Welcome to Part 8 of WiNGSPANTT’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag multiplayer strategy guide!
Understanding stun mechanics
Before you read anything about how to stun your pursuer, it’s very very important that you understand a simple fact about Assassin’s Creed multiplayer: assassination always wins versus stunning. When a pursuer and a target attempt to kill/stun each other simultaneously, the pursuer’s assassination action will always triumph, although it will be contested (both players will lose half their action score).
If you have ever wondered why your stun “didn’t work” or why it was contested, that’s why. It’s kind of like how, in baseball, ties at the plate go to the runner. Except in baseball, the loser goes to the dugout whereas in Assassin’s Creed, the loser gets murdered. It’s not fair, it’s just the rules of the game.
Once you understand this simple fact, you’ll understand that, at the highest meta level of Black Flag gameplay, you should avoid stun-based tactics unless you can impede your pursuer from killing you or you can create enough chaos that your killer will be caught wholly off-guard by a slap to the face.
In older versions of Assassin’s Creed, stuns were easier to get for lots of reasons. Some games featured “hard” stun abilities on short cooldowns. Others gave defending players cheap tools for identifying their pursuers, taking the guesswork out of the equation. Yet other games put the stun action on the offhand button, so there was no penalty for guessing your pursuer’s identity wrong or spamming the stun key.
In AC4, you’ll find none of this is true. You, the target, must accurately identify your pursuer and in most cases, lock on to him. You can’t spam your stun command without killing an NPC by mistake, and you don’t have access to lots of fast-cooldown abilities to guarantee your stuns get through. In essence, stuns have been nerfed, so it’s more important than ever to understand how to get stuns and when to simply head for the hills.
“Hard” stuns aren’t a game mechanic per se but a term used to indicate a stun that can’t be resisted or contested under normal circumstances. Since assassination will normally beat out a stun animation, hard stuns are the only way to truly guarantee that a fight will end with your pursuer asleep on the cobblestone. And because hard stuns are so powerful, they are much more difficult to set up than any non-guranteed, or “soft” stuns.
The easiest way to earn a hard stun is to punch, kick, or headbutt your pursuer while he’s in the middle of another animation. It’s just as simple as it sounds: if a player is currently killing or stunning someone else, he can’t contest a queued-up bitch-slap to the face.
Obviously you don’t have a lot of control over when or where this will happen, but if you’ve ID’ed your pursuer and notice he’s getting awfully close to other player characters, get ready to make your move. Odds are your predator will interact with his own killer, and you can capitalize with a well-timed punch. This setup is much more common in team modes, where you will often avenge teammates by smacking down the clown who just murdered your pals.
You can also get a free stun on a player during the “jump into the haybale” animation. If you’re standing near a pile of leaves/grass when your killer launches herself into them, you can spam the stun button for a fast knockout. You can also lure unknowing players into this situation by putting a haybale between you, then going for the punch when she takes the bait. Be warned: if you wait too long and mess up the timing, you will be doubling your pursuer’s assassination score on you instead!
Lures and Vulnerability
If your killer is dumb enough to put his sword through an NPC (including your Decoy or Bodyguard), she will lose her contract for several seconds, becoming completely vulnerable to a stun (including a focus stun). When you see your pursuer kill an NPC (or you spot the floating “lure” notification through a wall), you can rush over and get an easy KO.
Good players know they’re vulnerable and will immediately run away from you, so be prepared to chase! But if you can’t catch up within about five seconds, it’s time to run. Your pursuer’s vulnerability will expire, and the tables will quickly turn back on you.
The most common means of assuring you land a stone-cold stun on your murderer-to-be is to activate an ability that completely or nearly completely incapacitates your pursuer. Some examples are:
- Smoke Bomb: renders players immobile and 100% vulnerable to stuns
- Tripwire Bomb: the same as Smoke Bomb, but triggered automatically
- Throwing Knives: limit pursuer range of action so they can’t contest stuns at max range
- Bodyguard: will track and stun your pursuer if it isn’t evaded or dispatched
Abilities are great for stunning because they don’t rely on blind luck or perfect timing to accomplish a well-rounded grounding. Of course, they’re obviously limited in nature, so you can’t expect to defend yourself from dozens of players with just three skill slots.
This might be the part where you expect I’ll say to hold off on ability use and go for creative stuns, but it’s not. The reality is that if you die, you’ll lose valuable time, plus your kill streak. It’s a rough world out there, so it’s better to use an ability for a stun than to hesitate and end up dead. That applies to life, too … so make sure to keep your bodyguard close in the real world!
There are literally hundreds of times I’ve lost matches by just 200 points, all because I was too stingy with a Smoke Bomb. Don’t make the same mistake! If you’re certain a player is coming for your life, burn the ability and give that asshole a shiner you can brag about.
Another way to get a hard stun is to attempt a stun at a time when you know you can lock your pursuer and she can’t lock you. If you’re around a corner and can spot your pursuer approaching, you can target her before she can even see you. Even if she knows exactly where you are, the game engine won’t let her acquire and kill you from around the corner, giving you a distinct advantage.
Now, there are some situations where that’s not entirely true. If your pursuer has previously locked you and chases you around a corner, she will be able to spam the assassinate command and murder you, just like that. But if you’re able to break her line of sight for at least 3 seconds, she will lose her lock, allowing you to proceed with an around-the-corner stun as previously described. It’s entirely reasonable to count to three Mississippi or to check out the in-game timer for a lock-on loss reference.
Note that the Sentry perk, which prolongs lock duration, can ruin your plans of a free stun. While most players don’t equip it, you shouldn’t be surprised if your cheap trick is thwarted by this low level unlock.
Looking for more tips? Head back to the main Assassin’s Creed multiplayer strategy guide index.