So, some open spoilers in this post, hopefully people will not be too upset as I’m talking about a game from 2012.
I originally played Assassin’s Creed III over the course of a weekend, shortly after release, skipping all of the side content because I wanted to push through all of the tedious bits where you’re playing as the world’s most boring assassin in the least interesting setting possible in order to finally find out what was going to happen with Desmond.
Then, when I finally found out what was going to happen with Desmond, I was in denial for a bit until ACIV came out and made it clear that, no, they were not going to do a AC game with him as the full-time protagonist and that the overarching story from the first five games was being binned in favor of games that leaned very hard into the historical tourism aspect and more-or-less ignored the modern day conflict.
So I have had something of a negative opinion of the game.
On the other hand, over the years I have heard several people say that the main story is bad, but that the side content makes up for it, and there’s always been a little bit of curiosity there. Not enough to go back to the 20-frames-per-second make-some-tea-during-the-loading-screens PS3 version, but enough that when I got AC3 Remastered as part of a bundle I decided to give it a second go.
For comparison, back in 2013 it was 46 hours between my first and last trophy, and my in-game save said I’d been playing for 13:39. On my replay, taking things a little slower, I played for 27:41 over 8 days.
For the record: The “angry Native American avenges his mother’s death while coincidentally being a major figure in every pivotal moment of the American Revolution” story is still roughly as bad as I’d remembered.
The side content, on the other hand, is more enjoyable.
There’s a quest chain where you collect doohickies for a guy who then gives you letters sent to Captain Kidd’s crew, and you follow those letters to find clues to eventually get a Cool Piece Of Gear. I had not done this on my initial play through and was stunned to find out that there is a Mayan temple level in this game.
What in the hell.
There’s also a level that takes you to Edinburgh Castle. Not THAT Edinburgh Castle, but the one in Jamaica.
There are over twenty missions that revolve around Connor building up a small town of colonists, making sure that the town has all the resources it needs to be independent and even helping with domestic issues like delivering a baby and helping a clueless dude woo his intended, because that’s the sort of thing you DO when you are hell-bent for revenge.
There are another set of missions built around naval combat, because being a ship’s captain just comes naturally to every dude raised in the woods.
Look, these just don’t make a damn bit of sense, and that’s largely why I ignored them on the first pass. Knuckling down and doing all of them on the second pass made me realize:
This is the WEIRDEST damn game I have ever played.
Let me give you an example.
In other Assassin’s Creed games up to this point, you’d mostly purchased upgrades (bigger pouches, etc) from shops, so the acquisition process was (a) stab mans until you had money (b) exchange money for goods and services.
In Assassin’s Creed III, to upgrade one of your pouches:
You need a pelt and some sewing thread.
The pelt is easy. Find animal, stab animal, skin animal. Be sure that you don’t shoot it because using a firearm instantly ruins the pelt of anything you shoot. Alternately, if you have recruited a hunter for your homestead, you can buy the pelt from them.
To get the thread, you need to recruit a farmer and do farming missions to level them up so you can get wool.
Then you need to find the recipe for sewing thread, in a specific chest in New York, which is inaccessible until late in the game.
Then you need to recruit a tailor, who can make thread, and do tailoring missions to get them to the level where they can combine the thread and the pelt for you.
OK, so that’s a convoluted way to upgrade your gear, but then it goes completely off the rails into should-I-have-a-spreadsheet?-land.
Your homestead can product a huge range of various products, and you can ship these off to different markets and different shopkeepers and choose where you will sell them, and the different markets and shopkeepers all have different risk levels and tax rates assigned to them. If you wanted, you could sit around for hours doing nothing but selling belts and buttons and plows and stomachache cures to Boston, or New York, or the Bahamas, depending on where they were in the most demand. I did a little of this between missions and finished the game staggeringly rich.
There are also a bunch of British military forts scattered around the map, and Naval missions that you can run, and taking over these forts and doing these side missions gives you no direct reward, but lowers the taxes you will pay on your shipment and reduces the risk of your shipment being intercepted. Because you may be a mass murderer but you are VERY concerned about taxes.
At this point, you might be forgiven for checking the front of the box to make sure that it says “Assassin’s Creed III” and that you didn’t bring the wrong thing home from the store.
So, in summary: On a second run through AC3, knowing in advance that it was going to do the opposite of sticking the landing when it came to the Desmond story, I found myself actually enjoying it. It made the bits where you are doing awesome parkour on skyscrapers even more disappointing, but I was able to push that down in my mind and focus on what the game DID have to offer.
I am also convinced that someone in a very important position at Ubisoft took the opportunity to make the crafting and trading game that they had always wanted to make, and had enough clout that they could get it done whether or not it belonged in a historical stabbing mans simulator.