Savage Revolution - Eight reasons why Assassin's Creed III will make a killing
- Assassin's Creed III
Despite the last couple of semi-sequels failing to offer the full-blooded thrills of the first two games, the Assassin’s Creed franchise is an enduring favourite among gamers. Its mix of historical fact, breathless free-running, brutal murder and unobtrusive sci-fi ensure high sales, high scores – and high expectations.
Centring on the fortunes of a present-day barman descended from a long line of assassins locked in conflict with the evil Templars, the Assassin’s Creed series sees Desmond Miles go from kidnap victim to accidental hero as he is repeatedly plugged into the Animus – a device that allows him to “live” through his own genetic memories and “control” his murderous ancestors.
Having previously delved into Crusades-era Jerusalem and Renaissance Italy (where it arguably came close to out-staying its welcome), the franchise is moving into brand new territory this year when the third instalment arrives on October 30th. New setting, new engine, new ancestor… Assassin’s Creed III could be the best yet, and here are eight reasons why...
1. It’s set during the American War of Independance
Just look at what the AnvilNext engine can do. It's absolutely gorgeous
“The period of the American Revolution is like this half-untouched wilderness,” according to Creative Director Alex Hutchinson in an interview with GameInformer. “We have all these great features to play with and I think that a big chunk on its own is going to feel really fresh.”
Setting the game during a full-scale war is a genius stroke on Ubisoft’s part, particularly a conflict with such far-reaching consequences and so much at stake. New protagonist Connor won’t just be fighting against the Templars, but against the British Redcoats, the savage wilderness of the Frontier and the rapidly-changing world that threatens to leave his Native American kin as outcasts in their own country.
More than this, it gives Ubisoft the chance to populate their story with real figures from history and create the illusion that the player, through Connor, is shaping the destiny of the USA. Benjamin Franklin, Charles Lee, George Washington and Paul Revere are all set to make appearances in the narrative – but it’s important to note that Ubisoft have already stated that although this is set during the American Revolution, not all English are evil, pompous bastards (not quite Ubi’s words, but close enough).
It’s a period of history practically ignored by videogames and, as such, it automatically lends ACIII a sense of originality – not to mention grandeur. This is a time when men were men, fighting against harsh winters, deadly wildlife and ever-encroaching technology, and as a videogame setting it’s only rivalled by Red Dead Redemption’s Old West in terms of authenticity.
2. Connor is a character shaped by his world
New fella Connor is agile, lithe and lethal - less sophisticated than Ezio and less restrained than Altair
The new protagonist Connor (or Ratohnhaké:ton, to use his tribal name) is part-English, part-Mohawk, and fits perfectly with the world he inhabits. His motivations are greater and grander than those of Altair or Ezio before him, and so his struggle seems all the more important.
“We didn’t want revenge,” Hutchinson explained to Official Playstation Magazine. “But Connor needed some kind of shove. We decided that violence against a people is stronger than violence against your dad. We see it as injustice, and Connor fights injustice – he helps the Revolution because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.”
So, neither 12th century Crusader-killer nor 15th century cad-turned-avenger, Connor is instead a man born into a hostile world at a hostile time who has adapted to survive. The differences are apparent in everything he does – not just in the aesthetics. “Our goal was to have nothing from the previous games,” Hutchinson explains. “All of Connor’s animations are fresh – which is daunting when you consider that Assassin's Creed II’s Ezio had 6,000.”
Connor is not merely a shifty assassin, he’s a predator in every sense of the word. He can scale trees to lie in wait, move silently and swiftly – and he brings his own iconic weapon to the table alongside the hidden blade (a series stalwart and fan favourite), in the form of a Chinese rope-dart, able to do damage from range and tie an enemy up like spider-bait.
3. The combat has been re-mastered
A more-direct approach to combat means less waiting for openings and more opening throats. Yeah!
In fact, one of the big improvements is the combat model. Whereas the previous titles have based their combat on timed counter-attacks to create fights that flow beautifully but are ultimately easy and occasionally tedious, Assassin’s Creed III features chained combo attacks and a host of new weapons.
Hutchinson revealed some details about the overhaul: “The combat system has been completely redone. We burned it to the ground and we’re building it back up. Some of the cool new combinations include a tomahawk and a knife, and Connor also has a bow.”
Enemies in ACIII often have firearms, so instead of hanging back, treading water and waiting for an enemy to leave himself open to a counter-kill, Connor has to be more direct, more head-on, and as vicious as the environment in which he exists. Chaining heavy and light attacks together will lead to more intricate combinations, stylish, slow-motion finishing moves and brutal kills.
Enemy types will include brutish axemen, agile natives and musket and rapier-wielding Redcoats, so varying your attacks and mastering Connor’s talents will be key to survival. Also, a lack of medicine during combat means that when his health reaches a dangerous low-point, Connor will need to scarper, fast, and give himself time to recuperate.
4. It’s built on a brand new engine
Midnight prowler: Connor perches unseen above a column of Redcoats
The AnvilNext engine will be responsible for the biggest changes, as it allows for variable weather cycles and the rendering of crowds numbering over a thousand. It also enable a dynamic gameworld, meaning that the world can change due to in-game events and stay changed. With a storyline covering 35 years of Connor’s life, change is inevitable – whole settlements may rise and fall in that time, battlefields once filled with crow-feed will be cleared by carrion-eaters and built upon by frontiersmen, snow will fall in knee-high drifts and melt away in the summer.
