You Want A Revolution?
By now, you’ve no doubt heard that the Assassin’s Creed franchise will be returning with a new numbered entry come the holidays. It’s the next step for the world’s most popular blend of historical fiction, science fiction, stealth, open world gameplay, and hidden blades, so here’s a quick roundup of what we know about it thus far.
First of all, the Animus will be dropping you off in a completely different setting this time around. The plot still revolves around the war between the Assassins and the Templars, but several hundred years have passed, and the action has crossed the Atlantic to the New World. Leonardo da Vinci is long since dead and buried, but a new cast of historical figures will emerge to fill this gaping hole in the Assassin’s Creed soul: Rumors have included a staggering number of Revolutionary War-era figures, including everyone from the obvious (George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson) to some less prominent figures you might not remember from high school history (British general Charles Lee, famed American soldier Israel Putnam, British marine John Pitcairn). Despite its highly, er, Da Vinci Code -esque take on history, Assassin’s Creed has always tried to capture the personalities of important people, and the third entry will sit firmly in this tradition.
It will also feature a painstaking attention to visual detail. Boston, New York, Lexington, and Concord will be explorable, and Philadelphia will make an appearance as well. However, aside from basic landmarks, they won’t be recognizable. These cities have changed immensely since the Revolution, and while it’s not clear whether the developers recreated the colonial cities place-by-place, they did make sure to capture the overall look they had, in addition to all the major landmarks. In terms of sheer size, AC3 will be an enormous improvement over the previous games in the series, which themselves were not exactly small in scale.
The Animus will transport you into the body of your ancestor Connor Kenway, who’s half-English, half-Mohawk –his birth name is Ratohnhaké:ton—and becomes attracted to the fight for justice when his tribe is massacred. Kenway is an Assassin, of course, and his heritage combines with the game’s fiction to create an odd pattern of conflicts and loyalties: Kenway doesn’t seem to be a fan of white settlers regardless of whether they’re American or British, but he likes the idea of fighting British tyranny, and his loyalty to the Assassins probably trumps all else. While the story of Kenway’s childhood is a part of the tale, the game itself covers the three decades following the Revolutionary War. In terms of personality, Kenway offers a more even-keeled hero than did the loud-mouthed, arrogant Ezio.
The new setting inspires various much-needed changes to the gameplay. While the franchise has long been synonymous with the act of running across rooftops in densely populated cities, AC3 will put players on the American frontier in about one-third of the missions. In the wilderness, the seasons will matter like never before. You’ll need to carefully make your way through deep snow in the winter, for example, and the free-running style of movement has been adapted to make it more suitable for rock- and tree-climbing as opposed to building-scaling. (Even the controls for running are different: The right trigger/A button “Assassin’s Claw” grip has been replaced by a single button.)
Also, British soldiers are highly trained, and their weaponry and professional behavior will be a marked contrast with the old city guards. Muskets are incredibly deadly when fired in groups at a single target, so don’t expect to walk in front of a line of British soldiers without paying the price—but if you get in close enough, they’ll be forced to switch to their bayonets. Also, Revolution-era guns took forever to reload, so don’t plan on spraying lead like Rambo.
There will be other updates as well. A major focus for the developers has been to make the world feel more alive—people on the street will each have their own tasks to accomplish, and each new mission will be given to you in the form of a scene. You’ll no longer approach a mission-giver who’s just standing around waiting for you. The frontier has also received a lot of attention, and it will be filled with wildlife to hunt and settlements to explore.
The basic mechanisms of combat have reportedly been overhauled as well. Two-handed combat is new to the series, and new ways to kill will include ropes, tomahawks, bows and arrows, and even a dart on a string. The button configuration will be a little different, there will be new combos, and the camera system has been tweaked.
While Assassin’s Creed has never slacked in the graphics department, you can expect new things visually as well. The game is built from an entirely new engine called Anvil Next, and the developers have been working on AC3 for three years, reworking every little detail—they’ve said they want to ship Assassin’s Creed 3.5, not just a “first draft” of a new game. Supposedly, the new engine can handle several thousand characters on the screen at once (the old engine could handle 100), a feature that will come in handy when the time comes to depict massive battles. AC3 will even feature acting performances developed via motion capture, a la L.A. Noire.
