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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Yahtzee pans ASSASSINS CREED 3 pretty hard on the grounds of being boring. His main beef is the lack of stabbing people, which after ought to be the core mechanic of a game about being an assassin. In the first eight hours I played, there was a tedious lot of running around in the snow, and agreed, not so much with the stabbing people by surprise.

I have a few other beefs. AC has always made the decision that it should be incredibly hard for guards to kill the hero. Since he's an uber assassin I suppose that could be justified, but you can literally stop controlling him and have him stand there for ten seconds before he finally gets killed by the five guys surrounding him. I saw him shrug off a firing squad of nine guys firing muskets at about twenty feet. Even Batman in ARKHAM can't take more than a few direct hits before he goes down. The point is that, as Batman, you can make him very hard to hit, and in return, he hits very hard.

It seems to me a stealth game (and if AC is not a stealth franchise, what is it?) ought to punish charging into a squad of armed soldiers. However, whilst trying to pickpocket a redcoat, I alerted the squad. So naturally, not wanting to go back to a checkpoint (there are very few checkpoints and no way to save a game anywhere else as far as I know), I killed all nine of the soldiers.

By contrast, DISHONORED, Corvo Attano can't take more than a few hits with a sword, or even one hit with a pistol, before he's gone to save-game-land. That seems about right. The point is Corvo is incredibly stealthy and the mooks won't see him at all if you're careful.

But I have another beef, and that's that the storytelling is weak. In the early sequences, an English gent named Haytham is trying to find an Old Ones site that the Mohawks know about. So he spends an awful lot of time rescuing various members of his team and then helping the Indians fight off General Braddock... to the point where it's very easy to forget why he's doing all this and you wonder why you're getting involved in local politics when, theoretically, you are an Assassin fighting against the Templars for control of ancient futuristic technology. I felt the same way during RED DEAD when our hero spent days or weeks helping the Mexican government slaughter rebels, and then helped the Mexican rebels slaughter government dudes, all because he wanted someone to tell him where some old enemies were hiding.

At a certain point you're like the old man who still flirts with waitresses but can't remember why. It's not a good idea if your plot gets too far removed from your hero's crucial, live-or-die objective.

And also, as in RED DEAD, I started wondering how this guy could slaughter so many redcoats who were not his enemy. In AC II, you did not have to kill anyone who didn't have it coming. Sometimes you did, sure, but that was on you for not being stealthy enough. In AC III, you have to lay waste to the British Army to complete the missions.

The characters are weak, too. This is a game with yards of cut-scenes. But none of them develop the main character. At least, they didn't develop Haytham while he was the main character. Characters are defined by their flaws. A character without flaws is boring. Haytham is boring. So is his eventual Mohawk wife, Kanieht√≠:io; fortunately for her, she's voiced and (I guess) mocapped by Kaniehtiio Horn, who manages to radiate star quality even when she's computer-generated.

Let's say this again. A character needs to have flaws. Their objective must be personal. Even if it is political, it must be made personal. Haytham wants an artifact because he's an Assassin. But why does he care? Why is that important? What does it mean to him?

AC3 is a spectacular game; but that only highlights its flaws. I really want to like this game. But it has no core. No core mechanic, no core story. Such a damn shame. 

3 Comments:

How far are you in? I mean, I have a lot of problems with AC3 as well, but all-in-all, Haytham as a character is one of the bright spots.

By Blogger Megazver, at 11:33 AM  

Haytham just kissed Tiio. So for me, that's about six-eight hours of gameplay.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 12:25 PM  

Well, uh, you're about to finish the prologue and meet the actual main character. (Who sucks ass, by the way.) The design decision to make the player get through a six hour long tutorial controlling a supporting character was... uh, an interesting one, but in retrospect Haytham's character worked for me.

Heck, after beating the game, I wish the game was about him all the way through.

By Blogger Megazver, at 1:09 PM  

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