Just what are the most notable gameplay differences in Assassin's Creed III? Well, the parkour has changed, for starters. The control scheme is simpler, but this change is ultimately sensible considering it streamlines Connor's singular ability to bound from tree to tree just as brilliantly as he can scale walls and leap across roofs.
It takes some time to get accustomed to the rhythms of tree-jumping, which can be finicky and unpredictable. Though you can more or less speed across Boston and New York as if the buildings were your own personal jungle gyms, when seeking to fly through the frontier, you must keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs of a climbing opportunity. You use a fallen tree much as a plane uses an airport runway, gaining momentum and then soaring. There are those moments that slow you down; you might not be positioned quite right and thus swing impotently rather than flow smoothly toward the next branch. You might even make an inadvertent leap of faith into a leaf pile below that you didn't notice until the game decided you were trying to fall into it. But then there are those moments in which it all comes together, and you fly with abandon across the unique architecture of the forest canopy.
While the trees that dot the main cities are sometimes there for climbing, most of the elms and birches you crisscross are within the frontier, as well as in the broad patch of land that functions as your homestead. The homestead is to Connor what Monteriggioni was to Ezio, but on a much broader scale. Your manor isn't fully your own--it belongs to Achilles Davenport, a former assassin who one day finds a persistent Ratonhnhaké:ton knocking at his door. Achilles is one of Assassin's Creed III's best characters, and it's a pity he doesn't get more screen time; his tough love balances Connor's naivete, but the bulk of Connor's training time is left only to your imagination.
The homestead is more than just a place for Connor and Achilles to banter and argue--it's the central element of Assassin's Creed III's economy. Like much of Assassin's Creed III, the homestead-focused facets are purely optional, yet they are worth exploring. The homestead is about building: building a village, building a future, and building relationships. By performing related missions, you befriend craftspeople, gatherers, hunters, and more, all of whom might find a place on the homestead. In turn, they can craft items that you sell via caravan for profit. (You discover recipes in treasure boxes throughout the world, some of which must be opened by performing a lock-picking minigame.) The homestead missions are varied, having you protect a miner as he scavenges for ore, search Boston for a drunken doctor, or break up a fisticuffs. In turn, your income grows, you meet new and interesting characters, and the homestead becomes, well, a home.
Meanwhile, out on the frontier, you can supplement your storehouse by trapping or attacking wild animals and then skinning them, leaving their carcasses behind. There's rarely a pressing reason to go hunting, just as there has never been a pressing reason to use smoke bombs to facilitate an easy escape when you can just dispatch your foes with a sword or an axe. But there's something enjoyably bizarre about perching on a tree branch and then assassinating a bunny rabbit from above. You can examine various clues--the signs of a foraging deer, for instance--to identify the location of a nearby animal. Hunting isn't a necessary aspect of Assassin's Creed III, though, but more of a toy for tinkering with, unless you grow deeply invested in the homestead's economy.
You stumble upon guarded redcoat convoys to attack and loot out on the frontier, but cities are home to most of the action. Even outside of story missions, there's plenty to do in Boston and New York. Ben Franklin's missing almanack pages float in the sky, giving you a reason to take to the rooftops and prance about. (You're rewarded with excerpts from the famous Poor Richard's Almanack, which are full of clever wordplay.) Liberation missions have you rescuing townsfolk from British soldiers, burning diseased blankets, and protecting farmers from rampaging redcoats. In almost every location, frontiersmen tell tall tales of flying saucers and the sasquatch, and the truths you discover if you follow these leads make for an interesting thematic twist.
Your exploits have you making direct contact with guards and soldiers, though combat has been tweaked so that it resembles that of Batman: Arkham Asylum more than ever. You counter by pressing the proper button when an indicator appears over an enemy's head, and you no longer have to manage a lock-on mechanic. Battles are fluid and bloody, as Connor chops, slashes, and somersaults about, though as always, you couldn't accuse combat of being especially difficult. Musketeers take aim, but if there's a nearby enemy, you can grab him and use him as a human shield, which protects you and dispatches a guard in a single move. Notably, Assassin's Creed III abandons health items and embraces regenerating health, though considering the previous few games' abundance of health items, there's no appreciable loss--or gain--of challenge.