I have spent six hours with the latest tale of Assassins and Templars, learning, scheming, killing. After everything that has happened, most of all I know I have only scratched the surface of the story Assassin’s Creed III wants to tell.
This post is titled an Impression but most of what I’ve played (part way into Sequence 5 out of 12) is built to misdirect and confuse any initial impressions. After a short and impressively understated introduction to the new modern-day base of operations, Desmond Miles collapses again and we fall into the life of… not Connor. Not the Native American assassin from all the adverts and trailers. Instead we control English gentleman Haytham Kenway as he assassinates a target at the opera and we don’t leave his perspective until hours later. This wasn’t the game I expected.
Kenway travels to America, turning gum-shoe to question a ship’s crew and fellow passengers. There he gathers new brothers to him, building the order in Boston. There is little climbing to speak of but enough assassination/stealth opportunities to hold interest. Gathering information feels simultaneously refreshingly free-form and tiringly old-fashioned, as tiring as it was way back in the original Assassin’s Creed. There is plenty of pitched combat in this period which so far feels clunky, a step backwards from Revelation’s smooth ballet. Perhaps that’s my inexperience with the changes. We shall see.
All in all, by the three-hour mark I was wondering what game I was playing and if the game I expected would ever appear. BUT my faithlessness – which I am sure was intended by the developers – paid off gloriously in what will certainly go down as an incredibly ballsy move on the level of ‘would you kindly’.
To say any more would be a crime but it is worth getting through the initial rough stretch for the kicker at the end and for what follows: Connor’s youth. Long, beautiful scenes of childhood games, of extremely smooth free-running from branch to branch and varied, compelling animal hunting. A bridging scene, with the emotional impact of a sledgehammer delivered with a complimentary blend of narrative and mechanics, and Connor is soon delivered to Boston and, finally, we have arrived in Assassin’s Creed. Here’s hoping the rest of the game stays there.
Look for a full review later this week.