Last week StickTwiddlers, amongst a few other selected gaming press, were cordially invited to London to see the official reveal of Assassins Creed III. Now, a week later, we’ve been allowed to take the lid off of what we saw of the game.
Upon arrival, we were all piled into a theatre as men dressed as the Continental Army and British Forces from the American Revolution surrounded the sides. They were either there to stop us from taking pictures, or we had been trapped in there to be shot for forgetting that Assassins Creed: Bloodlines existed. The hour long event soon started and would take us through how Assassins Creed III came to be, and how it morphed into the game its become.
When the game seemingly came out of nowhere on its announcement, people wondered if the game would just be a cheap quick cash in, with the latest in the series only being released last November. This couldn’t be any farther from th truth. Whilst other Assassin’s Creed sub-games were being released, this, the third numbered title, had been going through development side by side.
AC 3 has been in development for two years using the development teams of Prince of Persia, Assassins Creed 1, 2 and Revelations. We were shown a target video shown to Ubisoft heads from December 2010 which was the deciding factor on if the game would be given the full go ahead or not. The pre-rendered video featured our new protagonist, Connor, in the woods taking down a team of the Continental army. It looked impressive and as we know, was given the green light.
The game is developed for Anvil Next, an upgrade of Assassin Creed’s current engine. With this comes a lot of improvements. The amount of characters on screen has been vastly improved, with the later real time gameplay we saw showing entire armies at war on the screen with no visible frame rate dips, with 2000 characters being the imposed limit. It has also given an increase into the realism the NPC’s have.
New motion capture has made their movements a lot more real, but they have also doubled the amount of bones in the face, so now mouths can give a much more realistic tracking when dialogue is spoken. One of the most exciting achievements of the engine from a gameplay point of view though is the amount of sprawling space that can be rendered.
In the game is a large forest – The Frontier. This area is 1.5x larger than Rome from Assassins Creed II at 2x2km. A lot of the footage and time was spent talking about The Frontier and for good reasoning. Weather can constantly change in the game, from snow to heavy rain. The environment realistically changes depending on that weather, so the characters will realistically have to sludge through snow, or potentially trip when running in the rain.
The environment can now also be used for navigation a lot easier. The game has now got a ‘You can go anywhere and climb on anything’ attitude, meaning every tree can be climbed and jumped from and each wall can be climbed for leverage. This isn’t limited to The Frontier, as trees are now featured in the cities such as New York and Boston. The inclusion of climbable trees in the cities means you can navigate the wide streets from above easier than before, and remain above ground.
It’s now important to discuss who this titular assassin is, as a lot of the changes and additions to the game are based around his background. His name is Connor, a half-English and half-Mohawk clan. With him comes an arsenal of Tomahawk, Dual Pistols, Bow and Arrow and a Blade. Weapons that existed at the time and would’ve been used by the clan he came through were used, with armaments such as the chain blade originally being planned but later scrapped due to historical inaccuracies.
Connor follows the same assassin order as Altair and Ezio, and also has his own key theme. Whilst Altair had the theme of Duty and Ezio had the theme of Revenge, Connor has the theme of Justice, coming through in both timelines in the game. With his background of living away from society, this opens up what he can do. In The Frontier it is possible to be attacked from wild bears which can then be killed and used as food. Whilst this was being touted as a brand new innovation of gaming, there were of course wild bear attacks in Disaster: Day of Crisis and killing animals for food was also done in Metal Gear Solid 3, but Assassins Creed III takes it further by having it a lot more interactive and a lot more real.
Joining Connor is a host of iconic real life characters from the American Revolution including George Washington, Ben Franklin, Charles Lee, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette who you will interact with as the game goes on. At the end of the presentation we were shown a 10 minute video of gameplay footage where we saw yet more improvements and additions.
NPC’s in the cities have had more depth added to them. Market sellers will now follow you to a certain degree to try and make you buy some of their wares. Children and dogs roaming the streets also now play a part of the cities make up. In one mission, we see Connor having to traverse a battlefield to assassinate a General on the other side. Both sides use muskets and, as in real life, they take at least a minute to reload. As this would make for boring gameplay, they decided to twist reality and make the new value 20 seconds. Connor has a small window of time to get across the field, stopping to avoid fire when they have to reload. Its a simple thing, but with so many characters all shooting at you, it makes the scene a lot more intense.
The one thing that I haven’t mentioned is the graphics. From what we were shown, the game has an outstanding presentation and even with so much going on, and so many new additions, it still strives in looking fantastic. If you’ve not played an AC game before, then Assassin’s Creed III will make you want to. It looks like it could be the best stealth title in years, refining on all the problems of past titles.
Assassins Creed III is due out for the PS3, 360 and PC on October 30th and Wii U on an unspecified date.