When Ubisoft announced that Assassin’s Creed III would move away from its Mediterranean setting to the American Revolution, I was skeptical. The American setting was missing the years of rich history and culture that Jerusalem and Renaissance Italy have. Most of colonial America consisted of forests and trees; elements that didn’t seem to fit the established Assassin’s Creed gameplay.
The demo I saw focused on the frontier — my exact area of concern — and erased any reservations that I previously held about the game’s setting. The world, including the frontier, looks and handles great. Worried about not having buildings in the frontier? Ubisoft completely overhauled their parkour system to include the neat tree walking experience. Connor jumps and walks along the trees just as if they were rooftops for the other assassins. The climbing surfaces now have 3D elements — noticeable surfaces and textures – thanks to the new Anvil Next engine. Tree limbs and rocks jut out at angles, adding a realistic look to the rustic frontier.
People are no longer just passive, programmed NPCs in a crowd. Cities and camps now have an active hub with people having real conversations and doing activities other than just milling around to provide you hiding places. They will even approach you with their problems to initiate missions. It makes the game world a bit more believable and immersive.
Humans aren’t your only enemy in Assassin’s Creed III. Connor can hunt for trade, but must beware of the other predators. During the demo, wolves attacked while Connor was dressing a deer he had just killed. (Other forest animals are also included in the game, though they weren’t present in the demo.)
Connor, the Native American assassin, plays fundamentally different from Altair and Ezio. With the two previous heroes, the gameplay focused on finesse and stealth. Sure, you could run into a crowd with your sword, but coming in from above or sneaking up behind made much more sense in the context of the game. Connor is a brawler and will get things done any way he can. You can still stealthily climb buildings and pounce from above, but you can just as easily rush the crowd and take them out with your tomahawk. Our Ubisoft rep at E3 promised there would be different ways to complete the mission, keeping with the previous games that allowed you to finish a mission pretty much the way you wanted.
The Ubisoft team did some great work looking into the weapons of the time period. Take the musket. It’s primarily a one shot weapon because of the long reload time, but add the bayonet and you have a handy-dandy spear. Connor uses the slowness of the musket to his advantage when a group of British soldiers fired at him. The slow reload time allowed him to break in and slash with his tomahawk, but not for long. The AI began spearing him with the bayonet causing the player to have to switch tactics. He also uses the bayonet for an epic air assassination to take out his target later in the demo. You’ll also be able do dual wield, a feature missing from previous games.
Overall, AC3 was the second best game that I experienced at E3. It felt like a perfect fit in the Assassin’s Creed lore. Not surprisingly, Ubisoft has improved on all aspects of the game.
Author’s Note: By the way, my personal game of show didn’t fall far from the Assassin’s Creed tree; check out my impressions of the Vita game Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.