(Wii U)

Game Review

Assassin's Creed III Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

America, **** yeah!

Assassin's Creed III is a weird game to launch alongside Wii U: there is little context for those Nintendo-only players who sat out the other four games because they perhaps didn't own the proper hardware, and those who are invested in the series probably already picked this up elsewhere when it released weeks before the Wii U itself. In a way, though, the game is perfect for the occasion; much like its hardware home, Assassin's Creed III pivots its legacy in an exciting new direction to welcome both new and experienced players into the fold.

Newcomers jumping in this late to the struggle between the Assassin's Order and the Templars might find the overarching story to be somewhat confusing, despite the game's best efforts to bring everyone up to speed at the outset, and truth be told it's all pretty bananas to begin with. At the core of the story is Desmond Miles, a man of our time descending from a long line of Assassin's who's able to replay his ancestor's genetic memories through the wonders of the Animus. On the run from the Templars in the modern era, Desmond syncs up with his half-English and half-Mohawk ancestor Connor to find clues during the American Revolution and avert imminent world destruction.

Switching gears to the New World brings more than just a fresh coat of paint: out are the old, vertical and intricate stone cities of Florence and Jerusalem, and in their stead the squat sprawls of young Boston, New York and, most exciting, the vast frontier and ocean surrounding them. And we really mean vast — the world of AC3 is absolutely huge and brimming with life, inviting aimless exploration and leaping about the land. While the lower cities don't allow the same vertigo as in earlier games, the world makes up for it with volume on land, at sea and the activity within.

See, Assassin's Creed III is a stupidly massive game. Its storyline of 15-20 hours is easily dwarfed by the amount of side missions, exploration, period board games, hunting challenges and hidden treasures at Connor's disposal, in addition to just tooling around for the fun of it. Assassins are nimble and able to climb virtually any surface, and the ease with they zoom around and traverse the environment is effortless both in their ability and that which is required of the player. Holding ZR on the GamePad and pushing the left stick will get you virtually anywhere; it really couldn't be easier to climb the side of a building, run along a post and jump between rooftops. For the most part movement is fluid and precise, often with visible paths through the world, but there is still the occasional geometry that for whatever reason Connor can't conquer, and when he is grounded it's typically by something he should have no problem getting around. It feels rather silly to see a skilled Assassin fly between trees only to be stopped in his path by a rogue rock. On the other hand, Connor seems to take fewer unintended death leaps than predecessor Ezio, handy for stealth portions or timing an attack.

Connor's life is a far more interesting tale than anything taking place outside of the Animus; the stakes may be higher for Desmond but it's tough to care about another lame video game apocalypse when inside the Animus awaits a story more personal and weighty. The story begins in the 1750's before Connor is even born and frequently skips weeks, months or years at a time within the same memory sequence. There is a lot of ground to cover, you see, and Ubisoft is not shy about showing it. Admirably much of this comes in the form of gameplay instead of a Metal Gear-style 40-minute cutscene, although this has the nasty effect of what feels like a lot of padding. Covering this much and presenting it in this way makes sense from a narrative perspective, but the frequent leaps in time are sometimes jarring and skip portions that otherwise would create a stronger bond between the player and Connor. Nonetheless, his outsider position between clashing cultures allows him an intriguing status in the conflict between the Redcoats and the Patriots as an agent acting in his own interests, first and foremost.

Seeing the numerous ways that Ubisoft manages to stitch him into historical events a la Forrest Gump is fairly impressive, and comes off more successfully like an alternate history yarn than prior entries (perhaps because you may have actually heard of a great many of these figures), and fighting alongside these characters is a blast for anyone with a passing interest in US history. Ubisoft doesn't shy away from the more unsavoury actions of both sides in the conflict, and it's refreshing to see these figures in a less lionized form. The gameplay translations of these historic events can sometimes be on the mundane side, though; the early Battle of Bunker Hill, for instance, looks impressive with its huge firing lines and open terrain, but it essentially boils down to a frustrating trek between cover before Connor eventually buries his hatchet into some dudes' faces with ease.

