Oh boy…I have not been looking forward to covering this one. I’m not going to beat about the bush: I hate this game. While I will be fair and admit that it does fix a few things that dragged down Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that I think this is the worst game in the entire franchise and the sad thing is that, after the disappointment of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, this seemed like the game that I would have wanted over it when the trailers came out. It had a new protagonist (rather than continuing the story of Ezio past the point where what believability remained would have been lost) and it had picked a setting which is one that I have a huge interest in, both of which had the potential to take the franchise in a surprisingly new direction.
That isn’t what happens. What we got was a protagonist who is an angry idiot, a setting which is horribly misused at best and enough bugs to make you wonder whether Ubisoft’s QA team even saw the game before it was released (so, Ubisoft did a Bethesda? -ed.).
Let’s start with the story of this game. After we spend three sequences of the story playing a character far more interesting than the one we get stuck with, we take control of Ratonhaketon (aka Connor Kenway), who was born in the Kanienkieh (Mohawk) Valley. His mother was a Native American woman called Kanie’tiio and his father was a British Templar Grandmaster by the name of Haytham Kenway. He grows up not truly knowing who his father is and his mother is killed by a Colonial raid on their village. You might be thinking that it must be a truly heart wrenching event along the lines of Ezio’s tragedy, right? Nope! Her demise left me completely unmoved because we barely see her interacting with her son before her death and, as such, we don’t actually feel invested in their relationship before she dies.
After this, he leaves the village to train as an Assassin and finds himself having to rebuild the Assassin order while having to foil a Templar plot to keep America part of Britain (odd, I’d have thought having it the other way around would have made more sense: heck, having it the other way around, having the Templars win and then it turns out that they were in the right could have been a really interesting twist on the whole thing and would have explained how the Templars were able to have high level companies and the like in Desmond’s timeline! -ed.) while also trying to find a way to work with his father towards reaching a mutual end goal. We also get the conclusion of Desmond’s story, but, by this point, he felt more like an unnecessary bit of baggage dragging the story of the franchise down to justify the historical memories aspect of the game, so it actually comes across more as a relief that his story is finally over than anything else. If this seems like a confusing mess of a story, it’s only because it is: the writing is all over the place and a lot of things in the story simply don’t work and usually end ruining what could be great moments in a much better written story. Mind you, even if the script was the Citizen Kane of video game scripts, it wouldn’t have helped much, as the voice acting feels very phoned in and ruins what few good moments the script could have been able to salvage.
Not helping matters is that Connor’s character ends up causing most of the American Revolution to drag on through his intervention and his approach to things seems to be to focus on his village over anything else, which ironically ends up causing more trouble and strife for his people than probably would have happened had he kept out of it all! Also, Connor’s motivation for stopping the Templars ends up feeling pointless because, by the end of the game, his people are forced from their lands anyway, begging the question of why THAT was the main motivation of the character when it means that there’s no happy ending at the end of it for them. Seriously, Connor finishes the game without a romantic partner, having failed in his intended goal of keeping the land of his people safe and having all of his family (as far as he knows) dead and it all just begs the question of why he even bothered with his actions, as all he does is cause more strife for himself and his people. While I do acknowledge that it would have been unrealistic to have had his people keep their lands at the end of the game, it doesn’t escape the feeling that he hasn’t accomplished anything of any real benefit throughout the whole game.
So yeah, the story sucks, but is the gameplay any good?
Well, there are improvements from Revelations, as I mentioned earlier. The freerunning has definitely improved since last time, with the added bonus of being able to run through trees as well as being able to climb up some cliff faces. While the environments around the cities in America are somewhat lacking in opportunities to freerun compared to places like Rome, it is a step up overall and it is actually rather fitting in Connor’s case to be able to vault up cliff faces and through trees, considering he is a Native American. Another welcome addition, although one that isn’t really explored properly here, is the naval combat, which adds more to the gameplay and is actually pretty well done. It’s a move that definitely surprised me coming from Ubisoft and I’m glad they expanded upon this idea for this game’s successor (we’ll get to that when we do!). Sadly, while there are a lot of missions in the game, there is little to no reward for completing them, which basically means that there’s no real reason to play the optional missions except for the sake of 100% completion. The combat hasn’t improved since last game, which is rather head-scratching when you consider that the American Revolution was around the time that guns and muskets had become the default weapons for most people. I can buy the bow still being used by Conner, considering his Native American heritage, but professional British soldiers using swords and axes, not so much!
The game also shoots itself in the foot with me due to the historical inaccuracies in it. The portrayal of the British is probably the worst one for me, because it pervades the whole game and makes the British look like cartoon villains. Admittedly, the British were horribly unpleasant to the colonists and the whole situation should have been handled a lot better than it was, but this was never done out of malice or ill intent: the British simply didn’t care about the needs of the colonists. The sad thing is that, when we’re following the other character for the first few sequences, it does feel like the game will be somewhat balanced in its portrayal…but then it pulls the rug from under everyone and, from that point on, everyone who is British might as well have been given a hat top, curly moustache and a monocle due to how cartoonishly evil they become!
So, with all of that said, do you REALLY need me to tell not to get this game? The plot is a mess, the few gameplay improvements are swamped by the factors which haven’t been improved at all, the voice acting is unimpressive, the script just fails to do anything the justice it deserves and the historical inaccuracies make it hard to enjoy even on its historical side of things. It’s not the worst game in existence by any measure (heck, it’s not even the worst game I’ve ever pre-ordered: that would be Aliens: Colonial Marines!), but it is certainly one of the biggest disappointments I have ever experienced with gaming, as it fails badly as an Assassin’s Creed game and it is way below the standard that a triple-A game should be capable of delivering.