And the Assassin's Creed III leaks just keep on coming. This time, a veritable treasure trove of details from the upcoming Game Informer cover story have leaked, revealing new info about the game's protagonist, setting, and gameplay changes. We've pulled all the spiciest details and thrown together a lengthy rundown of everything you can expect from Ubisoft Montreal's next blockbuster.
Set in New England between 1753 and 1783, Assassin's Creed III tells the story of Connor, a half-English, half-Mohawk warrior who finds himself torn between two worlds. Unlike Ezio and Altair, whose quests were motivated by revenge and a sense of duty, Connor joins up with the Assassins for far loftier reasons. Growing up as a Native American in the age of colonialism, Connor witnessed the impact that tyranny and injustice can have on the lives of innocent people, and so he finds himself attracted to the Assassin's revolutionary cause.
But Connor is a departure from previous protagonists in more than just his motivations. His movements have been designed to look more predatory, and he sulks around low to the ground in manner more befitting his upbringing as a tracker and frontiersman. While he wears the trademark hidden blade, his arsenal also includes weapons more befitting his upbringing, including a bow and arrow and a tomahawk.
Likewise, the game's setting has been carefully designed with Connor's background in mind. The bread and butter of the Assassin's Creed franchise has always been its historically accurate cities. To that end, Assassin's Creed III offers up meticulous recreations of colonial Boston and New York, but the most notable change to the game's setting comes not in the cities, but in an increased focus on natural environments. Sprawling between the two cities is a massive stretch of wilderness known as the Frontier, an area that, by itself, is more than 1.5 times the size of the entireity of Brotherhood's Rome.
Of course, size alone doesn't amount to anything, but the Frontier will also play a far more significant role in gameplay than the relatively empty countryside of previous Assassin's Creed titles. In fact, it's home to a full third of the game's missions, and Ubisoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that the franchise's trademark freerunning gameplay will carry over smoothly into the wilds. Connor will be able to swing between branches, whip around tree trunks, and scale cliffs with the same fluidity he uses to naviagates cities.
On top of that, every last inch of the game's world has been crafted to feel more realistic and dynamic. City inhabitants now have a full range of behaviors designed to make the experience more immersive. Merchants will notice you from across the square and approach to hock their wares. Dogs will lurk in alleyways, snffing about for scraps. The Frontier, for its part, will feature a living ecosystem of animals, including rabbits, deer, elk, and bears. Stumble onto a dead body, and you might find yourself attacked by a bear who thinks you're making a play for his kill. Hunting the wildlife will allow you to harvest pelts and other resources that you can then take to traders in the cities.
In addition, environment have been designed to change as the story progresses. You might revisit the site of an old battle to find abandoned encampments littering the field. As the seasons pass, you'll see the cities and wilderness in the heat of summer, the rain of spring, and the frigid snows of winter, and these variations will have a noticeable impact on gameplay. Enemies stumble as they march through heavy drifts, offering you a chance to close the distance even quicker. Lakes and rivers freeze during the deepest parts of winter, opening up new pathways and areas to explore.
Combat has also undergone a serious overhaul in Assassin's Creed III. Thanks to the significantly upgraded Anvil engine, you'll now be able to participate in period-accurate battles featuring thousands of soldiers, dodging cannonballs and bullets as you make your way across the battlefield in pursuit of your target, but even the most commonplace fights have been redesigned to feel more cinematic and fluid. Gone is the old manual lock-on system, as the game will now target enemies automatically, allowing you to deftly move between multiple foes. In an attempt to place you on the offensive more often, the block and counter buttons have been combined into one, and you'll now be able to perform double counters to take out multiple attackers in one fell swoop. All of this is captued by a new dynamic combat camera that zooms in and out to provide the best angle on the action.
Don't feel like finishing the fight? Just leg it out of there. The team has gone to great lengths to ensure that moving in and out of combat is as fluid as possible. As a result, you'll now be able to take out well-guarded targets much more swiftly, moving from kill to chase to kill, rather than taking extended stops along the way to clear out the next batch of soldiers.
Even the series' strongest aspect, its freerunning gameplay, has seen a few upgrades and changes. Now, moving objects will be fully integrated as platforms, meaning you can leap onto the top of a passing carriage just as readily as a market stall or rooftop. In addition, you'll automatically dodge any objects that get in your way while sprinting, which should remove the annoyance of having your daring escape stopped by a lightpost.
Most of the series' gameplay features will be returning, though some have been made smarter and more streamlined. As best we can tell, dedicated platforming segements in the vein of Brotherhood's lairs, and equipment upgrades will be returning essentially unchanged. The synchronization system also returns, but this time, the team has made some important changes to make the feature more accessible. Mid-mission checkpoints will now prevent you from replaying large chunks of the mission, and you'll be offered significant rewards once you've achieved full synchronization in a particular segment. The economic system is back, as are properties, but they'll now have a more narrative-driven focus, rather than just allowing you to walk into town and buy up whatever you'd like.
Others features be undergoing more drastic alterations. Noteriety will be back, but the entire system has been reimagined from the ground up to ensure that players aren't penalized for exploring riskier areas. Hireable factions, like the thieves and mercenaries of prior games, have been completely removed, but the team says the core concept is being expressed in a feature that's a "radical departure" for the series. Building a brotherhood of Assassins seems to have suffered a similar fate. The old system doesn't fit into the game's plot, but Ubisoft promises a new feature that offers similar rewards. Thankfully, there's one feature that won't be returning at all: the oft-criticized tower-defense gameplay of Revelations.
Of course, Assassin's Creed is always at its best when it's indulging the conspiracy theorist in all of us, and a story set during the American Revolution should provide plenty of fuel for clever historical twists. The bulk of the game's plot is still under wraps, but Ubisoft has confirmed that we can expect to experience plenty of famous events — like the Great Fire of New York and the Battle of Valley Forge — and encounter plenty of iconic historical figures, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Even with the finer points of the plot shrouded in mystery, it's clear that Ubisoft is spending a great deal of time ensuring the experience is as immersive and accurate as possible. The game features a whopping 2.5 hours of cutscenes, each of which has created with the latest in motion capture and facial capture technology. Authenticity is key here as well, as they've hired Native American actors and recorded whole scenes of dialogue in the actual Mohawk language.
Any way you look at it, Assassin's Creed III marks a big step forward for the franchise. Ubisoft has had a dedicated team working on the game since developement wrapped on Assassin's Creed II almost three years ago. As a result, they've been able to take some huge chances with the game, offering bold new features and dramatic changes to the franchise. We'll see how they pay off when Assassin's Creed III releases for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on October 30.