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Assassin's Creed III (Wii U) artwork

Assassin's Creed III (Wii U) review


"Connor is a difficult character to like in some respects, because he has little interest in the plight of the patriots except as it relates to the security of his own people. He tends to act a bit like an overgrown child in some instances, lashing out at the people around him, then trusting them and helping them only a short time later. If heís not the perfect hero, though, at least his shortcomings make him seem human."



In case the Roman numeral in the title didnít already make it obvious, Assassinís Creed III probably shouldnít serve as your introduction to the ongoing story that is told within the Assassinís Creed franchise. That could prove to be a problem for some folks because the game is the first installment in the long-running series to arrive on a Nintendo console. If until now youíve only ever owned a Wii, you wonít have had the chance to play the first four titles in the series unless you were prepared to suffer through some of the most restrictive DRM software the industry has yet seen, courtesy of the PC versions. Starting with this newest outing could harm your experience, both because the story wonít make a lot of sense (even though the writers provide a brief summary video at the start of the campaign that touches on a lot of the highlights) and because the gameplay mechanics are unique enough to be perplexing to newcomers. I find myself stopping just short of recommending that you not play it at all unless you can first experience at least a couple of the titles that came before it.

If youíve already played a few or perhaps even all of the past titles, youíll face a problem that I admit caught me by surprise. I was so used to playing with a PlayStation 3 controller that I spent around 10 hours of gaming before I was finally able to adjust to using the Pro controller for Wii U. The placement of the four face buttons is such that the A button is positioned where it feels like the B button should be located. Thanks to that arrangement, I constantly pressed the wrong button while trying to block melee attacks, and I would often swing forward and fail to grab onto ledges or walls because I was again mashing the wrong button. Such mishaps got frustrating very quickly. Sometimes, I didnít know whether to laugh or mutter darkly about stupid plastic and how much life sucksÖ as in one particularly memorable case when I was stealthily departing a fortress after silently subduing all of my foes in a non-lethal manner--as the game advised me to do--and then I executed the last guard with a perfect headshot because I pressed the wrong button. Blood and brains on the snow were not what I had in mind.

Assassin's Creed III asset


Even assuming that youíre able to fall into pace with the plot and you have no trouble with the controls, there are some factors that have the potential to mar what deserves to be a more wholly enjoyable experience. Iím not sure why, but the Wii U version of the game suffers from a surprising number of glitches. Iíve heard thatís true of other versions also, but I really canít comment. All I know is that the Wii U version froze on me twice during cutscenes, and one of those times I couldnít even restart my system except by unplugging it from the wall. There were other anomalies, as well, like when I accessed the menu to exit out of the game but then changed my mind and resumed play. The next time I tried to give myself a break from the action, I discovered that the pause menu had become inaccessible. In another instance, certain actions that were necessary to complete a mission randomly became unavailable. I was allowed mere seconds to leave a burning ship and my character suddenly couldnít move at anything more than a crawl. After five tries, he suddenly was able to move just fine. That at least meant that I didnít have to restart the mission, but it was still annoying.

Fortunately, thereís a lot more to the game than glitches. When the game properly begins--which takes some time, but I wonít spoil any of that for you--central protagonist and perpetual sojourner in othersí memories, Desmond Miles, finds himself living out the memories of a Native American ancestor named Ratonhnhakť:ton, who simplifies life for himself and others by answering to the name Connor. The easier means of address comes as a blessing for a hero who desperately needs for life to stop kicking him in the teeth. He has lost his mother and is estranged from his father, plus there are some very real threats to his people. Tension in the nearby towns is spilling into his way of life, and Connor finds himself caught up in an unavoidable battle for independence that only occasionally coincides with his own crucial quest to guarantee his peopleís safety.

