Assassin's Creed 3 Preview (PC)

Now I know how the Germans must feel every time they see a World War 2 game come out. As good as Assassin’s Creed III looked, as interesting as the new mechanics are and as impressed as I was by the overall direction the game is going, it’s still hard to get over the fact that this appears to be another game about American patriotism and how they drove us evil tyrants from their beloved lands. Granted, we kind of deserved it for being a little bit dickish, but some small part of me expected better of Ubisoft. Still, I’m man enough to put my gripes aside to tell you about the game itself, and what a game it is.

Dude, don't look behind you...
As you all will have seen by now, Assassins Creed III is set during the American War for Independence. The game actually covers a time-span of 30 years, between 1753 and 1783, with the protagonist Connor (Half-British, Half Mohave Indian, real name Ratohnhaké:ton) getting right in the thick of things. We’ve been told that he will end up fighting for both sides, as ultimately he wants justice and a place in the world for his tribe, and he’s also fighting the Templars (who, despite visual evidence to the contrary, probably aren’t just using the British), but we remain to be convinced on that score. Everything that you would connect with the franchise, from the free-running, to the flashy assassinations, to the exploration has been taken apart and re-made from the ground up in Ubisoft Montreal’s new engine – AnvilNext.

Free-running for example, has been adapted to include the environment, with trees and cliff faces now being climbable along with the building fronts and roof-tops that you are used to. We can imagine this portion of free-running being a bit fiddly, but regardless it’s the next logical step and from what we’ve seen it’s been implemented quite well. Even little things, like haystacks, have been improved as you can now jump into moving haystacks, and also jump across moving objects as part of the movement chain, and there are now ‘interiors’ you can interact with without it being a cutscene, although how wide-spread these will be remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to see if the team have come up with more interesting places to ‘hide’ from pursuers, as we can safely say diving into the nearest hay stack (unless you’re jumping from a ridiculously tall height), is getting a little stale now.
It may be against my fellow countrymen but... Damn. LIKE A BAWSS
The world of Assassins Creed III, from what we can gather, is going to be split between two main areas – The ‘Frontier’, and the Cities. The Frontier is a 2km x 2km (1.5x the size of Rome in Brotherhood) area that you can just go nuts and explore, and the Cities will be focal points for the main plot and most of the quests. Ubisoft have talked about each city itself being a ‘character’ of sorts, with its own traits, personality and feel. Boston and New York have been confirmed as two of the cities that will be in the game, and we imagine it won’t be long before we find out what the others are. The Frontier sounds like the more interesting area though, which is a shame because allegedly it only holds 30% of the games total quests. We’re told that there will still be things to do in the Frontier aside from quests – hunting, for example, and there are plenty of ‘things’ to discover… but until we know more it sounds like a bit of a waste of a fairly large area of the game.

Possibly the thing we were most impressed with were the changes made to combat. Being the 18th century, firearms are very much the order of the day. Connor can wield both pistols and muskets, although the emphasis is still on his ‘assassin’ weapons as these guns take a while to re-load (anything up to a minute in real-life, although that’s been reduced for the game). Wrist blades and knives you’ll be familiar with, but there’s also a rather nifty contraption called a rope-dart, and Connor himself is rather found of wielding a tomahawk axe. The big, big change though is the inclusion of true two-handed fighting, and again from what we’ve seen it looks very impressive. Combat in AC is just as much about the kills ‘looking’ good as it is about being effective, and the amount of combos, finishers and general bad-assery available to you seems to have increased three-fold.

The only other change of significance is the inclusion of weather and seasons – and the effect that has on gameplay. If there’s a lot of snow, then it’s harder for Connor to walk (and he can even trip up), and if it’s raining, gunpowder weapons won’t work, and so on. Everything else we’ve seen is more subtle – you get rewards based on how ‘clean’ your kill was, especially when you’re hunting (using a knife will net you a better ‘quality’ fur, for example). The Animus interface has been improved and updated so that they can now present 3D objects in the game, and just subtly remind players they are playing a ‘simulation’ in more ways. There’s more NPCs to interact with and the NPC to player interaction is more authentic… all this and more just to make the world feel that much more alive, and we hope they ultimately succeed.
Massive Twist: He actually stops and walks away (not)

Ok, so gripe about over doing the patriotism-thing aside, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this game. Assassins Creed III feels like a perfect ‘revolution’ of a formula that was in danger of going stale, and this new title should re-kindle the fire for a few more games. We think there’s still room for improvement, even based on the limited snapshot we were shown. Sure, some people won’t like the whole tree-climbing thing, other people won’t like the setting (*cough*), but regardless of personal tastes, we’d be surprised if this turned out to be anything other than a great start to a new chapter in this franchises history. Assassin’s Creed III is coming out on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC (and WiiU) on October 30th in North America, and October 31st in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: We can’t wait to get our hands on the game so we can test out the two-handed combat.