When the first Assassin’s Creed released way back in 2007, I had high hopes from the countless previews I read in the months leading up to its arrival. When I finally sat down to play the title, I came away enjoying some aspects but ultimately disappointed that the game had me sitting on benches and failed to live up to its promise of assassination freedom. Still, the series progressed through its many iterations and inched closer and closer to the game fans wanted from the outset.
A developer on the upcoming threequel walked me through a portion of the game in Boston, as Connor explored the colonial town in a manner uncustomary during the 1700’s. By detailing some of the various additions that enhance both combat and exploration, fans can look forward to the most fully realized Assassin’s Creed offering yet.
Right away the demo played with a franchise staple, introducing moving haystacks into which Connor can leap. Horses will trot around the city connected to these bales of hay and can, conveniently, line up with guards that Connor can kill and drag into the mobile hiding spot. As Connor pulled such a move and began to walk down a nearby street, a woman motioned to him from an alleyway on the right. By following her, Connor, for all intents and purposes, began a side mission to save this woman’s husband.
As the deadly protagonist slinked his way through backstreets, I witnessed a few minor but significant alterations to how the player preys on the inevitable victims. As the wife calls out to a guard to attract his attention and lead him to his doom, Connor can position himself against a wall and actually take cover on the corner, waiting for the moment to strike. This portion of the demo also had Connor employ the “stalk zone,” which serves essentially as a moving hiding spot as players look for the perfect opportunity to attack.
As seen in a previous trailer, Connor used the rope dart to kill and hang another enemy, but it will be up to players how they operate this fantastic weapon. The hanging technique as well as others will be available, but here it allows for Connor to distract the other guards while he frees the woman’s husband.
The remainder of the demo occurred on the docks, showing off the combat and crowd behavior updates. The masses of people on the Boston seaside do not behave in identical fashion but rather engage with the environment and each other with more realistic behaviors. From interacting with produce stands to leaning against a table while in conversation, the crowd is made up of varied denizens and creates a more organic space into which Connor can blend.
As the player moves through the space, Connor will also react to his environment in intriguing ways. To avoid the gaze of nearby redcoats, Connor pulls the front of his hood down to hide his face. And when he enters combat, Connor engages in a battle far more fluid than in previous Assassin’s Creed titles. His tomahawk packs a lethal punch, but the assassin was not afraid to use his opponents’ weapons to his advantage. Connor will work in a two-handed fashion much as he did here, stabbing a foe with his smaller knife and then repeatedly hitting them with his signature tomahawk. It’s a brutal system that looks to move beyond the parry and kill system of previous titles, and I was thrilled to see the system evolve to this points. One of my biggest gripes with more recent iterations has been the monotonous combat, but the battle demonstrated promises something a bit more unique.
Connor ended the demo by calling upon his brotherhood, disguised as redcoats, to sneak him onto the dock and a specific ship. Here Connor performed a number of impressive kills, including stabbing a soldier with his own musket and shooting through him to kill another soldier. And with an impressive view of the Boston cityscape from atop the boat, the demo ended, leaving me stunned that I have to wait until October 30 for the title.
Assassin’s Creed III looks like the game Ubisoft and fans wanted from the beginning, and the few minutes on display here had me pining for more. Though there were certainly noticeable upgrades, including Connor’s new animations and the location, and while the story will likely be a fascinating conclusion to Desmond’s story, I was enthralled by the myriad touches made to the game’s many systems. The developers are clearly paying attention to detail, and cannot wait to get my hands on it when it releases for the PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.