Shambling into New York Comic Con, I checked my to-do list. It was short, but some semblance of order was necessary if I was going to meet my goals for the convention.
- Cover Assassin’s Creed 3
- Do not touch the filthy masses
- Play at least one Wii U title
- Give out 4,000 business cards
Items 3–4 weren’t top priority, so I made my way directly to the Ubisoft booth. I needed to experience whatever Assassin’s Creed 3 demonstration they had to offer.
A religious experience
There were no video or gameplay stations showing off the AC3. Instead, the company reps directed me towards a huge black cube inscribed with intricate golden script, not unlike the holy Kaaba. Much like the sacred relic, it was surrounded by devout worshippers who, in many cases, had made a harrowing pilgrimage for to reach this blessed place. The small building hummed with an otherworldly energy and, as I approached, the meaning of the golden script revealed itself to me as if by miracle. In English, they read “Assassin’s Creed 3,” and also listed a series of disclaimers about filming, photos, and praying a certain number of times a day. You know, the usual PR stuff.
Waiting around for the doors/vault/interdimensional portal to open, I came to the realization that the black cube was, in fact, a theater. And, just as I began to piece together the spiritual meaning of this revelation, the cube hissed open, a figure beckoning from within.
My newfound spirit guide, Elisa, handed me a small plastic bag and directed me towards a row of seats that, in the following days, would be smothered by the butts of countless nerds. It made me feel like I was, for the first time in my life, a part of something bigger than myself.
Once we were in position, Elisa directed our attention back to the plastic bags we’d been handed. “As you’re making yourselves comfy, please inflate your tomahawks.” These blow-up weapons were to be brandished heartily whenever something awesome was happening on screen. You know, like an assassination or a particularly eloquent reading from the Declaration of Independence. Since I am 1/512th Native American, I was only 1/512 offended by this display. The other 511/512ths of me were pumped to watch redcoats get murdered!
My attention returned to the screen. Previously it had glimmered with demo footage and the sounds of the colonies, but it was now transitioning to what seemed like an Assassin’s Creed 3 title screen. “Valkyrie” of the Frag Dolls would be providing a live demonstration of the game, controlling Connor as he fought, hunted, and indifferently strolled through AC3′s early portions.
Since the Frag Dolls are well known for their social contributions to gaming culture and feminism, I was super excited to have “V” giving the demonstration. Unfortunately, Valkyrie was standing in the back of the room, so there was no way to ogle her and the game at the same time. I resolved to Google pictures of her later, keeping my current focus on Assassin’s Creed 3.
Kill, kill, skin, kill
The game immediately opened on the Frontier, the wide-open space that Connor will presumably be defending from encroaching settlers trying to take his native land. Valkyrie piloted our newest Assassin through the forest, tracking a group of deer who, one can guess, were actually redcoat Templar agents in disguise. After following them for some distance through snow and trees, Valkyrie took her avatar into a new, plant-based blending zone (called “bushes” by Ubisoft), where she was able to hide long enough to land the killing blow on the Brits-in-deer-clothing.
But, just as with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Revelations, there are multiple warring factions in game, and no sooner had Connor gutted the convincingly deer-like Templar did another menace arise. This time, an Ottoman warrior disguised as a wolf made an appearance. (Since real wolves hunt in packs, you could tell it was a disguise. Also, he had a really noticeable zipper.) Pulling out his era-appropriate revolver, Connor dispatched the Ottoman and half a dozen real wolves that happened to have strayed too close to the battle.
Walking into a conveniently close colonial encampment, Valkyrie was able to peddle off her newly acquired skins to a leatherworker. While one shudders to imagine what quilt he’ll be stitching out of redcoat skin, it’s probably best not to think about it. The transaction was completed quickly, with the monetary gains quickly disappearing into the extremely minimalistic HUD. Yes, gone are the days of gigantic weapon prompts, Brotherhood meters, and 3D DNA strands. Instead, Assassin’s Creed 3 aims to immerse the player with fewer on-screen elements and more wolf-shooting, kind of how it was in the original Assassin’s Creed.
