Assassins Creed 3 Gameplay: The Battle of Bunker Hill

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!

This scene was funny because the colonist soldiers reacted to Connor with questioning looks

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.

New HUD (Heads-up display)

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.

Even Assassin's need a smoke break

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.

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You, Me, and Diablo 3

PAX East finally gave me the chance to get my hands on this highly anticipated PC game. There was a constant line to play Diablo 3 in the NVIDIA free-play area, as well as some PCs set up on the exhibition floor to allow people to play. NVIDIA was also giving away new high quality graphics cards as well as Beta Keys for Diablo 3. Unfortunately I missed out on both, but Diablo 3 will be released on May 15th, so I think I can wait.

I didn’t get to much time with the game, but what I was looking forward to the most was being able to play as the new character class: the Monk. The Monks journey starts right outside of New Tristram, Tristram being a staple town in the Diablo mythology. Right away we are thrown into combat with the undead. After dispatching them with my fists of furry we enter the town, and meet the Niece of Deckard Cain, that old man whose been around as long as Diablo and Tristram. Cain’s Niece sends us out on a mission to kill some undead and an enemy called the Wretched Mother, a creature that Deckard Cain clams to be one of the most horrifying he has seen on his travels, which is a lot coming from him. The Wretched Mother vomits and in doing so spawns endless hordes of undead until you take care of her.

One of the PCs I got to play the Diablo 3 beta on

So how did the Monk fair against these enemies? In some ways the Monk is the replacement for the Diablo 2 classes the Paladin and the Assassin. Monks can use Mantras in replacement of the Paladins auras to boost themselves and their allies by either healing or increasing their strength, but their fighting style is more like that of the assassin using punches and kicks.Monks build up combos and use special moves to gain spirit energy. They use the spirit energy to increase the strength of their attack, help them dodge and spring into and out of battle. Speed and mobility is another tool in the Monks skill-set, they can throw punches and unleash kicks a flurry of speed, as well as dodge and evade more swiftly than any other character. This speed increases drastically as the Monk builds up spirit energy.

I hadn’t even picked up a weapon yet, but going around pulverizing the undead with my fists and feet was plenty satisfying. Like the assassin from Diablo 2 Monks can wield fist weapons like the Katar, as well as staffs called Daibo used to attack and deflect. Another piece of equipment unique to the monk are spirit stones worn on the head that help the Monk channel and build up spirit energy more efficiently.

Even early into the beta Diablo 3 looked and felt the the sequel fans have been waiting years for. New Tristram’s layout was unique from any other previous town setting. Not only that but you can actually enter some buildings now, like the inn. The only thing I didn’t like about this was the time it took to load in-between entering and exiting the building. The character designs all looked new and unique, even the enemies that have been in past Diablo games looked different; re-imagined.

The NVIDIA PC free-play and tournament area at PAX East

Even though I didn’t get a beta-key this past weekend, you can bet I will be playing Diablo 3 when it releases on May 15th!


Guide to PAX East

What to expect at the Penny Arcade Expo gaming festival? Hundreds of companies from within the gaming industry will be exhibiting, and gamers will get to preview, or play their latest creations. There will also be many presentations about the happenings within the gaming industry, some even focusing on the development of gaming companies on the east coast, and specifically Massachusetts. I wanted to do a detailed list of what every company was presenting, but after reading the list I realized that would be impossible and excessive. Especially when you can check out this map that is not only online but on my phone, along with the PAX East schedule and a schedule of my own, all thanks to guidebook app.

 

My future D3 character, The Monk

A company I have yet to write about yet will be presenting one of my most anticipated releases: Diablo 3 created by Blizzard. Blizzard will be posting up with NVIDIA in the freeplay & tournament area. Gamers will be able to play the Diablo 3 beta, as well at Mists of Pandaria. Not only that but they are giving out Diablo 3 beta keys! Why don’t I have a pc? Assuming Blizzard doesn’t set the date back yet again, Diablo 3 will release on May 15, 2012. Hopefully I get a beta key and my Dad lets me horde his PC so I can play it.

