I went ahead and finished Assassin’s Creed III this past weekend. I was actually just a few missions away from the end. I did a few side things. I did most of the naval side-missions and some other things here and there. SPOILERS FOLLOW.
A few people told me I would probably be disappointed with the conclusion. I actually wasn’t, though I understand why many people would be. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it was definitely an interesting (and a little surprising) conclusion to Desmond’s story.
The previous games certainly had a few interesting moral dilemmas here and there. This one had the ambivalent relationship between Conner and his father, Haytham. The game introduces a twist near the beginning of the game. You start playing Haytham. After playing the previous 4 games, it’s just assumed that you’re playing an assassin. He certainly operates like one. I knew that the main character was an American Indian, so I assumed I’d play Haytham to the point where he’d die or something. In a surprising twist, though, it suddenly becomes clear that he is, in fact, a Templar.
This sets the stage for later confusion and ambiguity (the good kind, story-wise). Though Connor and Haytham are enemies, they do temporarily work together at one point. Near the end of the game, though, they fight one last time and Connor kills Haytham.
Shortly before this, though, Connor broke ties with George Washington and the Patriots after learning that Washington had destroyed many Iroquois villages. It was part of an interesting balance of interests — on one hand, there were the goals of the Assassins, which seemed to align with the goals of the revolution. But of course the Americans were no less guilty of atrocious behavior than the British with regard to relations with Native Americans. The Templars had people on both sides of the Revolutionary War. In the end, his only goal was to eliminate the man who had killed his mother (Charles Lee, one of Haytham’s men).
This was, for me, the most satisfying part of the game, and why I think that in some ways it’s better than its predecessors. The first Assassin’s Creed had many opportunities to explore difficult moral dilemmas, but perhaps out of fear of touchy boundaries, the game stayed away from anything very controversial. Every game has a start screen that informs the player of the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the game’s staff — for a long time they just seemed like they were being too careful.
Perhaps because this game didn’t touch on middle-eastern politics at all it was able to really explore some tricky territory. And as in real life, there is no satisfying fix or compromise. Connor, after killing Charles Lee, returns to his village to find his tribe driven away.
Desmond, too, struggled with his relationship with his father. He managed to mostly reconcile with him, though. Still, Desmond had to sacrifice himself.
Honestly, I haven’t really thought all this through very well yet. Certain themes (compromise, father/son relationships, hypocritical idealism) run through the game. I’ll probably have to think about it some more.
But I was not disappointed. The game had interesting things to say, especially with regard to Native Americans, their involvement in the revolution and their treatment by the colonists/Americans.
Gameplay wise, it was your standard Assassin’s Creed game. Good (if occasionally frustrating) controls, fun combat and stealth and many mini-games. I certainly didn’t finish every side-quest, but I had fun with a lot of them.
I’m not, at this time, interested in any of the DLC. The “King Washington” stuff sounds intriguing, but it’s time for me to move on to another game in the stack. I’m thinking of wrapping up Final Fantasy XIII-2.