The strength of Assassin's Creed has always been its set-pieces, its superb core gameplay and sense of place and grandeur, rather than its congruous story and sometimes ill-devised extra features (tower defense anyone?). In this playthrough of Assassin's Creed III, aka Dancing With Assassins, aka Last of the Assassins, we control Connor as he infiltrates a fort garrisoned by a regiment of British soldiers, from where he must collect documents left by an unknown prisoner for unmentioned reasons. Plot revelations are not on the cards; instead, the gameplay and period is meant to speak for itself. This it does excellently.
The level plays like a classic Assassin's Creed mission from the heyday of AC II. Each area is well considered and plotted, with excellent pacing, overheard conversations and snippets of information which suggest a wider world and other concerns. Soldiers banter and squabble as a commanding officer struggles to justify their placement, whilst others lament their due. I cannot tell if the wild variety of accents on offer - not just in the guards but Connor and his boatman - is a brilliantly realised acknowledgement of the multi-national nature of the British Army or simply terrible, terrible voice-acting; with Assassin's Creed it really could be either.
Thankfully, despite the self-righteous depiction of the laboured storyline, the gameplay of Assassin's Creed has always been about fun and attempting the acrobatic impossible. Assassin's Creed III is no different; if you have played any of the previous incarnations then you would breeze through the demo. It looks the business too. Connor and the other characters are well modelled, whilst the environments are stunningly realised and look a pleasure to explore. Still, it is hard to tell within the isolated confines of the island and the demo itself how indicative this is of the wider game; in-fact, it is near impossible. The only things that really bare worry are the sense of familiarity regarding the gameplay and some of the indoor environments; they could easily be from any other game. Sure, he has a tomahawk instead of a sword, but that is not enough. Hopefully the outdoor environments and the much-publicised trees will offer a greater scope of invention than suggested here. The other concern regards the period; there was little to really concrete the period or troubles outside of their uniforms, unlike scaling Florence Cathedral, for example. However, this is probably a harsh criticism based purely on a very restrictive demo, and one that is quickly rectified by a neatly tucked away row of demo consoles.
The demo consoles in question housed a mode of the game where you play as the captain of a pirate ship in its attempt to see off and capture a military vessel. This was an unexpected and wholly revelationary delight. As captain you control the ship and direct it, bearing in mind the direction of the wind, shallows of the beautiful Caribbean islands you sweep around and the length of the sails you unfurl. The effect is really quite brilliant; cannons rake the sea as sailors rush to and fro screaming and scrambling, each bursting with individuality despite the action on screen. If this small section is an indication of the extra-curricular activities to be found in the game then we are in for a treat. The concern over the sense of place is immediately lost in the pulsating action, creaking wood of great ships and ripple of flags as bullets rip through them. This is the Assassin's Creed we fell in love with, and is probably a better representation of the developer's ambitions than the standard demo.