As a result missions are fairly hit or miss, and many of them will be familiar in design to those who've already donned the robes. Some feel trivial, others overly binary or conflict with the game's fiction (especially instances where stealth vs. open combat is appropriate). Wrapping around the Revolutionary War can distract attention away from flaws when the mission is done well, but more often than not some kind of binary annoyance will break the illusion. When it comes into play, the dumbstruck AI doesn't help matters either — whenever a character veers off script they seem to lose their faculties, with occasional erratic movement or questionable recognition. Main objectives are seldom all that challenging, so in keeping with the conceit of the Animus, sequences can have optional objectives that, when accomplished, lead to a "full sync" of the memory. Since the core mission objectives are fairly straightforward, these objectives are a great way to seek extra challenge if you so choose.

Open combat largely centres around a fluid one-two-three mix of blocking, countering and striking, and while it can still be goofy to have a circle of enemies standing around waiting to trade blows one-by-one there is much greater opportunity to switch up encounters thanks to two new additions: guns and the brutal rope dart. One might expect the melee balance to be upset by pistols but by and large they provide a nice balance — true to the era, guns take a long time to reload, so while Connor can't exactly pull a Scarface on a squad of lobsterbacks he can, for instance, pounce on one enemy and then shoot another before they have time to react. And then there's the rope dart, a particularly nasty contraption that would make Mortal Kombat's Scorpion proud, which allows you to stab and string up enemies in trees. The rope dart is quite fun to use and opens up even more plans of attack.

In an odd but welcome twist for the series, Assassin's Creed III occasionally steers out to sea for naval combat. While only a handful of story missions put you behind the rudder, an optional bevy are there if you choose to set sail. Trying to broadside another vessel while dodging incoming fire is a challenge and a half and provides a fun and refreshing break from slashing people with hidden wrist blades. One might expect naval combat to feel out of place in a game largely centred on sneaking atop roofs and fighting in the street but surprisingly feels like an organic extension of the world; so much can be done on land that, sure, why not be able to sail out to sea?

Connor's world is beautifully realized year-round, from the majestic winter wilderness to the hot summer cities, and even if the paths through become somewhat obvious to the trained eye it's still remarkably fun to let the natural world wash over you. Views can go for miles, and while the environment doesn't quite capture the same serene beauty of Red Dead Redemption (really, what does?) it's easy to get lost in the woods, so to say. On PC the game runs like a champ, and it appears that on Wii U the game retains some of the graphical glitches and framerate struggles of its console cousins — the hardware sweats during particularly explosive scenes and pop-in is a tad more frequent than we'd like. To be charitable one could chalk glitches up to the Animus itself, but really there's just so much going on that the game is wailing on the hardware — launch titles seldom are technical paragons and AC3 is no exception.

Where AC3 does shine on Wii U is through convenient use of the GamePad — nothing unexpected, really, but the flexibility it offers is very welcome. By default, the GamePad displays a larger map and a few convenient touch buttons, like for summoning your horse, while the game plays out on the big screen. The map doesn't allow you to set custom waypoints by tapping, which seems like an oversight, but its larger size than the one in the default HUD allows greater visibility for navigating and exploration. A quick trip to the options menu can toggle a Wii U optimized HUD, where all on-screen elements are warped to the GamePad for a delightfully clean display, or fling the whole game to the GamePad screen for off-screen/toilet adventure. Or you could ditch the GamePad altogether in favour of a Pro controller and play exactly as on other platforms. Control options are plentiful, flexible and appreciated, and in this regard AC3 is exactly what we would like to see from the genre.

The franchise's unique multiplayer, where sly stealth and a cool head prevail over brute force, is here in full and as exciting as ever: Players are assigned a single target opponent to take out among the crowd while at the same time being hunted by another. Blending into the CPU crowd while moving towards the heartbeat sound of your opponent or away from the whispers that signify your own killer is approaching is nothing short of thrilling, and scrounging up a group of friends is a great way to spend some time online with your new hardware. Unfortunately, friend matches seem to be the only way to actually play as the Quick Match option is nigh-on a ghost town. You can hop on to Miiverse to put out the call for a game but, whoops, connecting to Miiverse unplugs you from the game's own online component. This is all a huge shame because Assassin's Creed multiplayer is a genuinely different breed of competitive game, but without a critical mass of players is fairly toothless.

Ubisoft's Uplay app, freely available from the eShop, sinks its hooks into the game and tracks all of four achievements and their accompanying Uplay points, which can be redeemed for things like in-game currency and multiplayer skins. It would have been nice to get the full suite of achievements as on other platforms, but at least it's something for fans of that extra incentive.


