Eyes on “Assassin’s Creed 3”

It is nearly impossible to describe how utterly excited I am for this game to be released. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t analyze the game thoroughly from what has been released to the public through demos, trailers, videos and interviews instead of succumbing to rabid fanboyism.  
“Assassin’s Creed” has been a pivotal game series in the last decade due to its innovative gameplay, stunning graphics, unique storyline and constant evolution. “Assassin’s Creed 3” takes place during the American Revolution as Desmond takes what Ubisoft has stated is probably his final look into his past and become the British/Native American Assassin Connor. Wielding a tomahawk, pistols, saber, knives and a hunting bow makes Connor look like the deadliest and most versatile Assassin we have seen to date in the series.   

Of course, what “AC” game would be complete without historical figures for the player to interact with? None other than George Washington and Benjamin Franklin have been confirmed to appear in the game. This fits the trend of major historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart and Leonardo da Vinci appearing in past games.  

While a pre-rendered, CGI trailer from Blur Studios is nice, and quite frequently better than a major film trailer, they don’t quite do games justice when it comes to the actual gameplay. Thankfully, attendees of E3 and San Diego Comic Con were treated to live demos to sate their curiosity. Haven’t seen them? Don’t fret:  

Fans of “Assassin’s Creed” will note subtle differences to the gameplay this time around just from this snippet of gameplay. Obviously there was much focus on the tomahawk and bow and arrow usage. Likely because they’re new and Ubisoft wanted to show off. That’s just what you do when you’ve got a new game. Oddly enough, the tomahawk is so visceral and violent it seems to work with the somewhat cold and dirty look of the game. 

Connor’s guerrilla tactics allow him to take no prisoners and show no mercy in his drive to get to his target. Plus, hanging that guy from the tree was pretty awesome. The bow and arrow replaces the crossbow from previous installments in the franchise, or at least it appears to do so, and really that doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. The crossbow was an excellent long distance stealth weapon for the player to utilize, and if your main character doesn’t have access to that type of technology, then the next logical thing would be a basic bow. Although he does have pistols, but let’s not split hairs when the entire basis of the game is science fiction anyway.   

Something else to take note of in the very beginning of the demo was the cover system in the tall grass. This mechanic is clever since there might be a shortage of hay bales in the deep woods and in fields. If Connor is supposed to be a hunter and tracker, then he would use such tactics to stalk his prey and pounce without warning. Speaking of prey, PETA might be a little upset at the large amount of animal killing. *audience laugh*  

The character animations and details are of a level we have come to expect from this franchise, having evolved from “AC: Revelations” accordingly and looking beautiful. From the way the deer limped and staggered after being shot, to the conversation Connor has and the way he fights, everything looks superb and seems to flow effortlessly.  

Free-flow combat returns in “Assassin’s Creed 3.”

Now that combat’s been mentioned there’s the little matter of multiple takedown moves and grabbing weapons on the run. “AC” is known for it’s innovative free-flow combat and was one of the first games to perfect it from the style that was “Dynasty Warriors” and “God of War.” Few games successfully emulate it now. To see it now you’d not blink twice, but it’s good to see the company still providing something that works. 

The crowd at E3 cheered pretty loud when Connor snagged that rifle at the end and jumped to kill his target with it.  Free-running and climbing seems to be the same as in past games, but adding trees into the mix is a sigh of relief after fans constantly complained about not being able to climb trees with past heroes Ezio and Altair when they were easily able to scale the Vatican and other huge buildings.

What you don’t see in this demo is the naval combat that was displayed on the show floor of E3. Looking vaguely like the system in “Empire: Total War” and “Napoleon: Total War”, the player is able to steer the ship, target the enemy vessel and command the crew to fire at their pleasure. Unfortunately, the demo faded to white when the boarding of the enemy ship began, but hopefully there will be ship to ship combat to go with the cannon fire.

Assassins at sea.

Also on the show floor of E3 was a live demo of an in-game Boston, Mass. in which the development team took attendees on a tour through the streets of the city to show what urban gameplay would be like. It didn’t seem much different from past games – sneaking through crowds, running on rooftops and assassinating soldiers in alleyways. What was impressive and fun to see was the ability to run through certain windows and come out the other side of buildings to evade capture. This was a little funny and I’m pretty sure I heard a woman scream in surprise as Connor trampled through her bedroom.

There are a few issues that should be addressed from previous games in the series that I hope the developers of “AC3” address. Enemy AI needs tweaking. Always always always. Sometimes it’s downright stupid, only one man attacking at a time in a group of soldiers ten strong. Other times it’s almost as if the guards are clairvoyant and can sense trouble from three blocks away, making things far more difficult than one would think they’d be. There never seems to be a happy medium. Perhaps this is Ubisoft’s way at telling the player he needs to try a different approach, or maybe it’s just one of those things that slips through the cracks. Who knows?  

Connor must have inherited his fashion sense from Ezio.

Also, for the love of all that is holy, can someone please fix the jelly-body bug? Yes, everyone loves ragdoll physics. They’re creative and very life like. But after four games, you’re still able to walk over a corpse and watch the body roll across the ground as if it’s made of helium or watch it bounce as it falls from a death blow in a horrifically unrealistic fashion. Either the bodies aren’t weighted correctly or there’s just something wrong with the coding, I’m not sure. I’m not a programmer. But you’d think that after this many years someone could figure that out and fix it.  

 The repetitive nature of “AC” has been addressed in the past, and often times in games it seems fixed, while at other times it’s just plain annoying to fetch this, look at that, deliver this and kill four of these guards.  Will there be more command of the Assassin’s Order in this game? If not, that’s a whole game mechanic removed that took a lot of time up for players and there should be something to replace it, or at least use players’ time more effectively to ensure they don’t miss leveling up their students.

Bugs, glitches, annoying pedestrian AI that blocks your path when you’re trying to move stealthily through a crowd – there are numerous things that have popped up in their last four games that should hopefully be addressed and dealt with. “AC3” might be a perfect game if the rest of it is as good as it looks. If not, well, it will be enjoyable, but it might be a little disappointing compared to the other fan favorites in the franchise.