There's an Assassin's Creed game available on the Nintendo Switch! Unfortunately, Assassin's Creed III Remastered is not the series at its best. A Switch port was a strange choice from the start, putting one of the least popular games in the series onto one of the least powerful gaming machines around today. That said, it could have worked. It could have given an over-hated game a second chance with a new audience, by making a few concessions that Switch owners are already used to making. The problem is that it sacrifices more than it should.
Who Is This Port For?
Assassin's Creed III throws players right into the middle of an ongoing story. That seems obvious considering whole "III" thing, but consider this: no previous AC game is available on Switch. So if you're one of the many who got a Switch as their first console or first console in years, you're going in blind. The rest of us may remember something of Desmond Miles, an angsty guy who discovers he's the heir to a lineage of freedom fighters called Assassins. We also remember that AC III ends his story, effectively ending a chapter of the franchise as a whole.
This creates a huge issue for the Switch port before you even open the box. The way I see it, there are two types of people who would consider buying this game. The first are those who just game occasionally. They will get this game as a gift or buy it for the nice $40 price tag. This might be their first Assassin's Creed game. They will be very confused by the sudden insertion to the story. They can skip cutscenes, sure, but AC III has a fairly lengthy tutorial that will probably bore them before they get to the good stuff.
The other potential customers for this remastered Switch port are fans of the series. Many of these people probably played AC III on its first release, and don't want to relive the experience. Those who do want to give it another chance with all the updates should get it on PS4, Xbox One, or PC. Those more powerful platforms will better showcase the "remastered" part of the game.
Basically, I'm saying the number of people who really need to play AC III and only have a Switch is probably very low.
In all fairness to Ubisoft, I'm not a business or marketing major. The appeal of anything Assassin's Creed on Switch and the low price might push a lot of sales. Nintendo has been seeing a renaissance of third-party and indie support, so maybe this was Ubisoft's way of chiming in since there's no way they could port AC Odyssey.
So let's get to the part where I tell you how the game performs. It's... not great. It does look better than the original release. There's a noticeable upgrade to environment and clothing textures. Animations are still stiff, but the developers could only do so much with a 2012 game.
One unique thing the Switch port does is add touchscreen functions in handheld mode. This is a game where you're checking the map a lot, so having it quickly pop up with a tap is beyond convenient.
The price you pay for that convenience, however, is a lot of crashing. The game suddenly closed on me several times, and not even during the intense sections where you'd think it would. It loaded giant battles or new maps just fine, but would crash when I was just going around town climbing buildings. It also crashed twice when I tried to take the game from dock to handheld play. Which is particularly troubling because that's kind of the Switch's whole thing. Although I should note the effect was more pronounced when playing Liberation.
Two Assassin Adventures For The Price Of One
That brings us to what I think is the greatest feature of Assassin's Creed III Remastered. The game is actually two games in one, AC III and Assassin's Creed Liberation. Liberation holds a special place in franchise history. It was the first AC game to have a female protagonist. Its story tackles heavier themes like slavery and race, for those who want games to be more serious. For those who don't care, Liberation still offers a unique mechanic in guises. Aveline, the protagonist, can don three outfits. By looking like a lady, a slave, or an Assassin, she can infiltrate certain areas and interact with people in different ways.
The big problem with Liberation was that it released on the Vita, a handheld no one but the most faithful PlayStation fans bought. So it's a very smart move on Ubisoft's part to bundle Liberation into Assassin's Creed III Remastered. For the most part, Liberation is a great fit for the Switch, itself a part-time handheld. It will look slightly better on other platforms, but there's only so much upgrading a Vita game can get. The difference between the Switch port and others isn't as pronounced as it is with AC III.
Sadly, as I alluded to earlier, Liberation isn't the most stable game. It crashed on me several times. It crashed when I took it out of the dock to go handheld, which is a serious offense for a Switch game. It also just feels like a dated game in general. Character animations are awkward and the environments are noticeably sparse. Assassin's Creed superfans will still want to experience this unique entry in the franchise, but it won't be winning over new players.
For various reasons, there are gamers out there who want to try Assassin's Creed but don't have access to PlayStation, Xbox, or PC. The problem on Ubisoft's end is that they try to go bigger with each entry, to the point where they could never feasibly work on Nintendo consoles. It seems the solution they've settled on is to port a much older game.
I do give some leeway to Assassin's Creed III Remastered for being an old game on a system that has to be handheld. Even with this understanding, however, I couldn't help but wonder why it crashed as often as it did. For fans, the bundle might be worth it for Liberation alone. I'd just urge you to find a way to play it on a different platform.
A copy of Assassin's Creed III Remastered Switch was given to TheGamer by Ubisoft. It's available now.
2.5 Out Of 5 Stars