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Bits and Bytes: Assassinations gone wrong

Video game columnist Brendan Wray on Assassin's Creed 3

Published Nov. 8, 2012

After one look at the cover of "Assassin's Creed 3," it's pretty obvious that the game is going to involve two things: lots of stabbing and the American Revolution.

With four games coming before AC3, the Assassin's Creed formula is pretty refined at this point. Yes, this is the fifth console game in the series, but only the third in the overall trilogy. It's just as confusing as the games themselves.

See, while I love the series, the games before AC3 were getting more stale than a three-month-old opened bag of Doritos. All the games in the series have the same formula: you need this thing so you need to assassinate this guy, but in order to do that you need to assassinate these other guys first. It's getting old.

The saving grace for the games has been their adaptations of historical periods and locations like the Crusades and Renaissance Italy. The team behind the games takes real historical events and places them into a context of a centuries-long struggle between the two forces of Templars and Assassins. The stories in the game are top-notch, with historical fiction and science fiction added in for good measure.

This finally brings me to Assassin's Creed 3, which held my hopes for future interest in the series. Well, it's a mixed bag. I wanted to love AC3. I really did, but it's fallen in to the monotony of the earlier games.

The game centers on the story of Connor, a Native American, who becomes an Assassin in order to protect his tribe from the forces of both the Revolutionaries and the British. Of all the Assassin's Creed games, the choice of the American Revolution as the historical period was simply brilliant.

Through the game, you run into such figures as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams and pretty much every historical person of the period. Exploring the cities of New York, Boston and Philadelphia in their colonial primes can't compare to the sketches and paintings available in textbooks.

The story of Connor is also a welcomed breath of fresh air to the series. Connor's only priority in the game is the safety of his tribe, whether that means siding with the colonies or Britain.

Unfortunately, to progress through the story, I had to deal with the game itself. Exploring the towns at my own pace was enjoyable. Hunting deer and bears was also a fun distraction, but playing the game's story missions? Not so much.

The missions just aren't diverse enough. They almost always start with being incognito to avoid enemies and then end with needing to get rid of this large group of enemies. It happens over and over; the stale bag of Doritos strikes again.

Luckily, the combat has been refined in the game so the monotony has a sliver of enjoyment. Countering attacks and breaking defenses has been tweaked to make swinging a tomahawk at redcoats both visually and actually satisfying. (Side note: Yes, you have a tomahawk, and yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds.)

The game throws a lot at players in the game. There's the balance between the boring story missions and the more interesting side missions, like killing poachers on your territory. The game excels in so many places; the environment, story and combat are better than ever.

But getting through to the end of the game felt more like a chore than it should have. I wanted to get to the Battle of Lexington and Concord or Battle of Bunker Hill, but had to go through hoops of boring kill-this-guy missions.

I've played all the games in the Assassin's Creed series, and this one does a lot of things better than most of the other games. But its overall gameplay is just lacking.

If you've played any of the earlier games, you need to pick this game up just to see the end of the story, but I can't see myself recommending this game to someone who's new to the series. While I understood the story, the minute-long intro at the beginning of the game just can't bring newcomers up to speed in the fifth game of the series.

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