Assassin’s Creed 3 is the black sheep of Ubisoft’s franchise and often finds itself at the bottom of fans’ lists when ranking the series. But after having played Mirage and rekindled my love of old-school AC, surely the time has come to reevaluate this game and challenge the notion that it deserves its bad rap?
AC3 was released during a turbulent transition period for Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed series. It ventured into uncharted territory, narratively and mechanically, which caused it to receive mixed reviews. At its core, though, it’s a damn good stealth game.
A Stranger’s Face
The year was 2012, and gamers were still reeling from the iconic Ezio trilogy. AC3 introduced us to a new protagonist, Connor Kenway, and a new historical backdrop – the American Revolution. This departure from the Italian Renaissance left many yearning for more of Ezio’s adventures. After all, what could possibly top the Italian Renaissance? However, as time has shown, this shift was not inherently negative; it was just a different setting. Letting go is hard, but that’s not the game’s fault.
One of the game’s notable departures was its overhaul of the game engine. AC III brought a fresh engine that impacted every game aspect, from menus to combat to parkour. This change, while jarring at first, introduced a level of clunkiness that some players struggled with. Combat had a wild camera angle, cutscenes zoomed in too closely, and UI changes were puzzling. In 2023, I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of broken games. For a 2012 game, these criticisms feel like minor nitpicks and don’t significantly detract from the overall experience.
Off to a Rough Start
One of the most controversial aspects of this Assassin’s Creed game was its extended prologue. At the beginning of the game, you control Haytham Kenway for several hours before transitioning to Connor. For some, this “pivotal storytelling decision” was frustrating. It challenged the binary notion that Assassins are always good and Templars are always wrong, exploring shades of gray within the conflict. Playing as Haytham helped players understand Connor’s perspective better, which actually just adds depth to the narrative. This controversial choice, though not as adeptly executed, reminds me of what happened with Last of Us 2’s choice to drag players through hours of gameplay as Abby.
Connor himself has often been unfavorably compared to the charismatic Ezio Auditore. However, Connor’s character is unique and relatable. His story is one of loss, pain, and struggle – themes that I’m sure we all can relate to. His anger and determination are meant to drive you to push forward, making his character more compelling than he’s often given credit for. While he doesn’t undergo a drastic transformation like some other protagonists in the series, his consistency throughout the game adds to the depth of his character.
An Unfamiliar Setting
The game’s homestead missions and the recruitment of Assassins added layers of depth and character development that weren’t immediately apparent in the main storyline. The homestead missions, in particular, showcased Connor’s softer, more personable side that was lacking in the main narrative. These missions allowed players to connect with the game’s characters personally, enriching the overall experience.
AC3 also introduced a revamped system for recruiting Assassins, elevating it above its predecessors. Instead of generic recruits, players encountered fully realized characters with unique combat abilities. These recruits became valuable assets, adding a fresh dimension to the gameplay.
The setting of the American Revolution also marked a departure from the series’ traditional urban environments. AC3 presented players with vast open spaces, challenging the notion of rooftop traversal. While different, this change offered a unique experience, requiring players to adapt their approach to the game’s world design.
Credit Where It’s Due
Parkour in AC3 is a highlight, with nuanced movement and fluid animations. Climbing through houses with open doors and windows and navigating the treetops added layers of immersion and enjoyment. The combat, while slower, made Connor feel powerful and showcased the
Game’s creativity in approaching different combat scenarios.
Stealth gameplay, often overlooked, was satisfying in this Assassin’s Creed game. Cover assassinations and social stealth added depth to the game’s mechanics, providing alternative approaches to missions. Forts, in particular, demonstrated the effectiveness of stealth in the game.
The modern-day storyline in AC III is a mixed bag. While it took players on some exciting Assassin missions, it was also marred by underdeveloped sequences and awkward character interactions. Nevertheless, the game’s modern-day plot was a significant focus, offering fans more time outside the Animus to explore Desmond’s character and the overarching narrative.
Give AC 3 A Break
In retrospect, Assassin’s Creed 3’s criticisms are often overstated. It was a game with immense ambition and the burden of following the beloved Ezio trilogy. It successfully navigated a challenging transitional period for both the series and Ubisoft. While it may not have been perfect, AC3 introduced new ideas, explored morally gray areas, and kept the modern-day plot in focus while maintaining the essence of the Assassin’s Creed fantasy.
Looking back at this Assassin’s Creed game in 2023, it’s clear that it wasn’t as bad as some initially thought. It may have been the series’ black sheep, but it was a necessary stepping stone in the franchise’s evolution. So, if you’re contemplating a return to the world of Connor Kenway, don’t hesitate. AC3 is an underrated gem that deserves a second chance.