Starting a Revolution

The Assassin’s Creed universe has become one of gaming’s most dynamic and fluid on-going stories as it explores history in a unique and thrilling way. Turning some of history’s most interesting personalities and settings into some of gaming’s most interesting sidekicks, antagonists, and levels, you never really can predict where they are going to go next until Ubisoft reveals the next step themselves. And now that they’ve pulled the veil back on Assassin’s Creed III, the questions have all shifted to just what can we expect next from a game that is being put together by the team who did AC1 and AC2 and has the best and brightest from Brotherhood and Revelations coming on board as well. Fortunately, EGM has some of the answers.

The first thing we have to talk about is the time period. Many have stated that the game takes place during the American Revolution and although this is true, it might be more accurate to describe it as Colonial America as the game will actually start in 1750 and end somewhere in the 1780s so you’ll see many events leading up to and post-war as well. There will be plenty of battles from the American Revolution, of course, as this wouldn’t be the largest Assassin’s Creed yet if they didn’t explore much of that in detail, but don’t be surprised if a lot of the fun is just trying to work your way through 1760s and early 1770s Boston and New York with a heavy red coat population looking to hunt down our newest assassin. Boston and New York will also serve as your two primary hub locations during different years for much of the game.

And speaking of our newest assassin, we finally have learned how Desmond’s bloodline made the great leap across the Atlantic. Connor, a half-European, half-Native American, will have to explore and embrace both his Native American heritage as part of the Mohawk Nation and his European roots if he is to overcome this new Templar threat that will have him working both sides of the American Revolution as he fights the Assassin/Templar war from the shadows. Part of him embracing his Mohawk bloodline will be in the form of the weapons he will use.

The first new weapon that fans will immediately embrace is the tomahawk. For those who prefer up close, brutally bloody moments, this handheld axe will fast become a favorite for many. There is also the bow and arrow that will lend a completely new element to taking out enemies stealthily due to the quiet nature the weapon. Although we did not see any game play with the bow, we were promised it would be there and that it would change how many approach missions as assassins. There will also be the return of iconic weapons such as hidden blades and there will be A LOT more guns due to the advancements in gunpowder over the years that Connor will be able to take advantage of if he can get his hands on a few. I’m sure the British can lend our new hero a few, no questions asked, right?

Another new weapon though that got most of our attention was the rope dart. Not quite a grappling hook, the rope dart can also give Connor some ranged attacks as well as really strike fear into nearby patrolling troops. We also saw it in action for one encounter, but it definitely let its mark on us. Connor was perched in a tree as a British patrol of about six soldiers walked by. Connor threw the rope dart into the chest of one of the patrolmen and then jumped off the branch of the tree still holding the rope, basically hanging the now dead red coat to serve as a warning for later patrols. Connor then leapt into combat with the remainder of the group and we saw some thrilling new counter-kills including one where he placed a rifleman’s head against his own gun and used his foot to blow the soldier’s brains out.

Now, I had mentioned that Connor had been in a tree when that sequence started and that is because many of your missions, about 30% to be exact, will be taking place on the frontier. Since much of America was still wilderness in the 18th century with just a few cities serving as colonial hubs that would later expand outward, it would make sense that much of the game has Connor moving through this untamed land. And since the game takes place over such a large period of time, you will see many areas in both winter and summer. So a lake in one level could be frozen over in the next so you could then run over it. And being in the Northeast, this also means a lot of snow for you to move through that affects Connor’s speed and stealth abilities, but was absolutely gorgeous to look at, even if it is more recommended that he try to stick to tree branches.

And since much of Connor’s free-running in these areas will have him moving through trees and over rocks, the AC team gave him the most fluid climbing mechanics yet as many of the foot and hand holds that we are accustomed to are no longer present and Connor will have to improvise on the fly. And with the frontier being 1.5 times bigger than Rome was in Brotherhood, it’s a good thing that Connor can climb trees to help get around more quickly in this massive piece of real estate.

Another interesting aspect of the frontier, and again continuing with Connor’s Native American heritage, will be his encounters with wildlife. Startling animals could alert soldiers to his presence, but skinning and killing them could also allow him to sell meat and fur back at the city hubs for money and I am sure several side-missions will center around this mechanic.

And speaking of city life, Connor will spend a good portion of his time here, too. More NPCs than ever before will be seen on screen in the hustling and bustling Colonial New York and Boston that will be in ACIII. There is also new free-running mechanics here as the chase-breakers from multiplayer have found their way into single player. Now you can dive through open windows and cut through actual building or apartment interiors when being chased to escape your foes, making this easily the largest Assassin’s Creed game yet, inside and out.

Mentioning NPCs reminded me though that Connor will not be alone in his fight. Some of history’s greatest characters will once again be getting the Assassin’s Creed treatment as George Washington and Ben Franklin will be mission givers in this game as you take part in history yourself with Paul Revere’s Midnight Run or take orders from General Israel Putnam at the Battle of Bunker Hill. And speaking of Bunker Hill and NPCs, the most impressive thing I’ve seen in games in a while was the rows upon rows of individually rendered and modeled British soldiers during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

When prompted as to how many were on screen at any given time, the folks from Ubisoft assured us there were over 2,000 British soldiers on screen at any one moment firing volleys of bullets from their 18th-century rifles as we moved through the trenches, trying to be stealthy in the middle of a war and not get shot by accident, as we approached our target, a British captain and high-ranking Templar official, who was assassinated in one smooth running motion as Connor took advantage of the chaos of battle around him.

When all was said and done, with everything that we had seen, I was quite simply in shock. The massive world, the new characters and weapons, and the setting were enough to knock my socks off. The new game play and combat elements the Ubisoft team had implemented along with working our way through the frontier were absolutely gorgeous to look at and if they are anywhere as smooth as many of the elements from the previous Assassin’s Creed games, then there is not a doubt in my mind this will be the greatest adventure yet. I just wonder how Desmond feels about all this.