Reviewing HD remakes is tricky. Somewhat obviously, the original release of the game clearly did well enough, at least commercially, to warrant another visit all these years down the line. But in the intervening time, a lot has changed. A lot has been said about the game too, with initial reviews and fan response flooding the internet before having time to develop and grow. In many cases, this shapes the future installments in the series, as weaknesses are identified and erased.
If you were to pick a prime example of this trend, it probably would be our subject today, Assassin’s Creed 3. Originally arriving when the series was at its peak, off the back of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed Ezio trilogy, reviews were a mixed bag. A less interesting protagonist and the oddly paced story dragged down an interesting game world and satisfying control scheme.
Over the following 7 years, the story of the series has followed a similar trajectory. Black Flag is pretty much universally considered to be a superior game, receiving an immediate re-release on the next generation of consoles, whilst more modern entries have ranged from mediocre to completely franchise-altering.
Unfortunately, this Nintendo Switch remaster does little to warrant justification. Basically, all I can say is that what could have been improved upon has been, but the core problems still persist. Things just feel a little outdated, none more so than the game’s introduction. Plowing through hours of notoriously complicated modern-day plot and colonial America exposition feels more grinding than ever upon a revisit, souring your taste with the game before you’re even introduced to the main protagonist.
When you finally do get control of Connor, things do become more interesting and fluid. Come on, it’s classic Assassin’s Creed, you know what to expect by now. It is undeniably joyous to freerun through trees, sneak up on human and animal prey alike, or slash through soldiers with your tomahawk. Personally, I always preferred the Arkham-style combat seen in the early Creed games to the more RPG-bases system we’ve seen implemented in recent entries, but I have to admit you can feel the absence of some of the deeper tactical elements the latter affords.
Similarly, modern improvements hurt this title elsewhere too. Most notably, the naval warfare has been developed so much that heading back to Connor’s homestead feels clunky and basic in comparison. Once this intrigue of variety has been taken away, there really isn’t much reason to interact with this optional portion of the game.
One inescapable aspect of a remaster is the graphical tweaks. Again though, the predominant feeling provided by Assassin’s Creed 3 is that of being underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the title looks good on the Switch, benefitting from enhanced textures and animations, plus always running at a smooth frame rate in both docked and handheld mode. Equally, it’s still impressive to take part in expansive civil war battles, and quieter indoor moments feel more personal; there’s just not much to write home about.
With the worry that I’m coming across too negatively in this review, I want to make it explicit that this is by no means a bad game. The experience itself is good fun, many hours passed me by as I built my arsenal and completed mission after mission; I just can’t really see who was asking for this. It’s the kind of game you dreamt about being able to take on the go, in its day. Now, with the likes of Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild available on the same console, it’s obvious what you should choose to spend your money on.
You certainly get your money’s worth, at least. The remaster comes bundled with all the DLC from the original game, including the bizarre yet enjoyable Tyranny of King Washington (which sees the historical figure become corrupted by the Apple of Eden and Connor adopt animals powers to stop him… yes seriously), as well as Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, originally released for the PS Vita. These mix up the gameplay nicely, away from your usual follow then fight script, allowing for more gratifying action and mission structure.
Overall then, Assassin’s Creed 3: Remastered is a nice addition to the Switch’s library, if an unnecessary one. If nothing else, it’s nice to see the system expanding its catalog to include more adult titles. In terms of the actual experience you’re purchasing though, this game is certainly showing its age. It was always a strange choice, being the black sheep of last generation’s Creed games, and I’m afraid it’s something I can only really recommend to this desperate to revisit Connor’s story, instead of a must-have addition.