This did an amazing job of dissuading me from buying the game.
Five hours in, I’m hating Assassin’s Creed 3 so much. And knowing in advance that the ending will be unsatisfactory doesn’t help a bit.
I’ve been filled with unfathomable rage for the past two days, and it just occurred to me that I happen to have this website where I can publish opinions and vent the rage, so maybe I should trying writing a post.
It’ll be more of a list than a post, because I’m too pissed off to write a proper review. And it won’t be a real review either, because I hate that game so much there’s no way I’ll ever finish it. (I’m about halfway through.)
Listing the game’s flaws, though, isn’t enough to justify my rage — there have been bad games before, and there have been bad games with the same budget and marketing before. But Assassin’s Creed 3 does two vile things: it ruins a promising franchise (which already overextended itself with filler, but the game still had a shot — and explicitly promised — to recapture the awesomeness of Assassin’s Creed 2), and it borrows extensively from one of the best games ever, Red Dead Redemption, sullying its memory every step of the way.
Hunting sucks. I don’t understand how some people reviewing it can say this is the best aspect of the game when there’s no gameplay to it — you just wait for the QTE. Unless you perform an air assassination (only possible when the area has been explicitly designed for that, which isn’t often), if you want to kill a big animal you’re gonna have to attract its attention, wait for its attack and follow the button prompts. That’s not fun, ever. What’s worse, it shouldn’t have been that hard to just adapt the game’s existing counter mechanic to the new enemies.
Actually, the fighting also sucks… for the first five or ten hours, until you get the assassin’s robes and weapons. Until then, there is one and only one way you’ll survive any encounter, and that’s to do nothing until you get the signal to counter an attack (which you’ll regularly miss because the camera decided to move around and hide the threat). There are story reasons for limiting your capabilities, but when most players come from a string of two to four games of the same series, it’s just unreasonable to inflict such a prologue on them before they’re allowed to enjoy the killing.
Oh, yeah, the prologue. I can see how the writers thought the twist was super cool, because it is, but if your story idea involves opening your game with three hours of the most boring gameplay ever? Sorry, you have to scrap it.
Not that the gameplay is much better beyond that point. Most of the story missions play like this: go to the marker; press the “interact” button to play a couple line of dialogues; go to another marker; and so on, five or six times. And then once in a while you’ve got a mission where you must kill a hundred guards at once without raising the alarm while holding an egg with a spoon.
The writing is atrocious, or missing. The main missions’ dialogue is boring as hell; the town errands don’t bother with any story, dialogue, or explanation; the side missions are like ironic satires of sandbox games. Compare with Red Dead Redemption and cry. Or just compare with Assassin’s Creed 2’s awesome characterization (I’m still sad about missing the Leonardo hug). This may well be the laziest, most uninspired writing of any game I’ve ever played.
The synchronization trees are unplayable. Okay, they’re all the same so you’re good once you’ve memorized how the first couple worked, but until then it’s a mess: the camera’s too close to the character and it won’t tilt all the way up, so you’ve got no idea where you’re going. Oh, and once you’ve synchronized? Jump off and die.
Side missions and sandbox activities are enabled and marked on the map before they’re introduced and explained. That was already an issue with some of the previous games (and I admit it’s not a trivial problem to solve) but here it’s a million times worse than it ever was. Oh, and I was killing bears with my hidden blades hours before actually receiving the weapons.
Many of these could have been solved with a few more months of QA. No sympathy from me there, as it’s entirely self-inflicted by delaying the franchise with two entirely pointless entries while giving the series a hard deadline for concluding the story by late 2012. Yet even if it weren’t appallingly rushed (there are missions where the voice acting contradicts the on-screen prompts), it would still be boring and uninspired.
In short, a monumental waste.
See, it isn’t so hard to make a decent sandbox game. You need to have writing that doesn’t insult the player’s intelligence (this story is nothing original, but it’s written earnestly and makes sure to embrace all the cool clichés from the genre), and you need one major mechanic that works great. In Sleeping Dogs’ case, it’s the fighting: well balanced, allowing you to choose whether you want to mash a single button or learn complicated combos, with fights that can always be won, yet can always be lost as soon as you get careless. Gunplay is below average (as in, noticeably worse than even GTA 4), but it’s only available in a small fraction of encounters anyway. Driving is also the worst of any recent sandbox game — and there’s a lot of it — but you know what? That’s okay, because I’m gonna get into a fight when I reach my destination, and I’m gonna have fun, and I’m gonna hear more cool dialogue from cool characters (even if most of the acting is pretty dull, starting with the lead). Oh, and the environment looks pretty nice, and appropriately alive, but I can’t say as much as I’d like about it because I had to turn every setting to the minimum on my machine.
So I’m not asking for a lot — I know that making a sandbox game is a huge endeavor, and this genre more than any other will always require the player to make an effort of imagination in order to appreciate the fun parts. The game just has to have those fun parts.
Listening to the Assassin’s Creed 2 soundtrack, makes me want to replay the game, to rinse my palate from AC3 and check how it’s aged.
I had been wondering for a while if, impatient as I am, there was any possibility I might ever enjoy a stealth game. Well, I can — when the controls are flawless, the environments exciting, and I have a quick-save button (I can’t imagine why they don’t put quick-save on the power wheel for gamepad users, but my keyboard was never far and I suspect not having this ability would have made a sizable difference to my enjoyment).
Dishonored is gorgeous, well written, and impeccably acted. If it feels a little short and too linear at times, I’d still rather buy a game like this, perfectly mastered from beginning to end, than another Assassin’s Creed 3.
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