Between ecstacy and shellackings: a critique to critiques
Sab, October 22, 2013
Translated by: Sara

Videogames, nowadays, are the form of entertainment around which the juiciest incomes and the biggest investements revolve. As if this had a negative value, today the average gamer hurls abuse vehemently, and sometimes haughtily, at any brand that goes beyond the third chapter (unless it is a series that has its roots in the past generation, in that case it's untouchable).
Obviously, the Assassin's Creed saga makes no exception and, in fact, it is accused of being the new CoD (there are many points in common, actually), it is condemned for an always unchanged gameplay, it is massacred because of the "commercial and exasperated" use that Ubisoft is making of it in order to replenish their already big funds (this must mean something).
As it often happens, actually, behind these lash-up game designers there are a lot of inexperienced people and many mistakes of judgement, often due to bad faith.
I think it could be useful to analyze each one of the most contested elements of the last chapter of the series, meaning AC3. I will limit my analysis to the criticism of the ones that are extraneous to the AC series and I will not consider the "disgruntled fans" and those who "this will be the last AC on D1":

  • the accusation of being a typically pro-America game;
  • the accusation of having a repetitive gameplay, always unchanged and without innovations;
  • the "marketability" which is represented by the annual release of a new main chapter with tons of glitches and bugs;
  • the boring multiplayer.

Let's analyze every single one of this "critic elements".

The beginning of a friendship meant to end soon...

The American style game

Once finished AC3, anyone with a bare minimum of critical thinking has to admit that "American Style game" is definitely not a term that could be matched to this chapter. Washington is a petty character which, not coincidentally, ends up playing bocce (yes, literally) while the constitutive process must take place. A man ready to betray the trust of those who fought for him in order to reach his goal more easily and with less risks. A great demonstration of it lies in the two final missions: the one in the village and the one at the Boston port. I will write below the dialogue between Connor and the hunter, right after Connor returns to the village at the end of the war. It is worth a thousand words (source:

Connor goes back to Kanatahséton, where he only finds a traveler next to a crackling fire.

Traveler: If you're hungry, I've extra.
Connor: No thank you...

The traveller gestures for Connor to seat next to the fire while he keeps looking around himself with a disappointed glance.

Connor: Where is everyone?
Traveler: Gone west. Been a while since they left. Seems some fellow from New York was granted the land by congress.
Traveler: Seein' it happen more and more. Government SAYS they don't take land that's already owned, but, uh... [laughing]

Connor seats next to the man, close to the fire.

Connor: How could this have happened?
Traveler: We're on our own now. No more Merry English parts and labor. Which means we gotta go at it ourselves. Gotta pay for it too. Sellin' land is quick and easy and not quite so nasty as taxes. And since some say they're what started the whole war, ain't no rush to bring 'em back. Clever men, these new leaders of ours. They know not to push it just yet. Too soon for taxes. Too... British.

Without saying a word, Connor stands up and gets ready to leave the traveler.

Connor: Thank you. Traveler: Be safe.

I think that nothing more is needed to be said.

The repetitive gameplay
Entire gameplay sessions with new and original features, not just for the series, but for the gaming scene in general!

The conviction that the gameplay is always repetitive is again, as often happens, the result of a superficial analysis or a consequence of bad faith. But let's step back .... In the last years, Ubisoft tried to revive and renew some of its other glories of the past, in a more or less incisive way. With Splinter Cell's Conviction they took a decisive step by adding much more action elements, but it was surely not a complete revolution of the gameplay that characterized the saga. The fans forgave Ubisoft and its "betrayal" only a few months ago, with the Blacklist release. Prince of Persia 2008 reboot, considered by the critics a narrative jewel, was massacred because it was "totally different" from the previous chapters, and the beautiful elements enhanced by all the real experts were immediately put aside because they were not appreciated by gamers.
Now, coming to AC, Ubisoft has asked itself: "If changing a bit or changing completely the gameplay structure involves these criticisms, why don't we renew and update the gameplay without betraying its essence, then?". A logical reasoning for someone who tried everything and ended up in front of more and more closed doors. Unfortunately, however, the gamers do not want that the features they appreciate are changed but, at the same time, if a product does not meet their gaming tastes, then the gameplay and its repetition are clearly the topics in which they revel the most.
Too bad that in AC3 there are a lot of new gameplay elements, both fundamental and "decorative". The naval missions, the ability to climb trees, hunting, the Homestead missions and the never so important until this chapter management elements (if you don't do them when they are provided during the storyline, you can not do them anymore), new weapons such as bow, rope, Tomahawk, plus various guns, the ability to cover behind shelters, to hide in the bushes, to escape by passing through the buildings' windows, the on-the-run kills, the enemy rifle bursts and the consequent possibility to cover behind an enemy's body, a credible management of the Assassins at last divided into precise categories like snipers, thieves, fighters, bodyguards, etc, the missions in the present day, the convoys attacks, the guard dogs .... not to mention the return to basics with the eavesdropping and stealing missions that were not present since the first chapter and that in this game were improved. And yet again, the city scenes that force the player to approach more often from the ground, limiting the possibility to move around the city always jumping on the roofs(because, this time, they are much more filled with guards).
Asking for more would have meant asking for a completely different gameplay. Ubisoft has just decided to give confidence to its fans, who reciprocally doubled Revelations sales.

