On the final afternoon of E3, when the heat of the day, the sweat, and noise were causing even the booth babes to look a little less perky, I was treated to a behind-closed-doors look at Assassin's Creed 3. At the time I'd wanted a coffee; but watching this awesome footage of Ubisoft Montreal's Colonial American assassin at work was ten times better than a hot, strong espresso. I was buzzing when I came out.
The demo opened with scenes from the area Ubisoft are simply calling 'the Frontier'. It's a snowy, wooded wilderness, where deer and wolves run - and so, too, does our assassin.
Connor Kenway is the new assassin of the game. He's half american indian, half british, which really could make for an awkward bit of conversation at a dinner party. Fortunately Connor seems more at home in the Frontier, running over all sorts of terrain, sliding down slippery snowy slopes, and leaping up into trees to run along the length of a branch, before jumping across to the next one.
We watched as he moved into a 'stalking zone', where he crept up upon an unsuspecting group of deer, one of which he killed with a bow and arrow. He knelt to butcher the deer (at this point I didn't know why he was doing this and thought it was a bit bizarre), but was set upon by wolves. He dodged the first that leapt at him, and then engaged the rest with his new weapon, the tomahawk, which he uses in conjunction with the assassin-staple wrist blade on his left hand.
Wolves dispatched, Connor then made his way towards a small patriot camp. As Connor walked by one man, he called out to him, asking him for help. The quest was immediately added to Connor's side quest list, though the Ubisoft presenter was very quick to point out that the side quests will only ever serve the main story line, and won't be pointless time-wasters. That said, however, when Connor then spoke to another man, giving him meat from the deer, I had to wonder how much feeding this small camp had to do with the greater scheme of things (oh well, at least it explained the deer butchery).
Next, the demo cut to a new area not shown to us before - the city of Boston. Now apparently when Ubisoft Montreal was creating Boston and New York, the other main city of the title, historians were asked to source maps of the cities from that time period, and these have been created, at a 3:1 ratio, in their entirety. Like other Assassin's Creed titles, landmarks and city accuracy is incredibly important, but unless kiwis are totally up to date with their American history, a lot of the significance of these places and locations may be lost on us. (They still look great.)
In Boston we got to see some of Connor's urban stealth abilities, with him sneaking past redcoats, running along rooftops, and performing 'corner take-downs'. We watched as he walked past a woman who called out to him for help. He followed her to an area where a man who had been put in the stocks was surrounded by a small group of redcoats.
First Connor positioned himself on the branch of a tree, and then making use of another new weapon, a chinese rope dart, he targeted the closest man, skewered him with the dart, and then jumped back off the branch, pulling the man, now impaled and attached to the rope, high up into the air. With a bit of confusion and surprise, the redcoats were on him, but with Connor quite easily able to dispatch the remaining four soldiers with just the hatchet and knife.
(We saw this tactic several other times - the rope spear appears to be a versatile way of whittling the numbers of the enemy down before moving on to the rest. It's also interesting to see that this assassin just a bit more reckless, a bit more of a brawler, than the earlier models.)
But in case the numbers to take on are to great, or if Connor needed to position himself differently before engaging, he would make use of his blend ability to avoid detection by the redcoats. We were also shown a new ability (the name of which I've forgotten) where Connor would call in some of his Brotherhood allies to pose as redcoats, and he as their prisoner. We saw this work down at the Boston docks, when Connor needed to get past a group of redcoats on sentry.
Another (somewhat humorous) tactic now available to him involved dropping down into a hay wagon, hiding in it, and then grabbing an unsuspecting redcoat and pulling him up and into the hay in order to finish him off in relative secrecy.
For the last section of the demo we were treated to a small glimpse of the naval combat that is new to AC3. In the shot we saw, he was standing at the helm of the ship, out of his assassin clothes, instead wearing a black tricorn and period clothes. Now I wish I could say how he came to be captain of his own ship, with a full working crew, but alas, that mystery wasn't able to be solved for us then.
In any case, the changeable weather and seas made for a dramatic scene, and when another ship approached and attacked, all hell broke loose. Initially plain cannonballs were fired, then a round of chain shot. The ships shot each other to hell, then drew nearer. The demo ended with Connor leaping from one ship to the next.
From what I've seen so far at E3, Assassin's Creed III is shaping up to be an intense, good looking game, with enough changes from the previous titles to keep the game feeling fresh. October 30th is the date when we'll hopefully get our grubby mitts on this title; I'll definitely be pushing my way to the front of the queue for this one.
NZGamer.com appears at E3 2012 thanks to Orcon Broadband.
The Good: New wilderness setting, smooth fighting, and a badass new assassin.
The Bad: There's a little less stealth than last time.
The Ugly: Getting skewered with a chinese rope dart.