Assassin's Creed III 1-Year Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - November 6, 2013
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Let's be honest with each other. Assassin's Creed III is not that good looking of a game overall, and we know why. Though it was released five years after the first game of the series, it was designed and built to run on the same console hardware. With five years it is possible to optimize algorithms and resource management to enable better looking graphics, but there is only so much optimization potential. Eventually you have to balance graphics against available hardware resources, and for this game, it appears, to me at least, that the scales have been tipped lower. Potentially this is because the developers decided to include many new special effects, and they each take resources that could have gone to other effects and elements. Jack of all trades, master of none, if you will.
Some textures and meshes do look pretty good, but largely they are mediocre at best. A close view of your model shows that a lot of detail is just from the textures, and not from the mesh. While this has been the case with the previous games, I personally see more detail in some of those older games than this one. The environment is no better, with many objects being completely and unnaturally polygonal with, again, a somewhat detailed texture to make it look real. At high speed, you may not notice these graphical deficits, but you are not always running, so you will spot them eventually.
Of course there are some special effects that have been added, to increase its immersion, such as foam and waves on the ocean, and snow that deforms as you walk on it. I have to admit, when you just look at the ocean, it is quite beautiful and real looking. Just do not look at a boat or ship cutting through it because, well, it is not actually cutting through it. Vessels look to be just pasted on top of the ocean, with some effects to blend them in, such as waves 'breaking' against hulls and foam trailing after. Those interactions are hardly realistic as the waves never actually climb up the ships' side, but instead volumes of mist of particles grow against the hull, and disperse in a rather unbelievable way. The ships also do not leave wakes where the water is churning behind the vessel; all you get is some foam on top of the water, which looks like nothing more than a partially transparent texture laid on top of the water. Even then, not all ships leave such a trail.
In some situations you will also find yourself trudging through snow, and while it does slow you down as you have to compress the powder beneath your feet, the graphics look little like the real substance. Really it looks like the most general animation for compressing snow as someone walks on top of it, and is repeated over and over, with different compressed-snow textures as you continue walking. Perhaps the effect was pre-rendered to save processing power on the consoles. Due to the relatively low polygon count for the crushed snow though, you will occasionally see solitary spikes of snow towering above the rest.
For the last bit about the graphics quality, we will look at my favorite graphical feature to compare in different games: fire. I love talking about fire because it is an element common to many games, but it is difficult to make realistic, and as such many games implement it in different ways. The most advanced and good-looking examples actually give the flames volume and life as they consume the flammables around them. The simplest and generally worst looking flames are just animated textures being rendered on a plane. Assassin's Creed III is a single step above the latter solution, as the animated texture is often rendered on curved meshes, and not just flat planes.
Of course, it should be pointed out that this game features a large, open world, so there are some necessary and/or expected reductions in graphics quality associated with the large map. This often means that there is a maximum distance details are rendered at, so when you are too far away, less complicated versions of in-game elements are shown instead. That distance appears to be roughly the same with that of the previous games
Time for performance, so here are my specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- PhysX: MSI GTS 250 1 GB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
With this build, I am able to play Assassin's Creed III at maximum settings with a framerate typically in the high fifties. There is some stuttering, but it looks like the stuttering you get from a system just not quite powerful enough, as opposed to a bad porting job. I personally do not think it was a particularly good porting job, but it is not bad (in its current state). I would say it appears it could have been optimized better for PC.
Now for some details of my experience that may not affect you at all, but I feel I must share it for two reasons. One is in case you do have a similar experience to mine, and the other is that it may have given me a negative bias for this review. I do my best to be objective and to provide you with as much information as I can, so you can make a decision instead of relying on my decisions or opinions.
I first got this game much closer to its original PC release and in time to write a review of it as a newly released game. However, it would crash whenever I attempted to start a new game, preventing me from playing the single-player. I scoured forums for help, contacted Ubisoft support, made sure it was patched, and nothing helped. Some months later it spontaneously allowed me to start a new game, but even then it was not smooth-sailing. It crashed within the first twenty minutes and I would estimate that it crashed at least once every two hours afterward. I do not mean that as an average of once every two hours, but that I could expect it to crash at least once during any two-hour gameplay session.
With the upcoming release of the next game in the franchise, I have reinstalled Assassin's Creed III (naturally) on my new computer, and have had a better, though still not perfect, experience. First the installation process from UPlay is not particularly streamlined. The installation files you download of Assassin's Creed III do not include any of the patches for it, so you must let the autopatcher download them… one at a time. Either the patches are not cumulative, or the autopatcher is not intelligent enough to find and install just the most recent. Either way, you will actually have to start the game to trigger the autopatcher, exit the game, and restart it multiple times until you are up to date. This only applies to the UPlay version of Assassin's Creed III though, so if you get a PC copy from Steam, you do not have to worry about this.
With the Steam copy though, you may still have to worry about the stability with a GPU overclock. If my NVIDIA GPU is overclocked, the game will eventually trigger a driver crash that will reset the overclock, which is applied by MSI Afterburner. If you also have an NVIDIA GPU and overclock it with a tool like Afterburner, I would recommend creating a non-overclocked profile for when you play this game. This appears to prevent those crashes.
Altogether, I am not particularly impressed with the graphics or the performance of the game, but at least it has not been as thoroughly frustrating as it was when I first attempted to play it. Assassin's Creed III quite apparently suffers from being a console port, which means PC gamers also suffer from it being a console port.