Rockstar games has been producing May Payne 3 for years, and now after all the long wait we might finally have a release. Officially there is still no specific date, just that it will be released in may, most likely May 15th along with Diablo 3. Attendees will get to get their hands on Max Payne 3 this weekend for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. When I was playing Max Payne and Max Payne 2 it was also on my Father’s PC, but I think I want to try it for 360 because that is likely to be what console I will purchse it for. There will also be free merchandise given away that I will be trying to get my hands on.

2K will be at PAX and presenting Borderlands 2, the sequel to the much loved original. Gamers will get to play with the characters Siren and Gunzerker, in zones titled “Caustic Caverns” and “Pandora Park.” 2K will Spec Ops: The Line will also be playable and previews will be shown of XCOM: Enemy Unkown, and Civilization 5: Gods and Kings.

Winter 2009? That was a little off. Looks cool though, right?

Wizards of the Coast the company who creates the trading card game Magic: The Gathering will also be a large presence at PAX. The theme of PAX this year is MAGIC and attendees will be given goodie bags with Magic surprises. Most importantly WOTC will be previewing the new card set for 2012: Avacyn Restored for the first time. Avacyn Restored will be released on May 4th, so many great things in the gaming world are happening around my birthday!

Thats what I will be most interested come this weekend as far as companies go and what they are bringing to the table. Also a reminder; already mentioned in a recent article; Ubisoft will be at PAX previewing the first gameplay footage of Assassin’s Creed 3, not to be released until October.


Ubisoft line-up at PAX East

Recently I have been doing my research into which companies will be at PAX East and what games they will be presenting. I don’t have a complete analysis yet, but I can fill you in on what Ubisoft will be bringing to the table.

First and foremost Ubisoft will be showing the first gameplay footage of Assassin’s Creed! You know I will be there. Not only that but attendees will receive a special edition AC3 brand item.

Fans of Far Cry can look forward to doing something a little extreme this year. Ubisoft is hiring a tattoo artist, Suze from Boston’s Hourglass Tattoo Parlor to give players Far-Cry inspired tattoos. They are also offering mohawk hair-do’s for those less adventurous fans, all in celebration of the character Vaas. I don’t know if I would ever get a tattoo at a gaming convention, but to each their own.

Ubisoft will also have Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Mad Raiders, I Am Alive, and Far Cry 3 available to play on the show-floor.

I hope everyone likes the April Fool’s Day Assassin’s Creed motion controls video, I thought it was pretty hilarious, and it even fooled me by getting my hopes up. I had nothing to do with the making of it, the video was just some fan creation put up on youtube that was circulating the internet today.

Luckily AC3 being presented at PAX East is no joke!


The Rundown on Assassin’s Creed 3

Finally, coming from the most nimble lineage in Assassin's Creed's mock history, Connor has learned how to climb trees.

Over the past month the internet has blown up with screenshots of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed 3 that is being released sometime in November. The first look we saw was an image of the new Protagonist Connor, taking out a Red Coat on what will be the cover to Assassin’s Creed 3. Since then Ubisoft the developers behind the Assassin’s Creed franchise have continued to release more screenshots, a trailer, and much information about the highly anticipated game. Here is a brief explanation of what you can expect from the next instillation of Assassin’s Creed.

Assassin Hatchet, you had me at hello.

What do we know about Assassin’s Creed 3 so far? It will take place coinciding with the American Revolution, focusing on the new Protagonist Connor who is part Native American from his mother and of English descent from his father. Connor will have a different skill-set from the previous Assassins including but not limited to: feeling at home in the wilderness as much as Altair or Ezio were at home in cities, and a unique always dual wielding, low to the ground, fast, aggressive combat style. New weapons will also be a part of Connor’s arsenal including dual pistols, a bow and arrows, and the already fan favorite Assassin Hatchet. With these new weapons and the emergence of a wilderness setting Ubisoft has said you will be able to hunt animals, and use their pelts to upgrade armor among other things.

My favorite change coming to the game is that not only do we get to explore the New England Wilderness, but instead of just being able to climb on man-made structures, Connor will be able to maneuver on pieces of the environment, like trees and boulders. Anyone who has played the previous game can understand the frustration of being able to climb the highest structures in Istanbul, Rome, and Florence, but being thwarted by even the smallest tree. Problem solved, thank you Ubisoft!

