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Assassin's Creed 3: Rebuilding a series during the birth of a nation


Back in late 2009, creative director Alex Hutchinson and a handful of others started drawing up plans for what would become Assassin's Creed 3. In those two years, the team rethought core elements of the series: cities, combat, and the franchise's signature "free running" mechanic. Even the engine, Anvil, was examined and updated (now dubbed "AnvilNext").

But before all of that, Hutchinson needed a setting and a character. He wouldn't tell us why or how he settled on the American Revolution (nor would he say what other ideas came up), but he did explain why he believes it'll be a success. "We really believe this is the strongest setting so far in an AC game. Why? Because we think it's the most relevant setting," he said during a group presentation. "This is the birth of the nation. But even for other countries, especially in Europe, it's a key historical event."

By the way, for all his U.S pride, Hutchinson is an Aussie and he lives in Canada. We assume he's spent a lot of time watching Independence Day.

Gallery: Assassin's Creed 3 (3/26/12) | 8 Photos

The American Revolution was stage to major events and iconic figures, giving it a solid foundation as an AC time period. Though Assassin's Creed 2's Renaissance setting offered similar opportunities, Hutchinson remembered initial concern from fans.

"It's interesting. In retrospect, everyone's like, 'The Renaissance was a terrific setting for AC.' But at the time, when it was announced, everyone was like, 'Wasn't it just paintings and people with frilly sleeves. How could this be a setting for a video game? How could it be a cool story?'" Hutchinson told us.

Without speculating on other AC titles, Hutchinson said, "Assassin's Creed is flexible, where you can do a lot of stuff. As long as it's a big inflection point, and a dynamic point in history, there's lots of meat to chew on."

Main character "Connor" (Native American name: "Ratohnhaké:ton" [Ra-doon-ha-gay-doo]) and the many complications that come with his half-Native/half-British background offer plenty more meat for players to chew on. His contextually awkward background plays some role in AC3's main story, but it's unclear how he'll be reconciling his two ancestries throughout a war fought on Native American soil without the consent of said Native Americans.

"At the time historically, the Native American population were mostly allied with the British. They cut deals with the French before and after [the Revolutionary War]. There's also a big percentage that've been assimilated either through Christianity or just moving into town, so it's a very fluid history," Hutchinson told us. Connor's facing the ongoing encroachment on his peoples' land, while simultaneously interested in assisting with the birth of America. "It wasn't a shooting war, in a sense [between settlers and Natives]. This is centuries of attrition. So it fits into that. The notion that he's trying to help these people find a place in what he sees as going to be a new country."

Connor hunts foes in the way a cheetah stalks a gazelle, taking a lower stance and pouncing ferociously. He takes a similarly pouncy tactic in group fights, bouncing from one character to the other, firing a gun with one hand and swinging a tomahawk wildly in the other. (And no, scalping is not part of the game. Hutchinson and co. had it in an early build but cut it as it felt, "a little too brutal.") That vicious combat is assisted with a new version of the hidden blade: the chain blade. During one concept video we were shown, Connor snags one enemy with the blade while perched on a branch above, then leaps to the ground, hanging the foe.

Assassin's Creed 3 is a rugged game set in a rugged time. Brutal combat, barely lived-in early US cities, and gritty characters like real life bad dude Israel Putnam are all sterling examples of why the next AC game will be a tonal shift from the charming Italian airs of Mr. Auditore. The setting seems all the more fitting, then, as the series is born anew.

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