E3 2012 Preview: Assassin’s Creed III & Liberation

June 11, 2012

It’s finally 2012, and according to the Assassin’s Creed lore, the end of the world is upon is. It’s lucky then that Assassin’s Creed III is also due for a release in October this year, giving hero Desmond Miles one final chance to save our planet from both the Templars and an apocalyptic end. In this latest ‘volume’ of Assassin’s Creed, there are two titles so far – III for PS3, 360 and PC and III: Liberation exclusive to PS Vita, which both take place at around the same time in 18th century America, during the Revolutionary War. In addition to the change in continent, there are some major changes in store for fans of the series, and we had the chance to see some of them at E3 this year.

First up is a new engine which both games share, and it allows the developers a larger amount of freedom in the design of the game. One of the key features of this engine are slopes – it doesn’t sound like much, but sloped surfaces on both the ground and on structures will affect animation and movement realistically, and AI will account for this. Sloping surfaces are also present in climbable surfaces, which gives Assassin’s Creed III designers a lot more freedom – you can now climb around cracks in rock faces as you scale a cliff, or scrabble up the side of a building without looking for the telltale obvious handholds that previous games have relied on.

Both games also have new protagonists – III has Connor Kenway, another ancestor of Desmond Miles, a half-Native American/half-British man whose memories are being experienced through the use of the Animus. The game will follow 30 years of his life as he is drawn into the same conflict between Templars and Assassins that every other one of the series’ heroes has had to deal with. Liberation is a little different, with the series’ first female protagonist, Aveline de Grandpré of Creole descent, although her story is not experienced by Desmond Miles but instead by the Templar-run mega-corporation, Abstergo. Both games present different stories, although the two heroes’ paths are promised to run parallel at some points and cross over.

Assassin’s Creed III primarily takes place in the cities of Boston and New York, while Liberation is contained within New Orleans. However, both games will feature more countryside, with forests and fields in III that have both winter and summer states, and the bayou and swamps of New Orleans also accessible to Aveline in Liberation. In addition, in III Connor will have access to a naval vessel which he can use to explore the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, as well as get into huge naval battles as demonstrated at Sony’s E3 press conference.

One mechanic we saw that was present in III but not in Liberation (at least, so far), was the new tree-climbing and movement system. In the woods, Connor has the ability to climb up trees and move from branch to branch, finding purchase very fluidly and realistically. It’s possible to track enemies from above easily using this mechanic, as well as prey, as Connor can hunt animals for raw materials to trade at outposts. There was also a new blending mechanic – as NPCs no longer move in groups, you can no longer attach yourself onto them and hide easily from guards. Instead, a white circle above Connor’s head draws white lines to surrounding NPCs with whom you are blending, which is a little more intrusive a HUD element than you may be used to, but retains realism in the animation of the game’s world. New hiding places include walls that Connor can lean against, and rooms which he can run through, from one side of a building to the other in order to break a guard’s line of sight.

Both Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation look to expand and potentially conclude the Assassin’s Creed story in interesting ways, but it’s the gameplay additions and alterations that have us most excited. There’s only a few short months left before you’ll be able to get your hands on both of these titles, so keep an eye out for them on October 31, 2012.