While my worst fears about Assassin’s Creed 4 multiplayer will probably never manifest, Ubisoft has confirmed the return of (most likely) traditional Assassin’s Creed multiplayer. The unique and compelling gameplay we’ve seen since Brotherhood is all but assured to return – if for no other reason than the fact that it’s so easy to port over into the next title.
Fans of the cat-and-mouse style hunting are certainly sopping with anticipation, but even with how well AC3 multiplayer fared, it wouldn’t be okay to grant Ubisoft a completely free pass. So here are my own must-haves for AC4: Black Flag PvP.
#1 Enhanced private match settings
Casual and competitive players can agree that, as it stands, private match options in Assassin’s Creed multiplayer are terrible. There are basically no options whatsoever, continuing between sessions is painful, and the entire lobby system itself is fundamentally broken. So even when you can play with friends, doing so on your terms in a fun and productive way isn’t always easy.
Why not add tons of private match options? Doing so would give players of every skill level a fun way to enjoy AC4 with friends, as well as test their skills with a host of gameplay variations. Here are just a few examples:
- Play with restricted abilities, perks, and streaks, or none at all
- Launch a predetermined playlist of maps and modes
- Strengthen or weaken indicators like radar or whispers
- Change time limit, or play to a set score or kill limit
- Silly toggles like “players drain approach while on roofs”
The list goes on and on… I’m sure you can imagine some hilarious and/or skill-strengthening trials yourself. A simple addition like this could greatly prolong the lifespan of Assassin’s Creed multiplayer… and it could even uncover some as-of-yet unknown competitive mode.
Speaking of which…
#2 Competitive/e-sport support
I hope AC4 multiplayer isn’t like AC3’s, where the setup for competitive play is suboptimal. Limited lobby sizes, skittish party dynamics, and a complete lack of spectating tools means running in-game events is exceedingly difficult. Hell, every time Top Tier Tactics has run a tournament, we’ve been forced to bracket everyone into groups of seven just so I could join in and record. For a game that’s so close to being a real e-sport, that’s not acceptable.
What I’d like to see is replay functionality added to Black Flag. With simple replays enabled, matches can be recorded more easily for posterity (and anti-cheat measures), not to mention more in-depth post-game analysis. Commentators like yours truly will be able to ghost through the map and capture key assassinations and the planning that led up to them. Yes, other settings would be nice, like full-on spectating, etc… but if private matches get an upgrade and other features are implemented on top of replay capture, the rest should take care of itself.
Hand-in-hand with the video recording/uploading power of the Playstation 4 (and undoubtedly, the Xbox 720), AC4 multiplayer will reach new levels of online proliferation (as will all console games).
#3 Minor balance adjustments
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Assassin’s Creed 3 is very well balanced, especially in comparison to the easy-mode skill options in Revelations. That said, there’s always room for improvement. Sure, I don’t know exactly what skills will be carried over into Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, but assuming most AC3 abilities make the jump, here’s what I’d change:
- Closure: Delete this skill; nothing can save it
- Disruption: Make more disruptive, possibly mess with directional input
- Glimmer: Increase duration to match that of Disguise
- Money Bomb: Do this ability a favor… trash it
- Pistol: Double normal aiming time… but instant aiming vs high profile players
- Poison Dart: Apply approach meter bonus (Silent, Incognito) to these kills
- Smoke Bomb: Remove the ability to throw Smoke Bomb or halve its duration
- Throwing Knives: Increase cooldown to make other ranged skills more viable
- Wipe: Exchange range crafting for number of targets affected crafting (capped at 1, 2, 3)
- Animus Hack: Decrease the points per kill again to a 75-point multiplier
- Mass Morph: Change this effect so it does not reset on death
- Sentry: In addition to more lock time, approach doesn’t drain out of LOS
- Loss Bonuses: For the love of Juno, buff everything other than Score x2
- Chains: Somehow make chain stun baiting in Assassinate less profitable
- Alliance: Bring this back Ubisoft! This game mode is ingenius!
Most of these changes should be fairly self-explanatory, but feel free to include your own suggestions in the comments. Like I said, AC3’s multiplayer is surprisingly well balanced, so I’d shy away from drastic changes like “remove Smoke Bomb” or “make Glimmer totally invisible.”
#4 Nerf LOS & whispers, boost stealth
My final (and possibly least popular) request for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is a huge boost to stealth-based gameplay. Assassin’s Creed 3 made several gains in this direction, primarily by eliminating the obnoxious Revelations stun prompt and increasing the importance of the approach meter for score optimization. Unfortunately, these boons fall short at higher level play since experienced Templar can use Line of Sight (LOS) and “the whispers” to easily detect even the most well-hidden adversary.
The whispers, those ghastly sounds that grow as one’s killer approaches, can easily identify an assassin from a mile away, literally. There’s a set distance at which whispers start, ramping up in tiers as one’s killer closes in. I won’t advocate removing these mood-setting audio files, but why not eliminate the volume ramp on whispers instead? Keen players would still have warning when their enemies are approaching, but they won’t be able to rely on audio radar to pinpoint the exact distance of their would-be killer. Instead, they’ll have to rely on their skill at observation and/or their active abilities.
Of course, this wouldn’t be fair if pursuers still had so many of their own detection tools available, which is why I advocate eliminating all LOS meters. Line of sight cues, whether on the radar itself or in a character portrait, are basically cheating – they allow anyone to almost instantly “screen” a correct target from a small group of lookalikes. As such, its existence makes stealth pointless in many situations. The normal distance/detection based location system would still be there, just no automatic identification light!
By bringing both of these computer-assisted tools a few pegs down, both hunter and quarry would be greatly incentivized to stalk in low profile. Targets could more reliably count on Morph, Blender, and Disguise to protect them, and pursuers wouldn’t be instantly ID’d as soon as they got within a certain range. In FFA situations, players would also take more time to plan and execute their approach, knowing that playing it cool will more likely guarantee their safety from their own pursuers!
Shooting for the moon
What are the odds Ubisoft will make these additions to Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag multiplayer? Well, if you recall a year back, they actually addressed almost all of my proposed changes from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to Assassin’s Creed 3.
If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what will!