The Worst Game I've Ever Played: Assassin's Creed III
You need more than a gimmick to make an awesome game. A reflection on the disaster area that was my once-favorite franchise's latest installment...
It's painful to watch your favorite franchise dig itself into a hole. Or in Assassin's Creed's case, take a leap of faith and miss the pile of hay. The fifth major installment of the series served as a self-destruct button that left both fans and history buffs underwhelmed. Assassin's Creed III broke my heart because I saw an incredible story conclude with a half-assed ending that didn't make any sense and left enough plot holes to make an even more gimmicky upcoming sequel, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.
I'm not even going to buy Black Flag. Why? Because it banks on the naval battles that were side quests in ACIII and blows them up into the main gameplay. If you want to make a game full of what you once considered to be side quests, release some new DLC. Don't insult your fans, gamers in general, by releasing another convoluted sequel that doesn't advance the storyline in any way. A sequel to the present day storyline and a prequel to the ancestral storyline? No, thanks.
It's no accident that the naval battles are the best part of ACIII since they're the only NEW thing in the game. I can't help but feel like Brotherhood and Revelations were tech demos for the larger installment in the same way that Halo: ODST and Halo Reach were stepping stones for Halo 4, a sequel that DID bring a lot of fresh elements to a series that was in danger of becoming bland. You can't depend on jetpacks and bubble shields to get you through to fans.
Well, ACIII depends on the open-world campaign that made it popular five installments ago. Remember when climbing anything and everything was cool? Did you love to jump off of things and stab your targets in the throat? You know how many action adventure games allow you to that now? Infamous, Uncharted, Prototype....the list goes on and on. Don't try to fix it by letting us climb trees and hunt innocent little bunny rabbits. It's time for something new, guys.
Oh, and that merchant system, something I've felt was always unnecessary in the games. Why did I need to buy every blacksmith shop in Rome? Or antique store? Tailor? So that I could have more money than I needed by the end of the game.
We're talking samesies in ACIII, only replace merchants with convoys blah blah blah. GO SAVE YOUR CONVOY, your objective display flashes when you're jumping around in the wilderness looking for bunnies. God knows America will be defeated if you don't deliver those fine furs in time.
Okay, well at least the story was excellent and made your forget about the gameplay's shortcomings...WRONG. Someone tell me what the story is about. Tell me that you felt completely satisfied with the conclusion of the story in which Desmond gets the life force sucked out of him in order to stop the apocalypse. What is this, The Matrix Revolutions? In a universe where gods like Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter hang out in present day New York, there's no room for a messiah story. Absolutely none.
What was so great about ACI was that once you got passed the kindasorta painful repetitive horse rides through the Holy Land, there was a very intriguing story about the corruption of power at the bottom of it all. ACI's ending is the best in the series as you watch the Apple of Eden open up in Altair's hands after he frees Masyaf. Then the screen fades to white and your left with the mystery...Perfect way to leave a sequel open.
The only other time I felt as satisfied was at the end of Revelations when you watch old Ezio retire to the Italian countryside. God knows he deserved it.
How great was it when you didn't have to have your heroes blow up at the end of your games, Ubisoft?
In Ubisoft's defense, they spread themselves thin with the modern day storyline, a part of the story that kind of feels unnecessary at this point (maybe the reason they killed Desmond off? Not really since Ubisoft plans to continue with the storyline...). I mean, we spend most of our time in the past in sick nasty locales fighting historical figures. Everything in the past is epic epic epic. Anything that's happened in the modern storyline since Lucy's death in Brotherhood has felt constipated. I don't care about Desmond's fancy dressed dad. Get your own Animus!
The best idea would be to ditch the uninteresting modern day and just focus on the tale of the ancestors. Make it a story about generations of honorable men who die to keep the world safe from a sinister enemy. Think of the compelling twists and turns as we watch our heroes make the same mistakes as their ancestors, as sons take different paths than their fathers, the familial betrayals (Connor and Haytham's father-son dynamic is the only interesting part of the ACIII story), and one generation passes down the mantle of the Assassin to the next. Anyone that's played the Castlevania series knows that it can be done.
Focus on the history and make it something worth talking about. The battle between the Assassins and the Templars always led to the best conflicts in the game. I loved exploring the history of Masyaf in Revelations. How great were the stories of the founding of Rome in Brotherhood? One of my favorite parts of ACII was being homies with Leonardo Da Vinci.
Ever since the first installment, I always thought that the American Revolution would make an excellent time period for an Assassin's Creed game. When they finally announced that we were going to be able to fight alongside General Washington and riot in the Boston Tea Party, it was a bit surreal. I was pretty excited after Revelations, the kind of fresh adventure the franchise needed: a quest, not for treasure, but for knowledge. But then the unthinkable happened...