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The New Hero Of Assassin’s Creed III

by Matt Miller on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM

A new Assassin is a big deal. Signifying a new numbered entry in the series chronology, the introduction of a new hero in Assassin’s Creed II brought numerous changes to the gameplay, storytelling, and tone. Assassin’s Creed III continues that trend with the introduction of Connor, a hero who brings along fundamental changes to the game experience. We quizzed the developers of Ubisoft Montreal about the new character in order to get a detailed picture of what fans can expect.

The new hero of Assassin’s Creed III is born into a Mohawk tribe in what is now upstate New York, and given the name Ratohnhaké:ton (prounounced ra-doon-ha-gay-doo). Born of a Mohawk mother and a white English father, his heritage places him with a foot in two very different cultures of the period. “We want to explore this notion of duality,” says creative director Alex Hutchinson. “He’s of neither culture. And if we’re going to talk about the American Revolution, we didn’t want you playing Mel Gibson from The Patriot. And we didn’t want you in a military uniform. The AC universe is one step back.”  

Adopting the more manageable name of Connor for his interactions with the colonists, this new hero is a very different character from his predecessors Altaïr or Ezio. Altaïr was at first arrogant but capable, and later stoic and idealistic. Young Ezio was a brash romantic as eager to get into a fight as hop into a beautiful woman’s bed. They were both, in their own way, very big personalities. Connor is reserved and quiet. When he speaks, he carefully considers what he wants to say. Where previous protagonists began their stories without a clear set of guiding principles, Connor has those in place early on. “We wanted Connor to be more of a freedom fighter," Hutchinson says. "He’s not out for personal revenge. If he sees injustice, he will help. The notion is that he fights for his people, and he wants his tribe to be relevant in the future of America. He fights for the Patriots because he believes that side of the conflict is just, and he fights for the Assassins for the same reason. “

Players will witness broad swath of Connor’s life, stretching from 1753 to 1783. The period is fraught with historical turmoil. The French and Indian War began in 1754. The American Revolutionary War erupts in 1775. In between, American colonist agitators, Native Americans, and British loyalists created a hotbed of political turmoil and frequently violent conflict. While the period is filled with historical drama, Ubisoft is careful to point out that the story is squarely focused on Connor and the continuing conflict between the Assassins and Templars. “The story we’re telling is the story of the Assassins versus the Templars,” Hutchinson explains. “The American Revolution is the backdrop. He will be caught up in the Revolution throughout the story, but it’s not about winning the Revolution. It will cross over, but the narrative is about Connor’s journey.”

NEXT UP: Connor's early history, and how he fares in a fight. 

Connor's story begins in the Mohawk village in which he was raised. Players control the character during his youth, including a period of his boyhood where he comes into conflict with Charles Lee, a historical figure who years later becomes a general in George Washington’s army. 

It’s unclear how it happens or who is involved, but at some point early in the story Connor’s village faces catastrophe. “You’ll see your village destroyed, which will push you to join in the struggle,” Hutchinson says. From that point forward, Connor’s adventures focus on his drive for justice, in particular a desire to find a place within the new order of America for his Native American brethren. Given what we know about the terrible trials that Native Americans face in the years that follow, Connor’s mission has a tinge of melancholy about it.  “He honestly believes he’s fighting for the future of the Native American people in America,” Hutchinson tells us. “But you’re replaying history; we know how this turns out. You as a player know you’re going to fail in some regards.” 

As an adult, Connor is both a powerful warrior and an experienced pioneer and hunter. “Connor is as at home in wilderness environments as Ezio and Altaïr were in cities,” Hutchinson says. As described in our recent feature on the Frontier of Assassin’s Creed III, a third of the content in the new game is set in the wilderness. Connor is uniquely equipped and trained to succeed in the setting. Seeing the character in action in game demos, he clambers up cliffs and trees with ease, and a new sneaking  ability lets him hide in the brush, whether he’s hunting a deer or an assassination target. Even when he runs, his center of gravity is low to the ground, and he moves with speed and precision, calling to mind a wolf on the hunt. 

The same themes carry over into Connor’s approach to combat. Connor has numerous weapon combinations at his disposal, including items like a tomahawk, knife, pistols, muskets, and of course, the return of the Assassin’s hidden blade. However, unlike previous games, Connor always dual-wields as he weaves and strikes among a group of foes. “It’s a two-handed fighting style, but we’re also working on integrating tools into the combat more than before,” Hutchinson explains. That means that players have increased facility to bring unique special use items to bear in the midst of a fluid battle exchange; think about the use of the hidden gun in previous installments as an example. 

Any fight featuring Connor is a sight to behold thanks to fantastic new animations and redesigned camera and targeting systems. “We got rid of the need to lock on to people," Hutchinson says. "You just point at the guy you want to attack. We’ve clarified the controls. Your controls in a fight are the same as your controls out of a fight. So, if you’re in the middle of combat, and you want to run away, just hold down RT.” In addition, Connor’s combat moves are highlighted by a camera that zooms closer to the action as the group of combatants shrinks. At the end, when Connor faces off against just one foe, the camera will have zoomed very close to accentuate the drama.  

Whether you look at his character origins or his abilities in the game, Ubisoft has crafted a new hero that balances new and old. Longtime players should be able to easily fall into a rhythm of combat and navigation that echoes previous games in the franchise, but new players can enjoy getting in on the ground floor with a new character and setting. 

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