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.