Assassin’s Creed II had Venice. Brotherhood went to Rome. However, the true calling card of Assassin’s Creed III isn’t found in the cobblestone streets of eighteenth century Boston, or the charred ruins of New York, but instead in the space that connects the two: the Frontier. Where previous Assassin’s games failed to populate the scenery beyond the city walls with anything noteworthy, around thirty percent of Assassin’s Creed III’s main missions take place in the sprawling wilderness, amongst the settlers, native Americans and wildlife that pass through. It reinvigorated Ubisoft, the studio now tasked with re-imagining the series’ trademark Parkour/free-running mechanics so that new protagonist Connor (full name Ratohnhaké:ton) can navigate freely amidst the dense woodland.
“We had to completely learn how to design a forest to support navigation,” says director of IP development, Tommy Francois. “I mean that was insane! It’s not just the tree-to-tree free running either, we also go from tree to rock facades, to buildings in the cities and then we integrated certain weapons that enable you to kill from the trees. Even your Leap of Faith – an iconic move in the series – you can now do it by plunging into a moving object. There are all these little things that make it really difficult.”
As work began on Assassin’s Creed III nearly three years ago, the studio had a wealth of ideas that would propel the brand into bold new directions. Players will find Connor equipped with a deadlier arsenal of melee weaponry, meanwhile he’ll explore a more familiar historical time period, with action presented on a much grander scale. But one of the most fascinating elements from Ubisoft’s perspective was the way Connor interacts with the local wildlife, as he hunts deers, skins bears and sells their pelts for a tidy profit in one of the locals towns. It was unique, that was until a certain Western-set epic by Rockstar was released a few months after production on the Assassin’s Creed sequel began.
“Red Dead Redemption came out and our first thought was, ‘Oh shit!’” laughs Francois. “It forced us to find other areas of innovation because we knew that this becomes equity because it’s no longer unique to what we’re delivering. We needed it to be part of the fantasy and it’s there and we have our very own take. If you look at our history we believe in innovations and breakthroughs – we’re not trying to do ‘me toos’. I mean, by no means is Splinter Cell a ‘me too’ of Metal Gear Solid and Rayman isn’t a ‘me too’ of Mario or Sonic. It always starts with a breakthrough and that’s something we try to apply to every facet of the game. And with Assassins’ Creed III we have other great area of innovations…we’re just not talking about them yet.”
If you want to find out more about Assassin’s Creed III and its “innovations” then be sure to read the full interview and plenty more on Assassin’s Creed III in games™ issue 121 on shelves 12 April.