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Assassin’s Creed III - Hands-On Preview

Demoing a Brief, Violent Sea Voyage

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Assassin’s Creed III - Hands-On Preview

Assassin's Creed III includes a violent skirmish on a stormy sea.

Ubisoft

I have been really excited about the coming of Assassin’s Creed III, since I thought Assassin’s Creed II was brilliant (far better than the original game). I was thrilled to see that it was one of the games being demoed at Nintendo’s recent press event, although I was surprised by the demo itself; rather than showing off the climbing and fighting that comprises the majority of the gameplay in the previous games, the level involves taking a ship out onto the ocean for a naval battle.

Taking the wheel, my task was to board another ship harboring a man I needed to kill (which is, after all, what the Assassin’s Creed games focus on). But first I had to sink two protecting ships.

Sailing is quite impressive. The stormy, dynamically-created sea tossed me around, the waves often rising so high that they blocked my view of the other ships entirely. My ship responded well, moving smoothly as I turned the wheel. It probably steered much better than a real ship; I doubt 18th century sailing ships had the same maneuverability as this game’s does.

The gamepad had a map, useful to figure out where my enemies were, and also let me choose the ships weapons; I needed cannons to take out the other ships but grappling hooks to grab onto and board my prey.

To sink the ships I needed to get near one, turn so my cannons were aimed at my enemy and then fire. The PR flack kept telling me to use the “white line,” for aiming, which was incredibly unhelpful since I could see no line, white or otherwise, no matter how desperately I sought it. Eventually she explained that what she meant by the white line was a white shimmer on the water that indicated the path the cannons would take. A similar red shimmer shows where the enemies’ cannons were facing. I suppose if you’ve played the level many times you see this shimmer as a vivid, white line, but it’s a fairly subtle effect if you’re not aware of it.

The way you battle is a bit unusual, in that you must turn the side of your boat towards the other ship and fire. The PR flack kept gently reminding me that while I steered the boat I also needed to keep changing my view to see what I was doing. I was, in fact, embarrassingly bad at the level, and wished I could have tried it in private rather than on the floor of a crowded press event. Finally I managed to sink the first two ships and board the final one, at which point the demo ended.

I don’t know how much sailing the game contains, but I’m impressed that something so elaborate has been added; clearly the developers don’t want to be accused of sitting on their laurels. The demo showed none of the things I’m used to seeing in the games – the melee combat, the crowded cities, the outrageous jumps – but then, we already know that stuff is awesome so it made sense for them to show us something new.

I can’t say I’m more excited about the game than I was before I played the demo, because I was already pretty excited. But I am more curious; what other new gameplay ideas will I encounter? Will I eventually begin to think of that white shimmer as a white line? We’ll find out when Assassin’s Creed releases for the Wii U on its launch date, November 18.

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