There is still a lot Ubisoft has not revealed even though they have said the game is more or less complete, and they are just taking the next 7 months to fine tune it. The most important thing that Ubisoft has left out of their explanation of the new game is why the American Revolution? What are Desmond and gang up too that requires him to take another trip into the Animus, and take on the roll of Connor? Ubisoft knows their fans are thirsty for information, and we can anticipate some insight into these questions before long, but don’t expect them to give everything away before the games release.

Even wildlife isn't safe from this Assassin. Come here Deer.

Assassin’s Creed has become my favorite video game franchise over the past few years.  In upcoming articles look forward to a look at the earlier releases in the series so those of you who have not been playing can get caught up on the story and be able to pick up Assassin’s Creed 3 in November with little confusion, or maybe I can convince you to pick up those older titles too. Fans of online multiplayer should also know the most recent two games in the series (Revelations, Brotherhood) contained a manhunt-like multiplayer experience that I think hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves, so expect a highlight of that in a future article. If Assassin’s Creed piques your interest stay tuned to A Link to the Games to see more news on the upcoming game as information is released.


New England Gets in the Game, and the Story of 38 Studios

One of the earliest events going on at PAX East that I will be attending is called Massachusetts: The Play State. This event will feature Panelists of game industry executives, government officials, and leaders in academia, discussing why Massachusetts is attracting so much attention in the game industry. If you’re a gamer or someone from the East Coast trying to break into the game industry this is great news.

Curt Schilling founder of 38 Studios

Red Sox Fans, remember this guy? Curt Schilling has owned his video game company 38 Studios since 2006.

During my high school career I got to visit one game company that even though they recently moved to Providence Rhode Island, they are native to Maynard Massachusetts. The company I am referring to is 38 studios, an entertainment and IP creation company.

Most New Englanders know Curt Schilling as the former pitcher of the Boston Red Sox. Few know that Mr. Schilling loves gaming, he remembers the first game he ever played: Wizardry, something he said “was the most influential thing I have ever done.” Schilling loves gaming so much that he went and founded his own game company.

Initially 38 studios planned to produce a new MMO, the secret project they have been working on since the companies conception known only as Copernicus. Early on renowned comic book and toy creator Todd McFarlane joined their team, as well as best-selling fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore. With the help of the team from game production company Big Huge Games who 38 studios merged with in 2009, and a contract with Publisher EA, they created Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. A game I recently took the time to download and play the demo of.

During my visit we met a few of the developers and artists, as well as the famous Curt Schilling himself, who overall was a pretty down to earth guy, someone I could relate to through a love of gaming. I remember he was wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey that day, which I thought was comical, and now coincidental because 38 studios has a second base of operations in Baltimore from acquiring Big Huge Games.

We saw some concept art of both landscapes, and character design, but what we learned about their upcoming games did not amount to much. We were also sworn to secrecy, but I think the most important thing I learned from this meeting with 38 studios was the direction they wanted to go in with the company. Even early on they strived to build an enjoyable working community, and sought out employees native to New England. I remember learning in an introductory business class how Google is one of the most amazing and enjoyable places to work, and I always imagined 38 studios to be something like that except on a smaller scale. This view of developing a fun creative work environment has paid off; in 2011 the Baltimore base of 38 Studios was given the honor of being named one of the “Best Places to Work 2011” by the Baltimore Business Journal.

Expect more information and a review of the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo for Xbox 360, and don’t forget to check out A Link to the Past starting April 6th to get all the information on PAX East and learn more about Massachusetts: The Play State.


A Link to the PAX!

Welcome to A Link to the Games! In less than 2 weeks I will be taking the train to Boston for PAX East! Don’t know what PAX East is? Well it is only the most anticipated annual gaming convention on the East Coast. Most conventions of this magnitude are held in California like E3, BlizzConn, and the original PAX or Penny Arcade Expo. Lucky for us on the other side of the country the people that put together PAX  had pity on us and started PAX East.

So over the next two weeks I will not only be putting out video games news and reviews, but also keeping you up to date on what will be going on at PAX East, and when April 6th finally comes you can expect to see plenty of information from the event here at A Link to the Games.