One of the most impressive additions to the Assassin's Creed franchise was the inclusion of naval battles, showcased via a live gameplay demo during E3 that captured the intensity of a fierce cat-and-mouse fight on the turbulent Caribbean seas. At GamesCom we got a chance to go hands-on to test out this new gameplay mechanic and, instead of the on-rails skirmish we expected, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it's just as intense and exciting as that E3 trailer promised.
Ship design and water effects ooze with the same quality visuals and production values that we've come to expect from the Assassin's Creed franchise, while controlling the vessels and fighting - not just against enemy ships but also the ferocious conditions on the seas - is both challenging and exciting.
Not only do you control the steering of the ship and fire canons at enemy vessels, but you also have to brace yourself to avoid heavy damage, pressing the action button at the appropriate time, which causes the crew to duck and take cover. Water fills the deck from the crash of a wave and the ship shudders when under fire. Enemy vessels move around the open sea and it's up to you to chase them down to get a good angle to shoot your canons, choosing between full and half sail to speed up or slow down your ship.
Switching between various fire modes, which appear to have a cool down period, I was able to execute a heat shot setting fire to the vessel and a chain shot which wrapped two chained balls around the enemy mast so that the ship couldn't move.
Far from being the tacked-on gimmick that we assumed it would be, Ubisoft has captured the intensity, ferocity and challenge of a naval battle with some style. Though we didn't get to board the enemy ship and see Connor go wild with his tomahawk, this short sequence shows that naval battles in Assassin’s Creed III should be just as exciting as was promised.