Age of Empires has been the staple of the RTS genre for decades. It is followed closely by Starcraft and the Command & Conquer series. Ever since, AOE came out in 1997 and garnered a fanbase that could not be erased by time. Over the last several years, developer Forgotten Empires was tasked with creating definitive editions for the 3 games made by Ensemble Studios. However, something was different with the release of the new AOE3 Definitive Edition this year.
In an unprecedented move, FE decided to effectuate what can only be described as a minimum effort PR stunt. To understand the context, we first must understand some concepts from AOE3.
Unlike previous games in the series, AOE3 gained its uniqueness from a mechanic that cannot be found in any other RTS game. This is known as the home city. Each civilization has one, and it is your base of operations from your homeland. They act to give you reinforcements and benefits as you progress not only through a match, but through multiple playthroughs. They serve as a means of progression so that every match feels like you’re continuing towards an end goal. This will be important for later.
The base game came with 8 European civilizations. Its first expansion, the Warchiefs, came out almost a year later to the day of the base game. It featured 3 Native American civilizations. A year later, 3 more civilizations were added via the Asian Dynasties expansion. Furthermore, there are 22 “minor” civilizations within the game. They’re mostly Native American or Asian, that you can ally with in certain circumstances for benefits and reinforcements. Its similar to the home city as a game mechanic but more focused on your specific match.
For the definitive edition, FE took it upon themselves to correct “stereotypes and inaccurate representation” within the game. This would be fine by itself. But the absolute bare minimum effort that was put into this policy is what makes it clear to be no more than than a marketing ploy. The game was now up to 16 official civilizations. With 2 new ones introduced in the DE, there are plenty of stereotypes and inaccuracies to go around. However, FE only decided they would correct 2 of them. They changed the name of the Sioux civilization to Lakota, and the Iroquois Confederacy to the Haudenosaunee. Why? To provide “Authentic and Respectful representation” and call them how they would have called themselves during the era. They also renamed a native american building, the Fire Pit, to the Community Plaza. And that’s entirely it.
Beyond that, the lack of effort is instantly apparent. One of the 9 campaigns within the game is entirely about the Iroquois Confederacy during the Seven Year War. They couldn’t even be bothered to change the voicelines from Iroquois to Haudenosaunee. So, there are still plenty of instances you’ll hear the “incorrect and unauthentic” original voicelines.
The same happens with the Sioux, though they don’t have their own campaign. They only show up in select missions during the Knights of Saint John campaign. They couldn’t even get the only two civilizations they changed right. Let alone the glaring disparities in all the other civilizations. For example, the Dutch would have called themselves Nederlanders during this time period, but that was overlooked. They’re also stereotyped in game as being good with money. One of their civilization bonuses is the unique ability to build banks. The worst offenders are by far the Asian civilizations. They are filled with stereotypes but didn’t get the PR stunt treatment. Why? Because Asia wasn’t the focus market for the game to be sold in.
If they wanted to bring more representation to the game? They could have easily done this via the previously mentioned Home Cities. All 8 European home cities had a high degree of customization that you unlocked as you leveled up with that civilization. However, the 3 Warchiefs civs, the 3 Asian Dynasty civs, and the 2 newly released DE civs do not have any customization whatsoever. This puts them at a severe imbalance with the original civs. Being able to customize your native tribe should be the bare minimum in helping with representation. As it stands there is a huge discrepancy between even the Swedish home city and the other Europeans who were introduced in the base game.
Oh yeah I almost forgot 2 important points.
There’s 4 native american civilizations in game but they only remade the North American ones. Because again south america isn’t the focus market. Though to be fair, 1 of the 2 South American civs were introduced in DE. But they play almost the same as the Aztecs who were the other south American civ already in game untouched.
Also, they hired one native american consultant. This one person is supposed to know the history of both the Lakota (Wyoming-SD area) and every tribe in the Iroquois Confederacy (New York-Great Lakes area). As if they’re going to be able to be experts on tribes who aren’t their own. This is the equivalent of asking a Korean to explain the history of Japan. Just because they’re Asian so they must know about all things from Asia.
Despite what some online comparisons indicate, the remaster is the superior version of the game.
Let’s preface this one differently. I was a big Assassin’s Creed fan but AC3 greatly reduced my love for it. And Unity murdered it. When I played that game all those years ago, I was disappointed on all fronts. I was also setting really high expectations that could not be reached. And I wanted to beat the game before the real life “December 21, 2012” end of the word scenario so I rushed through all of it. Hated the difficulty, the setting was underused, Connor wasn’t a good protagonist, and lots of bugs and grievances with the detection settings for NPCs.