Assassin's Creed III pushes the foundations of the series forward in many new directions, and while a degree of these go sideways the title still manages to pull off one of the most impressive and immersive game worlds we've seen in some time. Smart GamePad support is a great enhancement over its siblings and sets the standard for this genre on Wii U, and while an anaemic online community silently kills the multiplayer component, the campaign is still engrossing for solo players. Newcomers shouldn't have too much trouble acclimatising to the overarching goings-on as Ubisoft takes great care to ease them in, and as it marks the beginning of a rich new world, AC3 is an organic entry point for the series and a great way to spend some quality time with your new console.

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Check out our coverage here: http://www.nintendolife.com/games/wiiu/assassins_creed_iii

User Comments (67)



pkee said:

Great to see that 3rd party games are starting off rather well. Hope it continues!



irken004 said:

It's an exceptional game from my experience on the PS3 version, and having it slightly portable on the gamepad would make it even better since the game is incredibly long.



Tasuki said:

Great Review. I was debatting on getting this one for the Xbox or waiting to get it on the Wii U. I wanted to know how the gamepad worked before I made that decision and this review answered all that. Looks like I will be picking up this one for the Wii U. Plus having the ability to play this game on the toilet means I dont have to stop or try to hold it when I get to a long cinema scene.



Viper9 said:

I've played every AC games except this one.

I think I'll play it on Wii U it looks fun.



Linkstrikesback said:

This is a bit of an aside, but it's always so difficult to try and find out what control schemes each Wii U game supports.

Any chance that Nintenodlife could start including these in the game overview boxes or more clearly in reviews?

All it needs is a simple list like
Supported Controllers: Wii U Pad, Wii U Classic Controller, Wii Remote

And anything else that could be supported, Wii Classic controller Pro , Motion plus (required?), balance board.

Sometimes it's obvious, but in games like this, it would really be nice to see at a glance what each game supports, rather than having to hope the reviewer mentions it somewhere.



Tasuki said:

I love how around here when people dont agree with a rating that one of our reviewers give they cant say anything nice. If you can't say anything nice than why post?



Superconsole said:

Lovely review Jon, very tempted to grab it myself.. but think of the trophies if I played it on PS3..... (I can't believe I just typed that.)



Tony_342 said:

I've played all the previous entries in this series on PS3, but I bought this one on Wii U. Besides not caring about multiplayer (or trophies), and wanting to see what the game does with the GamePad, I decided that Ubisoft deserves some sales for supporting this system as well as they have (I also bought ZombiU). Ubisoft is one of the few third-party companies who have always supported Nintendo. Yes, they release a lot of shovelware, but they make some really amazing games, too.



DrMonk said:

I remember at e3 this game had a weapon wheel for switching weapons on the fly on Wii U, but it appears to have been taken out of the final version. I agree not including touch based waypoints on the gamepad map was an oversight! Still, got this game at launch and looking forward to immersing myself deeper into the game!



JonWahlgren said:

@DrMonk Holding down L brings up the weapon wheel menu where you can assign weapons to the D-Pad, if that's what you mean.



JonWahlgren said:

So a game that attempts accessibility is automatically bad? Is that what you're saying?



Bluesummer said:

"accessibility" is the keyword here. What it really means is it's dumbed down so casuals can enjoy it. It's a mediocre game. Because with games like that they aim for the casual crowd. Games like this is the reason ZombiU gets disregarded by many. One of the main complaints about that game was the difficulty. More and more games are getting more "accessible" while the hardcore fans get nothing. We're left with nothing because as the minority in today's gaming market our needs and wants are not as important as the majority's, in other words the casuals. Your "accessibility" is what has destroyed numerous franchises and IPs.



krunchykhaos said:

Considering the fact that this game was originally tailored for the ps360 hardware i was very impressed with the final result of the WiiU port. It could have ended up being a glitchy textureless mess.



Bluesummer said:

I'm not even going to comment on that because you obviously don't know what I'm talking about here.



DarkKirby said:

I don't have as much of a problem with the difficulty as I do with how ridiculously naive to the point of extreme stupidity that the protagonist is. Hearing Connor talk and make decisions made me want to bang my head against a table, then they force you to go along with his obviously poor decisions, but I'm that kind of player who cares about the story.



theblackdragon said:

If we could all chill out and keep the comments focused on the review and not one another, that'd be swell. Thanks in advance, everyone! :3



Jeremyx7 said:

I never could get into AC series AT ALL. But I never thought they were bad games, they just weren't for me. Reminds me allot of Prince of Persia but with allot of free roaming involved.



