dkirschner's Assassins Creed III (360)
| [July 24, 2014 08:44:16 AM]
| Finally finished Assassin's Creed 3 last night. I tell you what, some of it was very cool, and some of it was terrible. Overall, it was my least favorite AC game, and if it weren't for the incredible way it weaved its sci-fi story into American history, I would wish I'd never played it. That's its redeeming feature.|
In my previous entry I noted how stunned I was that every female character was sexualized or sexualizing, and that the game did a better job with race. Well, I don't think there are any female characters even in the game after the first few hours, so I guess...the problem was solved by omission? Not solved, but ignored. I find this disappointing. How can you have a historical game where women are written out of history?
Race is still wrestled with to some extent, but it mostly becomes wrapped up in the British/Colonial/Native Americans land dispute. Connor, being Native American, is of course more sensitive to racial oppression. At the end of the game, on Evacuation Day (when the last British ship sailed away), the Americans jeer "get outta here oppressors!" and "death to the oppressors!" Connor turns his head and watches a white man selling black people at a slave auction block. Connor shakes his head sadly at the contradiction. Americans freed themselves from British oppression only to happily enslave another race.
The game does an amazing job of integrating the Assassins, Templars and Connor into American history. I'm a bit of a history nerd and I didn't catch a single thing out of place. Major figures from history fought in the correct battles, had the correct scandals, were promoted and demoted at the correct times, died in the correct places...I don't even know how much research went into this script! Absolutely incredible interweaving of fact and fiction. And since the main game takes place over ~10 years, there is serious consistency going on. Also Sean's (the British tech wiz) historical notes in the encyclopedia (about battles, people, buildings, laws, culture, etc., like all the other AC games) are wonderfully informative and provide massive historical context.
I found that Connor's story is actually quite short. For the first ~50% of the game, I tried out side missions, explored a bit, looked for collectibles, played with the game's many systems like economy and homestead. I cannot convey how boring and pointless most of these things were, and so I just played the main story for the second ~50% of the game. That took me all of one day (7 hours or so). I always spend like 20-30 hours playing AC games because there's so much to do, but I clocked this one in at 16. The first 9 hours took me about a month because I was doing side missions and they were so boring that I sort of dreaded playing the game and never lasted more than a couple hours.
Anyway, so let's talk about these unnecessary bloated systems tacked on to AC3. I'll start with the best one, the naval warfare. You get a ship early on, which you can customize and upgrade. Pick up naval missions from the Harbormaster. These are most akin to the traditional AC side missions that I love so much (and were otherwise absent in AC3!) like assassinating a target, stealthily following a target, using actual skill to navigate terrain and so on. You do those things, but at the helm of a big ship, with your crew along, firing cannons and rail guns, through a variety of ever-shifting weather conditions and wind patterns. It is really impressive and a lot of fun. But, I didn't engage much extra in it because I know that AC4 focuses on pirating, and I'm sure the sailing is even better in that game. So I'll wait to be a sailor.
In many of the naval missions, you secure trade routes. This helps your caravans arrive more safely at their destination, which brings in more money. Unfortunately, trading is pointless, as is money. I could have played this game with $0 and had the same experience. I believe I bought like 2 weapons during the entire game. That's the ONLY thing I ever bought!
In order to trade, you need raw materials. In order to get raw materials, you need to recruit colonists to your big piece of land, your Homestead. When you complete a homestead mission (save the blacksmith from bandits), then voila, you have a new person living on your homestead, and they will produce raw materials for you. You collect these materials, pack them up on caravans to sell. You also then give raw materials to some of these folks and they will craft new things for you from recipes that you find in treasure chests. Again, this is all absolutely unnecessary and pointless. I didn't craft a single thing. I recruited a few colonists and barely saw them afterward. Who cares?
You can also get some raw materials from hunting in the wilderness. There are many hunting regions, and OMG WHO CARES? You don't need the materials for anything useful, hunting is super boring and super easy. The only cool thing that ever happened to me while hunting is one time a cougar that I didn't hear surprised me and I jumped out of my seat. Then I wrestled with it and threw it off a cliff, which was pretty cool.
