'Assassin's Creed 3' is less about the climbing, more about the killing

Despite a variety of strategies, this stone ledge, about thirty feet tall and inches away, is insurmountable. I, the world's most gifted assassin, killer of men, climber of castles, am stuck in a cool stream with no one else but a stupid deer who won't stop looking at me. I shoot an arrow in Bambi's neck out of frustration, then feel terrible.

Despite a variety of strategies, this stone ledge, about thirty feet tall and inches away, is insurmountable. I, the world's most gifted assassin, killer of men, climber of castles, am stuck in a cool stream with no one else but a stupid deer who won't stop looking at me. I shoot an arrow in Bambi's neck out of frustration, then feel terrible.

The American frontier of Assassin's Creed 3 is unforgiving to long term fans of the series who have plied their deadly trade from the flat rooftops of Europe and the Middle East. For four games, the Assassin's Creed universe has been a climber's fantasy, letting its heroes loose on some of histories most famous and tallest architecture, but the latest in the series, razes the playing field. The changes take some getting used to.

We knew from the trailers and developer-guided gameplay videos that America would be a different experience for assassins, with its sloped-roofs, squat buildings, and dense forests, but experiencing the world first-hand is disorienting none-the-less.

I thought I could run up any tree or climb any mountain, but that wasn't the case. After a few minutes of trial-and-error, I'd learned that thick trees with serrated edges are climbable trees. Noticing my frustration with the stone ledge, a developer tapped me on the shoulder to tell me, "Dry rocks are climbable. Those are slick rocks." He was right, the rocks impeding my way didn't have gripping, they looked slippery.

I quickly adjust the camera, hoping he doesn't see the dead deer.

Assassin's Creed 3, in many ways, feels like its predecessors, particularly in the outrageously violent combat, but navigation is a new experience. The environment's are shorter, but craggier; they have fewer building, but are dense with stuff. There are more people, more animals, more alleyways, and tree branches. And so, the player must explore the world differently, and subsequently alter how they set traps, stalk prey, and assassinate enemies.

It's a different visual language. The designers have put subtle clues into the look of the world, and I suspect that it will take some getting used to. The woman playing on my neighboring screen had been there for hours. She leaped from one branch to the next, and shift through the alleyways of historic Boston. It doesn't look like a climber's fantasy, however, it does look like an assassin's one. Smoother, stealthier, the hero Connor stays right on top his mark.

This renewed focus on close-range stealth and busy environments results in moments where cover can easily be blown, something you'd never expect in the previous games. At one point, my position in a haystack was thrown by a dog that I'd forgotten to pet. Yes, the dog was insistent I pet him, but I was on the run, I didn't have time, and he sold me out to a band of redcoats.

The Assassin's Creed 3 universe in general feels more realistic. I wasn't able to use my years of training to dispatch dozens of enemies, then sprint away across the roof tops. Success will require a number of new skills, ones I've yet to learn.

In a month, we'll have a chance to learn the language of Assassin's Creed 3, and become expert all-terrain killers. But I needed to get past this slick rock stat. With a tap of the Start button I select a location on the map, and warp across time and space with the help of fast travel.

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