Getting down with Assassin’s Creed III for the first time with no time pressure revealed a game that’s going to gobble up an extraordinary amount of your video game for the rest of this year. I’ve never been the type to be obsessed with clearing 100% of any game just to say I did it, so I was impressed by the quality of AC3’s content more than the sheer volume of stuff to do.
We were limited to playing what would roughly be considered a middle level of the game but hunting, naval battles, homestead missions and hands-on participation in the Boston Tea Party were all on the menu. I only had the briefest taste of the wilderness/hunting/collecting system to be found in the homestead missions. Meeting folks out and around our main character’s home will lead you to side missions where helping those folks will have them beholden to you. Maybe beholden is too strong a word but the bottom line is these people will give you new helpful items and gear if you take them up on their side mission requests.
The life of an assassin in Colonial Boston was my choice. The story missions seem to revolve around meeting key figures who then proceed to get you into combat situations. Meeting Sam Adams in proper context before the Boston Tea Party was a bit surreal considering you end having to do a lot of stuff for the cause before actually dumping boxes of tea into the Bay. However these story missions put the full spectrum of stuff you can do in Assassin’s Creed III on display. Rumbling with tax collectors is always fun because that category of Brits always leads to tons of redcoat officers and soldiers coming out of nowhere. Even a seasoned Assassin’s Creed III player will have long drawn out fights in these situations. Going after a guy with a tomahawk to the throat doesn’t kill him as instantly as you’d think and switching from one victim to defend against an incoming attack from another soldier merely means that original guy will have time to get up and recover from your first attack. The combat system itself was a bit rough in the time we spent on AC3. The timing on counterattacks and even the options we had in a fight weren’t always clear. In a typical sequence chopping at a defensive redcoat with a sword only leaves you vulnerable to the pair of officers 50 feet away who are lining you up for a shot with their muskets. Conor took several shots to the back before I was told that you can quickly grab an engaged enemy and spin him around and use him as a human shield when you’re being shot at like that. You only have to do it once because reloading a musket can take years. That’s great move to know if somebody happens to tell you.
Similarly the countering system seems to branch in a way that’s not always easy to sort out. My Connor character perhaps wasn’t upgraded enough with moves and or weapons to be the most dangerous counterattacker, but I still feel like his basic moves, with impeccable timing, should be enough. Hitting the counter button as an attack came in would briefly slow down the action and suddenly I’d have the option of disarming or throwing the enemy. In the heat of battle, when you’re button mashing your attack buttons but are still quick enough to hit the counter button with proper timing, it was simply too easy to accidentally hit the “throw” option on a counter. And throwing an enemy simply shoves them away from you; no damage is dealt. When surrounded by as many enemies as Assassin’s Creed III is going to throw at you, a plausible, yet challenging, way to deal with crowds of enemies will be supremely valuable. I suspect that a combination of my relatively “unupgraded” Connor and lack of familiarity with the controls made both of us look bad. As it was, impending fights with redcoats inspired the perfect balance of excitement and concern….which is probably how it should be for an assassin.
The Boston Tea Party itself ends up being an intense, wild sequence where you’re crushing redcoats who are trying to board the ship laden with tea AND throwing the little boxes of tea overboard. The Brits you’re fighting have to be thrown overboard to meet the mission requirements and this can be challenging. I smashed an entire brigade of those guys before I realized tossing them overboard –as part of a strike combo no less– was the requirement. There was a noticeable increase in the amount of British troops roaming around Boston after this even too. And just to be clear, there were several story missions leading up to the Tea Party that had you meeting characters and advancing the Templar-Assassin narrative too. The Tea Party is simply set as the climax of that bit but it’s still not the climax of the aforementioned Sequence 6.
After the Tea Party, taking over territory in Boston and liberating it from the Templars became my focus. This of course lead to my one-man attack against the British fort overlooking the south part of town simply because it’s there and on the minimap there was a Templar logo sitting there mocking me. Dying and reapplying oneself is going to be the way to get through Assassin’s Creed III. Assaulting a fort with one guy, even one as badass as Connor, is going to be painful and lead to a lot of trial and error. Letting those enemies line themselves up in a narrow hallway for me while I chopped through them proved to be the difference. The reward for all of that hard work of taking down an entire British fort? The Americans happily move into the fort but now those American appear on your minimap as red dots, also known as enemies. It’s here where video game instincts are hard to resist. I saw red and began attacking colonial militia thinking this must be some kind of test to prove that I’m really a liberator or something. No, the patriots fought back with more intensity than the Brits who occupied the fort before them. I fled.
There’s no shame in this because there were plenty of other neighborhoods to liberate and patriots to save around Boston. In fact that’s our look at the time we spend in Boston in AC3. We’ll be back with more on the naval battles in the game because that stuff is both separate and directly related to everything else.