Impact Games in Review: Assassin’s Creed III

Developer: Ubisoft 
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
Availability: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
Cost: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

What’s it About?

It is 2012 and the world is about to end. Desmond Miles, a modern-day assassin, is tasked with saving it, using a special virtual reality machine known as the Animus. Through this, Desmond is able to reenact and relive the memories of his ancestors, finding the locations of keys hidden long ago to use in releasing the goddess Juno and preventing the utter devastation of Earth.

Inside the Animus, Desmond relives briefly the life of Haytham Kenway as he sails to the New World, Boston circa 1754, in search of a storehouse belonging to the enigmatic First Civilization. As time passes, Desmond becomes the young Ratonhnhaké:ton, known otherwise as Connor, a half-Mohawk Indian, half-Englishman who seeks revenge on the Templar organization that devastated his tribe and murdered his mother.

Connor becomes a pivotal participant in numerous points in American history, albeit a loosely interpreted one, serving as an ally to Samuel Adams during the Boston Tea Party and leading Paul Revere on his midnight ride, among many others.

Be warned! Assassin’s Creed III spoilers to follow.

What’s it Like?

  • Third-person stealth-action game where players take on the role of Desmond Miles in modern-day, closed-world scenarios, and historical figures Haytham Kenway and Connor in open-world adventure sequences.
  • Players have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, from traditional assassin hidden blades to Connor’s tomahawk, pistol, rope darts, smoke bombs, and various traps.
  • For the first time, the traditional freerunning feature is augmented with the ability to climb and run through trees and escape pursuers by dashing through open windows.
  • Setting focuses on Revolution-era Boston, New York, and an expansive open countryside known as the Frontier.
  • Explore the spacious Frontier and hunt for the valuable pelts of native animals.
  • Take command of the warship Aquila and engage in exciting and dangerous naval battles along the American East Coast.

What’s the Impact? 

Cultural Emergence

Culture within Assassin’s Creed III is twofold; players are first presented with the plight of Connor and his people, their land and lives threatened by the Templar force in the New World. Connor is unique in this; he is both of white and Indian cultures, able to balance and exist in each throughout the course of the game. His actions reflect his deep-seated desire to protect all marginalized peoples, such as his African-American mentor, Achilles, regardless of their race. Several sequences allow the player to experience the Mohawk culture of the mid-18th century, following a young Connor as he interacts with other children in his village and speaks in his native language.

Connor’s struggles are only intensified as players are dropped directly into the middle of the American Revolution, able to act as both a participant and observer in many of the important events. From leading the charge at Lexington and Concord, to standing by as the Declaration of Independence is signed, and even helping to toss tea into the Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party, players are given a contextualized (if not loosely interpreted) view of American history, complete with interactions with many major figures and run-ins with belligerent Redcoats.

Questions for Discussion: 

  • Who were the most important figures in Revolutionary-era America? What did they do and why are they important?
  • What does it mean to be marginalized in society? How has society changed since Connor’s era? How has it stayed the same?

Engaged Citizenship

Many of the quests and side quests players engage in as Connor contribute to the state of the colonies as a whole. Playing on the side of the Assassin Order, a group committed to the protection of those who can’t otherwise protect themselves under the siege of figures abusing their power, Connor must help to squash the oppressive Templar force that acts against independence seeking colonists. Through rescuing citizens in towns to recruit to the growing Assassin force in the new world and aiding wandering travelers in the wild Frontier to encourage settlement and growth, Connor is able to have a direct influence in the state of the game world. His influence always works to his own benefit, creating a resource of allies and materials to help further the Assassin cause, strengthening in numbers to topple the Templar Order.

Though it may seem as if the game’s morality system is binary, with the Templars acting as the force of ‘evil’ in the game, many of Connor’s assassination targets bring into question whether or not Connor’s actions are justifiably moral. The player constantly finds themselves confronted with the potential good in the Templar force, from playing as Connor’s Templar father Haytham early in the game, to working collaboratively with the Templars to confront corrupted members of their order, and interacting with assassination targets on the moments of their death as they are forced to explain their actions. In as much as the Assassins, and Connor himself, is indicated as making the right choices for the good of the New World, players are constantly confronted with moments of doubt, encouraging them to consider their own moral choices.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How important is it to see both sides of an issue when making a decision? In what ways does it affect your beliefs and choices?
  • What does it mean to be moral, in your opinion? What does it mean to be immoral? Where do the Assassins and Templars fit in to your beliefs? The Colonists and the Redcoats?

Economic Prosperity

With the young United States still in a period of rapid growth and expansion, players are able to more directly influence the economic state of the Davenport Homestead–an area of new settlement in the Massachusetts countryside–through a system of trading. By completing special Homestead missions, Connor provides land for settlers who each bring with them special skills, from logging to mining, which in turn provide him with tradeable goods which he can use to make money. Players are able to hunt for animal pelts in the expansive wilderness, selling furs for amounts based on its condition, depending on the way Connor killed the animal. Further, Assassin contracts provide Connor with various goods, which he can sell or craft with, suiting the player’s needs.

The trading system itself is intricate, forcing players to consider many different aspects of 18th century shipping methods to assure the highest profit. They are able to choose the convoy they wish to carry their items and must account for the length of the transactions as well as the potential dangers the convoy will face on the road. The player is able to influence this as much as they see fit, from protecting the caravan themselves or proactively liberating forts as a means of lessening the dangers on the road. With the money raised through trading and the services that are provided by Homestead settlers, players can expand Connor’s trading system even further, crafting more caravans and even naval ships, creating a miniature trading empire.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How important is Connor’s impact in the economic system in the game? What did you trade, with whom, and why? How big did your economy grow?
  • In what ways do we influence the economy every day? What parts of it don’t we control and why?