Home Editorial Why Assassin’s Creed needs to be harder

Do you remember Assassin’s Creed?

No, I don’t mean the series that we’ve seen slowly become a game of how many weapons can I fit in this hoodie? I’m talking about the original Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft.

Yes, it was boring at times… repetitive, slow, and unfulfillingly written. But the game had something special that quickly eroded as the series progressed.

Assassin’s Creed was actually somewhat difficult.

In AC1, the premise and execution were simple: you had targets that needed slaying, and you had to eliminate them without being caught before or after the grim task. At your disposal were a few somewhat discreet weapons (a sword, a dagger, some throwing knives, and a hidden blade), but in most instances only the latter, signature tool would really ensure your Templar foes’ demises.

Of course, you couldn’t just walk up to the jerks and stab them to death. No, it turns out they had guards who were smart enough to look for “the guy in the white cape with weapons on him.” Imagine that! Get too close to Mr. Soon To Be Murdered, and you’d have a city’s worth of soldiers hunting you to your own grave.

So you had to employ social stealth. You had to plan your entrance, the coup de grace, and your exit. And yes, you had to exit quite hastily, because your forte was in assassination, not fighting off 30 guards at a time in armed combat. Just a few hits could quickly end your life, and this meant a lot in a game where your synch meter was directly tied to your ability to use Eagle Vision.

The original ‘Creed was tough, but all that planning and running meant every kill resonated with the player. It felt like murdering high-profile public figures was… noteworthy.


Of bombs and brotherhood

But let’s face it, kids. The last couple Assassin’s Creed games haven’t exactly been challenging. Since the first game, combat has been changed from being realistic to being fluid, where fluid is a euphemism for cake walk. By Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the player has gained the following bonuses to make for a more fluid experience.

  • A crossbow that can silently kill an enemy at range
  • A hidden gun that can loudly kill an enemy at range
  • Poison darts that can kill an enemy at range
  • Heavy weapons that can be thrown to kill enemies at range
  • A second hidden blade, allowing for double assassinations
  • Armor that increases damage resilience and health
  • Courtesans and thieves that can distract enemies at range
  • Mercenaries that can distract and kill enemies at range
  • Assassins that can eliminate a single enemy at range, then fight nearby targets
  • An arrow storm that can eradicate an unlimited number of enemies on screen
  • Bombs that distract enemies at range
  • Bombs that disable enemies at range
  • Bombs that kill multiple enemies at range
  • Kill streaks allowing instant kills chained off of other kills
  • Medicine that restores full health instantly, including during active combat
  • Vendors who restore full health instantly, and sell additional medicine
  • The ability to loot practically unlimited arrows, knives, bullets, bombs, and medicine from enemies

I’m sure I missed an upgrade or ten in there, but you get the point: the Assassin’s Creed series is not hard, at all. At any given moment, Ezio has been able to murder literally thousands of foes with almost no effort whatsoever. If the hidden blades are even used, it’s often either out of necessity of the level design or because they’re overpowered and auto-counter all attacks.


Unable to make up for mistakes

To make matters worse, there really isn’t a counterbalance to how much of a joke the combat is. The in-game cut scenes are automatic, so you don’t have to worry about making dialog choices,* and the game’s dungeons, while beautiful, have degraded in thoughtfulness over time.

In Assassin’s Creed 2, the vaults you accessed were inspiring in scope and yes, they even required some puzzle-solving to complete. By the time Revelations lurched around, pretty much every dungeon-esque area only required the player to hold Forward, High Profile, and Run to succeed. In many Revelations dungeons, running in high profile to a checkpoint would reward the player with a cut scene in which Ezio runs even farther!

There were a few game-enhancing gems in the series, like the Animus puzzles of Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood. They challenged the audience (optionally) to think outside the box and rewarded gamers with cool lore-enhancing facts and videos. Ubisoft’s fans loved these conspiracy-themed sequences so much, the company decided to remove them from Revelations and replace them with first-person platforming and tower defense missions.

Give the designers a raise right fucking now.


The solution isn’t hard, it’s harder

We’ve all seen the Assassin’s Creed 3 leaks by now. The story has promise and the environments, while potentially more boring than revolution-era France, should pan out with some changes to the parkour system.But that isn’t the main issue.

Ubisoft needs to decide if Assassin’s Creed 3 is a game or a semi-interactive movie.

