Friday, 4 October 2013

Assassin's Creed 3

Recently I have become *obsessed* with this game, to the point that I'm starting to worry that I'm driving everyone around me nuts talking about it. What's a bit strange is that I bought it back in January, and whilst I enjoyed playing it I just completely lost interest in my X Box. Not sure what happened really, just turned it off and never got around to turning it back on. I do tend to go through phases; like all I'm doing is reading, then watching films, then working my way through a TV series. 
Recently I've had quite a lot of time off from work, and I kept thinking I should turn the X Box back on, but it almost felt like a chore to me, I should turn it back on because I bought the thing and I didn't want it to wind up being a waste of money. I only finally persuaded myself to actually do it by guilting myself into it, telling myself I wouldn't have to keep it on for long if I didn't want to. The game on top of a pile of neglected discs was AC3. So that's what I decided to play, and my God did I get sucked in.

Image heavy cut to follow!


The game is set in the 1700s in America, which is still a British Colony but on the verge of rebellion. The setting is amazing, from the stunning frontier, which is packed with wild animals to hunt, to the fledgling cities of Boston and New York. The atmospheric effects are great; the weather changes, the seasons cycle, day shifts to night, and the whole thing looks amazing. 


You begin the game as Haytham Kenway, an English nobleman who is tasked with travelling to America on a mission to find ancient artifacts from Those Who Came Before. Haytham is a pretty fun character; tough, witty, very dry. You play him as a hero, though through the rest of the game he is one of the adversaries. It's an interesting insight into the other side, looking at the Templars, the series' villains, from the inside. 

One of your main missions as Haytham is to rescue Native Americans who have been captured to be sold as slaves. This is done in order to earn their trust and cooperation, but Haytham gets more than he bargained for when he rescues the Mohawk woman Kaniehti:io, who is easily fiesty enough to take him on. They do a couple of missions together, end up getting involved, at which point the action skips forward and you become the main protagonist of the game, Kaniehti:io and Haytham's son, Ratonhnhake:ton, often referred to by the adopted name Connor. 
We first meet him as a young child, where we learn some of the basics of moving around in the wilderness. 

Then it all goes south as Connor's village is attacked, his mother killed and Connor himself is assaulted by Charles Lee, Haytham's right hand man. Connor vows to find Lee and make him pay, which the man laughs off - big mistake. The action jumps forward and we become teenage Connor as he begins on his quest to become an assassin. 

Initially I thought Connor was a bit boring, but he quickly grew on me until I loved him. I liked the fact he was pretty understated, especially in comparison to Haytham's dry sarcasm from the earlier scenes. A lot of Connor's thoughts and feelings are shown through his expressions, and his body language. I really liked the fact he had a typical teenage posture; hunched, shoulders curved in, very self-conscious. I really got into playing teenage Connor, to the point where I was pretty gutted when we skipped ahead a few more years and Connor was fully grown. Still, it didn't take long to love adult Connor just as much. 

How awesome is this character design?! He only goes for this war paint and mohawk towards the end of the game, which is a bit of a shame because it looks so cool, I would have loved him to look like this for longer. Adult Connor is still understated, but very strong and principled, great fun to play. The way he talks, with English being a second language, is very precise, he rarely contracts his words - i.e. says 'do not' rather than 'don't', and I like that, it's a reminder that he is from a different culture. I also like how big and bulky he is, he's a lot more muscular than previous assassins, and this changes his movements and fighting style. I won't go through the whole storyline, but as the story progresses Connor meets Haytham, who is pretty unpleasant to him, but makes for some fascinating cut scenes. I wish there had been a bit more drama around Connor's paternity, would have been good to have a bit of shock and angst thrown in there. Plus Haytham must have had a hell of a surprise to suddenly discover he had a son. 

The plot is pretty long and involved, and there are loads of different side missions to complete. The economic system is well thought out, and strangely I really enjoyed hunting animals, though I grew to hate wolves and bears because they are so damn hard to kill. Not a fan of being mauled.

Navel missions were tricky to get into, but fine once I got the hang of them.
One of things that did drive me a bit nuts were the chases. I despise timed chases. I'm hopeless at them, they stress me out, and when it's part of the main plot it means you're pretty much stuck until you get lucky and complete them. For anyone reading this who's played the game; the Hickey chase in New York, and catching Washington's messengers before they reach Connor's village. My God, that last one nearly saw me throw the controller through a window I was so frustrated. I also really dislike the whole present day timeline with Those Who Came Before, I can't stand Juno and I don't like the character design for her at all. Her cut scenes feel too much like preaching, and annoyingly they can't be skipped.

The last scene from the main mission is pretty epic, as Connor finally catches up to Charles Lee, whom he promised revenge on all those years before. Here's the clip, I love the fact that after everything that's happened between them there's no need for words.

After finishing the game I was kind of having withdrawal symptoms, and took to reading the character biographies on the AC wiki, where I discovered Desmond, the present day character was actually modelled on a real guy, model Francisco Randez, which kind of blew my mind. 

The real guy left, Desmond right.
Funny thing is I never thought of Desmond as attractive, but the model he's based on is also the guy in this Jean-Paul Gaultier poster, which, yea, that right there is one sexy fella.

I then decided to read one of the tie in novels for the game - Forsaken by Oliver Bowden, which is essentially Haytham Kenway's journal. I'm a bit torn by this. It explains a lot about him, and I enjoyed reading about his various missions which aren't related to the game. There is a whole Acre sideline which was great, and I would have enjoyed more of that side of things. The book goes a bit downhill when Haytham returns to America and meets Connor. I feel it glossed over how unpleasant Haytham is towards him; there are multiple occassions where Haytham sets soliders on Connor or leaves him in the shit and that was completely ignored in the novel.

Assassin's Creed 4 is out next month, which I'm really looking forward to. It features Edward Kenway, Haytham's father, who is a pirate assassin. The fact he's Welsh threw me a bit and might take some getting used to; it can be hard taking a character seriously when they have the same accent you hear around you every day. I wish his voice was a bit deeper, but hopefully it'll work in the context of the game.

Looks pretty slick, hopefully it'll be good.

Meanwhile I've gone back to try to play the older AC games. AC1 is a bit too reptitive for me, had to give up on that one. AC2 is okay, I feel I should like Ezio more but I'm not that bothered one way or the other. I didn't think the graphics of the cut scenes being inferior would bother me, but they kind of do. I finished AC2 within days, I guess after playing AC3 I was pretty up on the moves. Bring on AC4!

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