There are other random quests scattered around the wilderness and OMG WHO CARES? Nothing to do with the story, rewards are pointless since all these extra systems are pointless. And in the cities you can liberate forts. I liberated 2, but there's really no benefit for doing so, and no challenge in it. The game is constantly asking you to "attack this caravan" or "save these orphans" or "stop this execution." None of these do ANYTHING remotely useful. It's like email spam.
As in all AC games, there are a million collectibles. These were at least relevant, like catching flying pages of Ben Franklin's almanac or finding Peg Leg trinkets to give to Peg Leg the pirate, who then told you where secret treasure was (although you don't need the treasure).
And there are many more still that I can't remember at the moment...
Perhaps my biggest problem with all these side missions and systems is not that they are pointless, but that they are mindless. None of these things is difficult in the least. What happened to the puzzles of previous AC games? You know, the challenges where you're trying to find an amulet inside a fort, and it's just you and a massive platforming puzzle challenge. I LOVED those and they aren't here. The closest thing to a platforming challenge, oddly, is navigating the ship through rocky shallow sea.
The parkour element has been so simplified that I think even if there were a platforming puzzle, you would just hold up and RT and Connor would just auto-complete it. I cannot believe how simplified the climbing is now. It takes no thought whatsoever. Really, really, really disappointing to have one of the series' defining features so diluted, and to have my lovely platforming challenges set aside for skinning rabbits and fetch quests for my Homestead.
In one sense, it's nice they tried some new things, but since they all suck (besides ship sailing!), then the gameplay is same old same old, but simplified to death. Very bad!
Maybe there is a parallel to this in the new setting. Whereas Rome and Florence were big complex cities, the American frontier is sprawling nature. The beauty is still there, but the complexity of the environment isn't. No longer will you scale massive European buildings because they just didn't have those in the Colonies! Instead, you get to explore the wilderness, which brings its own verticality. I enjoyed running through the wilderness for the most part, but there are so many cliffs and valleys that it becomes extremely annoying trying to find your way up to places. You'll come up to a cliffside that you can't climb, and have to work your way around. It would take me 15 minutes sometimes to get to where I wanted to go because of the brutal terrain. And don't even get me started on horses in AC3. They won't jump over hardly anything, or make the smallest jumps downward. I dismissed my horse out of frustration 100 times. Unless you're on a road, horses are damn near useless.
Aaaand, that's the end of my AC3 entry. In the end, the bizarre sci-fi meta story gets fleshed out some more. I guess I'll have to wait til I get AC4 to get the next 10 minutes of what happens to the present world. I do hope that AC4 isn't as disappointing as 3. It was better reviewed, and I believe the focus is a bit different, ships rather than parkour, so it may be a nice change of pace.
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| [June 27, 2014 12:35:32 PM]
| I like that the game begins with a TWIST. Well, not begins begins, but after the first few hours, a fun one is revealed. A nice, fresh way to start this entry in an old series. Then, you finally get to play as Connor, the Native American guy with a hatchet you recognize from the box art and all the ads and trailers. Honestly, for the first few hours, I was like, “Is this the right game??” because I was playing another white guy.|
So, BOSTON and the NEW WORLD! First impressions: Boston is bustling with activity, buuuut within 5 minutes of getting there I:
- chased after a thief, who dropped his stolen coin purse and walked away before I could tackle him. I couldn’t interact with him at all. Oh (disappointed voice), it was just scripted.
- took a gun from an outdoor shop. When nothing happened, I took a horse that was obviously not mine. Again nothing happened. Oh (more disappointed voice), no one cares if I steal things. Odd.
- the first female NPC I saw called seductively to me.
Off to a great start in Boston.
I think the way the game handles race politics is very mature and well done. This becomes apparent once you begin playing as Connor. But gender politics, good god. Women are poorly represented. This is painfully clear playing as the white man, and maybe it’s a commentary on the white man’s patriarchy versus the Native Americans’ (“savages,” right?) matriarchy. Like I said, the first female I encountered hooted at me. I don’t know if she was a prostitute or not. I haven’t seen any prostitutes or brothels. Having played so many games with them, I expect to see one. If I don’t see one, and I can’t tell who these women calling me are, or why exactly they are calling me, and especially if I can’t interact with them in any way, then I will be confused.
