"Back on the hunt again. "
Since there's a lot to talk about with Assassin's Creed III Remastered, let's dispense with the basics as quickly as possible, since they are pretty similar to those in previous games in the series.
You'll alternate between present times and a random era from the past. While in the present, you'll be controlling Desmond Miles, a guy who has forcibly been inducted into the never-ending war between the Templars and Assassins. As an Assassin, he's helping a tiny crew of allies to find various magical artifacts before the Templars, who are interested in using them to create a world order in which they reign supreme. While Desmond's parts of any given game are definitely the lesser in scope and overall fun, they do tend to lead to major series-wide plot stuff.
As a modern-day Assassin, though, Desmond has access to a creation known as the Animus, through which he is able to send his consciousness back in time to experience the lives of his Assassin forefathers ó both to learn their skills and to find hints to the locations of those coveted artifacts. These experiences are the bulk of a given game, as you'll find yourself in control of a skilled combatant in some past era as he (or occasionally she) works to unravel a Templar conspiracy while working with and against various historical figures and routinely shaping how real world events unfolded.
The gameplay is a mixture of stealth and combat. You'll often have to get places unseen while trailing people or attempting to steal something or kill someone in a heavily-guarded location; however, you'll also have plenty of chances to engage in open battle, where you can use all sorts of weapons and tools to flat-out tear through often-overmatched guards and soldiers. These games also tend to lean towards the "sandbox" side of things, so you'll also have all sorts of optional activities to partake in when you just don't feel like following the main plot from one point to the next. There will be various assassination contracts, messages to transport from one person to another and many, many things to collect. You might be able to improve the local commerce by purchasing businesses and you'll likely be able to capture enemy strongholds to make parts of a game's world a bit more friendly.
While there were some tweaks to the engine between Assassin's Creed's Ezio games and III, the song remains largely the same, although there are a number of additions to the formula. Taking place in the 1700s of what is now known as the United States, youíll be able to take part in combat on the seas. Instead of building up a villa or buying businesses in a city, youíll create your own town via recruiting NPCs to populate it and then undergoing a lot of quests to assist them with their personal issues.
Oh, and the game also takes place over two different generations of the Kenway family. You open by controlling Haytham Kenway as he is being sent from Britain to the colonies on an artifact-finding mission. Heíll reach the New World, gain some allies, complete a few missions and hook up with a Native American woman in what should be considered his most important work. The scene will then shift a few years into the future with you controlling the fruit of that coupling ó a young half-Indian lad whose life quickly is shattered by tragedy when his village is sacked and set on fire, leading to the death of his mother. As he gets older, the boyís desire for revenge leads him to an elderly, retired Assassin named Achilles, who begrudgingly takes him under his wing and names him Connor due to having as much desire to attempt pronouncing his actual moniker as I do to type it.
Conner will then explore a large world consisting of two cities, the aforementioned gradually-growing town and a vast frontier region, searching for clues about the Templars among the men whose actions led to the death of his mother, while, of course, engaging in all sorts of other activities. Some, such as the naval missions, are pretty meaty, while others, such as a number of board games, are simple diversions. They all lead to a game where one can spend much more time engaging in optional activities than actually following the plot.
This was pretty cool for me. Nothing against the early 1500s, but when I was growing up, that era in Europe wasnít exactly a focus of my history classes in school. The French-Indian and Revolutionary wars, on the other hand, were regularly covered, making it a lot of fun to control a guy living in those days and getting to pal around with Samuel Adams and George Washington. Considering this is a remastered version of a game originally made for the previous generation of systems, it looks pretty good and, while there will be the occasional glitch, as well as those moments where your attempts at free-running will cause you to inadvertently try to climb something ó often when youíre desperately trying to flee a horde of foes ó I had a great time playing this game.
At least after it truly opened up. Assassinís Creed III takes a really long time to get going. If memory serves, the main game is divided into 12 chapters known as Sequences. Youíll be roughly halfway through them and still doing tutorial stuff due to the nature of the gameís storytelling. Youíll have tutorial stuff with Haytham to lead into his actual work and when you switch to Connor, youíll get all sorts of additional tutorial stuff due to Haytham not engaging in stuff like tree-climbing, animal hunting or lowering his notoriety so every random guard doesnít try to kill him on sight. And a lot of the meatier optional content, such as building up that town or taking to the seas to battle enemy vessels, arenít truly accessed until youíve gotten past all those tutorials, so youíll basically be led on rails for a good chunk of the game and then suddenly have seemingly everything open up for you right around the time the story truly gets interesting.
The game is really good when things pick up, though, with my only real complaint being how many of the side-quests not pertaining to building up your town and fighting naval battles come off as filler, with some of them feeling like jokes. In Assassinís Creed, I expect assassination contracts to be kind of a big deal. But in this game, youíll simply engage a few random NPCs and then kill a bunch of random people with no effort even made to give them any significance ó Conner isnít even given their names or an actual reason to kill them.
But the overall experience was more than satisfactory and this remastered version of III comes with much more than the base game, which allowed me to live in the Assassinís Creed world for quite some time. Included in the package is IIIís The Tyranny of King Washington DLC, a three-chapter tale of a hypothetical timeline where George Washington gets corrupted by one of the seriesí magical doodads and becomes a cruel and power-hungry tyrant, while Connor does various rituals to gain magic powers in order to combat him. There isnít much to this other than its fairly robust main story, but I did find it to be a fun challenge that, judging from my struggles to achieve many missionsí optional objectives, is somewhat more difficult than the main game.
Also included is Liberation, a spin-off game originally on the handheld Vita. This game has an interesting premise where youíre playing a video game released by Templar corporation Abstergo as propaganda to show how the female Assassin Aveline turned on her order to join the Templars. Except, as optional cutscenes show, that might not have been how things actually unfolded.
Overall, this one plays much like III if the protagonist was a woman and the action was set primarily in New Orleans and the surrounding bayou. The main difference comes from Aveline herself. As a light-skinned woman of mixed race, she has three different disguises she can choose from ó each with its individual benefits and drawbacks. As an assassin, she gets access to her full arsenal of weaponry, but will always have some degree of notoriety, meaning that guards will always take interest in her. Dress like a lady and sheíll be able to bribe and charm various guards, but her billowing dress prevents her from doing any sort of free-running. Disguise herself as a slave and sheíll easily be able to blend into crowds, but will gain notoriety from far more activities than if she were an assassin or lady.
If I were to individually review either the DLC or spin-off, Iíd probably give them lukewarm recommendations, but as add-ons to an already-enjoyable game, they went a long way to making the overall experience even better. While I was late to the party as far as getting into the Assassinís Creed series, it didnít take me long to decide it was to my liking, so after finishing III, I was happy to have a pair of shorter offerings at my disposal in this collection because I wasnít quite ready for a break from the series. And, really, thatís what we all want from our games, isnít it? Something satisfying that is appealing enough that it leaves you wanting just a little bit more.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 09, 2023)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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