The first thing I did at PAX East was get in line to view the first gameplay footage of Assassin’s Creed 3. This footage was narrated by Creative Director Alex Hutchinson and depicted the in game battle of Bunker Hill!
History buffs and natives to Boston will love this mission. I think we can also look forward to seeing Ubisoft’s explanation for “the shot heard around the world”, and their rendition of the Boston Massacre, but that is merely speculation. What makes the Battle of Bunker Hill so awesome and an appropriate mission to highlight in this first showing of gameplay is the scale of the battle. Hutchinson mentions during the video that in earlier AC titles the most NPCs that could be on screen at one time were about 200; right at the start of the battle we see both sides of the conflict both the Patriots and Red Coats and the total bodies amount to well over 1000!
Connor starts on the side of the Colonists and we are told his mission during this battle is to assassinate the opposing general. So with this mission we learn about a few new mechanics to Assassins Creed, and one new weapon.
We learn how Connor maneuvers through these massive battlefields. Connor cannot simply walk from one end of the battlefield to the other to get to his target. Both sides of the conflict are constantly reloading their muskets and shooting volleys of bullets at the opposing side. This barrage of bullets is not accurate, but when you have over 500 soldiers shooting in your direction, it doesn’t need to be. Connor can avoid enemy fire by hiding behind rocks, trees, and other soldiers. Hutchinson also points out that there is more than one way to go about flanking the enemy general, you can either take a stealth path that avoids most of the conflict, or you can take the action path where Connor takes his chances and makes his way right through the middle of the conflict. For this viewing we saw Connor take the action path so gamers could get an understanding of this massive scale battlefield.
Next we got to see multiple new mechanics in action; after Connor breaks through to the Red Coat side of the battle he goes stealth and we finally get to see an assassin who can climb trees. Hutchinson discusses how each piece of environment you climb on is unique, not only trees but rock faces as well. Connor can jump or swing from branch to branch, and wedge himself between trees that split in two, as well as rock-climbing techniques like wedging both hands into a crevice to get a good hold.
While Connor is sitting on a tree branch we see a small group of Red Coats heading his way. Time to use the dart rope! For anyone that has played a spiderman game, or more recently the new Batman games, this weapon mechanic will be familiar and will most likely be in constant use during gameplay. As one of the Red Coats steps under the branch Connor waits on (a grave mistake indeed) he unleashes the dart rope, throws it down at the British soldier, pulls him up, and dangles him from the tree. Yes, that just happened. I plan on dangling people from trees as much as I possibly can when this game finally releases, I was surprised this was a new weapon mechanic Ubisoft decided to include, but couldn’t be happier that they did.
One Red Coat down, now Connor leaps from his perch to take on the rest of them. Again we are introduced to a new mechanic the firing squad. Like in the battle soldiers will shoot volleys of shots at you in groups, when we were on the battlefield it was hundreds of soldiers shooting at you, but now it is just a small firing squad, but just as deadly if not taken care of properly. All we have to do though is make them waste and miss their first volley then take them out quickly before they can reload. So after leaving one soldier in a tree Connor grabs another on the ground and uses him as a human shield while the Red Coats waste their musket fire on their comrade. Once their barrels are empty Connor goes in and quickly dispatches the rest of the group, an easy task for Connor’s swift dual-wielding combat style.
This sums up what we got to see from the gameplay footage at PAX East, my only disappointment was that I didn’t get to play it. Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released in November 2012.