Ubisoft hasn’t made a habit of keeping tight-lipped about their Assassin’s Creed titles prior to launch, usually inundating fans and news sites with assets and story details to hint at the team’s latest direction. That is certainly the case once again with Assassin’s Creed 3, featuring a brand new setting and historical protagonist.
Given the amount of historical fiction and wide swath of gameplay mechanics both new and re-tooled in store, the developers have managed to keep the heart of the story close to their chest. But according to Creative Director Alex Hutchinson, regardless of what they think they know already, the game’s opening will still surprise.
Pulled aside by ZoominGames at Gamescom 2012, Hutchinson touched upon several of the studio’s proudest additions to the series with Assassin’s Creed 3, as well as a few new ones. It’s fantastic news to hear that the opening of the game is still full of surprises, not to mention the early stages of a plot (hopefully) as well-told and complicated as that of Ezio Auditore (concentrated down from three games’ worth). Hutchinson revealed to Gamekicker that the campaign will be over thirty hours long, so the writers should have plenty to work with.
While an intelligent story and top-tier cinematic presentation are now downright expected from the franchise, Hutchinson genuinely maintains that was never the plan. Apparently even those making the games didn’t expect for the series to become as annualized as it has, but reiterating statements previously made, the developers are happy to keep making new Assassin’s Creed games as long as fans want to play them.
Desmond is finally set to grow into the role of Master Assassin in AC3, after spending months (that felt like years to fans) uncovering and working to stop the devious Templar plot to take over the world. Lest we forget, the centuries-old rivalry between Assassins and Templars takes a backseat to the real catastrophe Desmond has been called to prevent: the apocalypse, set to arrive in 2012. Exactly how Desmond will go about saving mankind, and what impact that will have on the Templars is a question fans will need to wait a few more months to answer.
Hutchinson explains that what he is most proud of with Assassin’s Creed 3 is not the story, or the technology, but the protagonist himself. New hero Connor Kenway won’t necessarily be the first Native American lead in a video game, but may be one of the most progressive. Hutchinson had previously explained why he felt that racism in games was far more subtle and nuanced than some might claim, resulting in not just a lack of identification for gamers who don’t happen to be white and ruggedly handsome, but lax standards.
In many ways, Connor’s ancestry won’t just offer new methods of combat, weaponry, or obviously, character design. As Hutchinson sees it, the new historical figure will make plenty of statements about race and culture simply by being the star. In his words, “is Native American, but his life is not about being Native American.” The idea makes sense, since fans would immediately protest any assertions that Ezio Auditore was ‘just’ the son of an Italian nobleman, Altair Ibn La’Ahad ‘just’ a Middle-Eastern assassin. It will be interesting to see if the team at Ubisoft will be able to skip the groundwork and assume a bit of racial tolerance from their fan base, or tackle the challenge of distinguishing Connor from his racial identity head-on.
With a plot and protagonist that is intended to say something about more than just games, a view of the American Revolution that will be bringing something new, and a developer that has yet to truly disappoint, November is looking like a good month for Ubisoft. Where the series goes from there is anyone’s guess, but the decisions being made by those entrusted with it are a good sign of things to come.
Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 30, 2012. A PC release is scheduled for November 20, with a Wii U version also planned.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.