Review Price £39.99
Assassin's Creed 3: Storyline and Combat
The Assassin’s Creed series has been hugely successful for Ubisoft, with over 38 million copies of the first four games sold worldwide since 2007. However, while the last title, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, still managed to sell over seven million units, you couldn’t help feeling that the series was running out of steam. Fond as we were of Ezio Auditore de Firenze and his adventures in Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations, this was a series in need of new blood. In fact, new heroes, new settings, a new period and a few new ideas wouldn’t hurt.
Assassin's Creed 3 Storyline
Well, having had approximately two-and-a-half hours of hands-on gameplay, we can say that Assassin’s Creed 3 promises to deliver most – if not all - of that. With Ezio’s adventures ended in Revelations, the Assassin’s baton passes to Connor Kenway, a half-English, half Mohawk hero, while the action moves from renaissance Europe to 18th Century Colonial America. Where the Ezio trilogy used events in the Italian city states and Ottoman Constantinople as a framework for its missions, Assassin’s Creed 3 uses the American Revolution. Just as the Ezio trilogy featured Leonado da Vinci, the Borgias, the Medici, Suleiman the Magnificent and Machiavelli in its cast, so AC3 has you mixing with the likes of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and George Washington.
New ideas? Well, if there’s one thing we took away from our time in the game, it’s that this is an Assassin’s Creed that’s keen to explore new frontiers. While the games have always had open landscapes linking their focal urban areas, Assassin's Creed 3 has taken these further than ever before. While the game doesn’t take place on one contiguous map, it gives you huge stretches of wilderness to explore, both in a region around Connor’s Homestead, which plays a similar role to the Monteriggioni citadel in the Ezio trilogy, and in frontier regions near the major cities. These aren’t just spaces to ride through, but spaces to explore, with their own quests, collectibles, English outposts and hostile fauna.
What’s more, they’re spaces where Connor – with his Mohawk heritage – feels at home. At first, this can be confusing. You feel hemmed-in by the trees and rock faces, and movement seems slow. With time, however, you understand Connor’s new playground. You learn to spot which trees can be climbed and which surfaces can be scaled. You spot opportunities for ambush or stealth attack, and routes which encourage exploration. We need more time in the wilderness to see whether Connor will achieve the same fluid, intuitive movement here that Ezio found on the rooftops of Florence, Venice, Rome and Istanbul, but taking Assassin’s Creed to such a different setting immediately makes it feel refreshed.
Assassin's Creed 3 Combat
Though plenty of missions were available in the demo, we focused on two. One was an early Homestead mission. Urgent cries alerted Connor to a young huntress who had been attacked by poachers. Having carried her to safety, we returned to take care of the varmints. This gave us a chance to try out one of Assassin's Creed 3’s new weapons – a hooked knife on a rope that can be used to grab opponents and reel them in, or even hang unwary enemies.
It also gave us our first chance to get to grips with the revamped combat. Here Assassin's Creed 3 feels more brutal, up-close and personal. Our poachers turned out to be wary opponents, blocking more aggressive attempts to tackle them with knives and AC3’s signature weapon – an Assassin’s take on the tomahawk. Counters turn out to be the key. As in Batman: Arkham City, countering when a red attack marker flashes giving you a chance to halt the blow and dispense a fatal reply. Assassin's Creed 3 isn’t a game of swashbuckling swordplay, but of hard-hitting, face-to-face fights with some impressively gruesome special moves.
It’s also a game where you’ll have to be a bit more tactical about you’re fighting. In Colonial America the musket reigns supreme, and attacking massed troops head-on, or even their allies while they’re in easy range, is nothing short of suicide. There are plenty of large-scale melees, but to survive them you need to prioritise your targets, using stealth and ranged attacks to take care of the most urgent threats, then closing in for a kill. In a way, Assassin's Creed 3 takes the series back to its roots.
Meanwhile, a trinket-collecting mission gave us plenty of opportunity to roam the countryside, getting a feel for Connor’s movement and the whole wilderness ecosystem. Wolves are the most urgent menace, each attack triggering a small-scale quick-time event sequence, and interestingly the game does its best to remind you that Connor isn’t your usual gaming hero. Native Americans don’t waste the animals they kill – fail to skin the wolves you slay and you’ll find yourself failing and returning to a previous checkpoint.
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