Book Review: The Painterly Revolution of ‘The Art of Assassin’s Creed III’

© 2012 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Maybe the most interesting thing about “Assassin’s Creed III” is how Ubisoft assembled the vision for the world and characters in the game. Whatever gripes I have about the game as a whole, a lack of ambition and drawing on history and numerous visual influences isn’t one of them.

Titan Books’ “The Art of Assassin’s Creed III” presents that vision through concept art and early looks at the characters. While it doesn’t reveal the evolution of “Assassin’s Creed III” in the same way as the “Journey” artbook showed the progression of that game’s development, it’s still a good look at how Ubisoft established the world of the game.

“The Art of Assassin’s Creed III” is broken up into 18 pages of present-day art featuring environments with Desmond inserted, another 30 for the characters, and around another 60 dedicated to the game’s environments. Writer Andy McVittie’s paragraph-long text pieces provide commentary for each work in the book, with shorter excerpts from the game’s artists added to select images.

While the location art–typically, dark, large digital paintings which look nice on the 9″ X 11.8″ pages, but they’re a little static. They really only serve as a history of colonial America and not so much a revelation about the art itself.

The Characters section is really where the action is, presenting some of the early iterations of the cast, including some of the dramatic tweaks to Connor’s overall look and color scheme. I noted the lack of evolution throughout the book, but this section does provide a clear indication of Ubisoft’s growing vision for its characters.

Notable are very different interpretations of Haytham (who looked meaner in the portrait presented here) and Charles Lee who, in addition to the final version had a more wizened version in the initial pass. Like the location images, the character art has the occasional historical insight into the historical figures who made their way into the game.

I think my criticism that it doesn’t show enough “evolution,” might be a little vague: while it would have been nice to see some of the process behind what ultimately became the style of “Assassin’s Creed III,” these games had effectively established their style with the first title in the series, so the look of the environments and characters would have had to fit in a set paradigm from the beginning. So what we have here is more of a gallery of finished ideas, which, of course, has value in its own right. However, the net result here is that we don’t get to process any kind of arc for the production of “Assassin’s Creed III,” which is unfortunate.

So to the extent that you liked the characters in “Assassin’s Creed III” or just want to see how some of them emerged, Titan Books’ “The Art of Assassin’s Creed III” is worth picking up.

As an aside Ubisoft, get on making a large print of the Brotherhood image on page 40 (the header image here)–it’ll sell.

“The Art of Assassin’s Creed III” is available now from Titan Books.

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