After Ubisoft found an icon in Assassin’s Creed II‘s Ezio, it seemed almost unbelievable that they’d finally be ditching him in favour of a brand new protagonist in Assassin’s Creed III. When Connor was unveiled as the star of the American Revolution setting for the series, things looked that they would be changing drastically; and in some ways they really have.
After being shown the naval battle scenes at E3 this year, the demo I played a Gamescom gave me control of my own vessel and tasked me with taking down two Man of War ships and hunt down a templar onboard a vessel. I also was lucky enough to get shown some lovely footage of the Wii U build of Assassin’s Creed III behind closed doors. The Wii U demo was again naval based, but this time took place at a pivotal point in the Revolution set around three-quarters of the way through the main game.
When battling upon the high seas you have different cannonball types available to you, so that you can dole out different levels of damage and effectively scupper ships. A scatter shot deals a lot more crucial damage to a ship, meaning that you’ll cause wide ranging – but not substantial – damage, whereas flaming cannonballs are heavier and can set fire to masts and sails. Of the four available in both demo sessions, it really depends on what you need to do in each situation.
Interestingly you can actually upgrade your ships to be more effective at both combat and defence. With more cannons you can obviously dole out more damage, and sticking a larger ram on your bow means that you’ll do damage when you hit another ship and suffer little to your own. Upgrading your armour also means you’ll take less damage, and if you combine that with well timed ‘bracing’ you could come out unscathed from many encounters.
Having played it myself, the naval battles are very enjoyable to play, however it’s also very hard to understand exactly what you have to do, and how you have to do it. As the demo just drops you right into the thick of things, rather than ease you in, it’s hard to really know what’s going on. However, after five minutes or so you’ll have gotten the hang of it, and switching between full speed and half speed for turning and evasion will become second nature. Switching between ammo types is also very similar to switching between weapons in Assassin’s Creed so, although it’s very different to the traditional gameplay of the series, it’s instantly familiar to play.
The Wii U demo also ventured into the realms of combat, moving seamlessly from the ship into traditional AC combat as Connor immobilised and boarded a ship known to have a Templar onboard. Although this section of play was rather bombastic, with explosions and action aplenty, gameplay did look largely similar to before – just a fair bit smoother.
I suppose that the biggest question everybody has about the Wii U version has to do with just how good the game looks. Honestly, it looks incredible on Wii U. So incredible, in fact, that it makes me wonder why the PS3 version looks as ropey as it does. This isn’t to say that the PS3 demo I played looked abysmal, far from it, but it definitely didn’t look as smooth and texture rich as the Wii U version does. Of course, as the Wii U version is actually a port, the most likely explanation for visual differences is that the PS3 version is an older build, perhaps an E3 demo, while the Wii U version is up to date.
During our little Q&A session at the end of our closed-door preview, we also got some more information about the title that you may find interesting, chief among them being that Assassin’s Creed III has the largest map ever in the game with its Frontier level, and all its cities are 1:3 scale. Assassin’s tombs will also be making a return, with lots of free form exploration for you to enjoy from within, and that although no DLC has been announced for the Wii U, it seems likely that some will arrive as extra content has been slated for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
Also as the Wii U version is a port, it does run surprisingly well, and we’re assured it’s “flawless” too. However, this does mean that the Wii U isn’t utilised in quite the way you’d hope for as the screen is largely used as a map and – although it can be displayed on the TV screen – a way to quickly change weapons or ammunition types; essentially, Ubisoft really haven’t bothered to make it feature rich specifically for the Wii U version.
Assassin’s Creed III releases on October 30th, with the PC version arriving on November 20th – there’s no release date for the Wii U version as of yet.