Assassin’s Creed is one of the most accomplished franchises this generation, providing players with realistic, highly atmospheric historical environments rich with detail. Early 16th century Italy was a pleasure for the senses, as one walked the streets of Rome, listening to the political criers, the shouts of shop owners, and the passing chatter of civilians going about their daily lives. In the new entry, we not only leave protagonist Ezio Auditore behind, we also adopt a brand new setting: Come this fall, we will explore the dynamic – and still quite young – American frontier. Got the spine chill? I do.
Set during the Revolutionary War, ACIII isn’t necessarily about the war for independence, although that event will of course paint the landscape with broad, war-themed strokes. This is the story of Connor, a young man who is half-Native American and half British; he grows up with the Mohawk tribe but after they’re wiped out, he knows action must be taken. Ubisoft hasn’t explained exactly how such an occurrence leads Connor into the ranks of the legendary Assassins, but we don’t need such spoilers now, right? Much better to find out for ourselves when we play.
Now, above, I mentioned that the protagonist has changed, which is both true and false. As fans of the franchise know, characters like Altair and Ezio are only ancestors of the real protagonist, Desmond, who exists in the current time. However, as we so rarely control Desmond, the main character title is typically ascribed to his ancestor assassins. We imagine the same will happen in ACIII, as Desmond returns but we’re mostly playing with Connor. The latter is quieter and more serious than the often cocky and undeniable ladies man that was Ezio.
As for gameplay, Connor comes equipped with a Tomahawk, bow and arrow, and musket. Some are suspicious of the new equipment, as the assassin’s trademark, the dual hidden blades, haven’t been seen. Are they still here…? We hope so but if not, we have to assume the stealth element remains, even if we have more fluid and explosive options when on offense. We have also heard that the counter system – the only truly effective way to deal with crowds of enemies in past entries – has been entirely overhauled. Connor’s foes will range widely, from human combatants to wild animals.
Therefore, you have to expect a well-rounded fighter, one that is equally at home in the shadows as he is facing down an armed opponent. The terrain will also play more of a role than ever before, as you will have the advantage when on higher ground (such a position may also affect your stealthy assassination abilities). Connor may indeed have to pick his way through pitched battles between the Americans and British, and remember, his alliances may shift as time goes on… He’s not really fighting for a side, as the developers have made clear.
Lastly, the sheer size and scope of the map ought to be impressive. They’re saying it’s about 1.5 times the size of Rome from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood , and when I add 50% to what I vividly recall from Rome…yeah, I get goosebumps. However, just remember that we’re talking about a developing country and not a thriving Renaissance metropolis, so expect more in the way of “outdoorsy” environments. The only downside here is that I’m one of the few who always loved scaling crazy high structures in past titles; the sense of height was dizzying.
Not sure what I’d climb in this one, or even if those Viewpoints will return. But there’s no doubt that Assassin’s Creed III is high atop my priority list, as I believe it has every chance of being a strong contender for Game of the Year. We’re probably not getting Grand Theft Auto V or The Last Of Us in 2012 so right now, I’d say Bioshock Infinite and ACIII are 1-2 in the race for this year’s top dog. Let’s just hope Ubisoft wows the hell out of us!