Here’s a great way to feel really old: look at the games that are being remastered and re-released, then compare them to when they came out. Spyro the Dragon? Yeah, I was a kid back then, that’s fine. Halo? Sure, even younger, I can deal with that. Crash Bandicoot? No big. Assassin’s Creed III? Well…yeah. The existence of Assassin’s Creed III Remastered, an obvious update of a game that was released ‘only’ back in the year 2012, makes me feel nice and ancient. I’m not sure I like that, but I do like the game.
This is the concluding portion of the story of Desmond Miles, mild-mannered bartender who was captured by an evil corporation, forced to relive the exploits of his drastically-more-badass ancestors, then eventually freed to consensually relive the exploits of his drastically-more-badass ancestors. This time around, the ancestor is Native American Assassin Connor Kenway, a colonial throatstabber on a quest for revenge against his Templar father Haytham. You’ll eventually get to Connor, anyway. There’s a nice, long leadup portion lasting around four to five hours first, but if you can get through that, you’re golden.
As you’d probably gathered, AC3 takes place in Colonial America, a fairly drastic departure from the more dense city-focused settings of previous few entries in the series. Colonial towns felt more sparse and much less vertically-focused. This set the scene for the next few entries, so the later Liberation (also remastered!) and Black Flag/Rogue (to a lesser extent) feel fairly similar to AC3, with a focus on horizontal freerunning and mass combat. Those who know their gaming/Assassin’s Creed history will note that Unity and Syndicate would return to a greater focus on vertical freerunning and single combat, only to have Origins and Odyssey show up to redefine the franchise and make it absolutely amazing.
We’re not talking about those games, though. If we were, I’d tell you to go play them, because they’re great. We’re talking about AC3, which is still pretty good for what it is. There’s a big focus in this one on precisely how badass Connor is, so much of your combat revolves around taking out entire hordes of enemies at once. Killing a single mook allows you to chain attack and kill other mooks instantly, potentially resulting in dozens of deaths from a single “actual” kill. More difficult opponents require a little more strategy, perhaps using a firearm, rope dart or guard-breaker attack. The most difficult targets practically require you to be stealthy and avoid combat altogether if you don’t want to deal with a protracted engagement.
This is a significantly different take on Assassin’s Creed than what you’d get these days, but it still works; combat tends to be easy-but-lengthy so you’re encouraged to avoid direct confrontation just so you don’t waste time.
When you’re not stabbing, you’ll do missions for various historical figures and engage in extracurricular activities. I was somewhat amused when I ran across the trading minigame again – it’s a reminder the game was released at a time when literally everything had to have Farmville-esque real-time components. I wonder what outrage 2019 Reddit would have over a trend like that. You’ll also collect stuff, hunt animals, kill targets…the works. You even have access to the subsequent DLC content, including the amazingly named “The Tyranny of King Washington” and more. There’s plenty of content to go around if the gameplay loop grabs you or if you especially like the unique historical setting, even if the plot is less of a draw as Connor is kind of like Less Interesting Batman, after all.
Being a remaster, the game should look pretty great, right? Well…it’s not bad, but remember that AC3 originally came out nearly a decade ago. Environments look pretty good, especially with the touch-ups from the remaster. Characters, however, look significantly less so, particularly when it comes to their eyes. Don’t set your expectations too high for a game that’s this old and you won’t be disappointed. There’s some slight gameplay alterations here and there too, most notably the ability to lure enemies to you if you’re hiding – a common trick in later titles that’s welcome here.
As early Assassin’s Creed games go, you could do worse than this Assassin’s Creed III Remastered; in particular, the original AC doesn’t hold up well at all, though AC2 is arguably better on the whole. For what it is, this trip down a historically suspect, stab-friendly lane remains a solid and very enjoyable stealth-action game with a unique setting that serves as its main draw. If you’re itching to spend some time in colonial America and stab some redcoats, well, your options are this or Liberation, and this one’s the better of the two.