game. The game is not quite as open world as some would have you believe, which means that some of the side quests can become a bit formulaic, however there is enough variety to keep you entertained for a fair amount of time outside of the official campaign.
Now lets get on to the part you all love the most. Combat. This is both a strength and a weakness of AC3. The introduction of firearms, whilst awesome even with the long reload times, is also a bit, uh, weird. For example, you can make a "stealth" kill with a firearm, with other enemies standing literally a couple of metres from the person you have assassinated. Uh, sorry did you not hear the gunshot right next to you? Whilst it might be convenient to exploit this poor piece of gameplay it does also break the spell and detracts somewhat from the stealth aspect of an otherwise beautifully made game.
Your main character is also largely unstoppable, which means for many gamers combat will be a little too easy, requiring you to merely watch for the pattern of attack and then block and counter appropriately.
It's not to say that you will never die whilst playing, however the likelihood of this happening gets smaller the further you progress into the game.
Despite my criticisms, the American Revolution as depicted in the world of Assassins Creed III is rich and beautifully imagined. A definite improvement on the previous games, and one that, if you're like me and have become somewhat disillusioned with the series, will grab you by your shirt and shake some sense back into you.
And just to reiterate why you should be playing this game... Here's another trailer :)
Assassins Creed III might not be perfect, but it's definitely a game that you should be playing, even if you have let your enjoyment of the series lapse in recent years.