The annual releases

A lot of studios, a lot of works...

As for the criticism about the annual releases and, consequently, the presence of thousands of bugs and glitches, we have to go a bit deeper and to make some more complex considerations. First, I want to stress that not all the series chapters had an annual development and Assassin's Creed III and the future Black Flag are two examples. Many gamers are surprised when, a few months after the release of the annual chapter, the sequel is announced and they complain that everything was already ready, "copied and pasted" in a short period of three months. But a "slightly" more attentive fan (a fan that follows a videogames news webpage worthy of that name) knows that the beginning of the work on the next title is announced a lot of time before the new chapter release. As for bugs and glitches ... I have to say that I hate personal examples, because they undermine the credibility of any argument. I won't say, then, how Heavy Rain was a game that, thinking about it now, makes me laugh because of the buggy finale. In the same way I won't rage against Lords of Shadow for the bug that, a few hours before the end, made me start it all over again. I'm not even an expert and I wouldn't be able to analyze the severity and gravity of these programming errors because it would need a technical expertise. I'm just saying that I bumped into these problems, in a more or less broad way, for PS, XBox and PC exclusive titles, for every Software house, even in the indie titles. The gamer that strongly criticizes AC series for these reasons should either stop playing or, however, stop being interested in the videogames world or again, even better, he should admit to himself that these problems become so important just because we're talking about Assassin's Creed, because I have never heard any criticism for TLOU , GTA V, etc...

The boring Multiplayer

For what concerns the multiplayer, I have to make a premise: I hardly play online. Not only the idea of competing with people who offend me for my nationality, my accent and my gaming skills does not attract me, but I also feel that some of the online gameplays are extremely stressful (except for Left 4 Dead : may TWCB have Valve in glory). But when I read the loads of comments on Spaziogames (italian site) or other forums where the fans wrote that "the Assassin's Creed multiplayer is boring, it's like playing hide and seek", I immediately understood that we were talking about a good product. And indeed, AC multiplayer blew a breath of fresh air into the AAA games scene because experiments like TLOU would have had to overcome way more obstacles without the release of the AC Brotherhood Multi. And in the end, everything I wrote can also be considered a big lie ... but the multiplayer is an absolutely subjective matter, it simply depends on everyone's tastes. Judging by the amount of people playing and having fun on the AC3 servers, however, I think that it's a successful product.

There is a lot more to analyze, and I bet that, reading above, a lot of you may have wondered why I didn't talk about this or that lack. "Why not making a Mirror's Edge style parkour?", the highly popular "Connor is a plain character" or the evergreen "Assassin's Creed games are too easy!" (Because the gamer nowadays only wants to open his ass, not his mind). The reality is that it's impossible to write an article in response to all the AC criticism. Being the amount of complaints so large, it would require too much time and too much space and in addition it has now become a widespread mass phenomenon so popular that even the best action \ adventure game of all time could be hardly considered a good game. I felt inside, however, the need to answer to the criticisms that I consider less solid and only based on information found here and there, a critisism that should belong more to comment readers than to gamers with a few hours of experience in the latest Assassin's Creed's.
Being a lover of videogames as a form of expression, the thing that really bothers me is that people always prefer focusing on bugs, annual releases and textures, and keeps forgetting what the Assassin's Creed series of videogames led to, especially in the world of big productions gaming: credibility, style and storytelling. But in order to read about Désilets and his ideas, you'll have to wait a little bit more...

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