The time has finally arrived! After having everything about the game leaked in advance of the official announcements it’s time for Ubisoft to make some more official announcements about Assassin’s Creed III which haven’t already been leaked!… Wait, the screenshots exclusive for this feature and announcement have already been leaked? Awesome. Well, the words and certain revelations are new anyway. Not just new, but EXCITING as well. So let us bravely soldier on through this feature for 30 years before retreating and pretending it was all on purpose.
No, but seriously, Ubisoft did hold a stand up event last week, for a surprisingly large group of journalists, to reveal some super awesome, new, unleaked, information about Assassin’s Creed III which (screenshots aside) are now my duty to showcase right here and now to get you all excited in your brain and pants. There was beer, and hog meat in bread, and even a veritable army of red coats with muskets; which they were very generous about letting you touch given the blood alcohol level we had all achieved in celebrating the anticipation of AC III. Enough about the booze and the dead pigs in attendance though, let’s talk GAMES.
On the off chance that you haven’t been keeping up with Assassin’s Creed III news at all, allow me to give you a super quick one paragraph run down of what is already know: It turns out that it is set during the American Revolution (which, for the history impaired, took place between 1753-1783), it will feature an entirely new historic protagonist hero in league with the Templars, and… well, that’s pretty much it. Not a huge chunk of information was really announced past that. If you don’t know anything about the American Revolution, then allow me to give you a super quick one sentence run down of it: go pick up a book or Google it. Knowledge is power. GO!
The event was a relaxed affair but a very information heavy one so I apologise in advance if this feature is a bit more data ridden than normal but there was a lot mentioned and I don’t want to miss a single bit. Fortunately for me it was all presented by Ubisoft’s Director of IP Development, Tommy Francois, who holds the title for the most French name of any Ubisoft employee I’ve ever seen in person. He, and his rather perplexing American sounding accent, actually made the entire presentation incredibly interesting and charming all in one go.
Alright, now that we have set the scene and know what the American Revolution was, let’s start off with the first meaty topic which had a chunk of information revealed: the new protagonist. His name is Connor. Connor is a half Native American, half British assassin with a proclivity for climbing up nearby forestry. He has a delectable variety of weapons which include duel pistols, a bow and arrow, a tomahawk, and a rope dart (all of which will be detailed in greater depth down below). Even though a large portion of the game is likely to take place within The Animus, there was no mention of who is on the other side controlling our new hero Connor.
I won’t waste words describing bygone history because everybody here now knows all about the American Revolution (right?!) but I think it is absolutely worth talking about the setting(s) and environments which were on show. Ubisoft have not been too subtle in trotting out that, for a decent portion, the game will feature more foliage than Snoop Dogg’s wallet during a Neil Young concert. However, what I found unexpected was that it all seemed so smooth a transition for the series to make. The branch hopping, climbing, and swinging were all revamped from the ground up, as Ubisoft proudly boasted, using their new Anvil Next (???) engine. This meant there are new movement animations, jumping, crouching, and parkour-style manoeuvres all deliberately and meticulously created solely for this new natural environment which Connor will be bounding about in. Not to mention that now, finally, you are able to not only mount over objects but also roll/slide under them as well.
The smoothness and grace in which Connor swung and clambered over wide open terrain through tree branches, fallen logs, and more looked superb. If the finished product even hits 80% of that throughout the entire environment then consider my doubts firmly put to rest, and that’s not even mentioning the snow. Oh yes, the snow. With a new engine comes new possibilities and Ubisoft really seem to be set on changing the terrain as much as possible with particular emphasis, at least what they showed us, on snow. Depending on the weather and depth of snow Connor will travel faster or slower. Forcing you to either trudge stubbornly through four feet of snow or leap, hop, or otherwise prance around it in order to keep your momentum going. The same goes for long grass only to a lesser extent as far as slow down is concerned. It isn’t going to change the world as we know it, but any element which adds to Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay through the use of strategy and stealth is welcome in my books.
As we’re already on the subject of improvements let’s keep that wagon trail moving and mention that you can now use moving ‘Leaps of Faith’ (you see what I did there?). Plus, moving objects, such as carts and carriages, can be used to vault whenever you are free-running. Two small but very interesting additions. The moving LoF I find more of a cherry on top of the ice cream than anything else, but being able to use moving obstacles to escape your pursuers is a whole new flavour to get the taste buds flowing. Ubisoft know that AC is nothing without smooth, seamless transitions and in order to compensate for the significantly larger, more open areas with these little touches are an absolute joy to behold.
