Fight or flight
Mostly, though, those trees seem to offer a chance to perch above roads and trails, making them a convenient ambush point for British patrols (which never think to look up during long marches, apparently). Once during the demo, we saw Connor use a branch as a way to swan dive into a haycart at the back of a British column, which seems like a convenient way to ambush them later (or just hitch a ride). And while that’s all fine and good, the way he ambushed the Redcoats at other key moments was far more interesting.
See, Connor has a hugely expanded arsenal beyond what Ezio and Altair could wield. He’s got a bow and arrow, for instance, which Hutchinson said would have been far quicker and more accurate than the unreliable muskets and pistols of the day – although he’ll have access to those, too. And regardless of what he’s wielding, he’ll be able to carry one in each hand for two-fisted fighting (and yes, he’ll still have the series’ trademark hidden blades).
But his most interesting new weapon is a variation on the Chinese “rope dart,” which can ensnare enemies from a distance. Here, when perched above a patrol, he used it like a harpoon, first spearing a British soldier from behind, then hopping off the branch while still holding the rope to instantly hang the hapless man.
Both times that happened, the Redcoats responded the same way: with a uniform volley of musket fire, which Connor neatly dodged. Interestingly, gun technology seems to have taken a step backward (into reality) since the rapid-reload rifles of AC Revelations, and the Redcoats’ muskets became useless as firearms after the first shot, forcing them to resort to bayonets or sabers in order to square off against Connor (although one of them apparently hadn’t fired his rifle, judging by the way Connor whipped it out of a soldier’s hands, planted it in the ground and shot it into his face at point-blank range).
Obviously, combat will be handled differently this time around, possibly even in such a way as to break veteran AC fans out of their counter-then-instant-kill habits. However it’s implemented, though, we can say it already looks stylish as hell.
Aside from the absurd gripe that colonial America had no cities, two major concerns have risen on the internet in the past month or so, first having to do with the appearance of Connor, the main character. More earnest and openly good-hearted than Ezio, Connor – who players will be introduced to as a young child – adopts European clothing, but adds Mohawk gear and accessories that he’s comfortable with (along with the iconic Assassin hood), creating an odd, patchwork appearance. This, Hutchinson said, reflects his background as an outsider, a Mohawk who doesn’t quite fit in with his own people or with the colonists, and who joins what’s essentially a western organization – the Assassins – out of a desire to help people.
Over the course of the game, Hutchinson said, Connor will witness the destruction of his home village and – when he finds his tribe unwilling to act – will fall in with the Assassins in a bid to fight for human freedom. That leads us to the internet’s other big concern: that Assassin’s Creed III will be a one-sidedly patriotic, kill-the-Redcoats, flag-waving kind of thing.
Above: To be fair, we can see how someone might get that impression
Hutchinson stressed several times during the presentation that, although Connor’s fight brings him in line with the revolutionaries more often than not (and although, at one point during the target footage, using the “Call Brotherhood” command summoned a group of fife-playing, drum-beating patriots to march in formation behind Connor), the Revolution is really just a backdrop. The real war, of course, is the one being fought behind the scenes between the Templars and the Assassins – and despite early appearances, it’s a war that unfolds on both sides of the Revolution, meaning Connor is likely to be brought into conflict with the patriots at some point.
Also, as Hutchinson pointed out, the Revolution itself wasn’t as clear-cut as some people like to think. “The joke at the time was that the American Revolution was a civil war fought on foreign soil,” said Hutchinson, who is Australian. “The French investment in the patriotic cause leads directly to the French revolution. Most of Washington’s forces were trained by a German guy called [Friedrich Wilhelm] von Steuben. Obviously it’s a huge moment for America, it’s the founding of the country, and I think that for the rest of the world, it’s the seeds of the American Century. We really believe it’s a relevant story not just for America, but for the entire world.”
However its story pans out, Assassin’s Creed III is already looking impressive well ahead of its Oct. 30 ship date. Factor in a newly redesigned Animus, the promise of a resolution to Desmond’s bizarre storyline, a multiplayer mode once again handled by Ubisoft Annecy, and the just-announced Wii U version, and this is easily one of our most anticipated games of 2012.