According to Ubisoft’s IP Development Director Tommy Francois, Assassin’s Creed 3 is a ‘history simulator’. PR spiel you might think, but this time, thankfully, it’s not without merit. When preparing for battle among the troops, you’ll hear actual speeches given by history’s world leaders. You’ll witness key historical events like the Great Fire of New York and the Battle of Bunker Hill, and you’ll become involved in key moments throughout history, fighting in real-world skirmishes between the redcoats and the Native Americans, and assassinating historical targets in the correct time periods and places.
“We pride ourselves on being authentic,” Francois tells us, revealing that anything too fantastical (ignoring the series’ fabricated Animus or Apple of Eden, of course) doesn’t make the grade. Ubisoft Montreal’s fictitious ‘Chain Blade’, a God of War Blades of Athena-type weapon that once let new assassin Connor swing through trees or violently hang enemies, was cut, replaced with the Rope Dart, a historical Chinese weapon with similar abilities.
Scalping, too, was removed, after the team’s group of historians discovered that Mohave Indians didn’t scalp, while 80 per cent of the characters you’ll meet in the game aren’t simply made up, but actual historical figures. And despite posing significant design challenges given their wider streets and lack of scalable objects, the cities of 1770s Boston and New York have been replicated in an immense amount of detail, filled to bursting with interactive NPCs and dynamic emergent gameplay to make Assassin’s Creed feel more alive than ever before. “It’s not an evolution [of the series],” adds Marketing Director Murray Pannell, “this is our revolution.”
Connor’s the new hero, then, an assassin of British and Native American heritage fighting for justice after his village (the Mohawk Valley) is razed to the ground. Essentially he’s a freedom fighter, working with the various alliances to ensure Native Americans still have a place in future civilisation, stalking Redcoats and hunting prey within the vast wilderness of the American Frontier to preserve the Native’s way of life.
The frontier is 1.5 times the size of Brotherhood’s Rome, and it’s just one of three locations in AC3. Of course, there aren’t many buildings out in the wilderness, something the series has always relied upon for its gameplay. Instead, Connor can climb trees and rock climb, with a revamped animation system making the process seem far more fluid than in previous Assassin’s Creeds.
New weather effects, like rain, snow and fog and changes of seasons will also impact the gameplay – Connor will be restricted in his movements during heavy snow, for example – while the improvements to the Anvil engine mean that hundreds of NPCs can be drawn on-screen at any one time, delivering a terrific sense of atmosphere and a remarkable sense of scale to the great outdoors.
It’s Assassin’s Creed with the best bits from Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption, then, but that’s no bad thing. Assassin’s Creed 3 impresses in all the right places, with a setting and scale refreshing enough to reinvigorate interest in players suffering from series fatigue. It’ll be the biggest game Ubisoft has ever released, the publisher reckons, and judging by what we’ve seen so far, that ambition doesn’t seem to be too far off the mark.
Assassin’s Creed III launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 31st. A Wii U version is also in development.
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