Don’t give the player infinite, instant medicine. Limit the power, range, or accuracy of Connor’s bow and arrow. If assassin brotherhood allies are included at all, make them vulnerable to a believable level. Egads, they might die, but then there would be an actual risk associated with using them.

Hell, increase enemy NPC suspicion and double, triple, or quadruple the damage they do in combat. The whole point of being an assassin is not getting into direct combat!

Don’t want to alienate Christopher Crybaby or “non-traditional gamers” who can’t beat such a title? Here’s a crazy idea: add a difficulty selection. I know it’s novel, but you can give players the option of playing an easy, medium, hard, or even insanely hard game! Or follow the lead of a few recent action/adventure titles and incorporate a New Game+ experience. Hardcore gamers and achievement hunters will lap it up, and you might even encourage newbs to brush up on their skills and play your game a second time for fun.


Summing it all up

I know it all sounds harsh, so don’t get me wrong, I love the Assassin’s Creed series. Few games have such an involving story or such interesting landscapes. These games have inspired me to visit wondrous cathedrals and inspiring palaces. And even if some of the “facts” presented in Ubisoft’s games are exaggerated, I learned a lot about people, places, and cultures I didn’t even know existed. For instance, there is apparently a country called “Italy” that’s somewhere in Europe. Cool!

But the gameplay just isn’t there. Or rather, it’s there, but it’s so pedestrian and fool-proof, the player might as well have infinite Assassin Brotherhood beacons to abuse!

Lucky for us, that will never happen. Regardless, I don’t think it’s too much to ask of Ubisoft to make a challenging (and thus rewarding) experience out of Assassin’s Creed 3.


AC3 multiplayer fixes Ubisoft needs to make

Now that you’ve heard what’s wrong with single player, read the multiplayer changes AC3 must make in order to be a balanced gameplay experience.

* The games originally included small interactions that players enjoyed, like manually hugging Leonardo DaVinci. Ubisoft removed these for no reason.

37 replies to this post
  1. I really, really, REALLY hope they make these changes. Also I want horses and GALLOPING back – best part of AC1 and 2.

  2. I really liked the challenge in AC1. These newer ones are so easy I started playing without upgrading armor and only using the starting sword just to make it more challenging, but alas it is still quite easy.

  3. It really wasn’t that hard. It’s mechanics were just broken. When you learned to work around it it’s actually just as easy.

  4. What are you talking about? I enjoyed shooting people in a cave with my gun to later cut to a cut scene where the soldiers would be like “I think somebody is here with us, be careful”

  5. I agree, revelations is TOO FREKAING CHEAP. brotherhood was amazing, but now Ezio is just a serial killer in revelations, a silent assassin no more. I almost want altiar back.

  6. Great ideas. I made it in ACR so if I got into open combat I restated so I could be stealthy. Also that janesary mission is stealthy

  7. I concur.

    The fact that I’m able to stroll into a Janissary camp and slay about forty of the strongest fighters known in that era is already an indication that you’re overpowered.

    Gone are the days that “distraction” and “stealth” meant something; nowadays, anything can be done with a whistle to assemble your totally-not-automated apprentices

  8. I think that Revelations is okay but I hate the den defense it is so distracting and annoying. But I really like everything else about it. I almost wish it was more free wordlish. But I like AC2 out of all the games so far. Although I have wanted them to come to like a 1700 England or America I kind of, unlike some, liked the Italian Renaissance because of the history and the architecture.

    One thing that might make it a lot harder is advanced cannons and more higher end guns. This could come into play more in the country side in open fields.

    I also think it weird that since they fight standing in lines basically right next to each other how an assassin would fight. Remember gorilla warfare was not introduced until latter in the war when it went into the south. Will he be the one to introduce it? He may because that is the way the Native Americans fought.

    PS- Can’t wait to clime on trees.

  9. After having some difficulty slaying some of the more advanced Janissararies (they auto blocked my counter attacks) I found an exploit that made the game cake (not just a cake walk). Get some guards after you, go to a wall, run up it, air assassinate 2 at a time. This exploit made it impossible to lose an engagement.

  10. Agreed. The single player of ACR wasn’t at all difficult. Even though I didn’t get 100% synch on most of the “side quests” (which BTW seemed only guaranteed on the main missions), I didn’t feel compelled to go back and replay them at all.

