The story has something of the character of a spaghetti western or kung fu revenge drama. We see Connor as a child named Ratonhnhaké:ton, playing and hunting with his friends in the forest. Tragedy soon visits the young brave and off he goes in search of vengeance.
It’s in this quest that he meets Achilles Davenport, a retired member of the Brotherhood of Assassins, the secret society that has been warring with the equally secretive Templars for centuries, both of which are the focus of Ubisoft’s game franchise. Achilles becomes the Yoda to his young Luke, spouting wisdom while hobbling along on his cane, all the while teaching him the ways of the Force… er… the Assassins.
The first third-to-half of the game is spent on this backstory and training, with the action only finally picking up when the setting shifts to Boston.
Achilles introduces his protégé, now a man, to the bustling city, as well as to his new name. Ratonhnhaké:ton, he says, simply won’t do in a white man’s world, so Connor it is. All of this, meanwhile, is set against the backdrop of the American revolution. Or, as some characters prefer to call it, a civil war.
Video games are often criticized for poor storytelling, so it’s hard to fault the developers for instead taking their time to set a rich table. By the time we get down to the action, we know who Connor is and we understand his motivations and, to some extent, those of his friends and enemies. This is the sort of depth that most games can only aspire to.
But the story may be let down by the mission design, as many of the game’s chapters have a ho-hum feel. While previous games had many actual assassinations, in this game there’s a surplus of stealth eavesdropping and tailing suspects to be done. One slip-up usually means starting over, so jobs that are already low on the action scale often become monotonous tasks of trial and error.
Things get painful on occasion, particularly when running after targets through the crowded city streets. One particular chase sequence near the end of the game forced me to follow a very specific and maddening path, which had me ready to throw my controller at the TV. Any slight stray from that route meant starting the whole thing over, which I did many, many times.
This segment, where Connor runs after one of the main villains, actually highlights everything wrong with the game. During several of those many attempts, I actually caught up to the bad guy, at which point I started pressing the attack buttons. Yet, nothing happened and the chase continued on into a burning building.
So, despite beating the seemingly impossible odds, the game cheated me out of a win because my actions didn’t follow the script. That’s pretty much Assassin’s Creed III in a nutshell.
The main core of Assassin’s Creed III feels a lot like the original Assassin’s Creed game, released in 2007. That game, too, was a giant technological leap forward. It presented a large open world with incredible graphic fidelity and a population that seemed relatively alive. At the same time, though, it was panned for having repetitive gameplay.
Assassin’s Creed III certainly isn’t repetitive, but its mundane actions may outweigh the enjoyable ones. Nevertheless, like its forerunner, it is an accomplishment that is worth checking out. It’s a breakthrough achievement that brings us another step toward the virtualized future. Let’s just hope that future – or at least the next Assassin’s Creed game – is a little more fun.