The next installment for the Assassin’s Creed franchise is finally out and we at Gameverse have had a chance to see its wonders. The series has followed Desmond Miles on his journey to save the world from a cataclysmic event set to happen on December 21, 2012. He’s found the vault of information where the precursor beings we’ve come to know as “The ones who came before” have tried to save their world from similar circumstances. Desmond and his team run into the problem of missing a key that opens the way to the final solution to save the planet. Desmond must enter the Animus and use his ancestors to find the key’s location. His ancestor- a half British, half Mohawk descended named Ratohnhaké:ton or better known as Connor later, fights for his own cause during the American Revolution. The game is a remarkable one as the Revolutionary War hasn’t really been touched by video games. Expect to see big ticket names such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and many more!
What’s under the hood
Assassin’s Creed III is boasting their brand new AnvilNext engine that allows for a much greater visual fidelity. A new and improved artificial intelligence creates more lifelike characters that you can interact with. Also with new improvements to the engine, it’s now capable of rendering up to 2000 NPC’s at any given time; which is especially nice when you are experiencing events such as the battle of Lexington and Concord. I’m also happy to report that Assassin’s Creed now has weather effects! Not only does it apply to including all four seasons in the year but it also means we can experience thunderstorms on land and on sea! The experience of battling ships at sea while attempting to maneuver in a thunderstorm is not one I’ll soon forget.
What new and what’s stayed the same
Connor has the most precise control schemes of all of the Assassin’s Creed games. They’ve really simplified the free running mechanic to just the right trigger. You no longer have to hold down the A button to sprint and to start climbing buildings, Connor will just do that for you when you’re holding down the trigger. Also they’ve removed the tackle run ability (holding B while running) and just included it with the running animations. If you want to get through a crowd you can just run as normal and Connor will push people out of the way as needed without any input from you. They did however keep the tackle run in the multiplayer. Climbing speed has also been improved but with a cost. I’ve noticed that the feet don’t match up with objects they’re climbing as often as they once were. It looks as if they’re feet are pressed up against the wall and are using the friction from the surface to help boost them up. Hand placement is still spot on though.
Connor is also more acrobatic than his previous ancestors that allow him to traverse and navigate through the trees with ease and precision. With the free-run mechanic set to only the right trigger, you are less likely to jump in the wrong direction or off of the surface you’re climbing. The downside is that most of the tree navigation that you’ll be doing is a set of small linear paths through the world. There are some points where you can split off into a different direction, but many are linear in design even if they don’t follow a straight line.
Fast travel has also had some new changes. You are allowed to fast travel to the edges of the city (where you can enter the Frontier) or to any harbor docks (which I suppose is also the edge of the city as you can fast travel from those as well). The hidden passageways under the city are also included but with a twist. Once you’ve found one passageway, you actually enter the underground tunnels. They’re sort of maze-like in shape but they do lead to the other doors that lead back to the city. Once you’ve found the other entrances and unlocked the doors, they become available for fast travel above ground. (You can also use them to fast travel underground while you’re exploring to help save some time as well)
Connor is a lethal killer, and his fighting animations show just that. Combat is very smooth and fluid allowing you to approach and take out multiple enemies with deadly precision. Ubisoft has revamped the command inputs for fighting in combat that differ from all the previous games. Blocking and countering attacks has been changed to just the B button. Holding it down will block all normal attacks, but if you were to press it when an enemy attacks, Connor will counter the attack and the game will slow down for a little bit so you can input how to respond: X will assassinate the enemy with your currently equipped weapon. Y will kill the enemy with your current equipment (ie. Bow and Arrow, Flintlock pistol, etc) A will disarm the enemy. If you are using your bare hands, you will take their weapon from them. And B will throw your enemy. You can’t grab enemies like you once were with the small exception of pulling an enemy and using them as a human shield when someone is about to shoot at you. Another addition is multi-kills. When more than one enemy attacks you at once, whenever you hit the counter button you will kill all those attacking enemies in an impressive display of deadly precision. Overall the fighting takes some time to get used to if you’ve been so conditioned to the previous AC games, but once you’ve made the connection to how combat works you’ll be well on your way to winning the Revolutionary War single-handedly.
Although you still have a health bar, ACIII has removed all the health elixirs that could be used in combat. Instead your health will regenerate completely at the end of combat. So that means that when you’re fighting 8 guards and you’re low on health, either to kill them all off to restore your health or to shake them off and hide to end combat. It’s a neat mechanic that evokes the Fight or Flight response within each of us. We should also mention that guards sometimes call for backup when they’re on the verge of defeat bringing in tougher enemies. So choose wisely when your health starts getting low.