It also allows for a more detailed world to explore. Whereas the previous instalments have been set predominantly within city walls with only interim areas travelable on foot, Assassin’s Creed III incorporates the vast Frontier – and all the lethal weather and grand vistas that go with it.
The engine helps other events play out dynamically, too, such as high-speed on-foot chases. Objects known as “chase-breakers” act to create a more fluid chase, and can be anything from windows to closing doors that activate as Connor reaches them, making for a more cinematic experience – particularly when fleeing from Redcoats through the packed streets of Boston or New York.
5. Assassin’s Creed III has the biggest gameworld of the series
The draw-distance is exceptional - just look at all those unwary victims-- we mean, civilians
ACIII’s Boston is a third of the size that Boston city really was in 1775, while the Frontier is almost 50% larger than Brotherhood’s Rome. That’s some serious running space.
Although landmarks like Boston’s Old State House will feature, the meat of the action is to be found out in the No Man’s Land of the Frontier. “30% of the missions take place in the Frontier,” Hutchinson confirms, “because that’s where they historically took place.”
Also incorporating New York City as it was almost two hundred and fifty years ago, as well as deep forests, snow-blanketed hills, dusty canyons and a handful of settlements, camps and murky lakes, this is Assassin’s Creed as you’ve never seen it before – sprinting through mud, wading through knee-deep snow, drenched in the blood of a persistent conflict that remains a sobering backdrop to Connor’s own quest.
“Our Frontier map is kind of a shrunk-down version of the American north-east,” Hutchinson continues, “so there are little towns like Lexington and Concord as well as dense forests and mountain ranges.”
6. The world has an ecology
Not as stylish as Ezio's flying machine, but the trusty canoe still has its uses
“We thought, what are the crowds of the wilderness,” Alex Hutchinson explains. “No one has done animals in an open world.” Unfortunately for Ubisoft, Rockstar released their hugely-successful Red Dead Redemption during the development of Assassin’s Creed III, and one thing that the Western did exceptionally well was the hunting activity.
In ACIII, Connor will be able to match John Marston pelt for pelt, being able to hunt and kill wolves, bears and – we can only hope – raccoons as he traverses the wild. Various resources can be stripped from each kill, including fur and meat, and it acts as a kind of trade currency within the world. There’s even a hunting club that will recruit Connor if his kills are prolific enough.
But you can’t just wade in and starting slinging tomahawks at badgers. “If I walk around the forest I don’t see any animals,” says Hutchinson. “Animals are smart enough to run away. We wanted it to be more realistic so you have to move slowly and plan.”
Combined with the weather cycles and the sheer size of the Frontier, traversing Assassin’s Creed III’s wilderness will be just as dangerous as charging into a group of musket-wielding Redcoats.
7. 2012 is a significant year for the series
Hiding in wagons full of hay is an option - but nowhere near as effective as flintlock and tomahawk-based negotiation
The “present day” portion of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is set in 2012, which just happens to be the year we’re in right now. As the story is building towards a specific time close to the present day of Desmond’s world, it’s safe to assume that the modern-day sci-fi portion of the game will see a definite advancement in terms of storyline.
Desmond has been on the run for a while, uncovering latent assassin abilities thanks to the Animus’ “bleeding effect” – not to mention suffering a bad case of MPD thanks to all the extra memories he’s carrying around. Chucking Connor’s personality into the mix along with Ezio’s and Altair’s can only exacerbate Desmond’s problems – but Connor’s distinct style and skills will be an important feather in his cap.
As we still don’t know the exact goals of the Templars, it’s safe to assume that Assassin’s Creed III will offer up more revelations than even Revelations did – and make the first significant leap forward in terms of storyline since ACII.
8. Multiplayer has been revamped
As iconic as the wristblade is Connor's groovy tomahawk - note the shape of the axe-head. Now that's the kind of branding we like to see
Making its series debut in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the multiplayer element was refined further in Revelations and will return in a big way in Assassin’s Creed III.
Ubisoft Annecy (the team behind Brotherhood) have been drafted in to help recreate the exciting, unique multiplayer experience already seen in previous titles but with a new slant – there will now be a 4-player co-op mode thrown into the mix. There’s a bit of evidence that the multiplayer component hasn’t been in production for as along as the main game which – along with the statement from the ACIII team that the game is more or less “finished” and is in the polishing stages – explains the lack of concrete details and decent multiplayer screens.
Whether it will exist as a separate entity entirely or somehow tie-in to the single player game (as is the vogue these days) remains to be seen, but the idea of a co-op mode is an incredibly tantalising prospect.
Connor has more to fight for than Ezio or Altair, and could be the most compelling protagonist yet
So there you have it – 8 cast-iron reasons why Assassin’s Creed III could be the revolution this series is looking for. There will be more details, trailers and screenshots filtering through between now and October 30th, and we’ll do our best to keep you up to date whenever we can.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on the gorgeous new screens in this article and tell us what you think of Ubisoft’s new direction, new protagonist and new setting. Is it a big enough departure – or too much of one? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. And just in case you missed its reveal earlier this month, here’s that incredible announcement trailer once again:
Words by Mick Fraser (Twitter: @Jedi_Beats_Tank)
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