There comes a point in every gamers life when they have to ask themselves a serious question.
“Am I ever going to bother to finish Assassin’s Creed 3?”
Yes, it’s a biggie, but I make no apologies for tackling such subjects in this open forum. It’s not intended to shock or upset anyone, but…well…there you go.
I think we can all agree that the misleadingly entitled fifth instalment of the Assassin’s Creed line was a stumbling, overwrought, pompous disappointment. Apparently developed in parallel to the third and fourth games – the final two of what I will call the Ezio cycle – it eschewed all the mechanical refinements of those games in favour of a clumsily envisioned ‘simplification’ of the original control scheme. This simplification, while requiring fewer button-presses than the original, cunningly allowed the player to feel almost totally unable to command the finder points of the lead character’s perambulation. Being required correctly to time a button press in order NOT to run up a wall – a button press which seemed only to register, perhaps, 50% of the time – was a master stroke of auto-pediatric-marksmanship.
Then there is a litany of graphical errors and glitches. I played for a long time and was always impressed at how the game managed to display new and interesting ways to look shoddy every time I played. It became something of an emergent game mechanic to spot the newest cock-up. There were plenty of NPC-stuck-in-scenery-during-cutscene moments, but I think they pail next to the occasion when the main character’s hair simply failed to render for the entire length of a scene. And the way that, if you chose to change the colour of your outfit, it always reverted to the default white for the cutscenes – a particularly special mistake as it means the game had to maintain two texture sets where it should have needed just one. Bravo.
How about the fact that every one of the huge trees I found in the wilderness, from the tops of which I might gain valuable information on the lay of the land, were identical. Every. Single. One. Exactly the same, from branch structure to leaf coverage. All of them.
I could go on. Believe me. These are merely the stand-out examples that still haunt me many months after I last played.
NB: I should add that I can’t be sure such issues didn’t plague the Ezio cycle, but I can be certain that I never noticed them. They never stuck out like a sore thumb, front and centre, in the middle – literally – of the screen.
But the story, oh the story…
I am, for want of a better phrase, NOT AN AMERICAN! I have no objection to playing a game based in and around the events of the war of independence, and more than I object to the shoe-horning of Assassin lore into any of the other historical scenes presented by the franchise. However, when every damned mission seems to be an excuse to present a painful and self-consciously hey-kids-watch-us-subvert-history take on some desperately romanticised version of colonial history I…well…I very quickly lose interest.
Not that I can necessarily say that they didn’t do the same with the Ezio cycle, but here’s the difference; Ezio swaggered his path through his own bastardisation of reality with a cocky grin and a gentle lechery that made him a joy to play. Even when the world around him was trying to fall apart, you could trust Ezio to ignore that in favour of the comely wench behind the bar. Connor lacked anything like the same easy charisma to distract from the pompous ridiculousness of his plot.
In the end, despite all the things that I was enjoying in the game, the sheer weight of annoyances – from petty through to incredible, via just…sheer…wow how did you get to go gold with THAT in there – stopped me from wanting to go back to it.
I get the impulse to play some A’s C and I honestly would rather go and play Revelations again before returning to #3. Hell, I’d prefer to go back to the deeply flawed original, I think.
So…will I ever finish Assassin’s Creed 3? I don’t know. I like to think so. I like to think that the genuinely charming or awesome features it does display might be enough to see me through the myriad flaws which, frankly, I still have trouble believing were really there, so numerous and blatant were they. I’m just not sure. I need a little more time.