'Assassin's Creed 3' Review: The Pursuit of Happiness in All the Right Places

'Assassin's Creed 3' Review: The Pursuit of Happiness in All the Right Places

CHOPPING DOWN THE CHERRY TREE

My one real complaint is that everything surrounding the Homestead is surprisingly obtuse. It's not that I didn't want to play around there; I just couldn't figure out how. You can craft yourself new equipment, like a second holster to hold another pistol. But even if you find the right recipe, the game won't tell you where to get the right ingredients or how to find the artisan who can make them for you. Without this knowledge, my Homestead was all but useless to me.

Okay, I've got a few more: there are new types of missions, but they're hit-or-miss. Eavesdrop objectives that make you follow targets closely enough to overhear their conversations are tense and fun, while lame detective missions make you run in circles until you happen upon a clue. I love that AC 3 relies less on the hackneyed "Eagle Vision" mechanic from past games, but some of what's been added isn't any better.

Finally, Assassin's Creed 3 has about as many bugs as you'd expect of a game this size. I'm not normally one to complain about a glitch here or there, but when a major late-game assassination target stands blankly staring at a wall as I stroll up to him, blades extended, there's a problem. Some missions toward the end feel rushed like that, and little things—like Connor's changes of clothes not being reflected in cut scenes—further detract from the experience.

But those complaints didn't hamper my enjoyment too much. Assassin's Creed 3 is about being a particular person in a particular place, learning about a different time and experiencing a fantasized but reality-grounded version of "life back then." The shoddily-executed but well-meaning side quest "Encyclopedia of the Common Man," which tasks you with observing the everyday activities of the residents of the homestead, is proof enough of that.

And it succeeds fantastically where it matters most: in the movement, in battle, and in the setting it so thoroughly makes into a delicious virtual reality for players to savor and chew and digest. When Connor meets certain revered Founding Fathers, I knew I was seeing a more realistic version of them than any high school text book ever offered. Despite how you feel about Ubisoft's execution of this or that element, there's no denying that Assassin's Creed 3 is one of the most ambitious games ever created, and it's been pulled off with the bombast and aplomb that I've come to expect from the series.

Tags: assassins-creed-3, ubisoft
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