Assassin’s Creed III – Lexington and Concord
Continuing the series of Assassin’s Creed III Level Design Analysis. Thanks to the members of UbiSoft forums for all the positive (as well as critical) feedback I’ve got! This time, we’re looking at Mission 2 of Sequence 7, Lexington and Concord.
The concept of this mission is that it’s action-packed. It’s not about stealth and thorough thinking, it’s about adrenaline. Which is fine. It is, after all, a battle, the one that began the Revolutionary War as far as I understand.
Objective 1 – Deliver Parker’s message to James Barett
So, the battle begins in Lexington, nobody knows who shot first, but somebody did, and the War is at hand. There’s not enough militia to stand against the British, so John Parker asks Connor to warn Barett at Concord. When we begin the mission, we have three minutes to do that.
Now, my first question is… Why the hell Connor doesn’t kill Pitcairn here and now? Seriously, the British regulars are in a firing line formation. Go a little bit around or wiggle through trees and buildings and kill Pitcairn, straight on. Hell, that’s exactly what Connor does in the Battle of Bunker Hill! I know Connor is sympathetic to the Patriot cause, but why he doesn’t do that here? Surely without their leader, the British regulars are going to be much less effective and more colonists can be saved. A quick research (a.k.a. Wikipedia, since I really don’t know that much about American history, heh) shows that the regulars were charging with bayonets. Well, here’s the answer! Add an infinite spawn of regulars and send them running forward to Concord. That’s why Connor can’t reach Pitcairn, and it also gives more meaning to the timer we’ve got. Plus additional pressure.
But, anyway, back to the mission as it is now. The Patriots are retreating, we’ve got to get to Concord. First thing I’ve noticed, is that right on our path there is a horse, and we’re not penalized if we don’t get on it. I was pleasantly surprised about that (considering the horse restrictions of the Battle of Bunker Hill level). However, if we get on the horse, the only way we can dismount it is if we air assassinate an enemy. Which is… which is pretty disappointing.
With the exception of the kill trigger infront of the British army (and the fact that you can’t go around it due to desynchronization walls), and the weird horse thing, the restrictions in this part of the mission aren’t actually that bad. There are desynchronization walls around the area, but they’re far enough that it takes a long time to reach them, plus you’re on timer anyway, so if you’re going in that direction, you’re kind of screwed. I’m fine with that.
Now, there’s a waypoint system that leads you to Concord through the most dramatic and scenic route. However, it’s flexible enough that if you go around (like, instead of going through the town, go through the hills and run on trees towards Concord, away from the action in Lexington) it doesn’t break, and you can reach Barett normally even if you don’t follow the waypoints. That’s good.
And the Full Synchronization objective in this area is good – Rescue a civilian hostage from the regulars. It’s exactly what I was talking about in my previous blog posts, a side objective instead of a playstyle restriction. And given the time limit, puts a little additional pressure on. Although, I must say, that this side-objective can be completed in like 10 seconds. It’s not enough, there should be at least two-three additional side objectives.
Not only for additional challenge, but you just want more things to do while you’re getting to Concord. For the most part you’re just running or riding a horse. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s set up pretty neat, with Patriots retreating and epic musing pumping up adrenaline, and you feel like you have to get to Concord as fast as you can, and that’s precisely the reason why there has to be more things to do.
For example, my quick Wikipedia research showed that the British weren’t exactly sure of what their orders were, and they were trying to break in to private homes. So, there you have it! Optional Objective #2 – Prevent the regulars from breaking into the house. Add woman or child screaming for additional drama.
Optional Objective #3 could be – Help a civilian fight off a few regulars. You can see the pattern here, all optional objectives have something to do with fighting, but this is exactly what fits the mission – movement from quick skirmish to quick skirmish. Heck, the player probably even won’t want to go the round way anymore just because there will be more stuff to do on the way. And if we’re going to have an advancing column of British regulars going (instead of a stationary one), then it adds a little bit additional pressure and excitement. Just imagine, helping that civilian out of his pesky situation seeing all that army that approaches, and then continuing your run forward.
Maybe even increase the time limit from three minutes to four, and have 5-6 optional skirmish objectives.
In short, I think overall this part of the level is good and got the right idea, it’s just that a few additions could be made to make it even more exciting (and make a little bit more sense as of why Connor doesn’t kill Pitcairn here).
Objective 2 – Command Barett’s troops to protect the farm
Ah, this objective. Let’s just say it’s hard to find a player who’s satisfied with what they had to do here. Basically, after you reach Barett, he puts you in command of his troops. And what we have to do is go between different squads and use the ‘interaction’ command to give order to fire at the British firing lines. And if we get out of a certain area, we desynchronize (and also the bridge is blocked, so we can’t get over it). If too many Patriots die, we lose. Oh, and also, we’re stuck on a horse. Again. Can’t even get off it. So, needless to say, going from place to place, pressing the ‘interact’ button isn’t that fun.
And here’s the reason why. It’s an auxiliary mechanic. It’s not a bad idea to have this in general, but I don’t think it’s quite a good idea to have this the only thing we do for four minutes or something like that. And here’s the funny thing, in the dialogue in the cutscene Barett mentions that if the regulars break the Patriots’ lines, then Connor must fight them off to protect the troops. However, the regulars NEVER try to breach the lines.
This leads me to the conclusion, that it’s something that has been planned for the level, but was cut out. Most likely due to time constraints. However, this is exactly what the mission needs.
First – let us dismount and get back up on the horse as we goddamn please. Second – have two types of enemy squads, those who march and form firing lines, and those who charge in crossing the river or the bridge to engage in close combat. And if the Patriot squad is under attack, then it can’t be commanded to fire. Also, priorities, Patriots fire at whoever’s closer, so it can be the crossing charging soldiers or the marching firing ones. And let us cross the river. I think that’s it.
Oh, actually, no, one more thing, instead of desynchronizing if we get too far away from the area, just kill some Patriots and lower the ‘health’ of the Patriot army until we get back into action. This is pretty much the same restriction (we do want to keep the player in the midst of action, after all), but it gives the vibe of ‘Oh darn, those Patriots really need my help’ instead of ‘Oh darn, I’m confined to this blue area’. The limit distance should be beyond the place where British troops stand in firing lines, so you can deal with firing lines in person… if you want.
So in the end, what I propose is a mission similar to the Walls of Minas-Tirith level from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King game, where you run around pushing ladders, and fighting off enemies to make sure the walls aren’t overrun. Which was a very fun mission, I might add. Only in this case we’ve got firing lines instead of pushing ladders as a secondary action that makes things easier. But our main goal is to go from point to point and fight.
When it comes to the secondary objective for this part, I think that instead of ‘Kill seven groups of regulars with a single order‘, there has to be three captains on the other side of the river which we need to kill. If you kill them, then, either a) enemy troops become a little bit more disarrayed, or b) Patriots get a boost up in morale and get some of their health back (and since the health of patriots is related to their numbers, just spawn some additional soldiers near the barricades).
And after the battle, we have our final objective to talk to Barett. Look at all the dead people from both sides, and contemplate how messed up things are. Nothing to change there… except, actually, probably we should remove the second Barett who’s still speaking with William Dawes at this point.
Thanks for your attention, and that’s my suggestions for Lexington and Concord – a full implementation of an action-packed battle level, full of running, fighting, and saving as many civilian and soldier colonists as you can. See you next time!