Home Editorial Balance Ubisoft, here’s what has to change in Assassin’s Creed 5 multiplayer

With five months and ten playthroughs of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag multiplayer under my belt, I think it’s safe to say the general mechanics and balance have pretty much sorted themselves out. Top players continue to innovate with mind games, ability combos, and flawless timing, but there stands little doubt that most of the top-scoring strategies have settled in.

It’s certain we can expect another Assassin’s Creed title in 2014 (no, Liberation HD doesn’t count), and if it includes the multiplayer we’ve come to know and love, I’d like to see a few simple changes to finally balance online play once and for all. Without further ado, here are my suggestions for taking Abstergo’s simulation to the ulimate level.

1. Determined has gotta go

Ubisoft did a wonderful job rewarding stealth in AC4’s multiplayer modes. The game’s approach meter felt more balanced that in previous iterations. Hidden and Bench multipliers made careful planning a rewarding experience. So you’d imagine reckless play would be a waste, right?

Not quite, because the devs also created Determined, a perk that serves no purpose other than to bypass the entire base penalty for contested kills. Sure, contested players will still lose their multipliers, and they’ll still be slowed for a few seconds, but with Determined, players are awarded hundreds (or even thousands) of points they didn’t earn per match. It doesn’t require much thinking or planning, and counters are few and far between.

I don’t know why Ubisoft felt Determined would be a good addition to Assassin’s Creed multiplayer when Resistance already helped players recover something from their botched approaches. Hell, the very existence of Determined encourages running, since victims quickly learn there’s no point in contesting their killers’ score.

2. Cut the crap: abilities, perks, streaks

There is basically no reason to ever use a few abilities, half the game’s perks, and all the game’s loss bonuses. Most of these options are hugely underpowered, irrelevant, or so low-scoring you’d be a fool to ever use them.

Money Bomb and Booby Trap are nearly useless, and should simply be excised from the game, leaving spots open for past favorites (like Sprint or Charge) or new innovations. How about an ability that causes nearby NPCs to mob a target, begging him for money? And would more players use Disruption or Sabotage if these skills were combined into a single ranged effect that disrupted a player who tried to use an ability?

A lot of perks are equally pointless. Why not allow Sentry users to see their locked target through walls, or make it so enemy locks expire on them sooner? Copycat might be more useful if it boosted the abilities you stole to full 3/3/3 crafting levels. Determined could go die in a fire.

And let’s not forget about Loss Bonuses. Pretty much all of them suck except Score x2. Instead of boosting everything to its insane power level, Ubisoft should simply nerf or delete Score x2. Having a single Loss Bonus capable of reversing an entire match’s momentum doesn’t contribute anything to the game, and it pretty much trivializes all the other (significantly shittier) options. Change it to Score +200 if you still want to keep the general concept without breaking the perk.

3. Shhhhh…. too many secrets!

Look, I get it… the Whispers are a cute audio cue that your pursuer is nearby. And while it was a decent experiment in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood multiplayer, veteran Templar, myself included, have gotten too good at measuring the exact distance of our killers from the Whispers alone. In many scenarios, we can pick out our murderer instantly despite the fact that he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.

I’m not saying the Whispers should be eradicated, but perhaps they need to be significantly less nuanced. If they reached and maintained a certain volume, regardless of exact range, players couldn’t rely on a single audio cue to identify their killers. Instead, they’d have to rely on their abilities and/or train their eyes to look for more subtle clues in player behavior. The end result would be less running, more observation, and a more fair experience for new players with otherwise good approaches.

4.  Bring back Alliance… please?

If you never played Brotherhood multiplayer, you missed out on the title’s Alliance game mode. Hell, you may have missed out on it even if you did play Brotherhood, since it was one of the least popular options at the time. Instead of a complete free-for-all or 2-team setup, six players were divided into 3 teams of 2. It was essentially a mashup of Wanted and Manhunt, forcing duos to come up with brilliant teamwork to survive against their assigned pursuers while hunting their contracted targets.

Now Tim Browne has previously stated that Alliance could never work in Black Flag’s multiplayer engine. But perhaps Assassin’s Creed V could once again handle this ingenious mode. If so, I believe the increased size of the multiplayer fanbase could easily support this hugely dynamic small-team challenge. Make it happen, Ubisoft!

