So by now you probably know a decent amount about Assassin’s Creed III. The hero is a half-Native American that goes by the name Connor, he fights the good fight during a 30-year-period that includes the American Revolution, and he beats on bears for fun.
But while the setting and general details have been known for a few months now, we are just now getting a closer look at the changes in the gameplay that will separate this game from its predecessors. Today at E3, we got the chance to sit down with the developers of AC3 and talk about what makes this game different in terms of gameplay.
Yesterday at the Sony press conference, we got our first look at a section of the game featuring naval warfare. Set in the Caribbean, Connor dons his finest naval captain’s outfit and leads a crew of scallywags against the British fleet. The controls shift from the familiar third-person to an 18th century galley, complete with multiple cannons. The player will face both the enemy and the natural elements in order to line up a successful shot and sink the enemies of freedom and ‘Merica and such.
The short demo that debuted at Sony’s conference was on display for us to take a closer look at today and to understand the mechanics. While in charge of the ship, the player will have several options in regard to the type of ammo that they want to use. Each has its own pros and cons, but regardless of which you use, you will need to make the shot count as the reload time can prove the difference between victory and swimming home.
The types of ammo include: a bolo-like shot that is used to take out masts and stop a ship dead, a heated shot that can puncture a hull and leave a flaming path of destruction, standard cannonballs that can cause massive damage, and a scattershot that can decimate crews and cause the enemies to slow their response time.
Along with the main batteries, each ship will have a secondary mini-cannon that acts like a sniper rifle to take out individual enemies, like the captain for instance. In certain instances, under the right conditions, a cannonball may clear a line of fire to the enemy’s gunpowder reservoirs, and a well placed follow-up shot could cause a massive explosion.
The player will have control of the ship while at sea, and need to learn the patterns of the waves. In the short demo, a storm suddenly came up, causing significant swells, preventing an easy course or a clean shot from distance. There is also another mechanic that was only hinted at, and that is boarding enemy ships. Once a ship is immobilized, you can make your way next to it and lead your crew into close quarter battles. The demo hinted at this through a cut scene designed for the show, but it will be a full feature in the game.
In another section of the game, specifically Boston during the Spring, Connor showed off a few of his moves, as well as a few of the possibilities in the game. While you are an assassin, hell-bent on stopping the Templars and therefore not technically on the side of the fledgling Americans, helping the citizens of the colonies serves a purpose.
As you play, you will come across optional missions that will pit you against the British in order to save a local. These missions are not required to beat the game, but completing them will give you the advantage of having the people be more sympathetic to you.
For example, helping rescue a man from British stocks may later result in a citizen opening their window to allow you to run through their house and escape pursuing guards. It is a mechanic that we have seen before, just minus the context.
The cities will also be familiar, but offer several new tricks. One such example is moving carts filled with hay, which you can do a leap of faith into even as they roll away. From this now moving piece of cover, you can then wait for it to take you where you need to go, or perhaps grab a passing enemy and pull them into the hay to deal with them.
The crow mechanic has also evolved, and rather than just wait for a static and predictable group to walk by that you can join and blend into, you now have a constantly updated cover notification system, as lines leave your body and point to nearby NPCs. When you have two nearby, you can then let the cover mechanic take over and blend in. Ubisoft describes the mechanic as swimming in a sea of people. There will also be several new takedown animations based on your cover. If you are near a fence, for example, you may grab an enemy and slam their head into the wood.
But along with the occasional assist while dealing with guards, there is a more practical reason to help the citizens in need. The Brotherhood of previous games has evolved, and now will be known as the “Band.” The Band will be made up of citizens that decide to follow the assassins’ path and help you after you save them. In theory it is almost identical to the Brotherhood, but in practice, the mechanic has changed. Rather than just a special attack you can call on, you can now use the Band to help you escape pursuit, sneak into places, and several other things that we will have to wait and see.
Speaking of sneaking, the consequences for going wild and attracting attention have also changed. Rather than simply causing a disturbance and then slowly increasing your notoriety meter, you have three stars that fill up. With each new star, a new set of enemies will be called, and it will become more difficult to evade them. In that it is very much like the Grand Theft Auto wanted system, but more suited to the AC style.
When you do find yourself in a situation where you must fight, one notable difference is the absence of the health squares. In the previous games, Ezio and Altair before him both earned more health through completing missions and objectives (and thus synching the animus). AC3 does away with that and instead has a single health bar located in the lower left corner next to the map, which is non-regenerative and constant throughout the game. It may seem like a minor change, but it will force you to reconsider some tactics.
Multiplayer also returns, and it remains the same, for the most part, with a few new options and game modes. One example was a domination map that requires you to hold or capture a territory. This sounds simple enough, but when you don’t know which characters are enemies, and anyone sitting in the designated area may be an opponent, things can get tense. Beyond that, the multiplayer doesn’t seem to have made many changes, but we will likely here more later.
The changes to AC3 are significant and notable, but none are so severe that the game won’t instantly feel familiar to fans. The additions–things like the naval battle–will serve to expand the universe of the game, and can only help to deepen the experience. The new features will all serve one single purpose: to make the franchise feel fresh. And judging by what Ubisoft has shown, it will certainly help to do that.