Assassin's Creed

Assassin’s Creed III would have worked better as a linear game. [SPOILERS from a 9 years old game… God I feel old]

I have been thinking this for a while, and although I know a lot of people will disagree with this, it's something that has been sticking on the back of my mind as I replayed ACIII (The Remastered, played the original back in 2012) and started to more deeply analyze this game. Beware, this is a massive wall of text. And excuse any grammatical errors, English is not my first language.

For starters, the obvious: ACIII maps are devoided of any kind of interesting content. The overworld side missions are boring and lack any kind of structure or significance. Take Assassination contracts for example. In II and Brotherhood (and Black Flag afterwards) these missions not only were further contextualized in the game as hits on conspirators, military generals, corrupt figures or the likes, but each mission was different from each other. Sure they were far from being the most complicated thing in the world, and some of them just amounted to killing someone in the street, but at least you could see the effort by the game designers to make a mission that could be done in multiple ways or that certain difficulty built in them.

In ACIII you just bump in the street with some way, maybe wait for him to be outside the guard's sight, and then kill him. There's no effort on the game's part to tell us why we ought to murder these people. It just drops them on the map when you interact with a random pedestrian and once you killed them all nothing happens. No head of a gang searching for the murderer of his men. No special mission. Nothing, you just completed the checklist!

This very same problem is also present in the delivery missions of the game, which don't even give you the option to read the letter you deliver and don't have any urgency as the ones in ACII had. The Boston fight club is somewhat better, with it being properly introduced to you, but at the end it still boils down to go and kick some random's ass. The NPCs don't have personality, don't have interesting stories, you just beat them and continue until you beat them all.

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The forts are another thing that are completely lacking. It doesn't help that ACIII has somehow worst stealth than the Ezio games (more insulting taking into account that Revelations' bomb system opened up the gates for new and interesting stealth opportunities), but the fact that forts are broken so much so that it's easier to kill everyone on sight than to be patinet and take each soldier one by one speaks volumes to the priorities during the development of the game. Also the way in which once you are spotted by a lonely guard EVERYONE knows your location makes stealth more of a nuance rather than something that I want to git gud at. The game obviously doesn't care about it, why should I?

This is saying nothing about the collectibles scattered around the map. I know that they were a meme back in the day, but I couldn't care less about Ben Franklin's pages. I just don't. And even if I did, I could only think about the fact that why on green Earth is Connor fetching these when it was Haytham the one who spoke to Franklin about them BEFORE Connor was even born? The only ones that have any kind of gameplay utility are the trinkets, which create their own dissonance when you stop and ask yourself "ey this guy is an asshole for making me go all over the place gathering USELESS stuff for him".

The only side-content based on the overworld that I could somehow defend are the Frontiermen's missions, as they offer some interesting mysteries more often than not, and SOME of the Recruits missions, which are still overshadow by the system presented in ACR.

Are these my only reasons to claim what I did on the title? Far from them. As one thing that would have been heavily benefited by a linear experience would be the story of the game. Think about it, out of all the AC games, this has to be the one with the most urgency placed on the player to finish the story as fast as they can: there's a war going on and Connor makes it clear all throughout the game that his only worry is the wellbeing of his tribe, and nothing else. Not only that, the first three sequences with Haytham barely give you any reason to do anything but the main missions, and once you get your hands with Connor we go to even more restrictive tutorials and even after we are finally able to run around the world the second target locks us in an enclosed space for the remainder of the sequence. This doesn't fit with the open nature of the world, which doesn't really start to shine until sequence 7, more than halfway through the game.

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A more linear experience in the story would have also meant that the devs would have had more time to polish some missions (and maybe remove some entirely): the great battles in open fields could have been something more spectacular instead of nothing but a missed opportunity materialized in covering behind rocks. The walk with Paul could have been either shortened or cut entirely. It would have also meant that we could have gotten more attention to the pairing of Connor and Haytham, and also Connor and Achilles.

Once compromise my vision has would be to still offer the Homestead as the only "open playground" for the player, maybe making it a bit bigger to justify all the Homestead missions taking place in an encloused space (Although most of them already do). Maybe there could still be missions that sent you to some cities, but always with a clear objective. It would also give the player access to the naval missions without changing the system in the slightest.

All in all I know that this would be a controversial stance to take. After all part of the appeal of Assassin's Creed has always been the historical tourism one experience when you can freeroam around important cities of human's history. I also know that the Frontier can be appealing to some (and although I can see that it's very well done and pretty, it still pretty much empty of content), and the whole taking things at your own pace. Maybe this has more to do with both the fact that I don't find anything appealing about the British colonial architecture (i.e. the map we traverse in the game) to the point of not knowing whether I'm in NY or Boston by looking at two screenshots, or by the fact that I actually like the story as it challenges a lot of precognitions about the founding fathers to the point that I would have liked that it had more of a focus. Overall I can see good in the game, but it is oftentimes eclipsed by a feeling of boredom with the world around me, and the thought that I would be better off playing Black Flag instead.

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