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Assassin’s Creed III – First look at the Revolution through Connor’s eyes

Boston’s Long Wharf is one of the city’s oldest landmarks, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that one of our early glimpses at Assassin's Creed III would begin there. What was a bigger surprise was how lively it was. As Connor – ACIII’s half-Mohawk, half-European protagonist – strolled down the pier en route to Bunker Hill (where its namesake battle was already beginning), a fishmonger shouted at him to buy his fish, a young newsboy harangued him to buy a paper (yes, ACIII adds children to the series), and a thief stole an apple from a vendor before hauling ass down the street. Things didn’t get really lively, however, until Connor reached a British checkpoint where the pier met the city proper.

The Redcoats thought he looked a bit suspicious (and who wouldn’t, really?), so they shouted at him to stop for inspection, at which point he dashed wildly past them, ducking under a volley of musket fire while the music swelled. Darting off the street with British troops in hot pursuit, Connor scrambled up the side of a building and dove through a window, momentarily startling an apartment dweller as he leapt through to the window on the other side. With the guards temporarily off his trail, he scaled what looked to be Boston’s Old State House, getting an eagle-eye view of the city in the process – and of the fortifications on Bunker Hill in the distance.

Out in the open

By now, you’re probably familiar with the basics: Assassin’s Creed III will be set during the American Revolution, and it’ll star an Assassin named Connor, who fights with – among many, many other weapons – an Assassin-styled tomahawk.  You may even have known that, when it releases this October, ACIII will have been in development for three years (the longest gestation period for any of the AC games since the first one), and that it’s being worked on by the same core team that created Assassin’s Creed I and II (as well as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). Also, that team reportedly went straight to work on ACIII after finishing ACII, which should ease doubts that ACIII will continue the diminishing returns of Revelations.

“My goal with this is, I’m really, really sick of shipping the first draft of games,” said Alex Hutchinson, the game’s creative director, during a presentation earlier this month. “Basically, almost every game you guys play is the first draft. Very few studios have the time or the ability to go back and redraft the games they work on. We really want to do this. Our goal, and it sounds kind of cheesy, is to really ship AC 3.5, not just AC III. So go back, work on things like tone, really look at specific scenes to make sure they’re communicating what we want, look at the pacing, look at the overall delivery.”

Connor’s adventure – which spans 30 years, from 1753 to 1783 – will bring him into contact with historical figures such as George Washington, Charles Lee, Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin (who, despite working with Connor, won't be a 1:1 analogue to Assassin’s Creed II’s Leonardo Da Vinci, as Franklin was in France during the bulk of the Revolution). It’ll also focus mainly on Boston and New York, with lots of wilderness in between.  However, those won’t be the extent of the game’s locales.

“We goofed around with Philadelphia for a while, and you go there in specific scenes,” said Hutchinson. “But it’s not going to be a big, open city. The problem with Philadelphia is… it’s one of the first planned cities in America, and so it’s very straight and very gridded. And so you have monstrous technical problems, like you can see eight miles down a straight street, and it’s very boring. Navigating something that’s purely gridded really just doesn’t work for our game.“

While we caught a few glimpses of the cities during Hutchinson’s presentation, the wilderness is what we got the best look at, and with good reason: it’s about 1.5 times the size of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s version of Rome, and the development team seems awfully proud of it.

“This America of the 18th century is not as built-up as it is now; it’s certainly not as built-up as the European cities we were used to building in the past,” Hutchinson said. “Nature is a much more potent force. It’s much more present. So what we wanted to do was build a character who’s as nimble, as agile and as functional in a wilderness setting as previous Assassins were in the city.”

To that end, Hutchinson and his team focused on turning the 18th-century American frontier into a vast, living playground. Animals play a big role; at one point during the demo, for example, Connor found the body of a Redcoat he’d been tracking, only to be attacked by the bear that had killed him (which he then killed, of course). At two other points (during what we were told was target footage), Connor snatched a musket from an American encampment and used it to kill a deer, and later witnessed his British target being attacked and mauled by a pack of wolves. You’ll also be able to skin these animals after you hunt them, an addition that, Hutchinson said, the team thought was pretty unique – until Red Dead Redemption did it a few months after the ACIII team thought to add it.

