Monday, December 31, 2012

Assassin's Excess

When I've been playing games over the last couple of weeks, it's been mostly Assassin's Creed III. I've put in nearly 50 hours according to Steam, with some of that spent AFK. I have played a lot of this game, and I'm here with some more thoughts.

I finished up the main story stuff yesterday after mostly taking it on at a leisurely pace. I like to wander around and see what there is in the world and try all the various things at least once or twice. I also have a compulsion to collect every collectable and see every little bit of content, no matter how slight. There's a hell of a lot of that stuff in every Assassin's Creed game, but they've really gone overboard with III.

On the one hand, I want to applaud Ubisoft for packing a game so full of stuff to do, but on the other I think they really need to sit down and have a think about just how much goes into one of these mammoth titles, and see if maybe they can't pare it down to just the great stuff. Then maybe they could use the extra resources to tighten up the core gameplay, which has a lot of rumpled, saggy bits to it.

Jumping back into the game after finishing it last night, I stumbled upon some interesting post-game stuff that serves as a slight hint at the future direction of the series while also giving you the keys to hack the animus, activating cheats to let you go wild in the open world. These are neat features, as are the myriad of little vignette missions you can do around your homestead in the game, as are the very well done naval missions, et cetera.

Not all of the side stuff is of the shallow collect-athon mold, but much of it is, unfortunately. Some seems to serve no purpose whatsoever--what are the underground tunnel networks all about? They're completely redundant because the game lets you fast travel to and from enough locations on the maps that it would take tens of times longer to go through the tunnels, and there's nothing down there anyway! Near as I can tell, all they do is link one spot in the city to another. There are a couple of missions in the game where you go through them, but that's no reason to actually build out and include the whole network, is it?

I know these games sell a whole lot, but I can't help but think even so there is a lot of wasted time and energy going into them. I love that Ubisoft is throwing incredible amounts of time and money at them, but maybe that's not really all that necessary. With some logistical optimization during development, I think we could all see a much leaner, meaner, Assassin's Creed, and maybe even free up some people to finally get Beyond Good & Evil 2 out the door, huh?

That rant out of the way, I just want to say that I love this game. I'm a big fan of the series, but it has never looked this good or had anything like the rugged nature of the homestead or frontier areas III does. The naval stuff has been a huge surprise. Hearing about its inclusion, I groaned on the inside thinking it would be just more tacked-on bloat, but it is really well done and pretty exciting, if simplistic. I wouldn't mind seeing it fleshed out into its own game about naval warfare and ships-o-the-line. The Revolutionary America setting doesn't really do any more or less for me than prior settings in terms of historical happenings, but I do really like the countryside, as I mentioned, and it is cool to play as a Native American and at least see some mind paid to what they went through during the period. The game's inverse Raiden, a chap by the name of Haytham Kenway, is actually a more interesting character than Connor himself, and really benefits the story when he's around during the latter parts of the story, as well.

All in all, I've been pretty happy with Assassin's Creed III. It is certainly not the disappointment to me that it seems to have been to some. With the audience this series has, though, there's no hope for pleasing everybody. It's had a rough time in the gaming scene partially, I think, due to it being the fifth game in the series, and fourth in four years. If you're a person who keeps current with games, that's a hell of a lot of this formula in a short amount of time. We're due for a break, whether its just so they can make the game for next-gen consoles, or so that they can go back to the drawing board for whatever's next. I fear there will be no break, though, and we'll be right back here next year, like we were last year.

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