Assassin’s Creed III Isn’t Sneaky About Its Quality

Assassin’s Creed III should be grateful to the legacy of its two most recent predecessors. Brotherhood and Revelations both introduced new gameplay mechanics to the core Assassin’s Creed experience and it’s quite clear that the development team on the latest Assassin’s Creed has been listening to the reactions. Some of the excellent abilities from Brotherhood, like that which allowed you to direct companions and call in groups, are there. The slightly dodgy tower defence from Revelations is missing.

The third numbered game also adds its own major new gameplay mechanic: sea battles. These might be contrary to everything we’ve learned to do in previous games but they’re surprisingly well implemented. Sailing the ship feels natural and connected while still offering enough deviance that you get the impression you’re at the mercy of the swelling deep and the fickle winds. Naval combat is well done too, it feels quite natural and reasonably powerful.

There’s plenty of time to talk about mechanics later, though. We’ll get to the improved combat, easier climbing and free running, trading routes, and interior escapes in the future. For me, the absolute best thing about Assassin’s Creed III – and it’s all pretty damn good – is the narrative.

Armed with the knowledge of Altair, the abilities of Ezio and a chunk of ancient mysterious technology known as a Piece of Eden, Desmond Miles has six weeks until his date with destiny. Six weeks from October 31st – the day of the game’s release nicely worked into the fiction – until the mysterious date, prescribed by The First Civilization, on the 12th of December: 12/12/12.

There’s a handy recap movie for anyone who may have missed out on one or several of the previous games (I’d strongly advise you to avoid the launch trailers though – especially the spoiler-packed US one). You’re quickly brought up to speed with the fiction, the story so far and – through a brief VR-style sequence – the basic traversal controls. Once that’s all out of the way, you’re whisked away to Colonial America. Well, actually, you’re not. What Ubisoft has neglected to mention is that Assassin’s Creed III not only begins in Camden, England for a brief introduction to stealth, it soon has you confined to a ship, investigating mysterious happenings and learning basic combat controls.

The first few sections of the game are paced quite poorly, with lengthy sections that seem dedicated to informing you of the most basic controls and setting up a couple of the game’s simplest side missions. An early meeting with Benjamin Franklin has you rounding up pages for his famous almanac as they blow around Boston’s streets. It’s a slightly awkward and twee conversation that sets up a replacement for the equally superfluous collectibles we saw in previous games but veteran Assassin’s players will be well used to – or even expectant of – those familiar game-lengthening tricks.

Stick with it though, let those first two or three hours unfurl slowly and purposefully. They might not be the most action packed sections of the game but they are important for what comes next. Every story needs a foundation.

Those of you who kept up with the series of historical articles we published earlier this year (or downloaded the free iBook) will hopefully feel some familiarity with the cast of supporting characters and places that are referenced. Assassin’s Creed III sticks to the series’ past commitments to historical accuracy. Not everything is perfectly accurate, of course, but the backdrop is about as authentic as you could wish for.

The regular updates to the Animus database are a joy too. They fill in interesting little historical details about the environment as well as being packed with some solid humour that lampoons all sides in the various conflicts equally. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed team has always had to be careful to point out its healthy mix of cultural components and with many on this side of the Atlantic being prepared to object to the (perfectly fair, as it happens) depiction of Britain as a tyrannical colonial oppressor, it’s a line that has perhaps never been finer. It’s subtle though, the humorous anti-French sentiment in Shaun’s animus updates is counter-balanced with every washing line in Boston hanging out their red, white and blue items to form a French tricolore.

There’s much more to say about Assassin’s Creed III but first, there’s more to play. Fifteen hours into the game and it feels like I’m roughly halfway through. With the collection quests and side missions, that will add up to a significant amount of game for your money, and that’s without even embarking on the multiplayer modes.

What do I think so far? It’s brilliant, as the Assassin’s Creed games usually are. In fact, it’s worth £40 just for one moment about 3 hours in. You’ll know it when you get there.



  1. AC3 sounds excellent and feck you Peter for making me want to get it even more instead of waiting to christmas. Was concerned that the Sea Battles would be a repeat of tower defence but am glad that it’s not the case. When does the full review come out? :)

  2. teasing… teasing…
    if you follow me on twitter, you’d know how avidly im looking forward to this. I screamed at the postman when he didnt have it earlier, I’ve sat all day watching the ‘dispatching soon’ sign on amazon, and I shouted at Wotta when he tweeted pictures..

    • I’m pretty sure all that screaming & shouting can’t be good for you!

      • dont be worried for me, worry for the painters and decorators currently renovating our hall

      • Surely they should be safe… Unless they come in flaunting their brand new copy & revealing spoilers of course! :D

  3. Great job on the iBook – I didn’t realise that as well as being knowledgeable about games you were also an expert on social science and goalkeeping ;-) Your passion for this game makes me want to buy it… That’s as good a compliment as there is, really.

    • thanks, I’d like to do more but my days are packed with goalkeeper analysis and sociology lectures so it’s hard to find time :D

      • Is there anywhere I can get the iBook in a less apple orientated format? would love to read it on my tablet

  4. You have just made my mind up, I will go out and buy this tomorrow then i will play it and be happy. I’ll just get my parents to pay my part for my family meal in a few days because lets face it, I deserve it

  5. For the first time ever a preorder from shopto hasn’t arrived early.

    Which is really annoying as I want this game more than I have wanted a game for years.

    • Really? my copy from shopto arrived saturday, but i was away for most of the weekend. argggg.

    • Same here. My pre-order was dispatched last week, I was hoping to get my hands on it early but still no sign of it. May be my postman is sitting at home playing it now!

      • My copy was dispatched on the friday.

    • Both my Assassin’s Creed games arrived today from ShopTo.

  6. “There’s a handy recap movie for anyone who may have missed out on one or several of the previous games”.

    Well if this is the case i think i will buy back into the franchise, never bothered after the second one and this Assassin’s Creed has almost won me over but was reluctant because of been out of the story loop.

    Thanks Peter that’s another €50 out of my pocket! :P

  7. Dammit!!

    There are too many good games out! I dont have time to play another!! :P

  8. Mine arrived yesterday, I’ve just got to the WTF moment about 3hrs in, loving it so far.

  9. Is the recap of the previous games any good? Haven’t played Brotherhood and Revelations and while I am interested in the latter, I don’t feel like playing the former. I’ll probably also skip Revelations because otherwise I’d be back in the AC fatigue zone and wouldn’t want to play AC3, which is the one I’m interested in the most…

  10. Really need to finish Borderlands 2 so I can get this.

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