Weathering The Seasons

Given the northeastern setting and the long passage of time from the beginning to the end of Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft Montreal is changing up the environments by cycling players through the seasons. Players may not think twice about traversing the forests and countryside on foot during the warm summer months, but once the snow falls everything changes. Lakes freeze, giving you a new path across the Frontier, and snowfall makes traversing the wilderness more treacherous. 

“We wanted winter to matter,” Hutchinson says. “If you lived in the northeast of America in this period, winter is scary. If you’re not prepared for winter, you will die.”

Depending on whether the snow is deep or shallow, it changes the way you interact with the space. When the drifts are high the snow slows you down a lot and moving through the tree branches becomes the preferred method of traversal. 

The snow also poses a problem for NPCs, which can give Connor the upper hand in random encounters. If he’s being pursued across the forest floor, he can use his knowledge of the forest and impressive climbing ability to vault up a tree and disappear. When he’s in predatory mode hunting someone down, waiting for the target venture into the snow before moving in for the kill is a great strategy. 

Making A Living Outdoors

The biggest challenge of creating such a massive explorable environment? You have to populate it with places to see and things to do. Nothing is worse than traveling 20 minutes without seeing a wild animal, another human soul, or a cave to explore. 

Ubisoft is aware of the expectations, and plans to fill the wilderness with several activities. Some are of the standard side mission variety that you complete while going about your main quest. Others are system-driven quests born out of your character behavior. The game keeps track of your activities behind the scenes, and performing certain actions in the world may eventually lead to invitations to participate in other types of activities. 

The example Ubisoft gave us is hunting. If you prove yourself adept at tracking and killing animals, a powder-wigged chap may invite you to join his gentleman’s hunting society. Upon joining a club, you gain access to unique locations. By performing the club missions – in this case, hunting rare animals – you can rank up inside the society and eventually reach an end mission that delivers a reward. 

Hunting won’t be as simple as seeing an animal and shooting it. Ubisoft is adding several types of animals to the wilderness. Some smaller prey like deer and rabbits will be common, but the trophy animals like elk, moose, and bears will be more difficult to locate. 

“The fantasy of hunting is the rarity of the animals,” Hutchinson says. “We want to make it almost like an assassination. You have to go out, track them, find the evidence of them, and hunt them down.”

Once you kill your prey, you can skin the animal for its pelt. These can be pawned off at trading posts. The cleaner your kill, the more valuable the pelt will be to traders. If you assassinate a bear instead of shooting it, you will get a better pelt at the risk of getting your face clawed off by Old Ben. 

Ubisoft says there are several other joinable clubs in Assassin’s Creed III as well, but it isn’t sharing specifics. If you think about the other prominent activities in the game, like climbing and archery, you can imagine the different directions they could be taking this system.

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