Yes, kids, the “leaked” 1.02 patch list from last week was fake. Sure, I threw in the requisite minimum number of serious-sounding changes to capture the tone of the typical, preachy developer patch notes… but the rest was ridiculous enough to warrant eventual suspicion.
But why make a fake patch list? Was it just for the lulz, or was there a point? Dearest reader, I hope by now you think better of me than to think I’d simply make a sport of trolling you.
Consider the last piece a decadent appetizer. Today’s article is the significantly more balanced main course.
Let’s just get right out and say it: Smoke Bomb is the best skill in the game. It was already the best skill in Brotherhood, but Ubisoft’s developers decided to remove the ability’s only weakness (range and reactionary use) and allow players to throw the Smoke Bomb.
Why is Smoke Bomb so good in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations? Tons of reasons:
- It guarantees a Focus bonus and an additional level of Discretion bonus
- It guarantees one’s opponent cannot contest a kill or stun
- It guarantees an opponent cannot use abilities that might limit one’s score
- It prevents opponents from escaping or pursuing (area denial)
- It has a relatively short cooldown
By counter, its only downsides are:
- Smoke Bomb does not affect players on different Z-axis levels
- Smoke Bomb’s effect is too slow to prevent most close-range kills or high profile kills
- Smoke Bomb doesn’t cure cancer
I have no problem with Smoke Bomb being the best skill in the game. But if it’s going to be the best, it should come at a price. That’s why I propose Smoke Bomb’s cooldown is increased from 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
Smoke Bomb can stay powerful. We can keep all the interesting metagame mechanics of static and thrown smoke in Revelations or Assassin’s Creed 3, or whatever, in the game. But a 90 second cooldown would put it on par with Mute. It would be a solid, powerful ability the use of which must be weighed against being left defenseless for a minute and a half.
Templar Vision and Hidden Gun
In general, players hate these abilities because they’re easy to use* and put the user in very little personal danger, since their range is so great. Templar Vision in particular can be used half a football field away from behind a wall, making it nearly impossible for a target to know his identity has been revealed. The Hidden Gun serves a certain purpose (easily eliminating high-profile players) but too easily punishes people from across the map. Unlike Smoke Bomb, neither ability is terribly imbalanced, and small adjustments can be made to alleviate both situations.
For Templar Vision, I’d recommend that players using Templar Vision broadcast an auto-lock notification. This would mean that all opponents (usually targets, but possibly pursuers) within range would have an immediate indication that someone is using Templar Vision in their vicinity. Is it necessarily their pursuer? No. But it removes the possibility of using the skill while completely concealed by a building or other obstacle.
Similarly, I propose that Hidden Gun’s lock-on time is doubled from 2.0 to 4.0 seconds. However, Hidden Gun lock-on time on high-profile targets is halved from 2.0 to 1.0 seconds. This change would make it easier for situationally aware players to escape a gun lock by rounding a corner or dropping off a building’s edge, but it would more greatly punish roofers, chase baiters, and other players using high profile to lure noobs into traps. I’ve always said the best counter for the Hidden Gun is being incognito; with these changes, it would be an even better bullet shield.
Tripwire Bomb and Closure
Situational and clunky, these skills simply do not cut it in most scenarios compared to versatile abilities like Throwing Knives, Charge, Mute, or even Morph. They’re easily circumvented and, more importantly, significantly less powerful once your opponents know you’re using either one. Also, they have really shitty names.
Tripwire Bomb is interesting for area denial (especially in modes like Artifact Assault and Chest Capture), especially since it’s an auto-triggered mini Smoke Bomb. The problem is the mini part. The range is terrible, the duration is terrible, and it’s visible on the ground, making it easy to avoid once players know to look for it.
Closure is possibly the worst skill in Revelations, if only because it has no use outside of close range chases. It doesn’t directly earn you points or stop a target dead in his tracks. It just forces them to climb a nearby wall instead or, in most cases, Smoke Bomb you.
As far as I know, players can’t place more than one Tripwire Bomb at a time, so I suggest Tripwire Bomb cooldown is reduced from 90 seconds to 60 seconds. With this change, Tripwire Bomb would swap places with Smoke Bomb, which is pretty fair when you consider Smoke Bomb is at least 283% better than Tripwire Bomb. Players would still be limited to one trap at a time, but could rely on them more frequently for defense.
Closure is a little trickier, but the solution comes directly from the skill’s shortfalls. I propose Closure additionally causes climbing enemies in its radius to fall upon activation. All of a sudden, Closure goes from being a situational suckhouse to being a parkour-lover’s favorite tool. Climbing enemies would tumble, but wouldn’t be injured or slowed in any other way. It wouldn’t have the versatility of Throwing Knives, yet it could affect multiple opponents and all but guarantee Multiple Escape bonuses.
Animus Hack, Animus Hack (silent) and Minor Hack
Someone asked me on YouTube why I don’t use Animus Hack. The answer is pretty simple: it sucks. Spending half the round racking up seven to nine kills/stuns isn’t exactly easy, and when you finally accomplish it, you’re rewarded with the godlike power to…score four or five kills?
