Assassin’s Creed 3 multiplayer was the big draw at the Ubisoft Fan Expo 2012 booth; the refinement of the novel online modes have been updated and tweaked, bringing what has been a somewhat dodgy experience closer and closer to a truly competitive platform. While the multiplayer was turning heads I was surprised to see the number of people getting into the single player demo. The naval battle that we had seen over the last few big game events (E3, Gamescom) was getting a lot of positive response.
At first glance I had dismissed it as a “rail shooter” segment and I was convinced that when I got my hands on it I would find it to be devoid of skill or minutia, to my delight I was wrong. The naval gameplay actually does factor in things like wind and wave resistance, its as much about shooting your cannons (and I’ll get to that too) as it is about maneuvering your ship; dodging blasts is as important as landing them. The ship actually factors in wind. A little flag next to your wheel will always indicate where it is coming from without providing some nasty HUD element.
Using the wind was difficult but gratifying. If you have ever sailed then you know that sailing with the wind is peachy but as soon as you want to head into it you’re going to have to tack. Tacking is a way of maneuvering in a zigzag to head into the wind to maximize the wind in the sail. In just 15 minutes of gameplay I could familiarize myself with the ship mechanics though I did get a distinct feeling that it was “easy to learn, difficult to master”.
Canon fire was surprisingly deep; not only do you have a variety of cannon shot types but where you land your shots is critical. Within the demo I had two canon types to work with. My deck featured a couple of men with smaller cannons that could be precision aimed in tandem, I got the feeling that this was meant for punishing weak spots or taking out crew. My second group was the big guns; rows of canons line your hull and after a blue strip indicates their path you let fly and watch as dozens of balls fly through the air at your target. Using the mass canons was all about timing and shooting too late would result in all your shots hitting the ocean and waiting through a significant reload period. As I broadsided my target and prepared for a viscous melee… the demo ended. I was really disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to play through some of the regular combat but I suppose more so than anything else that just speaks to the quality of the game.