Any Assassin’s Creed fan knows that more than a few noticeable differences are in store with the American Revolution-era setting of Assassin’s Creed 3. But to say that the developers at Ubisoft are doing everything they can to take the past success of the series to new heights is apparently an understatement. According to the creative director of AC3, mixing the old with new didn’t start by developing a sequel to previous games, but a brand new IP based upon the franchise’s core values.
Before fans start to panic, allow us to explain that this doesn’t mean the extensive and mysterious conspiracies of the series’ plot are being cast aside. The desire to tell Desmond’s story is still going to be a top priority, but the development team has made it extremely clear just how many serious topics this game will deal with. More than simple political power battles or quests for world domination, at least.
So how can a creative team balance a desire to deliver an experience that fans will react to positively, while trying to take on such a fundamentally different goal? Speaking with AusGamers, creative director Alex Hutchinson explained that the developers didn’t take the task lightly.
In crafting a new experience with Assassin’s Creed 3, Hutchinson’s team soon realized that what they most wanted to make was something even more than just another Assassin’s Creed installment:
“It was a huge challenge to find the right balance between changing the game enough to keep it fresh and exciting, and to make it attractive and easy for new players to jump on board while making sure that everyone who has been with us since AC1 was satisfied. We had endless meetings, lunch time discussions, after work arguments over beer, until we realised that what we wanted to do was to treat it like a new IP built around the pillars of the AC franchise, which still obeyed all of the core narrative rules of the brand, and fit within the established fiction.”
Sentiments like that aren’t often heard when the same formula has created and launched four successful games, and seem tailor-made to counter critics who claim Ubisoft has slowed its drive to innovate. Obviously the team won’t be reinventing the wheel, since only so much can be changed before the experience ceases to be a proper Assassin’s Creed release.
If those following the series have gotten somewhat confused or distracted by the dense plot twists and centuries-old conflicts, then you can at least rest assured that the gameplay itself will still feel familiar. But Hutchinson also spoke about how accessible Assassin’s Creed 3 will be to newcomers, and considering the current trend of trilogies, the more rabid fans might have cause to get nervous:
“We kept the idea that the gameplay was built around navigation, combat and social stealth, but we completely changed the way they were built and how the player would use them. We wanted a new assassin and a brand new time period, but we wanted them to fit into the history of the brand, so the character didn’t need to be aware of the brand history but players could understand him as part of a lineage.
“We believe that AC3 is the perfect point for new players to join the franchise, but we’re also happy that longtime fans will be able to look below the surface and find many references to previous games and a new perspective on the AC mythos.”
There’s no denying the fact that the brand new Native American protagonist will stand alone from those of the series, and that’s nothing to complain about. But at this point, hearing anyone say that what is expected to be the climax of the series is the “perfect point for new players to join” is cause for concern. Assuming it’s anything more than a simple marketing claim.
Considering the same was said about the recently-released Mass Effect 3 – and the resulting fallout – we can only hope that fans who played through four previous games will have more awaiting them than “many references.” Unfortunately, the only real alternative (which will no doubt be demanded by the die-hard fans) is for Assassin’s Creed 3 to be so mired in the mythology of the series, it is virtually impenetrable and terrifying for newcomers.
We’ll certainly give Ubisoft and Hutchinson the benefit of the doubt, since everything we’ve seen of AC3 is more than promising. That being said, from a story point of view it’s hard to see ‘no prior knowledge of the series needed’ as a comforting statement. There’s a first for everything though, and new is never a bad thing…almost never.
Are we being too alarmist, or are you concerned that mass appeal will cause the mythology of the AC series to be watered-down? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released on October 30, 2012 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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