[Minor spoilers, specifically the first paragraph after the third picture.]
I recently finished playing Assassin's Creed III, so I thought I would write about my impressions of the game. Please note that this isn't a review per se, but rather certain things that I wanted to mention in greater detail than others.
Let's start on a positive note, shall we? Although much of the first half of the game is pretty boring, and as you may have heard, feels like your hand is being held (the game has a glorified tutorial as the prologue character, then when you first play as Connor, once Connor is a young adult, and even once he becomes an assassin), the game really becomes brilliant and opens up at Sequence 6 or 7 (of 12). For example, one of the last missions in Sequence 7 requires you to assassinate this Redcoat commander in the middle of a heavily guarded and patrolled camp. Although this mission could easily be accomplished by simply rushing in, killing every guard on site, and shoving your hidden blade through the target, the game offers "optional objectives", which encourage a much more stealthy play style. The optional objectives, which give "full synchronization", were to kill no more than three regular guards and to air assassinate the commander without being detected. It really encouraged me to think more before I killed him, and although it took me considerably longer to complete the mission, it was really rewarding, as each time I died, I learned from my mistake, observing certain patrol routes and knowing exactly when to hide and when to pounce. It was especially rewarding (and ironic), as to air assassinate him you must leap from atop a Union Jack flag.
Furthermore, I can only imagine, as I am not American, the feeling of epic that many of you had in such moments as replacing a UK flag with The Stars and Stripes, seen for the first time in the game, atop the mast of a ship, before Connor does his iconic Leap of Faith. Moments like this replicate the feeling of liberty and freedom.
One of the brilliant parts of the game was the freedom in the frontier - just running around, hunting and exploring, tree-climbing, which is fantastic, and even finding a camp fire, sitting down with “Frontiersmen”, and stumbling upon a little side quest, such as investigating a haunted lighthouse, or as is the case with “The Hunting Society”, tracking and killing a famous Black Bear, rare Bobcat or mystical deer. Hunting is pretty fun in and of itself, but after a while gets boring, as you are just shooting your bow-and-arrow, leaving bait and snares or air assassinating wildlife. At first it feels awesome, and it is pretty rewarding to stalk a deer for a little while before pouncing on it from above, but the main purpose of it is for resources, which grants you money.
This brings me to crafting, which is a system that lets you use resources from hunting and from purchasing from residents of the Homestead to make consumables, such as arrows, poison darts, smoke bombs, bait, snare etc. This is pretty pointless, as you can just go hunting, find any merchant, and sell all the fangs, claws, teeth, skin, hide and hearts so you can buy new weapons. I ended up hunting for around 2 hours halfway through the game, as I was doing a “Hunting Challenge” (which surmounts to killing animals in various ways) set by the aforementioned Hunting Society, and sold all the goods for around £6000, which afforded me new weapons, as well as the lovely Charleston Assassin Uniform (unfortunately it doesn't appear in cutscenes).
Still, the exploration was done very well, as stumbling upon Frontiersmen/Hunting society/Homestead missions were fairly exciting and rewarding.
Again, I'm sure you've heard that Connor's personality can be described as ‘a bit grumpy’ throughout the game, and that his lines are delivered dryly in cutscenes; this is only made worse by the fact that the prologue character is far more charismatic and interesting. It's a real shame that the more charismatic playable character has the worse gameplay, due to it being the beginning of the game, so it's still in 'handcuff mode', and as Connor has the superior and exciting new skillset - tree-climbing, the use of a bow-and-arrow, and hunting. In fact, some of the best parts of the game are when the game has stopped becoming condescending, and the prologue character is reintroduced as an NPC in the main narrative.
Away from the story, and now to a very specific problem I had, which was the weapon wheel. Switching weapons and tools is horribly designed - it takes 2-3 seconds for the wheel to come up, due to a transition screen, rather than just having an instant wheel over the gameplay, as it did in previous entries. This may sound like me nitpicking (nitpicking would be the number of bugs, such as falling through the map), but this issue wastes time, and generally discourages players from using various tools and experimenting with them. Due to this, I didn't discover the 'horse whistle' tool until halfway through the game, although I must say, the horse whistle is an incredibly useful tool to cross the vast Frontier.
The large wheel is from Brotherhood, and the smaller one is the new weapon wheel.
One of the biggest problems with the game is that it doesn't start until around 5 hours after it "starts", but once it does properly start, the game is excellent, and if you're patient, is definitely worth it.