Assassin’s Creed III is as close to being the black sheep of the series as you can get, well that and it almost comes close the contempt that Assassin’s Creed Unity has amongst the fanbase. I on the other hand have always been a defender of the game for so many reasons and out of all the instalments in the series, had the toughest time being accepted by fans considering it followed what for me is still the greatest trilogy in gaming, the Ezio Saga. That is not to say that it did not deserve some of the criticism that it received on and after launch, but personally I really do not feel that the game and its hero in Connor was given a fair chance over the years. But thanks to this new remastered version, it finally completes the Colonial Trilogy on current gen consoles and I am hoping that this version will give fans old and new an opportunity to revisit it and give it another chance.
Any title was going to struggle with fans following the conclusion of the Ezio Auditore da Firenze trilogy, I mean how do you follow up such an iconic and charming gaming hero in Ezio. On release it was also just a sequel and not the final chapter of a colonial trilogy that would bring the vibrant worlds of Pirates with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the first real opportunity to experience the Assassin Templar war through the eyes of a Templar with Assassin’s Creed Rogue. When you put those games in chronological order, Assassin’s Creed III is actually the final chapter of revisiting the past as the true order is Black Flag into Rogue into Assassin’s Creed III. As for the modern day story however, AC III is actually the final chapter in the modern day story of Desmond Miles, who is now less then a month away before another extinction level event through a massive solar flare threatens to wipe out all life on Earth just as it did for ‘Those who came before’ or Isu as later AC games would identify the first advanced civilisation.
So the stakes were pretty huge going into this game story wise but this is where I wish that instead of just enhancing the visuals of this game and making a few quality of life changes to it, which I will come to a bit later one, I do wish that this had been remade based on some criticisms that I had about the game and ones that during the marketing leading up to the release of this remaster, the original developer team also had. This begins with the opening of the game and how it misdirects the player once Desmond has entered the Animus once more, as Desmond requires a key to activate the final solution in the Isu vault in order to prevent the catastrophe from happening again. After a very short tutorial on how free running works, Desmond is soon reliving the life of one of his ancestors but not Connor, instead Desmond takes the role of Haytham Kenway, an English gentleman who, under the cover of watching a play, is actually meeting his contact to get his next target in order to recover the very artefact that Desmond needs. What follows is a rewarding but still painfully dragged-out three-hour prologue as Haytham is ordered to go to America in order to find Isu ruins in order to find the use of the artefact he recovered.
I say dragged out because as soon as you complete this prologue, and though I loved learning about Haytham and the twist which many series fans will already know reveals him to actually be a Templar and not an Assassin as implied, you then switch to Ratonhnhaké:ton (Connor) as a young boy, knowing that he is the son of Haytham and Kaniehtí:io following a relationship they had during the prologue. For me this early experience with a young Ratonhnhaké:ton is perhaps the biggest defence of his stern and rather cold personality later in the game. As a child he suffers severe racism at the hands of Charles Lee, the right-hand man of Haythem Kenway, now leader of the American Templar Order. Not only that but he also has to witness the death of his mother following an attack on their village after they refuse to give up their land and unable to rescue his mother from the flames, weighs heavy on his heart for most of his life and is a big reason why he seeks vengeance against the Templars.
But it is also the forced destiny he is given when he learns from his tribe’s elder that they have been protecting a Temple of their spirits, and when Ratonhnhaké:ton touches the Piece of Eden the tribe has, he is then instructed by Juno of the Isu, to recover the key to the Temple and instructed to keep it safe in order to pass it on to Desmond. He is literally a character pushed into a life with a duty he doesn’t fully understand but always with the desire to do what is right and to protect his people. The quality of writing of this game is still astounding to me with how Connor, his given name in order to be accepted by people to disguise his true background, tries to fulfil his destiny by training to become an Assassin under the guidance of a very reluctant Achilles, dealing with the historical time of Colonial America and Connor’s role in the American Revolution. Connor for me is the most interesting of all the main Assassin’s in the series and experiencing his struggles has always intrigued me. Connor has his mission to defeat the Templars, retrieve and protect the Isu artefact for Desmond and all while everyone around him is seemingly just using him to help them with their own agendas, which as the story plays out becomes more apparent in how the actions of people like George Washington do not always align with their promises. All this is a great look at this period in history but then you also have the completion of Desmond’s story arc and in the modern day sections Desmond himself is also going out on missions to retrieve power sources needed to power the Isu Temple, although few in number, I did appreciate finally seeing Desmond using the skills learned from previous games as well as his interactions with his father, Sean Hastings and Rebecca with lovely moments of dialogue wrapping up his story very nicely after five games.