The second female character I encountered is an inkeep with her husband/boyfriend/lover. You walk in on them screaming at each other because he’s been cheating. She’s upset; he’s smug. Later on, a member of your white man party drinking beer around the table just grabs the female inkeep as she is cleaning and waiting tables (who squeals with delight) and goes mouth to breast, reminding me of sex-fuelled tavern scenes from Game of Thrones. No one notices or cares.
The third time that females come up is thanks to Ben Franklin, who, in an optional dialogue, spends a few minutes espousing the virtues of taking older women as lovers. By older, he meant old, like grandma. There were 7 reasons. Older women are more experienced, less likely to cause a fuss if you cheat on them (take a young wife and have an older mistress), they will dote and take care of you because their children are grown…and whatever other reasons. I felt gross listening to the conversation.
Those were my first three interactions with/about female characters. I found each of them over-the-top and unnecessary. I would be fine with the inkeeps arguing, but the rest of it, not really. I didn’t think Ben Franklin’s treatise was funny. I don’t want women calling at me seductively on the streets unless the fiction is set up for there to be brothels, and if that is the case, then not in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. And Ben Franklin, as far as I know, wasn’t a sleazy old man. And if you have a thing for older women, would you brag about it and offer a treatise on the subject to someone you just met? Completely weird.
Like I said, this mess is mostly in the white man part of the game. Connor’s mother is a strong character in some respects, though she just serves to birth him, die and fuel his determination. Race is better though. Connor, having never been to a big city, never encountered many white men, probably never seen a black man, doesn’t understand racism. His black Assassin mentor, Achilles, indirectly teaches him a bit about racism. Achilles can’t go shopping for goods. Connor has to do it for him. Achilles’s big house is attacked by white townsfolk. He seems to be disliked, which I figure is mostly because of his color. I don’t know about any other history with him, but given the context, I think that’s it. And Connor doesn’t understand why Achilles can’t just go in the store and drop a bag of coin on the shopkeep’s counter to purchase goods. Achilles doesn’t explicitly explain race politics in the Colonies to Connor. I wish he did, but I think (hope) that players understand the nuances of their conversations.
I’m sure Connor’s understanding will evolve, as the game is completely rooted in historical events of the period. The British are trying to quell the Colonists. The British are fighting the French for territory and control of the fur trade. The Native Americans are caught in the middle of it. The Colonists are revolting against the British Empire. So Connor will come to see his place in this struggle. I’ve seen Colonists complaining about the Stamp Act. I almost stopped the Boston Massacre (but those damn Templars still pulled it off!). It’s really neat playing through these historical events because this is all the stuff I learned over and over in school. And interestingly, the game is good about offering the BRITISH perspective on all of this, not just the American perspective that I learned about. The snarky tech wizard is still with Desmond Miles outside the Animus, and he’s the one who writes the little encyclopedia entries. He’s English, so he’s always dropping little enlightening tidbits about how the British felt or thought, or how the Colonists were not all great guys and so on. Very cool.
As for the gameplay…hmmm. More on this later but…same old same old? I get a hatchet now. I can hunt game. I can freerun through trees (this part is sweet). Fighting is even more fluid, feels great. Running around cities is the same. Climbing is a bit different, way way simplified. You hardly have to think about climbing anymore. Just hold R2 and up you go. I really hope it isn’t as mindless as this forever. I liked how in previous AC games, climbing buildings, looking for treasures and lookout points, were often big puzzles. So far, no puzzles. Oh and collecting 1000 pointless things is the same. Hopefully some pizzazz later on.
Meant to write some notes and create a full entry much later, but oops, here’s a full entry now.
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dkirschner's Assassins Creed III (360)
Current Status: Finished playing
GameLog started on: Monday 23 June, 2014
GameLog closed on: Wednesday 23 July, 2014