Assassin’s Creed III: Remastered is, if nothing else, relentlessly interesting.
Out now on PS4, the bundle contains more than just the title it takes its name from. Single-player DLC, “The Tyranny of King Washington,” and Vita spinoff, Assassin’s Creed Liberation, are also included. Back in 2012, the series’ Revolutionary War-era entries had the unenviable task of following up the series’ Renaissance-set creative renaissance. And while this trio doesn’t present quite the same value proposition as 2016’s The Ezio Collection, it does provide a fascinating glimpse at the iterative process that’s kept this franchise relevant for over a decade. Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a comprehensive look at the gameplay ideas that defined this period of the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered Review – The Star of the Show
Essentially, ACIII casts players as the Forrest Gump of the American Revolution. Protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton is a half Native American assassin, improbably present at Valley Forge, Bunker Hill and the Boston Tea Party. Connor, as he’s known outside his tribe, is the son of a Templar, Haytham Kenway. Spurred to action by the death of his mother, Connor sets off on a carefully plotted revenge spree across wide swaths of colonial America. He hops from rooftop-to-rooftop in British-occupied Boston and New York, sprints along tree boughs in the Frontier and pilots a warship on the open ocean.
Those environments result in some major and minor tweaks to the Assassin’s Creed formula. The distance between Boston’s squat buildings makes free-running more difficult than it was in the games that came before. That design decision, combined with the sheer size of the British force in the city, meant that I was constantly being spotted; constantly forced into combat. In some ways, Connor is a more capable fighter than Ezio when brawls do break out, with the ability to easily take down multiple opponents at a time with a successful counter and use enemy soldiers as human shields.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered Review – Remaster Regressions
But, a few small changes make combat significantly more frustrating than it was in the Renaissance games. The armor system is gone and manual healing has been removed, as well. If a fight goes sideways, your only recourse is to “git gud” or flee. These tweaks result in quite a few frustrating deaths, and seem like an unneeded regression from the Ezio era.
Additionally, there are some pretty major bugs that are almost entirely confined to Assassin’s Creed III. During one climactic moment, I hit a game-breaking bug that shut the game down when I died. I kept dying at that spot; the game kept crashing. I also experienced several (other) hard crashes, as well as visual and audio bugginess.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered Review – Into the Wild
In previous Assassin’s Creed games, the space outside major cities was mostly empty. This time around, you’ll spend about half your time in the great outdoors. Trees have been redesigned so that their branches easily accommodate free-running. Ramp-like boulders litter the landscape, providing a path to the treetops. Additionally, animals prowl the wilderness, providing monetary boons and a big pain in the ass. Killing a wolf provides a hefty amount of fur and meat to trade in for cash. But, these encounters are likely to result in frustrating death until you master the QTE required to take them down.
The next mainline AC game pirate fantasy, Black Flag, would doubloon down on the naval combat mechanics introduced here (which would return again in last year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey). But, even in their first outing these sections are a fun diversion from the usual checklist of open-world tasks. Nailing a ship’s broadside with your cannons, or causing an explosion with some pinpoint accurate swivel gunning is satisfying. So is ducking down at the last minute to avoid having your head Patriot-ed by a speeding hunk of metal.
Assassin’s Creed III, then, is mostly worth playing for the historical perspective it provides, not because it’s an exceptional game on its own.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered Review – Burning the History Books
That said, the gonzo expansion, “The Tyranny of King Washington,” is a blast, history aside. As the title suggests, this trilogy of DLC episodes transport Connor to an alternate universe where George Washington is under the sway of an Apple of Eden. He now reigns over the colonies, golden scepter in hand. In a fun twist, Connor begins cutting his way through the Revolutionaries he was just aiding in the main game.
The story is completely unfettered from the shackles of historical accuracy and tired revenge drama. Out-of-Animus scenes are out, as well. As a result, “King Washington” is lean, mean, story-focused expansion.
Additionally, it introduces some fantastic new abilities that help to shore up the base game’s weaknesses. You know how free-running was difficult in Boston? Well, a teleportation ability (reminiscent of Dishonored’s Blink) makes moving along rooftops a breeze. Remember how combat could be frustrating? Well, Connor’s arsenal gets some major improvements this time around with a bearish AOE attack and an invisibility skill that makes for easier stealth kills. All of these tweaks make “King Washington” a smoother experience. There’s more—including a Shadow of the Colossus-inspired sequence—that I don’t want to spoil here. I wouldn’t say that the collection’s $40 price tag is worth it for this expansion alone, but it’s certainly the best part of this collection.
Liberated from the Vita
Liberation, meanwhile, isn’t. This spinoff game, set in New Orleans, casts players as Aveline de Grandpré, mixed-race daughter of a wealthy white man and a slave. The game controls well; Aveline is quick and responsive and combat feels crunchy and fast. And, the teams at Ubisoft make a mechanic of Aveline’s ability to pass as black or white. The assassin can dress as a “lady” in expensive dresses to charm guards, or don a slave’s rags to sneak around unnoticed. It’s a fascinating mechanical commentary on race and class, and I wish the game the developers had built around it was more interesting. But, with a scaled down open-world designed for mobile and an uninteresting story, Liberation isn’t as compelling as it could be.
In short, nothing collected here is as good as the best this series has to offer. But, Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a welcome glimpse into an era that would define much in the years to come.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.