Well, I either completely sucked back then, or Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a much better experience. This re-release comes with a remaster of Liberation HD (a remaster of a remaster?) as well. This remaster came out March 29, 2019 and either is free with your Assassin’s Creed Odyssey season pass or in the store for $40. The season pass for Odyssey costs $40 so you have almost no reason to not have that marvel of a game and its DLC packs. So, is it worth a revisit after so many years? Or perhaps, for those who haven’t played it, a decent entry?
There will be a video on this in the near future but this title is the subject to a bit of controversy. If you look for graphical comparisons on Youtube, you will see that some of them imply it to be superior, yet others imply that it is worse. Whether it is misrepresenting the game on purpose or not, this review is from the “Xbox One X” version of the game, so the most graphically powerful console release. I can personally confirm that the release is highly superior in the graphical department. With the exception of a handful of faces, you’re getting better looks across the entire board. You have better color with HDR, lively landscapes, and incredible textures.
You can’t really change an entire story in a remaster, can you? What you CAN do is try to engage your player more this time around. AC3 tells the story of… Haytham Kenway? Yes, the game pulls a reverse Metal Gear Solid 2. A sizeable chunk of the game has you playing as a character who is completely absent from all of the marketing materials. After a while, you do finally get to Connor or Kanien’kehá:ka (don’t try to pronounce it, just give up). The problem with this character is the game gives him a very rich setup due to the events of the first hours of gameplay. Yet at every turn, Connor manages to remain as dull as humanly possible. More on that in audio.
The other issue is that the setting doesn’t really do a good job at expressing the ins and outs of the Revolutionary War. Sure, there’s a lot of text you can read, but in terms of the game on its own, you basically just jump in and out of several world-famous events. Funnier is that it implies that Connor was at the front of all of them. Paul Revere? Connor? Boston Massacre? Connor. Boston Tea Party? Connor. The freaking battle at Chesapeake Bay? Connor.
Really stretching the believability, but then again this series more firmly expresses itself as alternate history. This makes the second time around a lot more enjoyable. Not to mention, I personally was able to focus more on a lot of content I had to pass on because I was so eager to finish.
It’s not every day you come across a voice actor who is a direct descendant of American indigenous tribes with a fine understanding of their languages, but here we are. Noah Watts, of the Blackfeet nation, voices our protagonist Connor. He speaks English and… not English. #OnlyTheFacts | Now, as said before, Connor is a dry and wooden protagonist. This is really not the fault of the actor. The dialog given for his character contains little in the way of flair or emotion. He speaks very directly at all times. He comes in two flavors, deliberate and agitated. That’s it. The rest of the cast wasn’t too great either. As for SFX? They’re mediocre. Nothing wrong about them but nothing to grab your attention.
I must make it painstakingly clear though, this game has one of the GREATEST original scores in the entire Assassins Creed franchise. That genuinely made the game a good experience overall. Quite emotional too, making up for some of the acting.
So, at the time it came out, AC3 had a bit of a difficult learning curve. A lot of the combat mechanics, controls, and gameplay style of the game change in the transition from the Ezio trilogy to III. However, coming directly off of AC: Odyssey, the game is retroactively easier to come to grips with. If anything, the game feels more limited. No dedicated stealth mode button. Combat is the old style of “counter-attack kills” that were prominent in most of the series. The simplicity of the game in comparison to the new game actually made it feel a bit more streamlined. It was almost arcade-like to play this game after every game we’ve had since.
It also seems as thought a lot of changes streamline the overall experience. Some redundancies were eliminated. Enemy detection appeared to be slower. The ship combat was easier to handle. Every step of the way, quality of life improvements are there, on every front. Oh, and the load times, those are some short load times. Especially for fast traveling and desynchronizing.
The fact that I took my time to play through more of the game is a very big deal. This time around, I bothered to unlock all the fast travel locations in the underground. It was a bit grindy, but manageable. The silly “homestead” missions actually felt like they were worth the time. That is despite the fact that the “convoy” system of the game was an absolute waste of time and needlessly complicated. I did all the district liberations and recruited all 6 support assassins. I did several of the optional naval battles. Not everything could be helped. The almanac pages are still dumb, as are all of the other fetch items the game throws at you. But I must stress that above all else, I had a much, MUCH better time playing this game again. I was supposed to be playing other games, yet I kept coming back to this re-release time and time once more.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a huge improvement on the original iteration. Between the streamlining of gameplay elements, the simplicity, and the visual quality? This is a good remaster that has been released at exactly the right moment. If it has been a while since you last played, give it another shot. If you’ve never played it, also give it a shot. And ignore the real world plot, it’s still crap.
If I find time, I would like to play the Tyranny of King Washington DLC as well as Liberation, but that will have to wait.