Above: We also had a chance to briefly interview Hutchinson about the setting, Connor and some of the historical figures he'll meet

Even without the animals, though, ACIII treats its wilderness like an obstacle course, with erratically shaped trees whose huge branches present all kinds of cool, Tarzan-like running and climbing opportunities; cliffs that Connor can scale like the side of a building; and deep snow that he’ll sometimes have to take big, awkward steps to get through. In fact, almost all of the visuals and animations have been completely redone from scratch, with the wilderness setting in mind; the iconic Leap of Faith is the only one that’s getting recycled.

“We really believe that while a lot of games have done forests, nobody has really done forests that are an actual playground,” said Hutchinson. “If I’m walking around forests in most games, the trees may as well be lampposts. All they are is obstacles; I just avoid them. We wanted to make trees, cliffs, rivers that were actual gameplay surfaces, that were 3D spaces that allowed the character, and the player, to experiment.”

44 comments

  • Person5 - March 27, 2012 4:07 p.m.

    There's one thing people don't seem to be thinking about, all of these people are Desmond's ancestors, Desmond is Middle Eastern, Italian, and now Native American? His ancestors got around, that is for sure, that and the fact that Desmond looks pretty white.
  • Fiirestorm21 - March 27, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    None of those are particularly far off from white-skinned as it is. Two hundred something years is way more than enough time for Desmond's family to change skin tone. Same for his ancestors getting around. Lots of time pass in between the major three games, especially one and two. An Arab getting with a European leading either immediately or later on to an Italian heritage is not that far-fetched at all, and from there (again, either directly through the Italian ancestors or through Europeans offspring) making their way across the ocean, eventually having children with a Native American.
  • Iolar - April 22, 2012 12:24 a.m.

    Yea we realize that, he really doesn't look too white, Francisco Randez is the Guy Desmond is modeled after and he's French canadian with Spanish ancestry, they chose him in particular because he can fit into so many different ethnic groups, I myself am Irish, Russian, English, Filipino, and Peruvian... and I look pretty damn white.
  • demigod2195 - March 27, 2012 1:44 a.m.

    what kind of accent does that guy have it sounds almost australian
  • coyoteDUSTER - March 26, 2012 8:18 p.m.

    Not a big AC fan, but this one looks like it could be AWESOME! Paying attention to this game.
  • winner2 - March 26, 2012 7:05 p.m.

    At this point, this is the only thing that grabs my attention anywhere close to as much as bioshock infinite. Looks and sounds awesome so far, can't wait for more info. And really interested in the new character, I hope I like him as much as, if not more than Ezio.
  • Meleedragon27 - March 26, 2012 3:54 p.m.

    I have faith that Ubisoft won't make the game all "AMERRICUH FUCK YEAH" - the dev team probably knows better than to make the Revolution one-sided like that (the patriots were hardly angels themselves... and were also kinda batshit crazy). The super-patriotic vibes that we've been getting so far (that trailer, the special editions, etc.) are likely just something the marketing department thought up to draw in a larger American crowd. Looking forward to the game. Hopefully, the developers will be able to spin things up enough to make the series fresh again without alienating any of their existing fans.
  • Fiirestorm21 - March 27, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    The thing that gets me is that the developer is the Canadian arm of a French company. They're not American, and even as far as their being Canadian goes, Montreal is French Canada, rather than "American" (-like) Canada to the West. There's not a whole lot of basis for thinking they'd go with an "America, Fuck Yeah!" approach. Then again, people also bitched about there not being any cities in colonial America, so...
  • Fiirestorm21 - March 27, 2012 5:50 p.m.

    Just looked down a few comments and saw BladedFalcon making the same point. I rest my case.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - March 26, 2012 3:42 p.m.

    Really great preview, this is definitly my number 1 game for this year.
  • Fetalspray - March 26, 2012 1:59 p.m.