If you like to play Assassinís Creed games for the gameplay and would rather not pay much attention to the narrative, youíll likely have a hard time doing so in this case. Story sequences can be skipped, but they also have received more focus than they usually do. They consist of several missions apiece, and the heroes and villains alike are given plenty of time to develop as individuals. Youíll encounter the central antagonists at several points and theyíll often have interesting things to say, plus youíll meet up with historical figures with uncertain motivations almost every time you turn around. Thatís all just within the scenes that play out inside Animus. There also are additional expeditions that take place here in 2012, and they arguably are the most satisfying that the franchise has offered thus far. Some fairly crazy stuff happens right near the end of the adventure.

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Connor is a difficult character to like in some respects, because he has little interest in the plight of the patriots except as it relates to the security of his own people. He tends to act a bit like an overgrown child in some instances, lashing out at the people around him, then trusting them and helping them only a short time later. If heís not the perfect hero, though, at least his shortcomings make him seem human. He lacks Ezioís welcome and effortless charm, but he comes from a very different place and thereís arguably more depth there. If any character gets on your last nerve, itís most likely to be Sean. He has been generally interesting in the past titles, the source of some welcome comic relief, but here he takes that role too far. A number of his jokes fall flat, and his copious historical notes miss few opportunities to point out the less admirable and occasionally contemptible things that the nationís founding fathers did in their personal and political lives. Sometimes the writing can feel a bit heavy-handed when it tries to project todayís values on characters who lived in a different world--and politically a lot of it is very liberal--but it also does a good job of making key historical figures more complicated and interesting than they appear in history books. If some of Seanís comments are interesting enough that they inspire gamers to check some biographies out at the local library, itís difficult to complain too loudly.

Players who are looking to simply rush through the main campaign can probably do so in fewer than 15 hours, even if they read everything Sean has to say, and theyíll probably still have a lot of fun because of the variety in objectives. This new title introduces a variety of welcome new gameplay elements, including thrilling naval battles that place you in charge of a ship with cannons and a crew. Thereís been nothing quite like it in the Assassinís Creed series thus far. Animals have also been added to the Animus, which means that you can now hunt for prey (by springing traps or shooting them with your bow and arrows or dropping down on them from trees). Sometimes, you might become the prey yourself unless youíre quick to respond to on-screen button prompts. Crossing huge swaths of land becomes a risky proposition--and can eat up a lot of time--but the game also introduces a quick travel element that lets you skip readily to familiar areas as required by the story. The interface isnít perfect, but it definitely cuts down on the unnecessary exploration once you learn to utilize it properly.

Of course, you might decide that you really do want to explore. There are all kinds of diversions along the way to reward an adventurous spirit. Youíll find villagers who need to be saved from wicked tax collectors, patriots who you can save from death by firing squad, traders who want your precious animal pelts, and much more. Frankly, I didnít dive into much of that content because it simply wasnít necessary, but the option is there if you want it.

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Unfortunately, one of the best means of wringing additional value from the title is currently out of reach. After enjoying online matches in Assassinís Creed: Revelations, I was anxious to see how they would play out here. From what I can tell, the answer is ďmostly the sameĒ but with a few tweaks (for instance, the assassinate and stun moves now seem to be executed with equal ease, depending on whether you are on the offense or defense). The problem is that there arenít enough people playing online. I was unable to find a game, even when searching during hours when the servers should be at their fullest. I hope that this situation will improve over time once more people have finished the campaign and the game finds its way into more homes, but Iím not entirely optimistic that it will.

Assassinís Creed III is a great game, in large part because the writing continues to mature in truly satisfying ways and the developers are careful to add new elements that lead to a more diverse and involving experience all around. However, a little more refinement could have gone a long way toward making the package even more special. Show-stopping glitches are just a bit more common than feels quite fair. The foundation has definitely been laid here for some excellent expanded content in any sequels that Ubisoft might wish to develop, but admirable ambition led to some regrettable flaws as a byproduct. Definitely still play it, but keep any high expectations in check.

Rating: 7/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 29, 2012)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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