Verhille: Assassin's Creed III 'Redemption' sparks meditation

BY DAN VERHILLE | APRIL 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Redemption, the final chapter in The Tyranny of King Washington DLC pack for Assassin's Creed 3, seeks to redeem King Washington following its Tuesday release on Xbox 360 and PC and Wednesday on PlayStation 3.

In my reviews of The Infamy and The Betrayal, I expressed satisfaction with the introduction of new wolf and eagle abilities that fundamentally changed the way the game is played. Players won't be able to use them in the regular portion of the game (sadly), but they will get to use a new bear ability in conjunction with the previous animal abilities for some awesome challenges.

Overall, Redemption feels a bit more inhabited and alive than previous chapters, probably because players know they are getting closer to seeing the conclusion of the "if George Washington goes crazy" story line.

As should be somewhat expected for two-hour shorts, the story is like its predecessors in being a bit undeveloped and all over the place, but it didn't reek of being as rushed to market. Redemption does quite a good job, well, redeeming the DLC pack by providing a more thoroughly planned out narrative. It also provides fresher challenges and environments like Washington's Pyramid, although it's still wanting of some nonlinear aspects added, even if they were just checklists.

Redemption opens with protagonist Connor playing pirate again, and the naval battles handle fantastically, but after a few moments at sea, your first mate starts chirping in-game advertisement for Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag and the dialogue starts to feel more like a commercial.

I understand a company wanting to promote its new game, but I'm starting to become indifferent to the characters as the Creed games continue to burn protagonists at an increasing rate. The quality of the story being told has suffered since Ezio's departure, and I mourned when a map illuminated several temple locations across every continent to be explored in some era not yet revealed.

While I love naval battles, I feel that the Redemption reinforces the feeling Creed 3 might have been too ambitious and finished abruptly.

Ubisoft made the safe choice by killing off Desmond (the series' original protagonist who explores these regions via memories in his "ancestral DNA") because now they don't have the difficult task of straddling two time periods, but the story was better as an uneven balancing act, with the majority of it taking place in a historical setting, and the minority in the present.

Knowing that Black Flag is a pirate adventure taking place in only in the Caribbean, I can't help but feel cheated with how a key feature of the past games, climbing epic monuments to the very top to survey a massive city, has been traded in for less impressive mast-scaling and ship battles.

Assassin's Creed 3 gave gamers something the series had been teasing for a long time, climbing a modern-day skyscraper at night. But now, instead of the attractive concept of picking one modern and one ancient city to create — say climbing the Khalifa tower in modern-day Dubai and scaling the walls of the Forbidden City during the Ming Dynasty — we're going to be adrift at sea in the ever popular pirate genre.

Everyone, I believe, will miss the cultural immersion and awe inspiring recreations of ancient cities.

I hope that after Black Flag, Ubisoft will slow down its release schedule and take some risks in location and time period again (think 16th century China) and develop characters more roundly like Ezio, rather than rely on safe ideas like patriots or pirates. And Ubisoft, if we're going to have ship battles and still call it Assassin's Creed, I better be able to jump from one mast to the other rather than press a button to swing across. Stop slacking.

A Gamespot interview with lead writer Darby McDevitt gave me more faith in the project, as Black Flag appears to have been created with great attention to its narrative, so there's much optimism for the future title, especially considering that Creed 3 proved that questionable story developments can't ruin a game built on great mechanics, like the ship battles.

While I'm skeptical about the creative direction Ubisoft has taken and the eschewing of their successful formula, the enjoyable abilities of Redemption should stand as a reminder to everyone that new fantastical or anachronistic elements can be introduced to a game without invalidating other titles (or stories) that operate in different areas of the same conceptual universe. Gamers will decide this November when Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is released.

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