I’m going to be a doing a series of blogs about gaming in 2012 as we approach year’s end. It will include a number of awards both positive and negative. I decided to make this a series of blogs instead of one because I’d like to use the end of the year to go a bit more in-depth with some games I didn’t have the chance to talk about this year. So these will double as reviews of sorts in some cases though maybe not quite as thorough or exhaustive.
With all that said, I will be kicking the awards off on the wrong foot for whatever reason with the most disappointing game of the year. Some awards were difficult to choose, but this one was an easy pick. Disappointing doesn’t necessarily mean worst, it means it went the furthest below my expectations of any game. Without further ado, here is my most disappointing game of 2012:
Assassin’s Creed 3
I loved Assassin’s Creed 2. It lived up to the promise that the first game couldn’t quite deliver. I was disappointed to find out the sequel to that game wouldn’t feature an all-new protagonist and time period (one of the cool things about the series) and instead would continue to focus on Ezio. But Brotherhood was a good game still and I enjoyed it if not as much as AC2. Then they did this again withRevelations. By the end of that game, I was sick of Ezio and Assassin’s Creed’s yearly installments. But Assassin’s Creed 3 would bring what I was waiting for right? A new protagonist in Connor. A new setting in Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. And the next big step in the franchise. I mean they did hold the 3 moniker back for this even know Brotherhood was by all accounts AC3. Unfortunately what Assassin’s Creed 3 delivered was a game that took two steps back for every step forward. One filled with head-scratching design decisions and riddled with more bugs than any game should have.
I don’t play this series for the narrative and I’d like to think no one else does either. Having said that it is definitely one of the reasons the game disappoints. It starts with the historical tale. These have typically been interesting in the series so far, but this one is kind of a letdown. The game starts slow and is kind of a bore gameplay-wise, but probably pays off from a narrative standpoint. But any good will that might have gotten is ruined by the game’s end. The game sets up some interesting comparisons between how the Assassins and Templars try to accomplish their goals, but main protagonist Connor is kind of boring and the way they handle his final confrontations with each villain feels both rushed and shockingly stupid, kind of wrecking any of the intrigue they set up earlier on in the process. It goes without saying that the current day storyline ending is terrible. Bad endings on this side of the game are as much a part of Assassin’s Creed’s DNA as freerunning and stabbing historical figures in the neck. And yet somehow AC3’s ending fails to meet even my low-expectations with a finish that wraps up Desmond’s tale in disastrous fashion while letting us know that anyone who plays future Assassin’s Creed titles will have to suffer through more of this nonsensical present day storyline.
Of course, I play this series for the gameplay which delivers just as much disappointment. Things like free-running and combat are both simplified for the worse. Free-running was too automatic already, but by taking the little bit of complication away from it, things like the tomb levels just lose some of their punch. Combat has always been a weak point, but the new system feels worse than ever and somehow more counter-driven than before. The issues don’t stop there. Too many missions feel like tutorial missions while other mechanics go largely unexplained. Weapon selection has been moved from a quick overlay into a full on menu slowing things down for no good reason. Synchronizing viewpoints only reveals small portions of the map and you actually have to run through other areas to reveal lots of side content. Plus a lot of the main missions just aren’t a whole lot of fun.
And when you are enjoying yourself (I did enjoy some of the missions), you are always at the risk of a glitch or bug ruining your fun. Once I was trying to go for one of the side objectives in a mission that involved me being stealthy and I got stuck in a wall when trying to hop over it to perform a quick task. As I tried to free myself for what seemed like an eternity a guard started to walk over and notice me. After mashing the buttons I finally jumped off and dove into the water below. I didn’t get the side objective finished, but I guess this was preferable to having to restart the main mission which I had finished by then. Stuff like this pops up a lot more than it should and just makes a frustrating game a bit more frustrating.
Given the “award”, I am focusing on what made this game disappointing. It wasn’t without its good points though. I liked free running through the trees and climbing the cliff faces in the wilderness. With the American cities’ basic architecture being such a far cry from the superior buildings and cities of prior entries in the series, at least the wilderness gives you something truly different. And to my absolute shock, I really enjoyed the naval segments. I remember seeing the first look at these at E3 and thinking it would be AC3’s version of Revelations’ tower defense: an unnecessary addition to the franchise that I would not bother with if I could help it. They ended up being one of my favorite parts of the game. It isn’t the deepest component you will come across, but there is enough to affect your speed and turning to make sailing around fun. And between your various weapons and having to utilize the right positioning, battles with a host of other ships work great too. Also worthwhile are the accompanying Peg-Leg missions which are the closest the game gets to the Ezio trilogy’s tombs and include my favorite mission I played in my time with AC3. The game features some outstanding animations too. From the little moves he makes to avoid things while sprinting through the streets to his finishers during combat, Connor is one of the best animated characters out there today.
So while I did get some enjoyment out of the game, it simply wasn’t enough to outweigh all the aspects of the game that let me down. And because of that Assassin’s Creed 3 is the most disappointing game of the year for me. I’ll be back soon with a more positive blog that continues my look back at 2012 (I want to say it will be my Handheld Game of the Year, but I may finish another blog first… we’ll see). Feel free to let me know in the comments which game released in 2012 let you down the most. Thanks for reading!