Yes, you can kill players at infinite range. You can kill your pursers. You might even be able to kill locked players out of your line of sight. But the point is that Animus Hack is worth, at max, 700 points. That’s assuming you were able to kill every other player in the game during your 30-second Matrix-esque slaughter spree. In most situations, you’ll get half that kill count before the timer runs out or someone guns you down.
And if you’re on a big map like Mt. St. Michel? Your Animus Hack bonus might expire before you even run into your next target or pursuer!
By contrast, the +550 bonus only requires seven (normal) or five (silent) kills to trigger, and guarantees a huge score boost. You can’t mess it up, and it can’t be wasted by an unforeseen enemy attack. Consider that in a normal game of Wanted or Assassinate, you might get 30 kills + stuns maximum. With the +550 Kill Streak, that would net 2200 to 3300 points. With Animus Hack, you’d only trigger it three or four times with a realistic result of 400 points a pop. Mr. Anderson would be shaking his head in shame watching you walk away from omnipotence with only 1600 points to show for it.
Pretty much any change to the mechanics of Animus Hack would outright break it, but a few tweaks could make it its rewards commensurate with its difficulty in achievement.
Animus Hack, Animus Hack (silent) and Minor Hack: Players may now earn Focus, Mid-Air, and Execution bonuses while using these Kill Streaks.
Animus Hack and Animus Hack (silent): Instead of a timer, these abilities are limited to five uses each.
Why force players to scramble across the map to use well-deserved abilities that probably took them all round to accumulate? A count-based restriction will guarantee the Animus Hack gets its use without forcing the player to play like an idiot to make it worthwhile. Five uses wouldn’t guarantee a better result than the +550 skill bonus, but a smart player taking advantage of the new Hidden Gun-style bonuses will almost certainly profit fairly.
Bonuses and Scoring
The current scoring system is a huge improvement over that in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood multiplayer. Players are better rewarded for spotting their pursuers and winning chases, while killers are incentivized to establish Silent and Incognito bonuses through clever stalking and mind games.
That said, the defensive metagame is almost entirely slanted towards stunning, since stuns are so heavily rewarded in favor of escapes. Yes, a stun is daring, but in general an escape requires significantly more effort and a strong mastery of the game’s free running mechanics.
Likewise, the introduction of the inverted discretion meter and the huge bonus for drop/ledge kills work to make high profile roof-based kills less profitable, but they are still a choice weapon considering it’s now one of the only ways to guarantee and uncontested kill.
Wouldn’t it be great if all Escape bonuses received a +100 base score increase? Evading one’s pursuer for a minute should reward the player with a sizable chunk of virtual currency, after all. I’d also suggest that the Aerial Bonus is reduced from +100 to +50. This wouldn’t have a huge effect on gameplay, but would move the primary incentive of being on the roof from a score-based one to a safety-based one.
The Stun Indicator
And finally, the Stun Indicator. I don’t know why Ubisoft increased its prominence between its last title and Revelations, but it is bullshit.
Yes, it has an understandable utility when one’s pursuer is in high profile and approaching from an off-camera location. But 90% of the time, it only serves to give away an otherwise indiscreet player who probably spent a lot of time stalking, planning, and closing in on a target.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Incognito or blended into a group. It doesn’t matter if the target is even facing your direction. If you walk anywhere near the player you’re about to kill, he or she is instantly notified that you’re the person out for his/her blood. They’re also prompted to stun you on the spot. Because of this, it is actually impossible to earn a Focus bonus without using elevation or an ability.
That just isn’t right.
This isn’t that hard, Ubisoft. Make it so the Stun Indicator only appears on pursuers who are below Silent discretion. Additionally, the Stun Indicator will appear on locked pursuers.
Now the indicator would still punish reckless Templar running in for a quick kill, but it would reward players who have carefully blended into a target’s group and have patiently waited to administer a Focused, Poisoned death. Smart defenders who identified their killer via quick-witted perception will still get a Stun Indicator if they have their killer locked on, but otherwise they’ll be forced to hide or flee at the sound of the Whispers.
You know, instead of getting psychic information they didn’t earn.
I’m not a game developer or designer. I’m not the best Revelations player in the world. But I have enough experience to know that Assassin’s Creed multiplayer is only a few changes away from being very well balanced.
Are these the best, ultimate solutions? Perhaps not, but I believe they’re the beginning of an honest conversation about the state of the game and how Ubisoft can make digital death a little more fun, fair, and rewarding.
If you believe these changes have merit, do me a big favor. Tweet this article to @Ubisoft, @AssassinsCreed, and @UbiGabe. Post it on the Assassin’s Creed forums or the Assassin’s Creed Facebook page. Let the devs know how close they are to a more evenly-weighted game experience.
Don’t agree with me? Why don’t you tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below?
* Also, I scoff at anyone who says the Hidden Gun “takes no skill.” While this is true, I can’t say that “pressing X to assassinate” ever takes any skill. The skill of AC multiplayer comes from positioning and timing, not manually dismembering targets.