Mission extremely possible
After interacting with the townspeople and hearing all about their insignificant accomplishments, Connor was ready to attack a nearby British fort. As piddling human soldiers trudged through waist-deep snow, Connor engaged his Assassin Vision® and took to the trees. He skipped deftly and silently between ice-covered branches, coming to rest above a small group of British soldiers who, most likely, were around 16 years of age and had never known the love of a woman.
…And they never would, because seconds later, Valkyrie descended upon the first boy with Connor’s signature Native American kunai. Dangling the adolescent from his throat, she accosted his colleague, using his virgin body to absorb a cascade of incoming gunfire.
At that point, the remaining redcoats were essentially helpless, reloading their muskets in futility. Connor mercilessly slew the lot of them, ending their hopes, dreams, and aspirations with the unforgiving edge of his steel. Then, just as the last of their withered husks fell into the snow, a large, brutish enemy appeared. Able to block one of Connor’s basic attacks, he was quickly felled by another, different basic attack. As the giant’s body fountained blood, we cheered and waved our tomahawks, much in the manner my tribal ancestors would when completing a sacred harvest ceremony.
Dodge, duck, dive, and dodge
Immediately following the altercation, Connor was presented with a “Snitch” character he had to catch, lest the redcoats win. The exact gameplay reasoning wasn’t completely explained, but it’s my understanding that when one team catches the Snitch, the battle ends instantly. Valkyrie was quick to anticipate its darting movements, securing the treasure violently with her tomahawk. 150 points to Gryffindor.
Making his way around a rocky outcropping, Connor showed off a few new maneuvers:
- Freestyle rock climbing
- Freestyle snow walking
- Freestyle tree swinging
- Freestyle falling down a hill
These actions demonstrated a new palette of motion capture, as well as novel considerations for terrain navigation. Upon reaching a particularly scenic bluff, our hero was well positioned to complete his mission of murdering a Templar target.
We weren’t told why this particular Templar had to die, but it’s probably related to tea, or taxes, of treading on snakes. He looked like the kind of jerk who could tread on helpless snakes all day, so Valkyrie tiptoed into his base, blew up his gunpowder reserves, and stabbed him right in the snake-treading back. With that, the demonstration ended, and we were escorted out of the Assassin’s Creed 3 ceremonial cube.
Assassin’s Creed revelations (the literal kind)
With every virtual redcoat, deer, and and wolf in the simulation killed and skinned, there wasn’t more to see inside the demo booth. I made my way to the Ubisoft desk, where a representative agreed to answer a few questions about Assassin’s Creed 3.
Immediately it was evident that this particular professional didn’t have a large amount of experience beyond the kind of gameplay segments we’ve seen elsewhere, but I thought I’d ask about general impressions of AC3.
- Regarding difficulty, Assassin’s Creed 3 “would be fairly easy for returning players, as well as new players.” There were no details about controlling in-game difficulty, though the familiar tiered mission objectives were hinted at.
- I asked if Connor wouldn’t be a bit too conspicuous for social stealth, and the rep said AC3 would rely more on “environmental blending.” Connor would be using bushes, trees, and snow to his advantage more than he could rely on passing crowds. It was also revealed that an Assassin Brotherhood mechanic would be returning in AC3, though in a different form: fellow assassins can disguise as redcoats, escorting him into an area as a presumed prisoner.
- When queried about the goals of the Templar in the storyline, I was told “the Templar agenda will be significantly more clear” and that any moral gray areas that remain in the Templar/Assassin struggle would be cleared out.
Although I wasn’t able to extract a great number of answers, the experience was overall positive. I got to see the game in all its soldier-slaughtering glory in person, after all. I was generally impressed with the animations, voice acting, and graphics, though I retain my previous reservations about the overall difficulty of Assassin’s Creed.
Hopefully, Assassin’s Creed 3 delivers the action, strategy, lore, and heart that fans of the series deserve at this point in the game’s life cycle.
If not, I guess there’s always the multiplayer component.
After all, it worked for Revelations, right?