Even if the exact plot or fiction of Assassin's Creed 3 is still a secret that Ubisoft has managed to keep, there are more than a few details that have slipped out ahead of an official announcement. We've already talked about the character details and gameplay changes that will be introduced with this title, but there's more news for those who wish to know a bit more about the settings and new protagonist of Assassin's Creed 3. Be warned, spoilers lie ahead for gamers who would rather wait for trailers or official details.
From the first leaked image of Assassin's Creed 3's new hero, it was clear that the longstanding rumors of an American setting were correct. The hide leggings and Native American weaponry further hinted that the hero wasn't going to be of purely English descent. With the official box art depicting the death of a British Redcoat, it could also be confirmed that players would - somewhat unsurprisingly - be fighting on the side of American independence.
Thanks to some more leaked details from the upcoming Game Informer exclusive, that new protagonist is named Connor, and indeed of Native American descent. While some people might like to remain in the dark about the historical sites or character backstory, scans of the magazine's coverage reveal far more.
First off, Connor will be continuing the tradition of deep, emotionally complex protagonists set by Altair and Ezio in the previous games. Described as a "vision of quiet heroism and rugged pioneer skill," the game's Creative Director Alex Hutchinson explained why the half-English half-Native American identity of Connor will be setting a new standard for the series:
"We want to explore this notion of duality...He's of neither culture. If we're going to talk about the American Revolution, we didn't want you playing Mel Gibson from The Patriot, and we didn't want you in a military uniform. The AC universe is one step back from all that."
It's important to distinguish this tomahawk-wielding character from the feature film versions - even if those AC3 screenshots are heavily inspired by recognizable scenes from them - but the new protagonist doesn't really resemble any regular American soldier. From the leaked artwork, Connor more closely resembles Red Dead Redemption's John Marston, or the main character of Neversoft's cowboy adventure GUN.
Clad in animal skins and fringed leather, it also follows that the economy of AC3 will be based more upon trading pelts than antique books or paintings. There are more items to be collected and traded for cash, but it's clear that they'll be more grounded in the reality of the Frontier than previous titles. Similarly, the concept of Connor traveling America buying individual properties doesn't make much sense either. According to Hutchinson, the development team has come up with a better method to achieve the same ends:
"It's much more significant than it was before, it's more narratively driven...It's fair to say you don't go through Boston and New York buying shops. We have a system that speaks to the same fantasy and mechanic, but it's presented in a new an better integrated way."
Exactly what this means is up for debate, but it's not hard to think how the existing system could be tweaked to reflect a wartime reality. Perhaps spending money funding colonial militia could improve a gunsmith's selection of goods, while increasing hostility to British soldiers in the immediate area? The movement of goods and resources would also open up possibilities for Connor's Mohawk relatives, resulting in upgraded tomahawks or decorative clothing.
As far as the setting goes, Hutchinson's previous quotes confirmed both Boston and New York as main locations. He goes on to explain how the Montreal-based development team is treating history so important to an American audience. While the main criticism cited against the game's setting so far is the relatively small and scattered cities and settlements, compared to the sprawling momuments and cathedrals of Europe. According to Hutchinson, the importance won't lie in what players will be climbing, but what they'll be living through:
"You're going to see cities that you've probably visited. This idea that it's your history is very powerful...It's not just going to a historical building now; it's going to be a historical event...You will see the great fire of New York. You will visit Valley Forge as a location that is currently occupied by Washington's forces. You will visit these places in the moment that they were important, and hopefully, experience the reason why we know where they are today. That's the goal."
And an admirable a goal it is, since bringing history to life is something that many games have aspired to, but few achieved. The Assassin's Creed series has become somewhat of a showpiece for historical-fiction video games, and taking on American history could be the most relevant and resonant yet. With the game spanning from 1753-1783 the chance to see the better part of an assassin's lifetime will once again be offered, and that's more than enough time to witness stunning development in several of the game's main cities.
Whether that means watching New York grow in size and splendor, or watching Connor's Native American home turned from peaceful to ravaged by war, the potential is there to show changes and impacts that the sprawling streets of Rome could never have shown.
Any information beyond the hard facts and environment is being kept under wraps, but hopefully when Ubisoft reveals a look at the game, or even a trailer we'll have a better idea of the tone and aesthetic being pursued.
Assassin's Creed 3 will be released on October 20, 2012 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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