To make things a bit more interesting, ACIII introduces naval battles where you can pilot your own vessel on the open seas. Piloting a ship has been made really easy with your crew doing most of the work for you. There are 3 speeds with which you can use: Stop, half sail and full sail. Naturally you are more maneuverable when you are going half sail. Weather also plays a huge role in naval combat as you have to contend with strong winds, tall waves and other enemy vessels that like to shoot back at you. Combat is simple yet gratifying; just line up your ship with an enemy vessel and fire away. For a more tactical approach you can aim smaller, more precise cannons at your enemies to blow up their stockpile of gunpowder.
Makin’ that money
No longer do you have to play Mr. Fix it and refurbish every gosh-darn building in the world to make a bit of profit. Instead you use convoys that transport supplies to merchants which give you a higher profit margin. You can also disrupt the British supply convoys and take their supplies for yourself if you wish. Just be aware that when you send out expensive supplies, they’re more likely to come under attack, requiring that you defend your convoy or you’ll lose your shipment.
Finding chests around the city can also boost huge profits. There are a lot fewer of them around from the previous games but they hold a lot more treasure inside of them and many require that you pick the lock “Splinter Cell” style.
Pickpocketing is still available but it’s been changed a bit to be more like the first Assassin’s Creed game. You basically hold down the B button that charges up the pickpocket bar (similar to looting bodies) and then Connor will perform the action. You also cannot be seen by the person you’re stealing from or the charge counter will cut off. It’s not really the fastest way to make money, but you do get a lot of special items from them that unlock achievements.
And lastly you can always hunt in the wilderness and sell the pelts of the animals you’ve killed to local merchants. This is a more profitable approach right next to convoys and a ton of fun if you enjoy hunting games. You can use baits, snares and your natural skills to hunt some of the biggest game in the frontier.
Breakin’ the bank
Well now that you have your money, what are you going to spend it on? Well, Connor does not have any upgrades for his armor anymore. I’m sorry, but since ACIII has removed the “growing” health bar from upgrading your armor, there is no need for such trivial things. Also there are no doctors, tailors, banks. But there is a general store that sells weapons and consumables such as bait, snares, bullets, etc. You can also spend money upgrading your ship to withstand more damage, use different types of cannonballs as well as adding more cannons to your ship if you so desire.
Like many AAA games out there, the character models in ACIII are top notch. The equipment parts attached to Connor move independently including the tassels that blow in the wind realistically. ACIII also included a variety of animals to populate the frontier as well as cats, dogs, chickens and cows that are located in Boston and New York. During our play through we’ve noticed a few technical glitches. Things like a character stuck halfway into the ground or the forearms of one character missing leaving his hands floating in space. They’re very few and far between, and not having it happen very often makes them a bit more noticeable. We can’t talk about character glitches without mentioning the Desmond character model. Desmond is wearing a white sweatshirt and a black one-strap backpack. I’m not sure if when designing the character model they wanted to have a different backpack attached to his back, but part of his sweatshirt is poking right through his backpack. It’s even more noticeable when you’re running around because it too will move and grow based on your movements. We’ve also noticed that the strap of his backpack under his right arm isn’t stitched to his character model correctly leaving a gap for you to see inside the model. It’s cleverly hidden by his arm most of the time but noticeable enough to point out. We could forgive Ubisoft if this were a NPC that we wouldn’t see most of time (although we don’t really see Desmond most of the time), but it’s unacceptable for one of you lead characters.
Like the previous games, Ubisoft has taken care to recreate the time period. They’ve even recreated Boston and New York using maps from the time period on a 1/3 scale. Although Ubisoft has taken some liberties in showcasing the hidden war between the Templars and Assassins, they’re historical portrayal of battles is quite remarkable. They’ve even included the newspaper articles of historical events and the full text copies of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanacs.”
Multiplayer has been streamlined to make it more stable. I’ve seen improvements like being able to stun your pursuer without having to have that stupid context sensitive button over their head. You can just run up and knock em out if you wish. Another fantastic thing that’s been a problem forever is that they’ve fixed jumping into haystacks. Once you jump in, you won’t jump out right away from the slightest movement of your joystick. New characters, maps and weather systems have also been added. However much of the gameplay remains the same. Getting in and out of matches has been improved by reducing the minimal number of players to start a match. You only need 4 people to start playing a game of Manhunt (hide and seek). They’ve also added little things that make the game more interesting like showing the top 3 players in a game as well as some visual animations of accolades. For example if you had the “most kills accolade” they’ll show your character taking on 3 of your opponents without taking a scratch.
Assassin’s Creed III is one impressive game to say the least. Connor is highly maneuverable both in and out of combat in a world that is portrayed with historical accuracy. When you’re not experiencing some of America’s most historic events, you’re probably on your ship battling sea pirates and looking for hidden treasure. Ubisoft has promised to provide lots of downloadable content in the months to come including the (not so historic) ‘Tyranny of King Washington’ DLC or the more accurate portrayal of ‘Expose Benedict Arnold’ where Ubisoft takes some liberties on the action sequences. History has never been so much fun!