Assassin’s Creed 3′s naval battles explained: “You can’t do the Revolution justice without the sea”

Assassin's Creed 3 ps3 screens

We thought we’d seen everything that Assassin’s Creed 3 had to offer – ooh, trees – and the frontier awaiting – gah, bears – but watching Connor captain an enormous ship through the azure waters of the Caribbean is still astounding stuff. “Obviously one of the things that we’re trying to impress on people is this notion of scale,” creative director Alex Hutchinson explains to us.

Assassin’s Creed 3′s naval battles

“We thought, ‘What is it about this period that makes it special?’,” says Hutchinson, “and it just came up again and again in the history that the navy was such a big part of it. It’s how you got to America. It’s how imported goods got to America. It was a key factor in dictating the outcome of the Revolution itself. All of these things kept telling us that this was a big deal, and you couldn’t do the Revolution justice without the sea.”

Assassin's Creed 3 ps3 screensGameplay is a swashbucklingly spectacular affair. Taking to the ship’s wheel, Connor orders his crew to raise and lower sails, and steers as whistles blow shrilly and bells ring over the sound of the swell. Enemy ships appear on the horizon and the new dynamic weather system that Ubisoft has shown off on land suddenly seems a serious hazard. Watching dark clouds roll in, the waves send the ship lurching – and that’s before the enemies and their cannons get within range.

Once the explosions begin, gameplay becomes frantic as enemies sail alongside, blasting holes in your ship. “No one had really done a third-person action-adventure sailing game before,” laughs Hutchinson. “You’re controlling navigation and combat at the same time. You can walk around your boat, but once you take the wheel you’re steering the boat almost the same as you would in any vehicle in the game. At the same time, you’re ordering your crew to fire different weapons – whether it’s round shot to sink the boats or chain shot to take out masts. The fun of it is juggling those things.”

Refreshingly, these boats aren’t just replacements for the flying machine in Assassin’s Creed 2 or Brotherhood’s chariots – these battles make up a significant chunk of the game, with their own narratives and purpose. These range from merely sinking enemy ships, to disabling and boarding them for Templar-slaughtering action.