There are also now dogs, children, and wild animals scattered around the game as well. As far as I could tell the dogs and kids just do what dogs and kids do… sit around and exist. However, the wild animals, just the ones we saw, include deer, wolves, and bears, and are not only attackable but also skinable. Ubisoft kept their cards pretty close to their chest on this but during one video Connor was attacked by a wild bear and the option for skinning was briefly shown so it’s likely it will be something to do with armour/apparel upgrades depending on if you make a clean kill or not (knives are clean kills, guns are not).
Keeping the improvements coming Ubisoft have stated that the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) are also vastly enhanced compared to all the previous AC games. The most notable moment was when a street seller was not only attempting to sell a product to Connor, but actively chasing him and seemingly changing the price of his items as he shouted for you. Ubi also claimed that if you listen in to NPCs talking that you will pick up hints on where enemy strongholds are, local gossip, as well as how your own notoriety is doing. Quite impressive considering that they did casually throw out that the engine can support up to a 2,000 character draw. Meaning there can be anywhere up to 2,000 visible humans on screen at once. These two facts aren’t necessarily related but I only have so many words and I just need to get all of this in as best I can.
Okay, words are beginning to run short so it’s time for a super quick, and professional, run down of the weapons on show which were usable by Connor (I keep wanting to type Ezio):
The Bow and Arrow: It’s a bow and arrow. I assume it will be used as such. We didn’t get to see, but he definitely has them!
Duel Pistols: As Ubisoft is still pushing the mildly ‘realistic’ and ‘historically accurate’ line these are available but will take a while to reload, meaning they are far more likely to be used in a clutch situation where there are just one or two too many enemies to deal with using only hand-to-hand combat. We’ll just pretend that the gun cufflink never happened.
Tomahawk: Whoever thought of making a tomahawk in the shape of the Assassin’s Creed logo deserves a raise. A HUGE RAISE. It looks amazing, and is gory as all Hell when used properly. This one definitely gets my ‘Coolest Looking Killing Thing’ award.
Rope Dart: Originally dubbed the ‘Chain Blade’ (a name which I still think is way more badass) but changed due to historical inaccuracy this weapon seems to be what it says on a tin: a hooked dart on a string. It is rather reminiscent of a grappling hook but seemed to be able to be used for not just reaching higher plains but also for stringing up unsuspecting enemies. It looks like it could be extremely interesting but we really weren’t shown enough of it to truly praise it as the next big thing. Tomahawk for life.
We’re in the home stretch now, folks, just need to cover my final three new things and then it’s time for the wrap up. The three final things are the cover system, the kill animation, and the new interior free-running. That’s right, my friends, I said interior free-running. We only caught a very sparse glimpse of the phenomenon but it is a very real thing that is happening. Connor was being chased down by a group of Red coats and during the chase he bunny-jumped across a market place, in through a building window, and through the building to the other side and kept going. Details were unsurprisingly vague but we were promised this was a set feature in the game and not a single one time moment used for the in-game video where this new addition was shown. This could mean big things for escapes in tight situation. I just hope there’s a mechanic in the game somewhere which makes Connor splat against the window if he’s too slow and it gets shut on him like a dim cat leaping for a laser pointer.
There is now a cover system. Connor can duck and hide behind objects (not just chest-high walls) presumably for stealthy cover or to avoid gunfire. This is the first Assassin’s Creed game where the enemies’ main weapon is likely to be a firearm so it’s a logical step. I just hope it isn’t as mandatory as most cover systems tend to be when they’re implemented into a game. I’d happily accept it if they announce some kind of Matrix style bullet dodge to balance it out in the future.
This may seem like a miniature tacked on fact at the end (because it kind of is) but Ubisoft have chopped out the slowdown time when you make a kill on an enemy. It still slows, ever so slightly, but it’s not even measurable in whole seconds. It’s a small detail that makes a big difference because when both the combat and the movement combined run smoother than Morgan Freeman doing a vocal reading of ‘Goodnight Moon’ then you know you’ve got a winning Assassin’s Creed game on your hands (paying attention, Revelations?!).
Okay! There. Deep breaths everyone. That as much as I can churn out without this feature becoming ludicrously long. I believe the long and short of all that was that Assassin’s Creed III looks to be adding more stuff and making existing stuff even better than it was before. Tomahawk. Dammit, I could’ve totally just made this feature a Tweet with that level of succinct skill.