First off I want to say I enjoyed the game, and I'm still playing it, but there are so many things about it that frustrated me.
Join or Die Edition: What comes with this? In the box you get a medallion in a pouch, Washington's diary, an extra mission which is a side mission really, and some small multiplayer features, and a costume. None of them are vital to game and in all honesty i'm not sure why i bought this special edition. The diary is mildly interesting, and give some backstory to certain characters and Washington's life with some artwork. The medallion is...well it's a medallion not much to do with it really. Decoration? Anyway...
- The game isn't polished. This will be fixed in patches, but when I buy new game I expect it to be done! I experienced frame rate drops, graphics and resolution glitches, bugs in the environment and cutscenes where the character's won't be in sync with sound or their mouths won't move when they talk. Some of these aren't major but they're noticeable and take me out of the game a little.
- The story. Upon a first play through, I rushed through it rather fast, and it doesn't live up to previous AC stories. Some parts needed more explanation other final boss fights where underwhelming. Some missions, especially chase ones are extremely hard to get 100% sync on, which you need to unlock a costume and are more frustrating than fun. The worst part was definitely the ending. Massive disappointment. I think the story could have been longer and wrapped up some little loose ends or given up more choice- it was quite linear. You saw the epic trailers? You get to do none of that. The big battle sequences don't give you the freedom to approach how you like, you just sneak about the back, unlike how the trailer demonstrated. Other battles are reduced to point and shoot mechanics, which are rather dull. I did find the Desmond sequences quite fun, for once however. Connor, the main character however was boring and never got you emotionally invested in his story. You don't really like him as much as you should even though you try you never really connect with him. All in all it felt sub-par compared to Ezio's games. (Yes he had 3 games but even compared to the first one.
-The gameplay: In the previous games you recruited assassins by saving them. They could die on missions, but you could upgrade them and do small customisations. I liked that. Here they want you to feel more connected to your assassins so you have to do missions for them. It didn't really care much about them and it was a bit annoying to do so much just to get an assassin on your side. They can't die on missions which is good... I guess? But i use them a lot less than i did on previous games. Another part was the homestead, it's your home, and you have to do missions, which are enjoyable to get more people there and to be able to craft new things. But they took out the whole aspect of customising your home like you did in Ezio's games. Now you have this crafting system, which is good for certain things, like crafting an extra gun holster or weapon but apart from that completely useless. There's no real need for money in the in the game and you can do everything with what they give at the beginning because. There's also no more armour improvements. Getting money is harder as you don't get an hourly rate as you did before, but you have to send convoys which I haven't explored much but find a bit boring.
Side quests: As an assassin I expect to go around doing interesting side missions. There's some killing, but the assassination missions have been toned down to killing random soldiers, which is a bit underwhelming. And then there's mail man missions. I'm an assassin not postman pat! There's also brawler missions which are alright and collector missions which require you to hunt for furs or what not. There are frontiersman missions which are fun, but never lead to much.
Now the good points:
What I just said may have put you a bit off the game, but despite all of this I still enjoy it. The best thing they added was naval combat, it's great! They also have some side missions like the frontiersman ones and captain Kidd's treasure which are really fun. The new combat mechanics work really well and fighting is really fun with the new weapons they give you. The graphics are stunning and the world is massive. there aren't any massive beautiful cities and you spend less time on roofs, so the frontier is a nice change of pace, and the forest, though not perfect, does work rather well most of the time for free running. The prologue is really great and has an interesting twist. I think I had the most fun in the story when interacting with the character from the prologue. There were parts like these when I really enjoyed the story. It's a very immersive game, with the weather, the environment...really great whatever you do. Playing as Desmond was fun and there are a few easter eggs for readers of the comic books. I'm not a great fan of multiplayer but they've improved it and added new features. One downside to it is the online store where you pay real money to get credits to upgrade your character. Not necessary but faster. Apart from that it's great.
It's still an amazing game, a must play for any Assassins Creed fan. I'm not sure I would recommend it to a newcomer, as I still feel this game was a bit of a let down, and I would recommend Ezio's trilogy instead. Maybe my expectations were to high, but I felt they could have done more. There's not much incentive to do side missions or to craft and hunt or use the economic system in general. If you're on the fence about this game, it is worth paying for if you're a fan, but as a newcomer, you might want to borrow it off a friend.
So why am I giving 4 stars? Actually i'd give it 7.5/10 or 3.5 stars, but 4 stars is the closest it's gonna get.