An In-depth Look at Assassin's Creed 3 @ E3 2012

An In-depth Look at Assassin's Creed 3 @ E3 2012

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 12th Jul 2012

Assassin's Creed III

While it is no secret that the next installment in the Assassin's Creed series is set to take place half-a-world away from the well-established stomping grounds of Florence, Rome and Istanbul, unfolding in the American colonies just prior to the American Revolution (an area/era that does not often appear in video games) there are some curious aspects to the presentation of the new protagonist -- but we will get to that in a bit...

When you ask the average gamer to quickly name long-running and popular video game series' you are certain to hear the names Fallout, Halo, and Final Fantasy -- and invariably you will also hear the name Assassin's Creed -- because it is that sort of game and series. The reason that some games readily make the list and others do not has everything to do with their quality beyond the immersion and entertainment value that every popular game is built around, because there has to be something else in addition to those elements to cause the game -- and series -- to stand out on its own.

Clearly Assassin's Creed is in good company, but in many ways it stands out from the rest, being closer to games like the Halo series because in addition to being massive in scope, with immersive depth and characters that the average gamer quickly comes to develop feelings and empathy for, it has something else going for it that many games do not: continuity in the characters and its own historic nature of the underlying theme.

A Repackaged Story?
The fact that Ubisoft chose to go for a big unveiling at E3 2012 following the March release of its revealing trailer was not a surprise -- what was a surprise though was the chatter about the game that took place prior to its unveiling both in LA and to a lesser extent online this past March -- chatter that suggested that AC3 would turn out to be a simple repackaged version of a previous title in the series. The rumor was that the game would fail to offer gamers (and the committed and serious fans of the series) anything really new or worthwhile as a reward for their loyalty. Or at least that was the buzz circulating in the lines outside of Microsoft's Pre-E3 2012 Xbox Press Briefing...

In the lines outside of USC's Galen Center the assembled army of games journos have little to do for almost two hours but chat with each other, and so they do. A commonly heard sentiment in the lines before this year's Microsoft presser was a rumor that Assassin's Creed III was simply a repackaging of the story from the previous game. The idea being that the series was on its last legs because it had nothing new to say, nothing original to offer, and nothing creative to deliver. Assuming for a moment that they were basing that impression upon the pre-E3 publicity that the game had received, or perhaps on their assessment of just the press releases, happily that generally negative attitude about the game quickly changed after the Ubisoft Press Briefing and the presentation of the game on the show floor.

Speaking for ourselves, from what we saw at E3 -- and what we saw and knew well prior to E3 2012 -- Assassin's Creed III did not resemble a repackaged game to us. Bearing in mind that we were not relying solely upon the neatly packaged sound-bites and glimpses of the game that were offered via the PR network in March of this year -- a reveal that was largely forced on the developer and publisher due to leaks about the game -- we had seen some of the press-only pre-release this-is-under-embargo for-your-information-only videos and, naturally, we have the benefit of numerous discussions about the game and where it was headed over the course of the past year upon which to base that opinion, but still... So should have they.

The facts are that there are a number of new and impressive game play additions -- most notably the sea battle system that we can safely say has most games journos very excited for the release of the game -- and other game-impacting additions that will give AC3 its own unique feel and taste, so the concerns that were being voiced in that regard really were largely unfounded -- but they had to be coming from somewhere, right?

Gamers who are familiar with the AC series are very aware that it is based around a well-established premise, and therefore includes a very similar style of play from title to title, but that is as it should be. In the world of epic video games, Assassin's Creed is the sort of series that is more a fusion of video game and cinematic story, so its consistency in game play style and elements are not simply to be expected, but to be encouraged.

The key difference between each title is the creative story that it tells -- and that gamers play out as they play through it -- and in that respect, everything that we have seen both prior to E3 and its significant reveals and during it fully supports and strengthens the already formed opinion we held that AC3 is set to deliver another riveting and worthwhile romp in the world of Assassins vs. Abstergo. But with a very important difference as this time around we depart the Middle East and have our adventure in the (then) new American Colonies.

Another aspect to the revelations that were made at E3 is the fact that they were not a total surprise. Bearing in mind that as early as the Fall of 2011 Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot had revealed that AC3 was not only going to be the biggest title in the series from a game play perspective, but also the most expensive -- and considering that at the time it had already been in development for three years, it is actually rather amazing that more information about the game and its setting had not leaked already!

This past February a couple of things happened that may have forced the hands of the PR folks at Ubisoft -- there was the leak of some game play screens, and the loose lips of someone close to the game's development team that ended up confirming that the setting was North America, and that the time was the American Revolution. That was also confirmed by the premature sharing of promo material, allegedly from someone at retailer Best Buy, and unconfirmed comments again coming from someone inside Ubisoft that spread like wildfire.

So taking all of that into account, the revelations at E3 turned out to be more confirmation than reveal, but the trailers and briefings, and the on-floor presentation (and the information that was willingly shared by the hosts with the media) served to fully deflate the notion that AC3 was destined to be a recycled game play experience.

The Next Adventure in Assassin's Creed
First impressions of the presentation of the game at the Pre-E3 2012 Ubisoft Press Briefing were very positive, in spite of the slickly packaged drum beat of perfection that the trailer presented. That there were words involved in the presentation really was an important part, but not as important as the eye-pleasing almost shocking revelations behind this new land and new focus.

OK, the sight of the newest protagonist in the series garbed in traditional Assassin's kit did briefly cause a forced disconnect and, sadly, suspended the process of immersion that clearly the architect of that presentation and trailer was shooting for... It is fair to say that as it played out our first sight of the character of the half-Mohawk half-British Assassin Conner Kenway did indeed trigger what in a Hollywood movie would have been a sudden freeze-frame and the sound of a classic diamond-tipped needle screech across the grooves in the vinyl of the record as the motion and sound came to a mental halt.

The rational side of our brain questioned... Why was that person wearing Middle-Eastern garb in the American colonies? Did that make sense? We cannot claim to know any Mohawk's first-hand, that is true, but then we have seen plenty of imagery and history on Native American culture in the New England region -- after all we live here, so it is impossible to completely avoid it no matter how hard you try, and we had not been trying to avoid it at all. In the end as that mental halt stretched from milliseconds to actual heartbeat-long seconds, that small voice in the back of our brain pointed out that if the dev team had used ANY other costume, well then, how would you know that the character was supposed to be a descendant of the Assassins?