  11. I think a difficulty level is the right choice, but even in general, the biggest problem was that the player had too much health, and lost it at too slow a rate to have have a large impact. The best option would be to increase the enemy’s damage and reduce the amount of pickups received from looting (say, one item type per guard)

  12. Thank you so much for preaching something I have been crying about since brotherhood! I could never wrap my head around being a supposedly “stealthy” assassin, but also carrying a five foot axe, a crossbow (when you alredy have tons of ranged weapons at your desposal), and being able to fend off an entire army if you hold the right trigger. I completly understood why in the first game, you were not allowed to block with a hidden blade and that if you master the challenging counter on the hidden blade, you could pull of instant kill, but in revelations, you can block a hundred pound axe with your wrists, then proceed to kill twenty people by simply looking at them. If you were truly a stealthy assassin, you would have never run into a one v army struggle, you would have already had an escape route planned. Much like the priceless information you gathered in the first assassins creed. If you spent the time, you could have gathered enough info to find that backdoor or hidden route or archer positions, and pulled of a flawless kill followed by an ingenious escape. But now you can power through countless gaurds, or call in a fre kin airstrike, or your invincible gang and destroy enything in your way.
    I really hope the Ubisoft team would listen to the community or read this forum and take out meaningless parts of the game (like the den defence) and embrace the stealth part the game was known for.

  13. Ubisoft definitely needs to bring the series back to roots and consider the question “What does it mean to be an assassin?” In my opinion AC II had the best balance of stealth and stylish swashbuckling combat.

    Regarding AC III in general I just can’t get excited for Revolutionary War America. Assassin’s Creed has been one of my favorite series of this generation due largely to the unique aesthetic experience it provides. In my opinion the North America just can’t match the heady mix of culture, architecture, historical personages, and arcana that I associate with Assassin’s Creed.

  14. You people are fucking stupid. The game is perfect the way it is… Assassins creed 1 was awesome but sometimes it got boring with doing the exact same routine every time you prepare for the kill… Killing tons of Templars in assassins creed brotherhood and Revelations is fuckin fun! So stop complaining about the best game ever and go have some fun killing tons of templars in different ways in revelations.

    • Yes, the game is awesome and killing lots of templars is fun but it as lots of issues. Bugs are littered throughout the entire game, making it at times unplayable and no fun. And keep in mind this is everyone’s own opinion, you can have your own but there is no reason to call us stupid for our ideas.

  15. I’m going to actually differ from a number of people here. I think the difficulty is fine. I’m actually not up to the challenge of a hugely difficult game. I like story over difficult gameplay, and believe that a game does not actually need to be very challenging in order to be fun and interesting.

    Plus, the optional difficulty you already get is the ability to 100% everything you do. Which, granted, was easier in Revelations then in Brotherhood, and could use some additional tweaking. I also think that some of the ideas you mentioned would be good. Although I do like the various weapons – they’re creative, and give you a range of options in how to kill your foe. I do think that assassinations should be more like AC1, where they are more drawn out, a bit more challenging, and complex.

  16. I like the revelations gameplay now,but that change could make a difference. The way revelations combat is fluid makes it fun, but I do agree that it’s just too easy.

  17. I think videogames in general are moving into a more cinematic experience with interesting cut scenes that make the game feel more like you are participating in a movie than anything else.

    Personally, I love the suspense and the amount a video game can draw you in with cool cut scenes that hype up the action.

    ACR isn’t challenging, I accept that, but it is a wonderful game that has me buying every title Ubi makes – and that says something.

    The producers explicitly noted that AC3 will be more of a cinematic experience too. I imagine like NFS The Run.

    Love it. As games get more realistic, it really is like you are participating in a movie.

  18. The game is fine as it is. Go play Ninja Gaiden or something but don’t ruin my experience of feeling awesome. Each game should make you feel more awesome than the last not the other way around. I do want to kill 30 redcoats in a thousand different ways before assassinating the target. And this game is going to have like 2 thousand people on screen now, I don’t want that feature to be wasted. If you want difficulty play Ninja Gaiden then you’ll get all the difficulty as you want. But leave assassins creed alone, the game was made to make you feel awesome, and I wanna continue being a badass killer.

