It has been pretty well known for a while now that the next installment of Assassin’s Creed will feature a brand new protagonist, setting and story arch. This has lead to rampant speculation of where Desmond Miles’ astral projection will land next, as fans on the internet have suggested everything from the French Revolution-era Paris to Tsarist Russia. Now it seems that the debate is over, as after a few leaked pieces of art, Ubisoft has finally released some official photos for Assassin’s Creed III. This time around, players will be headed to the United States in the era of the Revolutionary War. So what does this mean for the franchise? Does the change of place bode well for fans, or will the new location lead to an uninspired Assassin quest? Take a look after the break as I share my initial thoughts and reactions in regards to this new, ahem, revelation.
Okay, I deeply apologize for that awful pun. Hopefully you are still with me.
First, I am not terribly surprised at the American Revolution setting, as it was pretty heavily alluded to in Revelations; I do wish that one of the wilder fan suggestions had proven true. Ninja-assassins in feudal Japan? Bounding across the rooftops of Victorian London, hunting for Jack the Ripper–an assassin gone rogue? How cool would that be? Regardless, the American setting is indeed very cool, and the art has already revealed a few unexpected details.
As a Canadian, I’ll admit that I am not too on the ball when it comes to American history, though I have been told that the Betsy Ross flag in the background is a pretty solid indicator that the game will take place in the midst of the Revolutionary War. If for some reason this is innacurate, don’t blame me. I am only versed in Canadian history, which is more or less NHL trivia.
From the images provided, it looks like the protagonist will be Native American, as he is loaded up with tomahawks and adorned with gear that has some distinct Native stylings. It’s a pretty bold move, and one that I’m sure many weren’t expecting. I love how Ubisoft isn’t afraid to take a risk by casting a non-anglicized protagonist (I am aware that Altair was Middle Eastern, but come on, the dude was pretty darn white). This new character opens up a whole lot of opportunities, both in the form of gameplay (weapons, tactics), to story elements (it appears that he is siding with the Americans; why is that, exactly?). The possibilities are almost endless, and I’m looking forward to what Ubisoft plans to do, though this really complicates Desmond’s heritage. He’s now part Middle Eastern, Italian, and Native American. If people were ice cream flavours, Desmond would be neopolitan.
A little more on the story–a (at least partially) Native American assassin operating during the Revolutionary War? There are so many options and directions that Ubisoft could take with this that it’s almost impossible to predict. Is the protagonist picking sides, as seen in the box art, or is he a neutral observer, assassinating Templars on both sides of the war? That’d be pretty damn cool. The time period is filled with conspiracy, violence, political intrigue–a perfect setting for a revisionist history game like Assassin’s Creed. I’m not too sure what Ubisoft will do with the storyline, but the premise dictates that it will hardly be dull.
I am a little concerned that the time period (1775–1783, according to Wikipedia) may limit the amount Assassin’s Creed parkour we will see, however. Just off of the top of my head, possible city locations could be 18th century New York, Philly or Boston, none of which strike me as cities with scalable architecture on the same level as the elaborate, winding streets of Rome or Venice.
The art seems to indicate that at least some portion of the game will take place not in an urban area, but a snowy, alpine battlefield, as the trademark urban environments are suspiciously absent in the photos. This is where I make some baseless, yet hopeful speculation. Perhaps this version of the game has less of a focus on traversing urban environments, and puts the player in a more natural world. It would make sense having a Native American character use the land, not the city to his advantage. Instead of leaping from roof to roof, our hero could bound across tree branches, scale massive cliff formations, and scout from mountain peaks, all to track down a marching battalion of redcoats. Gameplay elements, such as eagle vision, can be even further used within the context, as the protagonist can track the his prey throughout the wilderness. That, of course, is more of my wistful hoping than evidence backed theorizing, but the point still stands: Ubisoft has opened up a game that can go in any direction, and I, for one, am incredibly excited to see what they do with this opportunity.
When I covered the demo of Revelations at PAX Prime back in August, Ubisoft’s Alex Amancio seemed to imply that the series would follow a release model similar to Grand Theft Auto. There would be a few games released that were all unique, but featured very similar gameplay (GTA 3, Vice City, San Andreas can be compared to Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations). After GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV was released, which was considered as “the next generation” of Grand Theft Auto, representing a significant leap in both technology and gameplay. Lacking a fancy subtitle and just a “III” after the title, it seems that this game will be to Revelations as GTA IV was to San Andreas. Expect a whole new game, a leap forward, which I expect was the plan all along.
Ubisoft now has a blank slate; they will be starting from scratch. They won’t just be creating a game based off of the core of Assassin’s Creed II. That knowledge, combined with the incredible glimpse at a setting filled with opportunity, makes me incredible excited for this promising title.