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Quick Review - Assassin's Creed 3

It is one of the best video games of the year, one of the most daring developed by a major studio this generation, and one of the most beautiful to ever run on any machine.

It stumbles from some awkward glitches and some game design over-reach, but it is superb in a surprising number of small ways. Refreshingly, it is a game about America that doesn't settle for simple fictions when the uncomfortable truths about the United States' history would be more interesting.

Plus, it's the best tree-climbing simulator in history. Really, you might want to play Assassin's Creed III just for the trees.

Assassin's Creed III is primarily set before and during the American Revolution. Like its predecessors it occasionally switches to modern times, and that parellel timeline has become more pressing than ever: The modern-era part of the game is set in the weeks before the supposed December 2012 destruction of planet Earth.

The game is played in third-person across a massive stretch of late-18th-century frontier as well in bustling Boston and New York. The game's cities are packed with things to do: buildings to climb, people to kill, dogs to pet, guards to avoid, assassins to recruit, almanac pages to collect, underground mazes to explore, tomahawks to buy, plague-infested blankets to burn and much, much more. The cities are more densely populated with activites than past Assassin's Creedgames, and the frontier is more fun thanks to the ample opportunity it affords gamers to hunt animals, stalk redcoats, climb cliffs, and admire waterfalls.

If you're getting the sense that there's a lot of stuff in this game, you're right. I'll try not to list all of it, because as busy as the game is, and as nice as it is that you can finally stack quests, the quiet moments in the game are to be cherished. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just explore the wilderness with no goal at all. Do this, and you'll wind up on some unexpected side adventures (an early mission has you tracking down whatever it really was that Daniel Boone thought was a Sasquatch).

The player mostly controls a Native American of mixed heritage named Ratonhnhaké:ton or, as he is referred to mostly in the game, Connor. Connor is not the charmer Ezio was. He's actually rather irritable and not as fun a man to be as his assassin ancestors. But his journey is a moving one and is ultimately, supremely satisfying.

You control Connor from his childhood all the way into his assassinating prime. Yet AC III has some surprises in store. In this case-and without giving things away-the game's extended early sequences will allow you to put off playing as Connor for as many as five hours (which is as long as I held out), if not even more. For the sake of readers sensitive to spoilers, I'll skip mentioning just what it is you can do in the game for so long before you assume the role of Connor. The answer emerges within 15 minutes of playing the game yet masks even more twists, each of which is wound throughout the rest of the adventure.

There is, however, a necessary warning surrounding this part of the game: AC III is a slow starter and much of what is most commendable about it, as with last year's equally grand The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, is held back during what some might view as the game's lengthy interactive prologue. Eventually, Connor's training is complete and, in chapter six of a 12-chapter game, the world finally opens up in grand fashion.

I am, perhaps, already going in too deep in my explanation, such is easy to do with what is probably just one of the biggest games ever made. There are simply more parts to this game than most. (Warning: another extended list of features coming!) …

  • There is the framing device: the 2012-era adventures of Desmond Miles the supposed savior of the world who is ostensibly living the lives of various assassin ancestors of his each time he gets in a device called the Animus. In the first Assassin's Creed, players controlled Desmond very briefly and mostly played through a series of assassination adventures committed by his ancestor Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad during the 12th-century Crusades. In Assassin's Creed IIAC: Brotherhood and AC: Revelations, Desmond mostly re-lives the playable memories of 15th century Renaissance Italy assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Connor is yet another of his ancestors, though we never play just as them. With each game, Desmond's playable sections expand. In AC III Desmond has his biggest part yet, and players will be using the modern character to explore, too. Desmond's climbing tasks prove to be some of the game's most interesting. (Again, surprises lurk and you'd probably prefer I don't tell you).
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