It happens with every multiplayer game. As the initial excitement wears off, complaints begin to surface: bugs, glitches, server problems… a whole host of legitimate issues.
But among them often arise illegitimate* whining by players who would rather change other players’ behavior than adapt their own. They’re often people who feel entitled to a “right” way to play the game – a mindset that would be laughable in Street Fighter, chess, Starcraft, football, or any other serious competitive game.
They want things changed to match their playstyle.
In the meantime, the best players in their respective communities learn and evolve. They figure out exactly what kind of scissors their opponents are using, and bring the biggest rock possible to smash it. Or, at the very least, they stop throwing paper everywhere just because “paper is a legitimate strategy, scissors is lame.”
I’m not saying certain tactics are never broken or overpowered. But in the case of the following four Assassin’s Creed 3 annoyances, balance isn’t the issue. Each of these problems is easily solved if players are willing to swallow their pride and employ the solutions already at their fingertips. Observe, adapt, and destroy.
Since the beginning of Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, no archetype of gamer has been more universally reviled than roofers (also known as roof-runners or wannabe Santas). In a hide-and-go-seek game ostensibly based on social stealth and the Turing test, it’s understandably frustrating when even a few people decide to skip the whole “hide” step. I’m certainly not immune to roof-based rage – my first Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood video was all about countering this play style.
Players who love hanging out upstairs remain common, but times have changed. Assassin’s Creed 3 gives every player a ranged ability slot that was specifically designed to give everyone a way to counter high-profile hijinks. The skills dedicated to this slot (with minor exception) all greatly punish anyone who’s jumping around like an idiot: Knives knocks them off buildings, Pistol eliminates them completely, and Poison Dart solves the problem with added stealth.
Sure, some of these abilities existed in Brotherhood and Revelations, but picking them always felt like a let-down compared to more universal options. Now that there’s an ability slot completely exclusive to hating on roof-runners, you don’t have an excuse! If players are spending all day playing Batman on buildingtops, it’s just as much your fault as it is theirs. Put some steel, lead, or poison in their backsides and move on with your life.
If even half the players in-game actually used ranged abilities to counter shingle shenanigans, this loathesome style would be significantly less common.
#3 The Pistol
Similarly against the general spirit of stealth-based hiding and killing, the Pistol (previously known as the Hidden Gun) is disliked by players who feel it either takes no skill or that it ruins the silence-based tone of Assassin’s Creed multiplayer. They resent the fact that it cant trigger Variety bonuses and Kill Streaks, or that it’s so good at speed-bumping their play style (which is commonly the notorious roofing mentioned above).
Yet the Pistol has never been more balanced than it is now. In addition to the old ways of avoiding drive-by shootings (terrain, Smoke Bomb, Throwing Knives, Firecrackers), the gun can also be stopped by Wipe and Animus Shield. It can also be stopped by Throwing Knives, which every player has no excuse to not carry, as pointed out previously. And unlike Throwing Knives or Disruption, it cannot be used for defense, meaning anyone carrying it is more vulnerable than normal. In other words, the Pistol is actually less powerful in Assassin’s Creed 3 than it’s ever been.
Not only that, but the Pistol plays an important role in the metagame. As explained earlier, it is one of the only counters to roof-running, and the only effective counter to players attempting to bait out chases or stuns. In fact, I previously authored a flawlessly-reasoned article on why the hidden gun is necessary to multiplayer balance. Without it, there would be no reason for every confrontation to not devolve into a chase. Sure, it’s annoying when everyone’s packing heat, but the opposite isn’t particularly savory either, at least for fans of social stealth.
Of course, stealth has always been the best counter to the Pistol. Sure, someone could kill you from a mile away, but only if it’s obvious who you are from a mile away. Blend groups, Disguise, and terrain awareness remain effective ways to lower your lead intake.
#2 Animus Hack
Speaking of cross-map kills, the Animus Hack Kill Streak is becoming increasingly hated by Deathmatch players. Since its activation turns the user into a Neo-like digital deity, it’s easy to understand why. Players resent getting killed “for no reason” from across the map, and the large scores (typically 600 to 1500 points) by this streak add to the resentment.
Yet if Animus Hack is deployed, it’s actually your fault. It’s the highest-requirement Kill Streak for good reason, and its activation means that you and the other players in the game did a terrible job up till then. You collectively allowed a player to get eight (eight!) kills or stuns in a row, or six silent kills. Guess what? If someone in your lobby is good enough to accumulate that much murder uncontested, they were probably going to beat you with any Kill Streak they chose.
On top of that, Animus Hack isn’t as good as it seems. To even have a chance at using it, you pretty much need to use Kill Buffer. That may seem trivial, but it means you can’t use one of the other perks that actually influences gameplay. You’re sacrificing Overall Cooldowns or Blender or Resistance in order to have a chance at using Animus Hack. And when you finally get the hack, you may have had to earn way more than eight kills… maybe as much as twelve or thirteen! The hacker could have activated the Streak +550 bonus twice in that time period and had both perk slots open.
When you think about it, Animus Hack isn’t that strong. It feels powerful, but it is a huge risk taking a Kill Streak (and a perk) you may never get to use. And unlike other streaks, the points aren’t even automatic. It’s entirely possible you activate Animus Hack when your enemies are all out of sight, ultimately making the return on investment extremely low.
#1 Smoke Bomb
Since Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Smoke Bomb has been, far and away, the most powerful activated ability. Its versatility as a defensive, offensive, and area denial skill was completely unmatched among other options. Things got worse in Revelations, when Smoke Bomb could be thrown and the option to craft it for lower cooldown became significantly easier than before. Fact was, if you didn’t take Smoke Bomb, you were gimping yourself.
But like Pistol, Smoke Bomb now has more counters than ever. In addition to your own Smoke Bomb or a perfectly timed Throwing Knives, the world’s number one ability can also be negated by Wipe and Animus Shield. These skills shut down smoke faster than a squad of firefighters, and will catch anyone relying on the ability completely by surprise. Few kills are as satisfying as a shielded leap directly through preemptive defensive smoke. The Pistol is also a strong deterrent, capable of gunning down anyone who’s smugly standing in the open, brazenly baiting a reckless charge.
With the myriad counters available in-game, why are people still pissed about Smoke Bomb? Mainly because players feel they are above employing countermeasures. They view Smoke Bomb as cheap (even though it had a huge nerf to its cooldown rate), and the idea of equipping skills to undermine it is appalling to them. But of course, this is ridiculous. It’s like saying “I don’t like Chun Li’s crouching roundhouse attack, but I refuse to block it. I would prefer Chun Li players just stopped using sweeps.” It is the responsibility of each player to learn from opponents, adapt to their play style, and overcome the challenge with grace and sportsmanship. Especially when the game gives you so many ways to do so.
Now that there are so many counters to a cooldown-nerfed Smoke Bomb, the complaints have to stop. Ubisoft has given every player the tools to beat it, including an extra ability slot so you don’t “waste” as much of your loadout on metagame considerations. Gear up, get good, and win!
* As in, a child is conceived as a result.