    • FINE, have your AC’s but please know that we dont have much left anymore:

      Tenchu is dormant

      Ninja Gaiden is dead for now (its not stealth but its relevant)

      Hitman is dying

      Splinter Cell is dead

      Theif is dormant

      I would not care as much if your “feeling awesome” didnt fuck with all the other much superior past game titles.

      If all you want to do is feel awesome without trying then your whats wrong with current games.

      There is nothing wrong with feeling awesome because you achieved something really hard to do, but for the sake of feeling awesome go jerk off.

  19. actually AC1 is MORE play full then brotherhood.. i admit ACB and ACR are great i loved them but AC1 shows u and tracks u about ur target .. we have to research about targets and saving people and get passed before any army men caught u and a true word of assassination is this.. study target .. set path .. and go for it .. but ACB and ACB they have crossed limitation of human body and its flexibility … climbing building is not same as climbing ladder … AC1 limits player about these climbing nature of a human… as in ACB and ACR .. ezio climbs like climbing ladder .. and in all one thing i feel about EZIO is .. his like FANTASY MANGA STYLE character which fights like any fantasy player i.e Devil may cry char. … ok ok as i m a game developer i understand every GAMERS feeling so BE LONG LIVE Assassins CREED… and 1 thing in AC1 when kill a army men and he gets lied down alive then we can kill him again by the hidden blade so this killing trick comes back in series then u will feel urself as ASSASSINATOR .. :D

  20. yes! harder would be great! That’s why Tomb Raider Angel of darkness is still my favorite of all the ones I have played, It took me months to beat! The last tombraider was so easy I beat it in 2 days, within the first hour I was dissappointed but I made myself finish it.

    That said, I will always think Ezios great, but hope Connor will give me some challenge

  21. When playing revelations/brotherhood, I never bought a single piece of armor, never bought any new weapons, never used special weapons (crossbow, bombs, you know them) and still went trough the game buttery smooth without even getting close to dying.

    What is assassins creed anyway?
    A platformer? Pushing 2 buttons and foward isnt platforming.
    A RPG? there is stats and money but you can go trough the game just as fine without either.
    A puzzle game? Puzzles are generally made more than just “hop there before the time runs out”
    A stealth game? Its funny how “assassin” is in the title but you can still take down armies in a flash.
    An action adventure? There sure is action, but is it really you who is in control as you kill everyone in sight, do crazy acrobatics? Or is it just a command you’re holding down?

    Assassins creed falls flat in every aspect it could represent, to me its just a misformed child of mr.wanna-be-everything

  22. I agree to a certain degree, AC1 was harder but became repetitive, ACR although was great fun was too easy, its all about balance. From what Ive heard from people that have played the demos at eurogamer is that although the combat is fluid and yes you can kill redcoats while not having to slow down at times, there is a good amount of difficulty when 10 guards are shooting muskets at you, AC3 you have to use more stealth, the Question is, have they got the balance right this time around. Its hard to say, some people find games more difficult than others. What I do know is, that this will be the best AC game to date from what Ive seen. Cant wait ….

  23. I agree. In Brotherhood the game had become so easy that I had to give MYSELF restrictions to make it at least somewhat challenging:

    1 – I refused to kill the guards and only did so when had no other choice. A GOOD assassin should only kill his target. Not go massacring people who, for the most part, are just doing their job. So even though it would have made everything easier for me to just rush in, kill everyone and do the damn mission, I made it a rule to be stealthy. That’s how it SHOULD be in the first place.
    2 – I refused to use medicine during the battle. It makes no sense anyways. You shouldn’t be able to magically heal your wounds during a damn sword fight. Thus I only allowed Ezio to heal himself when he was out from combat.
    3 – I refused to buy the best armors. I explained this with a very logical reasoning. A dude who climbs on roofs and relies on his agility shouldn’t use any type of heavy armor. A metal will be heavy and slow you down. I only allowed myself to use leather armor and thus prevented Ezio to have too large of a health pool.

    There’s something wrong when a pleyer herself (yes, I’m a girl) have to start making up restrictions to make the game more fun and challenging. Something really went wrong with this series. It’s like there’s no longer a punishment at all for being a non-stealthy mass murderer (well, except those made up restrictions where you autotomatically fail the mission if you get spotted). There’s no point in stealth anymore since you can just kill 50+ enemies by yourself and not even break a sweat. It makes no sense. I actually watched a Let’s play video of someone new to the series and he kept failig at stealth all the time but guess what? It didn’t matter and eventually he just dropped all strategy and rushed through every mission. Niiice. Not exactly what I thought being an assassin meant.

