Hands on With Assassin’s Creed 3
One of the games I was most excited to get my hands on at this year’s FanExpo was Assassin’s Creed III, and the demo at Ubisoft’s booth certainly didn’t disappoint. Although not lengthy, the gameplay featured there allowed you to experience a new type of feature in the Assassin’s Creed franchise: sailing.
Boats have been featured in Assassin’s Creed before, either as small gondola-type crafts in the Venice and Istanbul settings, or in the epic ship-based battle in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations which sees you setting fire to most of Istanbul’s harbour. This demo, though, allowed you to actually captain a ship, sail it into open water, and pound enemies’ vessels with a variety of guns.
The sequence opens with our new protagonist, Connor, making his way to the ship’s wheel (complete with rocking-ship induced swagger), taking control of a band of sailors (who are active throughout the demo, giving a decent sense of realism), and tailing a ship through a section of island inlets. Once on open water, battle commences, and you’re quickly struggling to dispatch three men-of-war battleships that are intent on stopping you from disabling and boarding your target. No context is given for why this particular ship is in your sights, but the frantic action will quickly force you to focus on more pressing elements.
Almost as soon as the battle begins, the initially idyllic weather turns into something more violent, as rain lashes down, winds cause treacherous swells, and lightning flashes on the horizon. This makes the already tricky aiming mechanisms even more difficult to handle, and you’ll find yourself having a tough time lining your ship up to take an effective shot at an enemy. This isn’t to say that the controls are bad, merely that some frustrations will likely arise if you’re used to nailing enemies with a single shot.
Ensuring that your volleys hit their targets is mainly due to efficient maneuvring and a good sense of timing. Your ship ideally needs to be lined up to the side of your target to cause maximum damage, which unfortunately leaves you wide open to a response from the opposition. Furthermore, the cannons take a couple of seconds to fire after the order is given, which means that it takes a couple of goes before you get the timing down. In terms of defense, there is the option to order your men to brace (this will lessen the damage received by your ship from cannon fire) but this is even more difficult to time than firing. This demo seemed to give your ship infinite health so I wasn’t able to gauge just how effective bracing was in terms of reducing damage to your ship.
Once you’ve taken down the three men-of-wars, your attention again turns to your original target; although, this time the intention is to disable rather than to destroy. To do this, you are instructed to switch to chain shot ammunition for your cannons, which destroys masts and stops ships from being able to move, and therefore escape. There seem to be a number of ammunition options on offer, including one which allows you to rain fire down upon your enemies. Unfortunately, however, this demo didn’t give you much of an opportunity to try it out.
This demo was particularly impressive; the new engine looked especially intriguing. The previous three Assassin’s Creed games have all been based off of the same engine, which was starting to look a little stale (especially in Revelations). ACIII adds more realistic NPC animations, with this demo showing sailors darting all over the ship and cringing when cannon fire drew near. The new mechanics also bring high expectations for the game, with the sailing looking like a preferable alternative to the tower-defence-esque base missions in Revelations. Although I didn’t get the chance to try out any of the core gameplay, this demo has done more than enough to further my interest in one of the mostanticipated games of 2012. Assassin’s Creed III releases October 30th.
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