From gliding through the sandy deserts of Origins to basking in the ostentatious ancient Greek environments of Odyssey, the last few Assassin’s Creed instalments have not failed to astound players with their mind-blowing finesse. That said, regardless of how far the series has progressed (undoubtedly for the better), there are still stories long forgone that’re still worth experiencing, and Assassin’s Creed III Remastered does well to scratch this itch.
In this generous helping of remastered content provided as part of Odyssey's season pass or as a standalone title, we're gifted an opportunity revisit a true milestone in the Assassin’s Creed franchise complete with The Tyranny Of King Washington DLC - and that’s not all, as Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation also joins the line-up. After pitching camp on Sony’s handheld that never truly took off back in 2012 and its late arrival to PS3 in 2014 when the franchise had long moved on, it’s an adventure unbeknown to many and this remaster offers a divine opportunity to dabble in Aveline’s tale. We will however take focus on Assassin’s Creed III’s revamp for the purpose of this review.
For those unfamiliar with the plot of Assassin's Creed III, it follows on from the events of Revelations as Desmond and his comrades fight to prevent the impending doom of the 2012 apocalypse. He uses the Animus to relive the memories of a new ancestor, Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Connor Kenway) - an Assassin who battles against the growing Templar threat during the 18th century, following the American Revolution. Unfortunately, the narrative is not the game's strong suit, and is weirdly at its best during missions outside of the Animus where the loose ends of Desmond's story are being tied. It’s a shame considering the vast majority of the game comes from Connor’s perspective within Abstergo’s VR contraption.
Ezio left in his wake some mighty standards to live up to and sadly, Connor does little to fill the void. Adopting the mannerisms and temperament of an impatient, petulant teen and seeing little character progression to remedy this as sequences play out, our primary protagonist leaves little to warm to. The title also briefly dangles a carrot in front of your nose by allowing you to play as Haytham in the utmost early stages of the game. Haytham is a far more likeable and intriguing lead and this only ensures a bitter taste is left in your mouth when Connor eventually steps into the spotlight. What’s worse, little lies elsewhere to overcompensate for this and compliment the narrative. The plot is truly staggered by tutorial-style missions that seem to endure forever. Only pushing halfway through the story does the game actually loosen its unrelenting grip on your hand and officially offer you freedom of the reins.
Fortunately, although Assassin’s Creed III slacks in providing an immersive, heartfelt story it undeniably redeems itself with its gameplay that utters its own sense of charm. Back when the original game was released, Assassin’s Creed III truly upped the ante of Revelations, presenting itself as a true milestone for the franchise - and that’s something that can be admired even now. It masterfully fabricated a balance, maintaining the more vertical approach to gameplay we’d come to expect from the series' built up environments while expanding its horizons and offering players a great deal more to explore.
Assassin’s Creed III is primarily made up of woodland settings teeming with animals and the remaster has done well to bring an even stronger sense of allure to these environments. Enhanced visuals featuring physics-based lighting and native 4K resolution scaling provide glorious immersive locations to explore that better reflect the graphical progress made across the series since III’s original release. Even character models have seen an overhaul. Although this revamp doesn't scratch the visual fidelity of Odyssey, it does well to showcase Assassin’s Creed III in a far more flattering light.
The game's more expansive settings offer shed loads more to do. Hunting is very much at the forefront of the gameplay, allowing players challenging and rewarding ways to earn money. Homestead missions are another way to earn consistent income whilst acting as it’s own little soap opera of missions between residents in the region of Connor’s HQ. Naval missions are also available, meaning all in all there’s quite the assortment of ways to break up the story missions and acquire ample means to beef up your arsenal, all of which are wonderfully versatile and easy to enjoy even now. Of course this all highlights a point in which the franchise was in a sort of limbo, a precursor to the transition to the open-world RPG take we are well acquainted with now. Even so, it’s hard not to applaud the relevant steps Assassin's Creed III took to raise the bar for the franchise way back when.
Backtracking to an old Assassin’s Creed title following the progression the series has made since is no easy task and III’s remaster has tried to best accommodate this evolution. Yes, it’s done more than address the graphical side of things, reworking and polishing mechanics such as the whistle, which can now be used from any hiding spot, and the ability to double assassinate which feels far more refined. Moreover, Connor may now freely aim with his ranged weapons much like in Rogue and Black Flag. Although this does not mirror the same fluidity of that showcased in the likes of Odyssey, it makes returning to this clunky forbear all the more tolerable. Even taking into account Assassin's Creed III's more confined combat, executing gruesome finishers with tomahawks has never felt so good.
It would appear the latest retread in the Assassin’s Creed franchise has learned from the underwhelming efforts of Rogue Remastered, which saw a graphical overhaul alongside little else. Assassin's Creed III Remastered brings far more to the table, seeing otherwise frustrating mechanics heavily tweaked and polished to make them less of an annoyance in the shadow cast by the likes of Origins and Odyssey. As much as this remaster can’t address the fundamental creases that the series re-imagining has worked so hard to iron out, it still retains its own sense of charm and is wonderfully reminiscent of the series' roots, paying great homage to the progress it’s made since. Although the series' RPG “reboot” may have served as a warm entry point for newcomers, the franchise still has some stories that are worth retelling. Assassin’s Creed III is one such story.