Even though some other games piqued my interest at this year’s E3 (*cough* Watch Dogs), I must shamelessly admit that I was ultimately excited about Assassin’s Creed III more than anything. I even whimpered and squealed like a third-grade girl when they presented it at the Ubisoft conference.
So it was kind of a bummer that I wasn’t originally slated to preview it. However, the dork gods smiled upon me, and I got to fill in for the person originally booked. I must say that I was very, very satisfied.
This time around, instead of naval battles and traversing the canopy of the North American wilderness, I got the chance to view Connor’s acrobatic dance atop the masonry of 18th-century Boston. What a fantastic sight it was, because, along his journey to resurrect the long-dormant Brotherhood, Connor Kenway has learned a few new tricks.
Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite series of this generation, solely because of its fun factor. Few games manage to retain the illusion of feeling like a badass, without sacrificing it all for the sake of “challenge.” AC has never been one of the most difficult games in the world, but it certainly is fun, and this third chapter in the series looks no different. Now, assassinating the unjust is more fluid and satisfying than ever.
Boston revealed a multitude of changes in the way you take out your enemies. First, and most importantly, Connor uses a bow. I know, about five other games at E3 have this, but AC3 is where it makes sense the most; because bows are silent, and, well, this is a game all about killing people without drawing too much attention. Of course, ammunition is quite limited, so this isn’t always available for players to easily take out baddies.
Another cool addition is the ability to blend in with the brush of your surroundings. When players enter tall grass or foliage, they go into a sort of stalker mode where Connor crouches down, out of sight.
Players can then more easily sneak up to suspicious NPCs and drag them down to their death. Or, if you’re a bit of a pacifist and would rather kill as few redcoats as possible, then the brush is an easy means of sneaking straight past guards, without them ever knowing you were right behind them, breathing down their neck.
Not every assassin is perfect, though, as sometimes you will be spotted while you work. The first choice is typically to run away and hide, which Ubisoft has completely retooled for the modern cities of colonial America. One popular choice of evasion is to lose the sight of the alerted guards, then blend in with the city’s denizens. Instead of finding a pack of folks and awkwardly standing in the center of them, Connor now simply walks into a crowded area. When he starts to blend in, a small icon appears above his head, and he pulls his hood down to cover his face. No more turning gray; Mr. Kenway doesn’t stand for any of that achromatic bull crap.
A neat little metagame addition is side-quests that players can do for city dwellers, gaining their trust and a small perk as a reward. In the demo I saw, Connor helped a young woman whose husband was unjustly imprisoned by the local redcoats. Afterwards. She provided a nice little shortcut for him during heated situations. The next time Connor gained the antagonistic attention of the city guards, he was able to cut through the top window of her house and break the line of sight much easier. I can’t wait to see what other perks players can receive from the game’s troubled American citizens.
Another thing that Ubisoft has reworked is how guild mates aid the player. Instead of being nothing more than a cheap, simple means of assassination, guildies can help Connor sneak into certain places. For instance, he was charged with the task of taking out a few officers who were stations on a docked frigate. Instead of sneaking in the old-fashioned way by hurdling over the rooftops, he called on his assassin buddies -- dressed in the red garbs of British soldiers -- to act as a crowd around him, as he snuck past a group of guards.
A regular feature to the series is haystacks, which are often used as hiding spots -- after the iconic “leap of faith” -- and also as quiet assassination tools whenever enemies venture too close. What they’ve never been, however, is mobile. In AC3, horses now sometimes pull large bales of it, making retreating from pursuing guards or silently dispatching a certain enemy that much easier.
Times exist where one must stand their ground and fight, however, and AC3’s combat system has gone through some slight changes. For one, bolting past guards to get to a target no longer requires the player to stop in his tracks, take out people in his way, then move on to the next person. Now, Connor never stops moving; as he runs past enemies, he can easily take them out with a tomahawk to the face, roll over them, and continue on his path. I’m glad they addressed this, because I never enjoyed seeing unwanted enemies as brick walls in the way of my goal.
Out of all the cool additions to Assassin’ Creed III, what I wanted to know the most was some context behind Connor’s ethnicity. So, naturally, I wasted no time asking Ubisoft about his background and how he’s affected by a time where Native Americans weren’t seen in the best light. Connor Kenway (known by his tribe as Ratonhnhaké:ton) is a half-Mohawk man who was born in a very reclusive village. While growing up, he learns of his roots, and trains in the ways of assassination with hopes of ridding the world of injustice and resurrecting his long-lost guild after his home is attacked.
The great thing about Connor’s character is that he’s completely foreign to all of the game’s locales, not to mention the conflict going on around him. I like this narrative tool, because, while it’s easy to assume most North American gamers will be familiar with the game’s locations, people in other countries across the pond may not be too familiar with them ... not to mention the American Revolution. Also, although Ubisoft didn’t provide me with any specific examples of the bigotry that Connor will experience, they assured me that it’s in there and will be quite prevalent during his adventure. I’m assuming they didn’t want to give away too much of the narrative.
I am incredibly excited for this game, and what I saw at E3 only made that anticipation more fervent. I’m psyched enough to write a 1,000+ word preview of the game, during a time when I really should prioritize. But I can’t help it! I love American history, and I love Assassin’s Creed.
Look forward to Assassin’s Creed III hitting store shelves this October. Prepare to meet another one of Demond’s 512 ethnic backgrounds.
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