PAX East 12: Assassin’s Creed III Preview

In: Reviews by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola

6 Apr 2012

This is the Assassin’s Creed game you’ve been waiting for.

Let’s just get that out of the way now. Assassin’s Creed III is an appropriate title because this is more a sequel to Assassin’s Creed II than Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. In fact, production began on this game before Revelations was even a thing, which is not say it doesn’t take Revelation’s story beats into account. More accurately, it says that you won’t be doing any tower defense in III.

Thankfully.

The demo at PAX East dropped new assassin Conner right in the middle of the Battle of Bunker Hill, just as one of the men in charge is giving the “whites of their eyes” speech. He’s tasked with finding and killing the Templar, John Pitcairn. It’s a familiar Assassin’s Creed mission, but the environment is entirely unfamiliar.

There are no narrow streets — or narrow anything, really. The battle takes place on a wide hillside, with the British high up shooting down on the revolutionaries. Thousands of NPCs are lined up for both sides, taking turns shooting at each other. There are two paths Conner can take: One more stealthy and one more action-oriented. He takes the action route, putting him right in the no man’s land between the two sides. The guns and cannon fire are not just for show. As a cannon ball explodes in front Conner, he falls back and puts up his hands to protect his face, and he has to run from rock to rock to keep out of the gunfire. Pitcairn is at the peak of the hill, but Conner can’t charge the line or he’ll get cut down. So he takes the path less traveled: Up a tree.

Over the course of four Assassin’s Creed games people have gotten used to the idea that you can climb any building you see, but we could never climb trees. You might have to go through a slight adjustment period when starting Assassin’s Creed III, because in this game trees are the new buildings. If you see something that looks like you can climb it, you can climb it. The camera will help you out, since it pans around to point where you can climb when you get to a fork in the branches.

And it’s not just trees, but also cliff sides. Conner climbs like a pro, sticking his hands between the cracks in the rocks. Colonial America might not have as many buildings as Renaissance Italy, but this environment is no less interactive. The forest is not just for show, and it’s impressive how natural the trees look while still giving Conner multiple climbing options.

Since you’ll be spending lots of time in the treetops, Conner has some new weapons that are best used from there. The rope dart is one such weapon: A throwing knife with a rope attached to it, allowing him to string up his enemies and hang them from the branches. This is great way to stay stealthy if there’s just one guy below you, but in the demo Conner had to face a group.

Your enemies have guns, and you have to be aware of this. If they spot you from long or medium range they’ll line up, just as they’ve been trained to do, and take turns firing at you. To survive, this new assassin can take an enemy hostage and use him as a human shield.

In the demo, Conner hid behind the poor sap until the other group had to reload, then he rushed forwards to close the gap. At this point combat became more familiar. Enemies surrounded the assassin and attacked one at a time, and he countered and killed each one. But there was one new trick: When two enemies attacked at once Conner took them both down in a single fluid animation. This time you don’t have to kill guys one at time; if they come at you two at once, you can kill two at once.

There are new stealth elements as well with the introduction of Stalking Zones. Bushes aren’t just for hiding anymore, but stalking as well. Conner doesn’t automatically dive into a bush when you walk up to it, instead he ducks into it and keeps moving through it. This allows you sneak through enemy territory rather than killing every single guard you see.

Conner snuck through the enemy camp until he got an angle on Pitcairn. The target was sitting atop a horse, overlooking the entire battlefield, but he was a good distance away. In Assassin’s Creed III you’re encouraged to go straight for the target instead of killing everyone around him first. Conner has a special set of moving kills that allow him to take out anyone in his path without losing speed.

He jumped from the bushes and made a beeline for Pitcairn, running past most of the other soldiers milling about. He somersaulted over one guy, killing him, and then leapt off a nearby rock to bury a hatchet in Pitcairn’s face (Nice little detail: The hatchet is shaped like the Assassin’s symbol).

Assassin’s Creed III looks like a rebuilding of the series from the ground up. The core concepts and mechanics are still there, but everything around them has changed. And that’s a good thing. This third game might not represent as big a leap as Assassin’s Creed II was from Assassin’s Creed, but it’s certainly close.

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2 Responses to PAX East 12: Assassin’s Creed III Preview

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Neil

April 9th, 2012 at 3:13 am

Nice write-up! I am a big AC fan. Because of Skyrim I haven’t finished Revelations, but I have a nice chunk done and will finish soon. I am excited for this game and your positive write up gives me confidence this series can continue. Thank goodness there will be no tower defense. Fortunately in Revelations you can precede without playing TD. So, in your opinion, do you see this new character Connor being used in multiple games like Etzio (my favorite video game character ever) and to an extent Altiar? Do we know if Desmond is still a part of this? I am wondering if the series eventually brings us to a complete game taking place in modern times, our time. What do you think?

Anyway, thanks for the review, can’t wait!

Neil

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Nick Dinicola

April 10th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I didn’t get a good sense of Conner’s character unfortunately, but if the series progresses as it should then I assume this will be his only game.

Let me explain: Desmond will be in ACIII, this will conclude his story, so this this should be the big finale. What this means for Desmond, I don’t know, but as an ancestor of Desmond, Conner can only return if Desmond returns. So if Desmond’s story ends, Conner’s has to as well.

Thankfully there are plenty of other Assassins with Assassin ancestors that future games can focus on.

Alex Hutchinson, the creative director, has said that this game will focus more on Desmond than any of the previous games, so I think this IS the “modern times” AC game everyone has been waiting for. Or at least it’s as close as we’re gonna get. Which is fine by me, I’d rather play in the past than the present.

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