Assassin’s Creed III – Hands-On
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has come a long way since its ‘pretty but repetitive’ debut back in 2007, having taken us through a variety of locales and time periods, from Acre during the third crusade through to renaissance Rome and Constantinople. The latest entry promises to do some much needed explaining to answer the questions raised throughout the games, dropping players into the capable boots of Connor Kenway, a half-British, half-native American embroiled in the battle for independence. D+PAD finally had the chance to sit down and get hands-on with this latest adventure, but does it play like a colonial misfire or is it the revolution that we’ve all been waiting for?
The first section that we got to experience served as a perfect way to showcase the stealth gameplay, which was surprisingly tough due to having to remain undetected. These moments have always presented the most challenge in the series, where a single misstep can lead to a frustrating restart. Sticking to the shadows, the assassin had to make his way through a fort, dispatching enemies without causing a scene. This is nothing new of course, and will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a game in the series. Performing ledge takedowns and following a target from behind reveals that despite the new setting and fresh, outdoors environments, Ubisoft has retained the best parts of what has made Assassin’s Creed so popular.
Combat played out in similar fashion to before, but seemed more difficult this time around. Timing is the name of the game, and you’ll have to watch your foes even more closely if you wish to counter the incoming blows. It all proved to be fairly hectic, as the wooden fort caught fire to come crashing down around the battle. Free-running on the other hand seems to have developed a good deal, though we still struggled on occasion with precision jumping. The animations certainly impressed, as Connor would slide under railings automatically and we’ve already seen that he’s a master of hopping across trees and through building interiors. He can also grip on to more surfaces than Ezio and Altaiir ever could, as our time scaling a cliff face revealed; if there’s a line to show the separation of rocks then the odds are he can use it to his advantage.
The second stage was one of the much-touted naval battles. It was with some trepidation that we sat down to play this, as it seemed like such a departure for the series. Indeed, Ubisoft Singapore is responsible for these sections, while Ubisoft Montreal handled duties on the rest of the game. It’s here that the assassin dons a naval outfit (quite a change from his standard attire) and commands a crew of his very own. Shifting between half and full speed is simple, toggling the sail with a face button as necessary. You’ll lose turning power at full speed however, so you’ll want to keep an eye on obstacles when on the chase, and on advancing ships in open water.
Naval warfare itself plays out as you’ll have seen in countless films, where lining up alongside the enemy gives way to a barrage of cannonballs. Enough well-timed shots and it won’t be long before the opposing ship has met with a fiery, and indeed watery, end. It can be frustrating to line up a good shot to begin with though, as you desperately try to manoeuvre the ship into position as the enemy moves around too. The water effects have clearly been developed with a great deal of attention, bobbing your ship up and down and making the combat seem all the more heated. Destruction wasn’t the goal in the section we played; instead we had to release a successful chain shot to destroy the mast of the target ship and then board it, in turn claiming it as a trophy.
Assassin’s Creed III seems to be a welcome mix of old and new, retaining all the things it should and hopefully being experimental enough to reinvigorate the franchise after last year’s Revelations. There’s so much more to the game that we were unable to spend time with, but from what we’ve seen this is still the same Assassin’s Creed, but with added bell and whistles (and rather high production values) that may divide opinion. The naval sections of the game haven’t completely sold us yet, but if the rest of the game proves to be as polished as we hope, then budding assassins will be in for a real treat come November.
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