GAMEPLAY PT. 1 – CONTROL IMPROVEMENTS
The greatest strength of Assassin's Creed III lies in the changes it has implemented to the gameplay. Controls have always been a weak point for the franchise, and though all the elements worked somewhat decently for a well-acquainted player, they've never been top notch. Simply controlling your character's body used to be a convoluted mess in previous games, with different buttons controlling different body parts, and a high/low profile button switching the actions performed by these buttons for other ones. In ACIII, everything has been simplified – the left mouse button attacks, the right one runs, space is jump and E does everything else; from blocking attacks to looting bodies to dropping off a ledge (and of course, similar changes have been made to gamepad controls). If you're used to the old controls it'll take a while (a short while) to get used to the new control scheme, but once you do, you'll notice everything is much more streamlined and easier to use, while losing none of the functionality.
The free-running mechanic has also been overhauled through the removal of the space bar: In previous games, the right mouse button made the character run and by also pressing space you made the character free-run. This meant that to climb a surface, you needed a total of three keys and buttons pressed at once. The space bar is no longer needed. You'll free-run automatically whenever you run towards a climbable surface. The biggest advantage to this change is that the space bar is no longer double bounded to both the free-run and the jump function. In previous games, it was quite frequent that a player would accidentally leap off a building, falling to their death, because the game confused whether you wanted to free-run up a structure or kill yourself (why it would ever assume you'd want to die mid-climb is beyond me).
Overall, controls have been improved, leading to more exciting battles!
Lastly, the combat mechanics have been reworked too. Previous games in the series received a lot of criticism for stale and dull combat, which quite honestly, was poorly designed from just about every angle. The mechanics used to revolve around "focusing" on a target, and then attacking, dodging, countering or breaking the stance of the enemy. In the vast majority of battles, this surmounted to being in the center of a circle of enemies, who all took turns attacking you one at a time, and then, at the right moment pressing the counter key for an insta-kill. In addition, the idea of focusing on an enemy meant you couldn't move in and out of battle with ease – your camera became fixed and your movement altered to solely deal with the battle at hand. This naturally caused a lot of trouble for players who wanted to run, rather than fight. I have a friend who was so disappointed at the old combat system that he gave up on AC1. The new system focuses the camera on the battle, but doesn't lock you into the fight or onto a specific character – you're free to move about in any way you wish. In addition, though you can still counter, the battles are much more fluid, and enemies don't stand around taking turns attacking you. Also, the introduction of various new battle elements, such as firing squads, force you to react quicker and take a more active part in the gameplay. As an example, the firing squads I mentioned require you to quickly grab a human shield to protect yourself from their shots. Ultimately, the battles feel more alive, and your victories feel more earned than before.