Assassin’s Creed 3 – Preview
Ubisoft often have a number of very good looking and well-polished games on show every year. This year, however, belongs to Assassin’s Creed 3. Set in the 30 years surrounding the American war of independence, AC3 brings the Assassin’s Creed story to a more modern age. The player takes on the role of Connor, a half Native American, half English assassin, who fights on the side of the Americans against the Templar influenced British Empire. Ubisoft promised a more brutal, powerful assassin in this game, and from first-hand experience I can tell you that they have certainly delivered.
Right from the start of the presentation Connor is running with a pack of deer through the snowy wilderness of northern America. Leaping from tree to tree, the developers wanted Connor to be as smooth navigating a living forest as Altiar and Ezio were traversing cities. This really worked well as Connor stalked his prey through, eventually reaching an area of long grass. This is a new feature to the series allowing the player to sneak up close to their target and take them out while remaining out in the open. After eventually taking down the deer with a new weapon, the bow and arrow, Connor is attacked by a pack of wolves. The developers wanted to make it clear that while there is this open world and animals play a big part in it, many of them will be hostile to you as a player. Bears, wolves and other animals may attack you while in the middle of missions.
In the demo we saw, Connor was tracking down the deer to complete a side mission to deliver fresh meat to a rebel camp. Within the large open world there will be a greater number of side missions to complete, anything from collecting meat to helping some rebel soldier storm a fort or ambush some troops. During the demo we found out that Connor is tasked with bringing down a Templar commander at a nearby fort and that he should try to make a stealthy approach to avoid raising the alarm and allowing said commander to flee. Traveling to the fort you really do get a sense of the scale of the new installment, even in this section of the game, that it’s a living world; people are traveling around, groups of rebel soldiers are holed up waiting for ambushes to take place and you are just one small part of it.
We saw a little part of the combat before we got to the fort. From a tree Connor uses the new rope dart to snag his first victim and descend into a crowd of muskets. The combat itself is incredibly smooth and the player will dart around between targets, killing multiple opponents and using some of them as meat shields to defend against musket fire. The heavier enemies take the form of the highlanders – big, kilt-wearing Scots. I’m ashamed to say I was hoping they would kill Connor, but then I’m just so damned patriotic.
Later in the demo we were shown some of the city of Boston, which had been lovingly recreated to a 1/3 scale for the game and included a number of historical buildings from the time. Here, Connor is given a side mission to free a man from a stockade. Interestingly, the quest giver on this side mission actually follows the player down an ally and distracts the first guard, allowing them to slip past and free her husband. We also got to see some of the chase and crowd mechanics, which have been updated for a more modern city. When blending in Connor will actually interact with the other NPCs around him, possibly taking part in any work they may be doing. While in a chase situation, for the first time ever, building internals come into play and Connor can escape by leaping through a building and onto the next street.
The heat was on after releasing the captive from the stockade so it was best to leave the city by boat. Patrols eventually ramp up, while the British try to hunt down the assassin. During the demo we were told to leave via a ship at the dock, but this would require getting past the customs area. Luckily a feature from Assassin’s Creed 2 returns – the assassin brotherhood, now called The Band. Here, your brothers-in-arms can be called to assist you in leaving the city, this time dressed as British soldiers and escorting you through the customs area. We were also shown a little of the naval combat, originally announced at the Microsoft conference earlier in the week; it is an incredible new feature and seems to play very well. The details were thin on the ground, but it will involve boarding, as seen in the trailers, and multiple ammunition types, like round shot and grape shot.
From what I’ve seen of the game, it is one of my highlights of E3. People who know me will know I’ve never been a huge fan of the games, but this blew me away. The gameplay mechanics, the new and refined features, mixed with an amazing storyline tied to true, modern historical events make this a must have for me.
Assassins Creed 3 is released in October this year and I, for one, can’t wait.
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