The Assassin's Creed franchise has truly evolved, though Ubisoft is keen to point out that Assassin's Creed 3 is more of an revolution than a evolution.
At the game's unveiling event in London last week, we saw exactly how Assassin's Creed 3 plans to stand out from its predecessors; and what we witnessed has filled us with anticipation for the game's launch in October 2012.
Here are just five of the reasons why we’re excited to see more…
1. The setting gives the franchise a new impetus and the story has great potential
This is the first time that the American Revolution has featured in an action adventure game, yet it's a fascinating period that saw the birth of the United States Of America. Ubisoft is going all out to create a true-to-life setting and storyline that has its roots embedded in text-book American history. In terms of historical context, this will not be a fantasy game.
As well as a having a firm emphasis on action and adventure, Assassin’s Creed 3 will also be a history lesson for some. It’s a historical period that American gamers, who were attentive at school, should identify with and other nations, who may not know much about this particular era, may be interested to hear about.
It features some famous historical figures including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Lee and the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as some famous speeches, including the infamous call to battle at Bunker Hill when “don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was the final word to the troops as the American Continental Army attacked British troops of the Boston garrison.
The setting is a far cry from previous Assassin’s Creed games. The tightly-packed environments and narrow streets of cities such as Jerusalem and Venice give way to a harsh Frontier environment with snowy landscapes, forests as far as the eye can see and towns that are far less populated.
This means that the assassin’s playground is so much different this time around as the game’s new hero, Connor, crosses his environment by climbing trees and navigating branches. Typical Assassin’s mechanics of roof-top leaping and scaling buildings still survive, but they're now complimented by locations where trees play a major part in connecting everything together.
The environment is raw and the harsh weather of that era, which includes snow, rain and fog, requires players to adapt their gameplay and creates quite a different kind of visual impact to past games, one where the natural environment plays as much of a major part as free-running across roof-tops.
Looking out from the top of a cliff over acres of snowy forests is a sight to behold, but what makes it more magical is that every inch of it can be explored in an area that is said to be 1.5x as big as Rome was in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. The setting of Assassin's Creed 3 demands to be explored, and we can't wait to do just that.
2. Track, hunt and skin animals
The game’s new protagonist is an expert hunter and tracker. Whenever Connor strays away from the main towns there’s an opportunity to hunt animals, though some, such as the Great bear, will also hunt him. Connor respects wildlife and is rewarded more for a clean kill with his knife rather than a blast from his musket, but animal’s fur is a precious commodity for trading so we doubt we’ll be spending too much time worrying about creature welfare.
We also know that different animals will yield different rewards. There’s a rumour that as well as skinning their fur we’ll also be able to salvage other animal body parts, which may be used to craft items. If this is the case, hunting could turn out to be an exciting pursuit as players seek out the rarest creatures. Either way, there looks to be a fair amount of forest and snowy landscapes to cross so, in the very least, hunting should provide an enjoyable distraction from human vs. human combat.
3. Combat is strategically challenging and burying a tomahawk into an enemy skull looks instantly gratifying
This Assassin’s Creed is just as much about stealth as it’s ever been. The tree-tops, however, offer a new vantage point over enemies. You might, for example, choose to wait for a soldier to pass under a branch where you’re sitting and hoist him up with your rope dart.
Connor is just as handy at close-quarters. In group fights, combos, animations and finishing moves look to have stepped up a notch in terms of visual production and appear to be as fluid and satisfying as ever. Combat looks violent and brutal and seeing off multiple foes armed with a tomahawk should be a real highlight.
The fact that muskets were used during this period - and bearing in mind they have a particularly long re-load time - also adds an extra layer of strategy. In the Battle For Bunker Hill, for example, we saw a demo that shows how Connor is tasked with assassinating a target deep behind enemy lines with dozens of soldiers to get past. He makes his way up the battlefield using cover and only moves in between enemy re-loads before leaping on the back of his target’s horse and taking him clean out.
There are a few twists too. Ubisoft has made it so that muskets can’t be used in the rain and has incorporated the infamous “leap of faith” move so that it can now be used to aid an assassination. Overall, we firmly expect more variety in combat and some new ways in which we can kill our enemies.
4. The new tech steps up the production
Assassin’s Creed games have always looked great, but the Anvil game engine has received a significant upgrade in this third iteration. There are now 200 more bones in each character’s body, allowing designers to make more realistic animations. The movement of Connor is fluid and realistic as he dives under carts and leaps over objects with agility and speed.
The game also features simultaneous motion, face and voice capture for the first time in a videogame to create some stunning-looking interactions between NPCS, as well as slick cut-scenes. As a result of these improvements, the whole world and our interactions with it should feel more realistic. Ubisoft has also promised revamped Crowd A.I. and an Animus that is now fully-realised in 3D for the very first time.
Overall, the upgraded tech should make for the best looking Assassin’s Creed game to date, but the improvements in animation should also make free-running feel more fluid than ever.
5. Connor’s got the moves, including an awesome new “Leap of Faith”
Connor can leap off the edge of cliffs into snow piles to quickly move from a viewpoint to low-ground, but he can now also pull off a “leap of faith” onto an object that is moving, such as cart. This manoeuvre can be used to stealthily close in on targets. Sitting on a tree branch, for example, Connor waits for a convoy to come past before dropping down into their cart and getting close to his target without being seen.
Indeed, Connor is more versatile than previous heroes in Assassin’s Creed 3. His whole move-set has been revamped and he can dive through the windows of buildings, under and over objects with poise, grace and fluidity. This should cross-over into combat as well, with more intricate moves during close-quarter battles.
The fact that Connor hails from the Mowhawk tribe means he’s just as adept with his tomahawk at close range as he is at long range with his bow and arrow. Connor’s new move-set and array of weapons should make him the most powerful and versatile assassin yet.
Assassin’s Creed 3 launches on October 30th in North America and October 31st in Europe.