Assassins Creed III preview Shipping out of Bostonin a coffin

Ubisoft showed off Conor in urban action

By now, you’ve likely seen the Ubisoft media briefing demo of Assassin's Creed III. And possibly the naval battles during Sony’s briefing. Still, Ubisoft had one more trick up its sleeve with Assassin’s Creed III at E3. We got a behind closed doors demo of AC III’s urban locales in the colonial Boston section. And while the look of snowy New England wilderness and Caribbean vessel fights certainly excited gamers, we think that the familiar territory of urban centers has vastly improved, too.

During the five minute hands-off playthrough, which GR editor Henry Gilbert also saw on the Wii U, we witnessed the new improvements to the Assassin’s Creed formula, and we grilled our demo guide on what to expect from standard AC gameplay moments. The section starts in summer 1773 as Conor stands on a rooftop, waiting to drop down and explore colonial Boston. AC III will introduce weather effects into the action, including rain and snow (at least you’ve probably figured out the snow by now). Conor descends from the rooftop with a Leap of Faith into a moving hay cart. Yes, look for moveable cover, and with it, the ability to stab guards and hide their bodies inside of wheeled hay bales.

Conor also has a nifty new method of dealing with dead guards. With corner kills, he (or someone else) can lure a guard around the corner, stab them, then hide the body on his side of the wall, which eliminates the time-consuming task of lifting corpses and hiding them out of public view. And, just as Ubisoft showed off how Conor uses trees and foliage as cover in the forests, he can also pop down in urban bushes and camouflage himself.

We also saw a brutal segment that showed off the new crowd blending. Conor stands next to a group of Native Americans on a pier chit-chatting (as opposed to the usual silent bench sitters) in front of what looked like a carpentry table. As a guard walks by, Conor grabs him, spins him around, and impales him, chin-first, into a pitchfork. That incites a guard fight, and we discovered that now, guards won’t wait their turn to attack an Assassin. Conor will have to fight off two at a time in brawls. It looks like corpse looting is still very much a part of gameplay, as our Ubisoft rep confirmed.

That led us to ask about AC III”s currency system. Although details were vague, it seems that the game will strike a balance between a traditional currency system seen in past games and a degree of bartering. That explains the moment from the media event in which Conor skins a deer. Meat and fur are as much as commodity in colonial Boston as florins were for Ezio.

AC III’s Assassin’s Guild system will get some new flourishes, as well. As Conor escapes the brawl on the pier, he sees an area next to a huge ship (which, incidentally, is the end goal of the demo), but the passageway is surrounded with Redcoats. He summons a group of backup Assassins, all of whom are disguised as British soldiers, and he poses as a prisoner. The ruse works and buys him enough time to scale the walls of the passageway, climb the roof, and use his bow to pick off a guard and draw attention away from the entrance to the ship.

As Conor boards the ship, he picks up a musket. It’s important to note that the deck has three guards on board. We have to admit, we were shocked to see him rush the boat, gore one guard with the musket, then fire a blast to fell a second, then drop the weapon, run full speed, and knock the third guard overboard with a shoulder charge. And as you remember, enemies in Assassin’s Creed games have all of the swimming ability of a Milky Way bar.

As Conor climbs the mast of the ship, one final fact is revealed that you’d probably never notice: the ropes and patterns of the mast carry similar V-formations to many of the trees that Conor traverses in the wilderness sections of the game. In other words, the natural movements that look fluid as he leaps from tree to tree also translate seamlessly into his navigation of boats and skiffs.

While the freshness of the New England forests and naval fights of Assassin’s Creed III have gotten all of the attention, we’re glad to see that the urban battles of Ubisoft’s sequel are evolving in a logical fashion. Amidst a strong E3 with plenty of titles to be excited about, few have us as excited as this one.

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