The Wii U’s launch line-up included a number of triple-A ports previously released for other platforms, and chief among these titles was Ubisoft’s highly ambitious sequel Assassin’s Creed III. While the game doesn’t take full advantage of the console’s dual-screen functionality, ACIII still offers Wii U owners a lengthy, story-driven action-adventure that is difficult to put down once you’ve become invested in its dramatic narrative that continues the franchise’s present-day storyline, while simultaneously serving up a brand new hero and setting.
If you’re new to the Assassin’s Creed series, then the opening cut-scene to Assassin’s Creed III does a good job of bringing you up to speed with modern-day protagonist Desmond Miles’ mission to save humanity from the predicted 2012 apocalypse by exploring his ancestors’ memories in order to find the location of a certain key.
Without giving too much away, you’ll play as two of Desmond’s 18th century ancestors including half-British, half-Native American Connor who finds himself embroiled in the American Revolution after his village is attacked by British forces. Numerous cut-scenes featuring well-written dialogue explore some fairly complex themes such as father-son relationships, the moral ambiguity of war, and man’s destructive nature. There are also plenty of historical events and personalities driving ACIII’s plot forward so history buffs should find a lot to like here.
In addition, your Animus Database will eventually house hundreds of fascinating entries about various details pertaining to the history of 18th century Britain and America which can be viewed on the Wii U GamePad as if you were reading from a history book.
In terms of gameplay, Assassin’s Creed III is an example of a title where mission design is a slave to narrative. While the game features some genuinely exciting and well thought-out missions, there are far too many that involve performing basic actions such as following a person from point A to point B in order to advance the story. Later in the game I even encountered some missions that felt broken, such as one where I had to chase someone through a burning building that was busy collapsing. It took about ten failed attempts before I worked out the climbing route I needed to take in order to avoid being killed by fiery, falling debris.
The mission objectives are more often than not extremely prescriptive so it’s difficult to feel completely in control of Connor when you’re essentially trying to do exactly what the game is telling you to. ACIII is lucky it has such an absorbing narrative to hook players because if you look at the main quest’s missions in isolation they are disappointingly average.
Thankfully there is a wealth of side missions and activities to engage in, and these definitely help to break up the monotony of the main quest. You can hunt and skin wild animals in the woodlands of the American Frontier, or engage in epic naval battles that see Connor commanding a crew and taking to the high seas of the Eastern seaboard in his naval warship the Aquila. The naval sections in Assassin’s Creed III deserve special mention as they took an entire studio to develop (Ubisoft Singapore), and these battles seem destined to go down as one of the most impressive technical accomplishments of this console generation due to all the elements at play during each frame of action.
Waves roll past your ship as your crew scurries around the deck prepping the cannons or changing the position of the sails. These moments are not only truly spectacular to behold but are also hinged on compelling gameplay as you try to pull up alongside your enemy’s ship or duck beneath the cannon balls flying overhead.
Another incredibly impressive aspect of Assassin’s Creed III is its animation. Whether you’re scaling the buildings in New York or Boston or hopping between tree branches in the Frontier, Connor’s movements are almost always realistically fluid. While combat is somewhat simplistic and unchallenging due to its reliance on counter-kills, the action still feels exciting and immediate thanks to Connor’s fighting animations which now incorporate dual-weapon kills, using enemies as bullet shields, and spectacular combo kills that underline his battle prowess.
Assassin’s Creed III’s multiplayer modes are still predominantly about identifying and stalking human opponents in a crowd while simultaneously keeping yourself hidden from potential attackers. There is a new co-operative mode called Wolfpack, however, that tasks up to four players with assassinating certain non-playable characters (NPCs) within a time limit, with extra time being awarded for each kill. If you’ve been anxiously awaiting a co-op mode to be added to the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer experience then now is definitely the time to jump online with your friends and perform some team kills!
The Wii U version of Assassin’s Creed III could have done with a bit more imagination and innovation, but it’s nevertheless a solid port of the original PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game. ACIII’s textures look nice and sharp on the Wii U, and the frame rate is solid for the most part. You can play ACIII entirely on the GamePad if you wish and this works flawlessly provided you’re within range of your console.
If you’d rather play the game on your TV then the GamePad displays map information and you can choose to move HUD data such as the contextual button display from your TV to the controller. A nice little touch is that you can call your horse by pressing the corresponding icon on the GamePad’s screen, but unfortunately this is about the only implementation of touch controls I spotted during my time with the game.
There’s no real reason to choose the Wii U version of Assassin’s Creed III over the PS3 and Xbox 360 variants unless you want to take advantage of the console’s remote play feature. If you don’t have the other consoles, however, then ACIII is a must-buy for fans of the action-adventure genre due to its incredible scope, gripping narrative and mind-blowing production values.
While its primary missions and combat system leave something to be desired, Assassin’s Creed III is a beautiful, bold blockbuster that has more than enough first-class content to satisfy fans of the series or newcomers with a penchant for open-world adventure games.