Bankai said:

Anyone who says this game is for the "casuals" clearly hasn't played any of its challenging missions. Which kick in after, what, two hours?

Good work.



manic221 said:

Probably going to buy this when i get my Wii U in january as i didn't finish it on 360 by January though i think i'll be ready to play it properly



manic221 said:

@TheKingofTown Well obviously not... It wasn't powerful enough too handle them nor did it have many traditional inputs for games... Seriously if your going to make a comment at least make it meaningful.

The lack of traditional controller was what put a lot of developers because it was a headache binding there increasingly complicated games on to less buttons then they had on 360 and PS3.



Traxx said:

I got it for Wii U and my very own opinion about this game is: pure crap. It is my first AC for that matter. Do not see why so many are in love with this franchise. Really, really bad controls, low fps, bad game design (you are punished if you choose to fight outside of a certain area - problem is: no real hints where this area starts and ends), stupid menu over menu, bad Equipment/skill Management. Playing games like ACIII I feel western Studios still do not have a clear idea how to make a polished videogame.



kkslider5552000 said:

@WhiteKnight The required stuff isn't TOO difficult necessarily but I doubt the vast majority of people will ever, even if they try, complete all the optional objections for missions. Especially since you have to do them all at once to get full synchronization.



Bankai said:

@kkslider - that's what I meant. The whole point of this game is to get the full synchronisations though. Otherwise you feel like a pretty poor assassin.



Jeremyx7 said:

I agree with some of the things you are mentioning here. I do not understand how many seem to 'love' the series. Controls are waay to overly complicated just like Prince of Persia which I found annoying. It's not that I can't learn the controls, I can but I feel I'm wasting time getting comfortable when most games should be comfortable to begin with.

I wouldn't call it pure crap though, just unpolished game design.



Henmii said:

Cursing is forbidden on this site, yet the reviewer does it in the headline! He uses stars, but that doesn't change anything!!



Swiket said:

@Henmii I find it more offensive that it's 2012 and people are still making references to "Team America".



ajcismo said:

Picked it up at launch and have been enjoying it ever since. Doing mostly side quests and progressing the story super slowly. Its games like this that make me drool at the thought of what something like Zelda HD U is going to be like.



grimbldoo said:

@JonWahlgren #6
If I hadn't already been a member of NintendoLife, I would have assumed that its full of immature people. Please, think about who you are representing before you make such childish comments.



Ren said:

Ahh, if Zelda can come close to this kind of experience with good controls, I'll be excited for WiiU, til then I'll be happy with the other consoles for this stuff. I know it's just me but I tired of the Mario re-hashes.



HaastMK7 said:


True that.

I think It is a very good review. I think between 8 - 9 is a perfect review considering how good Assassins Creed 3 is.



Neram said:

Comparing it to the PC was kind of irrelevant as it depends on what hardware you're running.



irken004 said:

I think a review of an M-rated game is qualifying for using implied curse words in the header. For those complaining about it, it's not night time you can't be reading this Nintendo thinks you're a baby!



Henmii said:

I may buy it someday. But not at my local shop, since there it costs 70 Euro!! That's just bonkers!!



Araknie said:

I'm playing it right now, it's good. I read only the start of the review because i don't want to read too much. But, after 6 hours, this seems like the right evolution after ACII.



Aviator said:

I love this game. My only problem with it is the start.

It takes forever to get going.



tredabater2007 said:

I like how Nintendo is coming back with their mix of games like on GCN. AC, Arkham City and Black Ops were a good start. I hope they keep doing it.



bunnyking said:

i agree with the crowd of gamers who think assasins creed 3 is the most hyped up game out there. sure it looks pretty and is interesting conceptually. too bad it handles so badly.

the controls feel completely detached from the game. for anyone who has played it to overlook the fact it plays like an interactive movie and not a game, takes a deep desire to ignore the obvious.

walk, walk, cutscene, walk, walk, cutscene, fade to the animus loading screen...



bunnyking said:

5/10 tops for this pile of trash. critics most be playing something completely different.



BossBattles said:

AC is one of those series that i really want to like and have tried to like but end up just not caring, and i am not sure why exactly. oh well.



X-Conor-X said:

I've never played any other AC game except this one. I sold nintendo land for it..and I will say I like it just fine. :3



pukka-pie said:

As a history loving Brit I just don't think I could abide the Redcoat bashing nonsense.

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