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The forest, like the cities in previous games, is merely a giant playground for the player. The wilderness location in this game is one-and-a-half times as large as the entire city in Brotherhood so there's lots of room to explore. The new revamped climbing system has players scaling tree trunks, leaping from branch to branch, and ascending rock walls as naturally as they moved from building to building in the cities. It's difficult to capture the rhythms and weight of this part of the demo in words, but what struck me most about it was that it all seemed very natural.
Weather is a big part of the experience and nearly every location in the game comes in winter and summer varieties. The massive snow banks not only affect your movement or the movement of crowds, but will also determine whether or not certain missions are available to you. Connor will have to trudge through knee-deep drifts of snow while trying to track down an enemy general or a wounded bear, which adds tremendously to the tactical context of your various encounters. Best of all, the massive snow banks can be used for Leaps of Faith. All that's missing is a "snow angel" button.
Though Ubisoft is spending a lot of time talking up the wilderness gameplay, fans shouldn't worry that the whole game takes place in the woods. Players will be able to visit both Boston and New York, each of which is rendered on a scale that should keep Assassin's Creed players happy. The movement technology has been improved here as well, and there are even options for Connor to go through buildings as well as over and around them. It seemed odd that Philadelphia only features in the game's cutscenes. It was, after all, the second largest city in the English-speaking world during this period. The developers explain that Philadelphia was more carefully planned than New York or Boston and the grid-like foundation of its streets would make for rather boring gameplay.
So what else is left to discover? Plenty. "Homesteads" were listed on a menu screen during the demo but the developers weren't willing to talk about them. My guess, given the theme of bringing civilization to the wilderness, is that they're an analog for the civic improvement projects in the previous games. We also didn't get a chance to talk about how multiplayer might work in the new wilderness setting where there are no crowds of people to hide other players.
The biggest unanswered question of all has to be what's going on with Desmond? After being increasingly marginalized in the previous games, he has to come back in a big way if Ubisoft wants to make him relevant again.
More details are sure to come out of PAX East and E3 later this year and we'll be poised, Chinese rope dart in hand, to snag whatever new details we can get.