  24. The game looks great, I like the story and all the characters. The one thing I don’t get is why the hell you start with the best gear possible?! All the other weapons you can buy suck. The stats are all -1 or 2 and maybe a +1 here and there. What is the point of buying anything if you have the best already? Same goes for outfits….stupid.

  25. Really? AC 1 was the easiest by far in my opinion. The AI was at its worst. All you had to do was counter everybody one by one. i thought 3 was the hardest in terms of combat (but that might have been because of the control changes and those annoying firing lines).

  26. Who ever wrote this page needs to get their head out of their arse… The first Assassins Creed was terrible, hitting buttons that wouldn’t do anything, I would hit block, I’d get killed immeaditly. The game has gotten harder, the players have just evolved, except for you. I understand this is a old post, since you are talking bout AC3 being leaked, but really!! Revelations couldn’t chain kills, basically only one type of soldier could be, the grunt.. The Harder ones, like the ones with sword and pistol, were nearly invincible, if you were careless. By the way… It actually stated once a group of Assassins could take down a small army… One like Ezio, alot more. The bombs added diversionary tactics, meant to distract, obviously, the guards and you to use stealth… An Assassin in the game is skilled, much more then 90% of their enemies. And with AC3 they made it harder too. AC4 is going to be easy, for me since I’ve played them all, compared to Revelations…. Plus, the puzzles can still be hard, and you never just held one direction, and that’s that… You imbecile…

    • While this post is indeed outdated, allow me to point out a few ways in which I consider you to be wrong.

      If you got killed while properly blocking in AC (1), you were simply bad at the game. Not to mention that combat was never meant to be the way out, much rather to escape and hide.
      I’ve been the same gamer the entire time and believe me, the games are getting easier.

      In Revelations, Janissaries were the ONLY enemy that couldn’t be killed by chained kills, and even they would be wounded and could be killed easily through other means (amongst them the pistol or running up a wall and air assassinating them.)

      The bombs, for me, added jack shit due to their heavily limited usefulness and even if tossing a distraction in a way that it’d actually land someplace else and allow you to slip by was possible, it’d be easier to just toss a deadly bomb. Not that they’d ever been actually necessary. Never used those bloods things.

      Please explain to me how AC3 was harder, what with the game’s focus being on combat (rather than, say, STEALTH), Connor being as strong as he’ll ever be and thus able to kill anything literally from the start, and the about 10 different ways, all easy and reusable, in which you could instakill even Jäger without any effort.

      Honestly, I don’t remember any puzzles in AC3, at least not in the strict sense. In the other games, you’d either go the extremely obvious route or be instakilled five meters from where you started. Also, the article might be a little bit exaggerated for comedic value, no?

      So yes, the games have been getting easier and more dull. The very core elements of the game, being stealth and gathering information about your target before striking, have been scrapped to be replaced only by horrific attempts at storytelling and even more combat. Funniest thing is, the flow of said combat hasn’t really seen any improvements since 2, with the exception of maybe the chain kills of Brohood. However, there was never any need for that, as an Assassin simply doesn’t go murdering everyone in his way, he stabs somebody important and then vanishes!

  27. George Katsaros-

    I haven’t played Assassins Creed 2 yet but contrary to popular opinion I did like the first one. I felt as if people disliked the combat because they were playing too aggressively. Pounding the attack button over and over doesn’t work too well (the filthy casuals). The thing I loved most was the sense of rhythm of the attack. Holding down the attack button gave a longer and strong thrust which totally mimicked your button action. If you press the attack button on contact with the two swords a 1 kill animation took place (Gosh, I miss those). This caused a visually pleasing and exciting scenario. I felt like I was in a REAL sword fight! Someone (like me for example) who’ve mastered those techniques are obviously superior to the button mashers of later AC’s. I was advancing the enemy, the enemy was advancing at me! And every action I made was thought out and intentional. It made for a more immersive feel. That’s just the way I felt when I played. And I don’t want combat to be fluid, since when has real combat ever been THAT clean?! That said, scrap the chain-kills; it’s ridiculously unrealistic

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