I had been typically Eurocentric in my thinking – maybe the developers might fancy a trip to Spain, what with its rich and tumultuous history, and stocked with fine cities, many replete with the requisite Gothic architecture? Perhaps France, with its warm climate, abundant vineyards and Parisian grace? Or how about Holland, what with those narrow house-lined canals and lax drug laws?
There were even leftfield shouts for London – these dismissed as too familiar for such an exotic and far-reaching series – but America? In the 1700s? The series has really taken a leap here. Let’s hope it lands in a handily placed haystack, preferably free of needles.
Perhaps this change is for the best – the Assassin’s Creed 2 ‘Ezio’ trilogy, although similarly fantastic to play and lovely to look at, were mere continuations with minor tweaks after all, and not always received positively. The den defence from Revelations being one particular bugbear, with even the lead developers publicly expressed their doubts about the frequency with which Ubisoft were requesting Assassin’s games.
No-one wants games to feel factory-cut – we like the idea that they are carefully crafted by many able hands. Here, with a fresh numerical start and a new land to explore, the programmers will be able to make significant developments rather than incremental changes, and hopefully for the better.
So what do we know? The first thing I noticed was the inclusion of the Tomahawk. This legendary hand axe is the favoured weapon of the Native Indians, so leaving me hoping for a three-sided tussle, which hopefully doesn’t fit the straight ‘American is good, British are bad’ stereotype.
It looks like opportunities for climbing architecture will be rarer, offering instead the abilities to traverse icy cliff tops and snow-covered branches. Well, not that they will always be snow-covered – we’re promised a dynamic weather system with changing terrain, as well as timeline-dependent scenery.
Imagine a world in which certain locations will one week be occupied with armies massed and ready for battle – only to revisit the same place weeks later, the site strewn with bodies and tattered tents. There’s also an emphasis on a large countryside area, which brings with it the eternal worry – the mounted assassin.
Compared to the superlative equestrianism of Red Dead Redemption, the horseback options of earlier Assassin’s Creed games were simplistic and awkward. It was more like graceless trotting – a crime to later befall Skyrim – and in both games I’d rather run at a slower pace on foot, than suffer the stuttering stallions. Let’s hope for some kind of solution to this quandary.
Out go the old European masters like Da Vinci, and in come the Founding Fathers, promising luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington to shoot the breeze with, as well as presumably perform missions for. Locations meanwhile are rumoured to include Boston and pre-skyscraper, post-New Amsterdam, New York City.
The money system is supposed to be reformed from the floorboards up too, the old property buying perhaps making way for a more hunter-gatherer-type system. Imagine trading in the pelts of animals you’ve slaughtered in the forest after firing of bow and arrow and usage of the odd bear trap or two.
Graphics should receive a significant upgrade too, the released teaser video revealing beautifully realised wintry mountainsides, while character models promise more detail and fluidity. In fact, impressively, Ubisoft are said to have resisted the simple porting the old movements in favour of going the extra mile and capturing thousands of movements from scratch.
Assassins Creed 3 will hit the top of the bestsellers list whatever the end product; the brand’s hype ensures that. I for one am glad of the full stride forward rather than a mere sideways step which the change in timeline and location promises – while the running from tree-to-tree in pursuit of our prey evokes pleasing symmetries with Predator – surely no bad thing.
By moving the action to America and the protagonist closer to the floor than ever before Ubisoft seem to be taking the type of risks that might just pay of. Consider my interest piqued in a way I thought an Assassin’s Creed game might never manage again.