Assassin’s Creed 3′s Mistake

I want to start out this post by saying that I truly love the Assassin’s Creed series. I love the story, some of the characters are amazing, and the gameplay (while sometimes awkward) is a stunning amount of fun. I love getting totally immersed and exploring the world. My average play session starts with me doing a handful of actual missions, then ditzing around whatever city I’m in, collecting trinkets, jumping off buildings, and occasionally going on a homicidal rampage. What can I say? Even wandering around in these games can be fun.

That being said, there’s one thing that Assassin’s Creed 3 has done that really bothers me: “optional objectives.”

For every mission you do, there are a handful of “optional objectives” that make it more challenging. They vary based on the mission, and a third of the way through the game, I’m not sure what the point is aside from cheevos.

Now, I’m all about adding challenges. That’s awesome. However, these can’t be turned off or hidden. They’re always there, staring at me when I’m trying to focus on something else. If I succeed the mission but don’t complete the objectives, I get these red ‘X’s in the corner of the screen making me feel like I’ve done something wrong. I’m dragged out of my immersion, and am made to think about how I’m supposed to do the mission vs how I’m actually doing the damn thing. I’m worried about checking off those boxes instead of worrying about how Connor will get out of this one, or why he’s being attacked – the mission is reduced to numbers and checkboxes rather than saving The President or assassinating that Templar.

I want my first playthrough of a game to be as immersive as possible. The first time through, I’m playing it for the plot. The second time, I’m probably playing it for the cheevos. So let me hide the optional objectives – give me the option to squirrel them away for later, when I want more challenge. This time around, let me play in peace.

  • http://mediocritycodex.blogspot.com/ Timothy Hsu

    Ok, I get your point Caitlin, but I disagree (again!). But don’t take it personally!

    My first reaction to the “full sync bonus” notices that started popping up in 2 and on were actually completely opposite to yours, because AC has always done a GREAT job weaving things like this into the story. I’ll agree that the UI implementation of it is heavy-handed and clumsy, but it’s a COOL IDEA! What is said cool idea, you say?

    Maybe you already know, (and you don’t care, but I do, and I DO CARE) but all of the sequences in the Animus are considered memories. The whole point of traversing these memories is to “unlock” the mysteries within them, like doing mental imagery, or motor imagery but on a ridiculously intense scale. The idea of the “full sync bonus” is that traversing the memory in the exact same way as your ancestor did it is more powerful than just doing it any ‘ole way. By completing these seemingly arbitrary objectives, you are in fact RELIVING THE LIVES OF YOUR ANCESTORS (down to the step! or the stab, rather), which in turn raises all these crazy awesome issues of genetic memory, protein degradation, neural maps, and virtual motor imagery! So while in “game language” these objectives are indeed pointless and arbitrary, narratively and metanarratively, they’re CRUCIAL to understanding the whole point of the animus system in the first place and the whole point of Desmond’s importance!

    If you want me to elaborate on this I might humor you. Might. But I think you get my point.

    • http://twitter.com/DireMuffin DireMuffin

      I totally understand where you’re coming from – from a plot standpoint, this totally makes sense.

      I guess I just think the in-game UI implementation is poorly done, to the point at which I’m angry at the developers behind the damn thing, rather than Connor for being picky.

      Based on what you’re saying, the developers are ruining my immersion in order to improve my immersion? It doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t well done. All I want is an option to shut it up – so that if I just want to play, it’ll let me. Later, if I want to go through exactly as Connor did, and exactly as the devs want me to, I can turn the option on and go crazy.

      • http://mediocritycodex.blogspot.com/ Timothy Hsu

        That would have been a better way of doing it. And yes, the developers broke your immersion by adding more immersion.

  • M.H. Little

    I have to agree with Caitlin.

    I don’t mind optional objectives that further the plot and correlate with the character’s story (i.e. “don’t kill anyone but… or kill a platoon w/o being shot.”). However, in ASC3 the developers have simply added too many pointless challenges that just take away from the gameplay. Two great examples are: “Destroy three ships using their powder reserves, and tackle the officer from above.” There’s no point to these challenges and some don’t even make sense. For the first example there’s no context like a bet between Conner and Mr. Faulkner and in the latter Conner kidnaps a would be snitch in front of 5 or 6 alerted soldiers and the game just moves to a cutscene. Some other problems are bugs and ally AI/environmental factors. The game is so buggy it can be unnecessarily challenging to complete the optional objectives, and in some cases (esp. naval missions) the environment or ally AI wreaks havoc on your targets before you can achieve the extra objective. In some instances the ally AI simply can’t navigate the environment effectively. In any event this means constantly reloading checkpoints and not playing the game.

    Which brings me to this: why did the developers spend so much time making missions like “The Encyclopedia of Man and The Wedding” but couldn’t bother to deal with bugs that plague the basic core game mechanics and combat system? Getting bayonetted in the back because Conner perches on a one foot crate like it’s an unsafe jump area instead of hopping over said crate is not my idea of a good time. Enemy AI can inexplicably sees through solid objects, riding a horse is like using a shopping cart with two bad wheels, and sometimes Leaps of Faith simply don’t work (splat). The list goes on and on and on. This is even more frustrating considering how close to perfect the core mechanics were in ASC Revelations. I’ll also add that Haytham’s AI is so good it’s almost like a second player, which makes the other AI related bugs even more puzzling.

    Lastly, I play free-roam adventure games for the freedom of creating an adventure I (more or less) choose and for the story, and for FUN. AS3′s optional objectives combined with all the bugs have turned what could have been a great game into a single play-through disappointment.