Hands-on: Assassin’s Creed III Naval Warfare

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Hands-on: Assassin’s Creed III Naval Warfare

The shadow war between the Templars and the Assassins spills from the gilded halls of Renaissance-era Europe to the rowdy seaports of the Thirteen Colonies this fall with Assassin’s Creed III, the highly anticipated PS3 threequel. The seismic shifts in geography and time period have introduced changes both large and small in regards to combat, equipment, terrain traversal, and much more.

But the game’s most dramatic evolution lies in the form of its thrilling naval battles, first witnessed during PlayStation’s E3 2012 press conference (skip to 10:58). But during Gamescom, I finally got a chance to control one of Assassin’s Creed III’s massive warships for myself. I learned that guiding the craft was a deceptively simple affair largely dictated by the sail configuration. Full sail propels you along faster but limits your turning radius; a button tap drops you to half sail, reducing your speed but giving you nimbler handling and higher cannon accuracy.

Assassin's Creed III for PS3

Your ship’s cannons are located on its sides, so a head-on approach won’t serve you well. The swivel gun is capable of firing accurately in 360 degrees — useful for crippling an opposing ship’s rudder or cannons, but usually not enough to land the killing blow. Instead, you’ll want to pull up alongside your target in order to unleash a blistering volley of cannonballs and savage the ship’s hull or masts. Luckily, you won’t be entirely defenseless against incoming attacks thanks to a “bracing” move that enables you to lean the ship and deflect damage.

After my hands-on experience, I watched a new naval sequence set in the Battle of the Chesapeake, a critical naval battle that helped set the stage for the end of the American Revolution and the dawn of the good ol’ US of A. As depicted in Assassin’s Creed III, the battle is a ferocious bloodbath set against a smoky sky. We watched Connor’s ship carve through a convoy of British man-of-war battleships as he pursued his real goal: a fugitive Templar agent making a hasty escape aboard a British man-of-war. Connor sailed through a thick, oppressive fog in order to reach his fleeing target, only to sustain heavy damage through an ambush attack. Never one to accept defeat, Connor rammed the enemy ship and leapt aboard, nimbly dispatching the deck crew with his hidden blade, cutlass, and pistol. The boarding combat seemed to emphasize particularly sneaky hit-and-run tactics, whether it was creeping across the rigging to pounce on sentries from above, picking off hapless foes with his rope dart or shooting a powder keg to spark a deck-clearing explosion. The demo ended much too soon, but it provided a tantalizing hint of things to come.

Assassin's Creed III for PS3Assassin's Creed III for PS3

After the demo and hands-on session, we caught up with Lead Designer Steve Masters to learn more about the game’s expansive naval warfare component. We learned that ship-on-ship combat will feature in the main story, but will also include optional engagements for players to pursue. Masters explained that you’ll upgrade your ship over the course of the game, adding new cannon ammunition types such as Heat Shot (massive fire damage at short range), Grapeshot (a shotgun-like volley that suppresses crew on the enemy’s deck), and Chain Shot (crippling bolo-like projectiles that shred masts and sails). Masters also confirmed that ship-on-ship multiplayer is not in the cards for Assassin’s Creed III. Be sure to watch our video interview above to learn more.

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