The hands-off demo for Assassin’s Creed III at PAX East 2012 kicked off and our own Joey Davidson lost his shit. There was Connor, star of Assassin’s Creed III, riding up to a quintessential Revolutionary War battle on horseback. It was clear right from this first shot that this is going to be an Assassin’s Creed like none before it. Ubisoft is going back to the drawing board to come up with something completely fresh for this third numerical installment in the series. In addition to a new lead character and new setting, AC III features a refined engine powering the experience. Essentially, Assassin’s Creed III is more new than rehash, and it’s a fresher feeling experience because of it.
Both Joey Davidson and myself, Erik Norris, got to check out a pre-recorded demo for Assassin’s Creed III at PAX East. The video ran through a number of the new features and tech, and we’re going to do a back and forth discussing them here. Enjoy.
Erik Norris: So, Joey, we’ve finally seen gameplay of Assassin’s Creed III. As expected, the game is visually stunning. I think your “oh shit!” comment when the demo kicked off speaks for itself. But some of the tech the video showcased also did a great job of showing Ubisoft’s dedication to deliver something different this time around.
Joey Davison: Right, from the ground up this AC feels a little different. We saw Connor, the game’s protagonist, make his way through the woods, amongst battlefields into bushes and over tree branches. This game doesn’t seem like another romp through the city, as the locale originally suggested. It’s more than that, and it looks like a good change of pace for the series.
What did you think of the big battle scene?
Erik Norris: I think it looked great. The game’s creative director, Alex Hutchinson, explained during the demonstration that AC III’s new engine allows for thousands of people on screen at once, as opposed to just a couple dozen. Therefore, the battle scenes feel like their scale is dead on. It was also quite exhilarating to see Connor running and dodging musket fire, cannon balls and toppled foliage as he made his way up the battlefield towards his Templar target.
Aside from the giant battle scene acting as window dressing to Connor’s assassination attempt, I think my favorite aspect of the whole demo was the game’s new tree climbing technology. It looked quick and fluid. It’s obvious Ubisoft put a lot of time and effort into making sure this mechanic worked correctly and looked realistic.
What are your thoughts?
Joey Davidson: I agree with that last bit completely. Everything, in fact, looks really fluid. When I considered tree navigation in the Assassin’s Creed universe before checking this demo out, I pictured it being very static and rigid. It’s not, it looks super natural.
This early build was rife with framerate jitters and character model bugs, but, if those are cleared up, the game looks stunning. Between the fluidity and the unique environments on display, there’s a lot to get excited for where Connor’s killing is concerned.
Which brings me to the killing itself. Erik, I know you love Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. More often than not, when it comes time to evaluate a game’s combat engine, you base it on your experience with Rocksteady’s near perfect effort. This game looks like it has improved combat; but, I’ve never been that critical. How do you, as a notorious hater (hah), feel about what we saw?
Erik Norris: I was happier. But it’s still not perfect. Enemies still wait around for their turn while their buddies get brutally maimed. With that said, however, strides are being made. We did see two enemies attack Connor in unison, which led to Connor quickly dispatching both with a slick gun/tomahawk combo. We also saw a cool scene where Connor grabbed a British troop and used him as a human shield against a firing squad. It was a cool scene and indicative that Ubisoft is trying to add more diversity to their lacking combat system.
This is a complete tangent, but I also want to add that finally there is crouching in Assassin’s Creed III. Granted, it’s contextual crouching (special thanks to friend Jeff Grubb for that name) because you can only do it in certain scenarios, like hiding in a bush for example. However, it’s an addition that’s definitely welcomed, even if it is small. I’ve long wondered why crouching has never been incorporated into this game with stealth mechanics at its core.
Joey Davidson: Yes. Finally.
Assassin’s Creed III, both Erik and I agree, is looking awesome. I know neither of us can wait for October when this title drops.
It’s killing us.
This article originally published as part of our PAX East hub coverage. Head over to the site to read more articles from our weekend in Boston.