Assassin’s Creed III is the cover star of our latest issue, Edge 245, but despite being the one constant in the five-year-old series it’s not Desmond, the modern-day heir to Altair, Ezio and new protagonist Connor Kenway, on the cover. While millions have grown to love the Assassin’s Creed series, few hold Desmond – voiced by Nolan North – in such high regard.
However, speaking to us as part of our in-depth coverage of Assassin’s Creed III, the biggest project in Ubisoft history, creative director Alex Hutchinson insists that players will be delighted with how Desmond’s story is tied up at the end of Assassin’s Creed III. He compares Desmond to another protagonist in a beloved trilogy, who Hutchinson believes inspired ambivalence at the start and something quite different when the final credits rolled.
“The story of Assassin’s Creed, AC II, Brotherhood and Revelationswas to build Desmond up,” Hutchinson tells us. “He’s this guy who’s a bit of a nobody when it starts out, and gets new abilities through reliving the lives of his ancestors.
“So we’ve built this guy up over the course of the games, and I really believe that we can pay that off, and in retrospect he’ll be terrific. I don’t think anyone really liked Luke Skywalker in [Star Wars] A New Hope, but by the end of his character arc, this journey that he goes through, makes him amazing.”
As ambitious as Assassin’s Creed III is – as it moves away from the cities of the ancient Middle East and Renaissance-era Italy to the sprawling wilderness of the US frontier – wrapping up Desmond’s story in a coherent, satisfing way is arguably the greatest challenge facing Hutchinson’s team at Ubisoft Montreal. He seems well aware of this, and of the further headache of ensuring it makes sense to players who came to Assassin’s Creed late, and haven’t played the earlier games in the series.
“We’re really trying to pay off the investment of the people who’ve been with the franchise since Assassin’s Creed 1, or even just somewhere in the middle, to make this guy cool,” Hutchinson says. “But at the same time [we] acknowledge those who are just playingAssassin’s Creed III.
“We catch you up on where he’s been pretty quickly, and it absolutely works as a standalone game, but the full payoff will be for those who’ve been with us since the start.”
It’s not just Desmond’s story that’s been a sticking point, of course: compared to his graceful, athletic ancestors he’s of meagre ability. Not only does a Desmond appearance suck you out of Ubisoft’s immersive gameworld, but it also gives you a character who is less fun to control. Ubisoft has pushed the boat out with its new protagonist – Connor has 5,000 new animations, which if played end to end would last for an hour – and it’s making the effort with Desmond, too.
“Mechanically speaking, Desmond is going to be doing a lot more in this game,” lead gameplay designer Steven Masters tells us. “Previously he’s been quite limited, and you’ve had little escape sequences, but that’s the extent of his action, climbing inside temples and things.
“He has some really cool moments there, but nothing particularly challenging or threatening. We found the right sort of ingredients to actually bring him forward as a character that can do stuff.”