Alice: Madness Returns is the much anticipated follow up (by me, anyway) to 2000’s PC/Mac game American McGee’s Alice – the dark and gritty telling of Alice’s post-Looking Glassadventures in what has now become a twisted version of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The original game had Alice following an anorexic, pierced Cheshire Cat around a grotesque Wonderland, presumably due to Alice’s inclement insanity, slashing her way through the Red Queen’s guards amongst other familiar faces from Carroll’s universe with a bloody knife, and the sequel delivers more of the same.
Assassin’s Creed III is not without it’s flaws, but one major component that isn’t getting enough attention is the exemplary naval combat. Early in the campaign Conner is tasked with the retrieval and refurbishment of a dilapidated warship. Soon, after a few easy to accomplish missions, Conner takes the helm of his very own ship, the Aquilla. It dawned on me as I was sailing that I hadn’t really played a game that simulated naval combat in ages (maybe even as far back as Sir Meier’s Pirates). What I thought would turn out to be an annoying “mini-game”, ended up becoming my favorite part of Assassin’s Creed III. Shiver me timbers!
Take The Helm: While seemingly simplistic, there is actually a whole lot to AC3’s naval combat. The Aquilla must constantly be mindful of the weather and wind direction, which are visible on the HUD. The ship speed can be altered by setting the sails to no sail, half sail, or full sail, but the faster the Aquilla goes, the less maneuverable she becomes. Cannons can be fired from both your port and starboard sides (that’s ship speak for left and right) and smaller cannons (the ladies) can be fired in 360 degrees to deliver a precise killing blow to a wounded vessel. Expensive, but awesome, additions can be purchased for the Aquilla, like a battering ram and a variety of different shells for your cannons. The explosions look so damn pretty, and it never ever gets old.
Avast!: In terms of variety, there are a ton of different sailing missing to pass your time in between sessions of red coat slaughter, from scouting and destruction, to escort and protection. After about 30 hours with ACIII, no two missions have really felt the same, and that’s just incredible. On rare occasions you’ll have the option of taking down the mast of an enemy ship in order to board the enemy vessel to deal with the enemy crew… personally.. with pointy stuff..
Quite possibly the biggest triumph of AC3’s ship combat is how surprisingly well it all fits into the story. You would think that a half Native American assassin would have no place on the deck of a pirate ship, but it all makes sense and feels incredibly organic. Conner’s relationship with Robert Faulkner, his first mate, is one of my favorites in the game and (Faulker is actually voiced by Kevin McNally who played portrayed Joshamee Gibbs, the first mate aboard the Black Pearl in the Pirates of the Carribean series) I find myself actually caring a lot about the Aquilla and her crew. Personally, I would love to see Ubisoft put out an entire game using what they have accomplished here.