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There were a lot of changes to note in Ubisoft's recent demo of the new Assassin's Creed III. After spending so much time with Ezio, Rome, and the Renaissance, this next chapter delivers a new hero, a new setting, and a new story, and creative director Alex Hutchison was on hand to tell us about them all. Due out this October, the sequel moves the action to the New World and uses the Seven Year's War and the American Revolution as a backdrop for the continuing battle between the Assassins and the Templars. Spanning the years between 1753 and 1783, Assassin's Creed III gives players a chance to interact with some of the period's most notable figures, including George Washington, Charles Lee, and Benjamin Franklin.
It's a particularly resonant period for a franchise that revolves around liberty and sacrifice. Viewed in its proper context, the Revolutionary setting brings in connections not just with the British, for whom this was a civil war on foreign soil, but also the French and Germans, who had significant interests in the fate of the American colonies.
Expectations for this game are understandably high. This third chapter in the franchise has been in development longer than any of the previous sequels and has two times the production capacity as the entire Ezio trilogy. And since most of the developers working on this particular installment have already cut their teeth on previous Assassin's Creed games, the level of expertise within the team is high.
It makes sense, then, that the team is prepared to take several new risks, both in terms of story as well as gameplay. After spending so much time with the urbane and swaggering Ezio, the quiet and solemn hero of this sequel is a bit of a shock. Half English and half Mohawk, Connor is an outsider, which presents entirely new story possibilities for the franchise. We didn't see much of Connor's origin but we do know that his Mohawk village was destroyed and, after confronting his tribe's unwillingness to act, he's eventually pushed to join the Assassins.
He's not as tied to the establishment as Ezio or Altair were, and even his outfit reveals that he's stuck between two worlds. He wears the Western clothes as a sort of uniform or business suit, but he relies on traditional Mohawk weapons like the bow and tomahawk. (Scalping was originally in as a special -- and especially gruesome -- finishing move, but was cut as it tended to overpower the tone of the game.) Connor's coolest new toy is a Chinese rope dart that allows him to simultaneously stab and snag enemies. Though the weapon is historically accurate, it may seem odd that a Mohawk on the edge of the Colonial frontier would have one, but I hope the gameplay possibilities are enough to carry me past any initial doubts.
Being part Native-American, Connor is as at home in the wilderness as he is in the city. I expected to be disappointed by the new wilderness setting. The series has so far been defined primarily by its urban focus, so taking the new Assassin out into the wilderness would make as much sense as Batman: Arkham National Park or Spider-Man: Edge of Everglades. Fortunately, I was wrong. The demo really makes it work, translating to the forest the same sort of vertical, free-running gameplay that works so well in the city. It's not forced, it's not out of place, and it's not gimmicky. Granted, we've all become so used to reading the climbing cues in the city that it takes a while to get used to climbing rock walls and tree trunks, but it does work.