One of the criticisms of the setting was that going from the tall buildings and large city areas of the Italian Renaissance period with Ezio saga to the less colourful and cruder buildings of Colonial America provided less of the traditional free running gameplay of those games in AC III, which is true, in this period of history, the cities of Boston and New York are new and small, but where AC III does try to make this up is by providing the wilderness areas where Connor can hunt, climb trees and rocky environments and conduct side missions. On the original release I remember spending many hours outside the main story campaign just hunting in the wilderness and spending a lot of time with the Homestead which allows the player as Connor to meet new people to begin building a new colony and by completing side missions for them will level up what they bring to the Homestead such as farming, wood crafting and mining, all of which can come together to trade products from the Homestead. The amount of side content to do is also very satisfying and has some tremendous moments that truly humanise Connor so please, take the time to complete the Homestead missions as they will give a great payoff by the end.
Of course, Assassin’s Creed III also brought in Naval combat for the first time to the series and from this game came all the pirating in AC IV and Rogue and returned in Origins and Odyssey, such is the legacy of what began here and so much so that a full spin off game in Skull and Bones will release in 2019 as a full celebration of it. Now here it is very basic and it was improved greatly for later games but it is still very satisfying to revisit where it began and still remains one of my favourite features in Assassin’s Creed III with the variety of side missions both on ship and on foot from the Naval side really makes a nice break from the main story.
Now the changes made with the quality of life improvements work really well such as the mini-map showing which direction enemies are facing and moving to being able to finally do a double hidden blade stealth by walking, something that could only be done by dropping on two enemies in the original. These sound like very minor changes but they make a huge difference. The combat remains as brutal as it was originally with Connor for me, still being the most lethal of all the main game Assassin’s with the ability to even use tools such as the snare and rope dart during counters for lethal effects and not to mention the double and triple counter moves Connor is capable of doing which for some reason were dialled down in AC IV despite it using the same combat system. Now as with previous remasters in Rogue and The Ezio Collection, this is another example where refinement would have benefitted the gameplay as much as visually improving the game and some of the same niggles and bugs from the original still remain such as NPC AI in follow missions which can cause them to stand completely still or get stuck in scenery can force you to restart that checkpoint or mission to animation glitches which really should have been tidied up for a remaster.
The inclusion of Assassin’s Creed Liberation really is a great bonus to the story of Connor who features briefly in it but also in celebrating the role of Aveline de Grandpré, the first female main assassin in the series in a story that runs alongside the events of AC III and was originally a PSP title that was ported across to last gen consoles a few years back but also now remastered for this release. Aveline’s story looks at twelve years of her life and mission to help free slaves and many fans would be forgiven for either not knowing about this game and for not having the chance to play which thankfully has now been resolved. It is a great compliment to the AC III experience and I am really happy to see it be included.
I will probably spend more time defending Connor as a character and Assassin’s Creed III as a chapter in the series for many years to come and in hindsight, this game and the story greatly benefits from being part of a trilogy with Black Flag and Rogue completing the full story helping to give more context to the role Connor played. This remaster helps bring the series almost completely to current gen consoles with only the first Assassin’s Creed title yet to be considered or planned to be remastered, but I hope they do so fans can have a completely series on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to enjoy. It looks better than ever and the musical score helps bring even more emotion to a very powerful story told within it. Not only does the inclusion of AC Liberation add to the experience but having all the DLC including the equally fun but super silly Tyranny of George Washington expansion, which tells an alternate universe ‘What if’ story about what would have happened if George Washington had been corrupted by a Piece of Eden and declared himself King.
I really hope this release gives Connor and Assassin’s Creed III a new chance to win fans of the series over because it deserves a fairer opportunity to do so and it also was just another nice opportunity to replay the more traditional Assassin’s Creed style after really enjoying and falling love with the new RPG style of Origins and especially Odyssey. It is still bittersweet for me as well with it being the end of Desmond’s story which left the modern-day side of the story in a bit of limbo until Layla’s introduction in AC Origins returned it to a more character focused story. To have this as part of the Odyssey season pass was rather nice too so if you can find a deal for AC Odyssey and the season pass then quite frankly this is a no brainer but you can purchase it separately just as you could with Rogue.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Assassin’s Creed III again, it had been a few years since I fired it up but reliving Desmond’s final moments as well as Connor and Aveline has been a nice throwback just ahead of the next expansion to AC Odyssey ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ just about to launch.