An In-depth Look at Assassin's Creed 3 @ E3 2012
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 12th Jul 2012
And suddenly it was all better, the sound returned, the motion resumed, and from the looks on the faces of the games journos around us we could tell that they too found themselves confronted by this odd anachronistic mind-root, and they too had arrived at a similar conclusion. Call it literary license, call it remaining faithful to the brand -- call it a mind-root because that is what it is, but the reality was that Conner Kenway was able to run through the crowded markets of Boston and nobody saw his dress as odd, so how could we?
With that little bit of fluff floating downstream we were once again able to appreciate the incredibly stunning world that had been created for the game -- and just like the previous games in the series it was one in which a faithful and serious effort had been undertaken to make it as historically accurate as they could, in order to assist in the process of immersion and the suspension of disbelief so that the gamer -- or in this case the assemblage of games journos -- could quickly get into the moment, and live the game. And we saw that it was good!
While we are on the subject of history, you may find it fascinating to learn (we did) that in the process of playing through the story gamers will encounter the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Israel Putnam, and a certain General Lafayette, not to mention King George III, and all of that while undertaking a story that far from following a line that would have appealed to your average Hollywood screenwriter, instead takes a road that is, well, less traveled.
You see Conner is not the typical American patriot -- in fact from what we have seen so far and from the previous information that has been shared by Ubisoft, it seems pretty clear that he -- and his family -- are actually loyalists rather than rebels! The story begins in 1753, and spans a thirty-year cycle that ends around 1783, encompassing the really important and formative years of what some at the time considered to be the great experiment in democracy, and others -- particularly the loyalists -- thought of as the ultimate betrayal.
An Expanding World
In the previous games the game world began as a pretty big one in the first title, and progressively grew larger with each additional title until in Revelations we found ourselves in the most complex and largest game world yet... But that has nothing on the world that we will romp through in AC3, which begins with the small holdings of Conner's Mohawk village and then encompasses two major cities -- Boston and New York -- as well as the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, a vast frontier of forests, highways (in the old sense of the word) and dales, and eventually grows to encompass a huge slice of the New England and Eastern coast of the colonies, vast stretches of ocean and coastline that Conner will experience as Captain of his own armed private vessel upon which ship-to-ship combat will ensue!
When the original Assassin's Creed was released it was not clear just how massive the series was to be -- in fact we suspect that it was also not clear to Ubisoft and the dev team that created it as well -- but as the game developed its following, and as AC2 took shape, they came up with a guiding set of rules that they would follow, and they shared this with the community: each of the numbered titles in the series would feature a brand new protagonist character for the past-part of the game, each would feature the same real-time protagonist (Desmond Miles), and depending upon this and that, it was possible that there would be expansion-based titles that would continue the story being told.
OK, that did not happen for the first game for pretty obvious reasons -- it was after all the title that both established the series and gave the creative team behind it both its bible from which to work and the notion of where the story was headed. Along comes AC2, and its now well-defined story and play style allowed for the creation of several expansion titles -- Brotherhood and Revelations -- and it all clicked. Oh, games journos and to some extent gamers in the community who were not aware of the stated intentions at Ubisoft to focus the game and its expanded content around the primary numbers mistook both Brotherhood and Revelations as somehow being poorly implemented "next titles" in the series -- they were not of course -- but eventually the message was passed and they got it.
Having pointed that out to you -- and having tasted just the small offerings that we were provided at E3 from ocean battles and a series of different intensely colorful land-based vignettes that included Conner battling soldiers in the woods to Conner confusing and assassinating soldiers in the city -- we can easily declare that the game is not only a worthy successor and clearly a sequel in terms of the established tradition for the series, but more than that, it is the next logical evolution for the series!
Now having pointed that out, we cannot help but speculate that, like AC2, this third offering in the main series line will doubtlessly include expansion titles, and considering how fruitful the time period is that the first chapter in this anticipated arc is, can it be possible that the next part of the series will not eventually reach the war between the states, or what the Americans call their "Civil War?" Exciting times are coming for the Assassin's Creed series, this is clear.
A Newly Focused Approach
One of the core elements of the series has always been its focus on melee combat and the Assassin Arts. While AC3 is similarly focused, and while blades of every type will certainly factor into the games combat system, this time around firearms will take a much larger role in the game, something that core series fans find both attractive and dreadful. From what we saw, in addition to firearms we will be seeing a marked presence for both bow and arrow and crossbow, and the word is that in addition to the to-be-expected urban and suburban missions, challenges, and story content, the Native American side of the character of Conner will also see him operating in the wilderness, both against the enemy and it seems, hunting for sustenance.
So many elements of the game have been expanded that picking which to focus upon is a bit difficult, and while the ship combat system is clearly a stand-out, the vast majority of the two trailers and the presentation on the floor seemed to focus more upon the expanded combat system. For instance the fact that Conner was dual-wielding weapons in direct combat with the soldiers is something of a big deal -- and while series regulars expect to see the return of the defensive and offensive one-against-many fighting that the Assassins are noted for, the expanded styles and weapons have naturally lead to a vastly expanded counter-attack system with double the variety of the previous title in the series!
One of the most impressive stand-out elements of the presentation was the ability that Conner showed for being able to engage in combat while running -- basically freed from the need to stop moving and take a stance in order to fight which largely dominated the style in the previous games. And then there is that motion itself, which while clearly this new environment is not one that necessarily promotes the style of the previous games for running, jumping, and climbing, nonetheless retains those abilities while adapting them for this new -- one might even say foreign -- environment.
We cannot end this in-depth look into AC3 at E3 without touching upon the sea-based combat system that has been added to the game -- a new combat system that our hosts at E3 were not shy in expounding upon. Not only will Conner take command of his ship to move from one region to another in the game (and that answers the question about travel between the two primary regions) but according to the hosts, sea-based combat will factor as part of the mission system, with a period of action as a privateer and sea hunter playing a role in the game!
Assassin's Creed III is set to land on store shelves on October 30th, 2012 with versions for Windows PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii. We should add though that as the official presentation concluded on the floor at E3 one of the hosts from Ubisoft offered an interesting observation -- they pointed out that we should probably tell our readers that if they are planning to play the PC version of the game, they should seriously consider obtaining a gamepad for their PC if they do not already have one, because Assassin's Creed III was built to be played using that sort of controller. Food for thought...