Earlier today at Ubisoft’s preview event for the hotly anticipated Assassin’s Creed 3 at the Waterfront Settler’s Hall in Sydney’s Circular Quay West, I got to get my hands on the game itself and in particular it’s single player mode.
It was very clear from the get-go that Assassin’s Creed 3 was vastly different to the games that preceded it within this franchise. Ubisoft have gone from the ground up with this title in what appears to be an attempt to revitalise the series with some fresh new game play and aesthetics.
Now before I detail the game itself it is worth pointing out that I obviously have not played the game in it’s entirety and only played what was said to be a small portion of the overall experience of the game. However despite that I managed to get a strong grasp and understanding of the game’s new mechanics and features. I was simply dropped in half way through the game with nearly everything accessible for me to try out. Well let’s get right into it then.
The very first thing that I noticed in the game is that they have restructured the control scheme from that used in the previous titles in the franchise. Free-running for example is now entirely done with the right trigger button. I found this to be a little problematic as this means that one button is meant to do a multitude of tasks, some of which happen unintentionally such as jumping when trying to climb. It was a bit of a puzzling change but with some time I am sure I could grow use to it, despite it’s unnecessary complication instead of what seems to have been an attempt to simplify things.
Most of the other controls for navigating the world remain unchanged but the combat system is utterly blown away in place of a system that focuses heavily on countering and timing. Battles with animals are quick-time events which I personally find to be abhorrent but I can understand wanting to differentiate battles between humans and creatures. Unfortunately battles with human enemies is also unnecessarily complicated. In previous titles there was a great flow to battles, with fights feeling fast intense and brutal. This can not be said about Assassin’s Creed 3 though as the combat system imposing counter based fighting on you, which removes the ability to freely create carnage as unless you surprise an enemy you most likely need to counter in order to attack them. This counter system itself is very rock-paper-scissors in nature and feels more about luck that having good reflexes. During large attacks from groups it is almost impossible to fight without the combat being halted completely when you are attempting a counter only to be attacked by another enemy which breaks both the tension and flow immensely. Despite that, one on one combat and sneak kills seem to work well. The real problem was group combat, which honestly was somewhat messy.
Getting back to navigation in the game, we see the return of horses to the franchise after an absence in Revelations. Here we have what is easily the best incarnation of the Assassin’s Creed horses to date. They control well and are great to use in combat scenarios due to there speed and ability to overwhelm crowds of enemies. Besides horses you can of course travel by foot. This is perhaps the most preferable way to travel in game, unless you want to cheat and fast-travel somewhere with the map (only once you get far enough in the game of course). Now while the forests and tree top free running is said to be a big portion of the game, you sometimes find yourself getting awkwardly stuck amongst trees and odd invisible walls. Once you get use to the games forests you realise which spots on trees can get you stuck and they become easier to avoid although they really should not be there at all. It is somewhat addictive running through the trees due to their ever changing shapes and forms, with a new branch you haven’t yet seen appearing very often. Although some are repeated they are far apart so you don’t really realise anyway.
Now for the feature that the game seems to be made for, the Naval Warfare. I really don’t know why this aspect of the game is being so heavily publicised as it is quite lacking to be frank. It is both hard to control and tediously repetitive. The challenge of this mode felt more like seeing how long you could play it without exiting the mission. I was simply very disappointed by this game play aspect as it had been so heavily touted by Ubisoft only for it to be rather droll and uninspiring.
All in all Assassin’s Creed 3 left a decent enough impression on me despite it’s numerous short-comings. The portion of the game that I got to play today did not live up to the name of this franchise and felt like a step in the wrong direction. I’m not sure why the decision to make such a great departure from the series roots was taken, but it doesn’t do the game any favours. Instead it comes across as if the franchise is afflicted with an identity crisis. It doesn’t know if it wants to be Assassin’s Creed or not. That was the vibe I got and it honestly disappointed me. Of course the rest of the game is still waiting for me to play and I am sure that the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s excellent story-telling will make up for it’s shortcomings. Regardless of what I felt about what I played today, I eagerly await the full version of this game which I’m sure will fill in the pieces that I felt this demonstration was lacking. Other than that I found it to be a rather enjoyable experience despite some nagging issues I had with it.