    Sounds awesome, but I'm still not convinced its not going to be "AMERICUUR FUCK YEAH! WE HAVE GOT TO KILL THE REDCOATS!!! AMERICUUR FUCK YEAH! THE BRITISH ARE THE EVIL TEMPLARS!!!", even after reading the the last few paragraphs.
  • BladedFalcon - March 26, 2012 2:29 p.m.

    ...Why do people keep thinking this when ubisoft is a FRENCH company, and not an American one? Yes, the AC series has take some extremes in the past by glorifying not so noble figures, and demonizing others.But I have never gotten the impression they have taken the side of any one nation. Heck, if anything, the franchise has not pulled any punches in attacking prominent American figures such as Ford and Edison. So people pre-emtively accusing or worrying that the game will be shamelesly pro-american are kinda ignorant, really...
  • bebl09 - March 26, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    @BladedFalcon: http://www.gamesradar.com/assassins-creed-iii-special-editions-detailed-new-trailer-released/ Two of the special editions are the 'Freedom Edition' and the 'Join or Die Edition', both of which are basically "AMERICUHH, FUCK YEAH!" editions.
  • samsneeze - March 26, 2012 4:12 p.m.

    Because it would make so much more sense to call them... I got nothing. But I doubt anything else would actually make sense given the context of the game. Besides, you can look at the title for both of the collections from the Assassin's point of view and they'd still make perfect sense. People are just doing what they do best, finding faults in things without looking towards a solution.
  • BladedFalcon - March 26, 2012 4:16 p.m.

    Considering the American revolution is where the USA was basically was born, it's kinda obvious that most forms of media entertainment are going to portray the revolutionaries in a favorable light, this is not specific to this one game. However, viewing the event that marked the birth of a nation in a favorable light, does not actually make it a "FUCK YEAH SHAMELESS PATRIOTISM" story, specially since it's going to use the setting more as a backdrop for the AC's universe than anything else. Furthermore, in my opinion, the game would only come across as shamelessly patriotic if they portrayed all the revolutionaries as supermen without flaws, or dabbled in cheesy inspiring speeches. Simply using the revolution as a backdrop doesn't automatically make it a "AMERICUHH, FUCK YEAH" story. Besides, what exactly do the bashers expect? that they would portray the redcoats and the British as the heroes? or as misunderstood? it's as if people watched a movie about India's independence, and expected to see Gandhi portrayed as the villain >_> Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it's honestly hard to objectively accuse the game of anything until it actually comes out, and we see for ourselves is the story is shameless American pandering or not. And again, considering that the publisher is French, the director is Australian, and that the series hasn't shied out on attacking any side or nation when they see fit. I honestly doubt it will turn out that way.
  • bebl09 - March 26, 2012 4:41 p.m.

    I'm not saying they can't portray one side favourably, I just found it slightly ironic that they specifically said that they won't be all in favour of the revolutionaries but then used names like that for the special editions lol. No one should be portrayed as heroes or anything, it should just be objective, as it's only a backdrop to the narrative focusing on the Assassins and the Templars. Not that I'm accusing them of not being objective, I'm in no way jumping to conclusions about the story, I just found the names for the special editions ironic. I wasn't making any judgements about the story itself, although the guy who originally commented kinda was haha.
  • BladedFalcon - March 26, 2012 5:11 p.m.

    Ahh, fair enough, yeah, in that case, i do not disagree with your statement. Since those names for the special editions DO sound at odds with what the director said XD Then again, like another commenter said, such is the business of marketing...
  • bebl09 - March 26, 2012 6:32 p.m.

    Haha yeah I'm sure it's all marketing. It's aimed at the kind of people who actually called them 'freedom fries' :P
  • BladedFalcon - March 26, 2012 8:15 p.m.

    ...Lmao, people did that? XD *Facepalms* ...On second thought, of course people did that... Far more retarded things are done in a daily basis >>;
  • bebl09 - March 26, 2012 8:35 p.m.

    Haha yep, when America got pissed off at France cause they wouldn't join their illegal war in Iraq, they renamed everything with the word 'French' in the title to 'freedom' instead, ie freedom fries, freedom toast...

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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