With Assassin’s Creed IV sort of kinda almost on the horizon and its press footage promising change like the most beggar-friendly man in the world, perhaps now is the time for introspection and realising that we all have the power inside us to form a better world. Failing that, maybe we can convince Ubisoft to make AC4 the game AC3 could never have been. Now if only we had a compact list of things that we wished be changed. Oh wait, there is one. How convenient.
1. Less failed Gary Stus
In writing, a Gary Stu is a character who is absolutely flawless and thus as emotionally exciting as a brick wall. For better visualisation. think of Superman without the whole Kryptonite business. In AC3, this would be Connor, except he fails to do even that. I don’t dislike him because doing so is cool, I hate him because he’s a fucking twat. He stumbles along without a thought getting hand-guided by other, far more interesting characters, all the while screwing up everything he tries to do and more. I wouldn’t mind too much, because faulty characters are a big yay from me, but there is not a single thing in the entire game that he doesn’t manage to cock up through his own incompetence. He even gets told that his entire life served only to fill out a video game, so there’s that.
Yet the game desperately cuts back and forth trying to make him look cool and convincing us that he was totally influential in every piece of American history ever. The game’s efforts to make him look good, and that he still manages to look like the twat he is at all times, make me wonder why I should bother playing when I could do more interesting things. Things like having a lovely cup of tea or ramming a screwdriver up my nose. In the end, I rushed through the story missions hoping it’d limit the time I had to listen to him trying to be smart. If the player would much rather spend the entirety of the game playing the main character’s dad, who I remind you is the main villain, isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with the game? Is there something wrong when the main character is clearly supposed to be as awesome as the lovechild of Saxton Hale and Chuck Fucking Norris? A lovechild that spends weekends having fistfights with the Pope?* Then again, all this seems to be a trait that Connor and Desmond share, so maybe it’s just a synchronicity thing.
2. Less gimmicks, more stabbing
Meet Asitry, the fairy who accompanied me through the game once the painkillers I was taking at that time wore off. “Oh look,” said she once I had returned to the homestead after killing a bear with Connor’s bare hands. “Now you can use the stuff you got after chasing down innocent animals to craft sofas and drugs!”
“Okay,” replied I, doing as she wished. “Now I’ve crafted some ‘medicine’, and I can ship it off to the guy my father once met thirty years ago. What’s in it for me then?”
“Well, assuming that you have a few spare guys, because the caravan that delivers your stuff is fucking certain to get robbed, it will return with money,” whispered Asitry, landing on my shoulder. “With that, you can buy more sofa materials and upgrades for your ship! If your pills are strong enough to let you suffer through the naval missions, you might unlock more recipes and trading routes to sell more and better medicine!”
“But to what end?” asked I, silently wondering if the tendril she inserted into my ear was another proof of her love for me. “The game is so easy that I can get through all the four or five required naval missions with the standard girl. So when does this loop around and give me better weapons, so that I can better stab people? Do I get some sort of cool new weapon, like a bloody semiautomatic like the one Ezio had two-hundred years earlier?”
“Oh no no no, who would want that? You might hurt someone with those! We’ll give you lots of so much money you won’t know where you can put it. Maybe if you complete all of the ‘walk a hundred yards’ side quests we’ll let you have a little thing that you can hang into your homestead and never look at again.” Asitry extended her reach into my thoughts, her voice only making sense now. From inside my mind, she cooed, “What is it with you and stabbing people, anyhow?”
Startled by a loud noise, I tore myself back into reality and, as if in spite, replied, “Thanks Asitry, but I don’t think I want to become the world’s first druglord just yet. No, don’t make the effort to assemble the boat, the animals, the in-city sidequests, or the tunnels either. I’ll let you know when I want a distraction from stabbing people.”
Curtain, build act 3, Animus background, Sentinel and Trickster on stage.
3. Decent server hardware and balancing for multiplayer
Ha ha ha, we would all like that, wouldn’t we? Unfortunately, any future complaints about the multiplayer will be countered with “If you don’t like it, then do it better yourself.” I will, forum dwellers, and I’ll show everyone that Closure and Teleport are the best abilities in the game!
In all seriousness though, I sincerely hope that the game lab will be done justice as it deserves. You’ll know that it hasn’t reached its full potential if I can’t assemble a mode which I’d dub “Hitwoman”, where every player has Disguise and Glimmer on a 30 second cooldown and the only civilians that spawn are the most female models available. You know, like the Trickster in ACR and Pistolhontas in AC3.
4. More diverse ways of murder
Alright, maybe Revelations had Ezio’s arsenal a bit stocked full, what with sword, dagger, hidden blades, throwing knives, three variants of bombs with decreasing levels of usefulness, money, unarmed combat, poison blade, poison darts, crossbow, large weapons, and a motherfucking gun. Only reasonable then that Asitry would rob me of most of them, though leaving behind some more, equally useless weapons. As hinted above, I never used most of them, because most of the weapons in AC3 have the same impact on your enemy as a mote of dust landing on their head. Unless you’re using them to counter of course.
Then, once you figure out that ranged weapons let you instakill literally any enemy in a single counter, combat becomes a joke. So how does this sound, Ubisoft: Don’t have the enemies block every swing for just about zero damage. I know it sounds crazy, but it might work to make anything but countering also a valid strategy. While you’re at it, let all those rope darts, daggers, pistols, and who knows what else actually deal damage. How fun something is should be directly related to its effectiveness, not a test your dedication by dealing no damage at all. Same goes for the tunnels. Compared to AC3’s actual fast travel system that is, by the way, most deserving of the award “Most Wasted Effort”, right after the huge forest areas where there’s fuck-all to do except fast-travel to the city where stuff happens.
5. It’s a stealth game, dammit!
Okay, Assassin’s Creed and stealth have always been an odd couple, like a middle school boy and his older friend who keeps beating him up. You can clearly tell there’s some friendship between them, but its execution gives no indication they should be together. It’s just a pained relationship held together by fear of the worse, sort of like this analogy. Anyway, AC3’s approach to stealth seems to be to give you an invisible, perfectly safe path and make you instantly be detected and desynced the moment you step one foot out of it. Don’t get me started about cities, either, where the best way to avoid your unrelenting pursuers is to just fast travel to your destination and hope there’s no encampment there.
Stealth games need three things to be good.
1) Clear indication of where you’ll be visible and where you’re not. You might tell by obvious lighting, or from a good vantage point from that tells you where the guards look and walk.
2) Consistent patterns in enemy movements which leave open enough time for a human to slip through. Oh and don’t tell me I’m slow, I beat the fastest of stealth games out there with only ragequitting twice.
3) A good way to restore the status quo if you do cock up. Being able to dash somewhere you can’t be seen for example, or just dying and reloading to a few moments before you were spotted.
I’ll let you decide whether AC3 has these things, but I do hope that AC4 will.
*Awesome people who were not used for one reason or another but who would still by far eclipse Connor for awesomeness: A two-headed president who satisfies everybody and who leads the USA into colonising Ganymede. Jesus with a ten-foot mustache which forms an electric guitar around his waist. Ezio Wolfric Brian Auditore da Firenze. Gamon as played by Kungen. I. A fucking goldfish.