Supposedly, there are plenty of other new features that haven’t been made public yet. There will be multiplayer, but we don’t know what kind. There will be some new version of the “Brotherhood” mechanism to help you attack enemies, but it’s not clear what that will look like. And so on.
Assassin’s Creed games are always worth getting excited over, but this one promises to be a step forward in a way that the last two games simply weren’t. This won’t feel like a DLC pack for Assassin’s Creed II. It will feel like it deserves the number after its name.
Naval Assassins On the High Seas
I’m on a boat. I’m on a boat. Take a good long look at the imaginary, reconstructed from my genetic memories… boat. This is what the E3 presentation of Assassin’s Creed III was all about. The floor demo itself was actually not very different from the PAX East demo that we saw a while back, however, many more details were revealed in the various assorted press conferences, meetings, and presentations. The biggest and most entertaining of all of these is the introduction of naval combat into the game. Connor, Assassin’s Creed III’s protagonist, gets to take command of a naval vessel at multiple times in the story, ordering a crew to slaughter his opponents on the high seas.
Why is this significant? Well, a while back we ran an Assassin’s Creed III speculation article about cannon warfare being introduced to the game. Turns out we were right: cannon warfare has indeed been added, and this is how. Connor’s ship will fire several different types of ammunition at his enemies, attempting to rend their sails, set their boats ablaze, and sink their ships in bloody military battles that extend beyond simple one on one assassination attempts. Being that one of the biggest advertised capabilities of the new Assassin’s Creed engine is the ability to render thousands of troops at the same time, we can probably expect ACIII to have many more gigantic military conflicts than any other Assassin’s Creed title in the past.
The first challenge of naval combat is contesting with the high seas. Boats aren’t exactly Ferraris, and navigating them around the high seas involves rapidly changing speeds, high winds, choppy waves, and of course, enemy boats that want to kill you. Once you manage to finally get control of your boat, your goal is to bring yourself up alongside your opponent. The game shows your cannon’s range extending off the side of your vessel as you sail. If you can keep your opponent in your sights long enough, you can attempt to fire a volley at your opponent. Firing a volley takes a moment to prepare, so be sure to time it right. Boats in Assassin’s Creed III take positional damage, so aiming well will be important. Take out a boat’s sails and you will stop it dead in its tracks. Take chunks off of its side and it will be unable to fire volleys back at you. Finally, if you manage to blow gigantic holes in its underside, you’ll sink it altogether.
Of course, your goal isn’t only to sink your opponents. The game will at times task you with boarding your opponent instead. To board an opponent you have to cripple their boat without sinking it and then pull up right alongside it. This initiates a cinematic sequence where your troops take up arms and tether the opponent’s boat to yours. Then, Connor and his troops will jump from one boat to the next, ready for battle. Though we didn’t actually see the battle after that, an Ubisoft rep said that there will be many battles where Connor is backed up by troops rather than fighting alone.
Boats, as awesome as they are, aren’t the only new Assassin’s Creed III information dropped at E3. Ubisoft also showed off Connor’s ability to utilize his brotherhood of assassins in the middle of land-based missions. One simple whistle and a bunch of allies come to Connor’s side. They can be used for all sorts of things, from fighting in gigantic melees to simply increasing the size of a crowd, making it harder for enemies to follow Connor.
Ubisoft recently unveiled Assassin’s Creed III Liberation, a brand new Assassin’s Creed game for the Vita. Assassin’s Creed III Liberation puts the player in control of a brand new female protagonist in the same time period as Connor, and apparently it is very likely that their paths will cross. The games will share special connectivity, allowing players to unlock new characters, costumes, and other content should they own both Assassin’s Creed III and Liberation. A brand new white PSP is being made for the release of Assassin’s Creed III Liberation, and bundle packs for both Liberation and Assassin’s Creed III are coming, offering a PSP and a PS3 together with each game respectively.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed III is unlike any other Assassin’s Creed game we have seen before. Previous games have focused on the singular antics of one assassin against the Templars, but this game focuses on war and everything that is contained therein. There still isn’t a whole lot of the game that has been available in playable demo form, and plot details are still being kept under wraps. However, in spite of all this, playing Connor has been much more fun than playing either Ezio or Altair due to the many options he has. While the Assassin’s Creed formula had started to get old in recent days, Assassin’s Creed III might be just what the franchise needs in order to breathe life back into it.