What do you think?

While I have plenty of other suggestions (Naval combat, e-sports support, larger game lobbies), these four points are pretty much my must-have multiplayer changes. What do you see as being the biggest obstacles to Assassin’s Creed online balance, or how would you supplement existing gameplay for a richer multiplayer experience?

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25 replies to this post
  1. What I’d like is to be able to get into a game with any regularity.
    At my university my NAT is strict and 80% of the time I can’t even get into a game (or get disconnected from all my games).

  2. while we’re bringing back modes, let’s get some Steal the Artifact and Corruption – easily the two best modes from ACR. Also, every time you write one of these articles, you should start, in allcaps and a much bigger font, with “dedicated servers” at the top.

  3. Alliance couldn’t work in AC4’s engine? YEAH, because copy-pasting the game from Revelations at best and Brotherhood at worst and changing a few textures each time creates impossible to breach technical barriers?
    No, I’m not exaggerating. AC4’s multiplayer literally runs on the same engine as Rev’s, the changes are minor. It does NOT run on AC4’s singleplayer engine.

    I think the best concept for whispers would just be to make them inaccurate as hell. Make them kick in as soon as your pursuer comes within a range of 30-15 meters of you (numbers obviously variable). The trick is, both their volume and the exact range WHEN they kick in are randomised. Sometimes you’ll hear your killer coming from half a kilometer away… but can you be sure it isn’t actually the one in the front of the group that’s already closer to you?
    If they wanted to, this would be easy to implement; Randomisation isn’t hard, and the game already tracks each player’s relative distance.

    I’m calling it now that Ubisoft will fix both Money Bomb and Closure in ACV. By combining them into one and raising the cooldown of that skill to 90 seconds to compensate. Why listen to the players when you could nerf those obviously overpowered Firecrackers?

  4. Just wanna give a disclaimer than I’m sending this as a Wanted player.

    I still think the only nerf Smoke Bomb needed was to not be allowed to be thrown. Offensive Smoke Bomb was dumb although with the advent of AC3, there were many counters to the ability that neutered it’s effectiveness and the players able to counter it tended to be players that had above average imagination in how to counter things.

    Guns need to be nerfed, I’m sorry, but it does. When you have a lobby full of rush killers, the only surefire counter to that is to run away from them to put distance between yourself and them and give yourself time to calculate a gameplan on how to deal with them. So when you’re in a lobby where unfortunately you need to run and half of them have guns, the chances of you winning that match are very slim when you get killed from a ranged ability that you don’t have a lot of time to react to. 2 seconds tops is more than enough time to run behind an object to kill their line of sight. One second is not nearly enough. It’s also enough time to counter with a knife or disruption so you don’t die as soon as you use the ability and waste a cool down for no reason.

    I agree whole-heatedly that Determined needs to go. It’s like Smoke Bomb all over again in that if two equal players face off against each other, the one who doesn’t have Determined will lose every time which is bullshit. You shouldn’t be rewarded points you didn’t earn and this was the problem with people constantly roofing for their points. So all they really did was create the same issue but in a completely different way.

    Glimmer’s duration needs to match Disguise’s. It’s a lot more useful than it was in AC3 but any good player will still spot you using it if you don’t use it in a clever way.

    I disagree with whispers. They’re not sensitive enough. There’s been more than enough times where someone would rush kill me but I wouldn’t hear any whispers until it was too late for me to react. That’s not even fair.

    Knife shouldn’t have been nerfed because you could counter it with a smoke bomb at the very least reset the situation. Now there’s no suitable counter for it. Even Time Phase isn’t always very effective in countering it.

    My only last complaint is Ubisoft’s blatant pandering to RMT their game and making it much harder to amass points for gear. I’m rank 5 prestige and I still haven’t unlocked everything on one character. Everything costs too much for no reason at all. It’s not right. I’m not throwing them money for cosmetic changes but apparently people are doing it which is disappointing to me.

    Despite all that, I’d say that they did a pretty good job balancing the game. I just wish they’d stop taking one step forward and two steps back.

    • There’s a good counter to people rushing you down before whispers kick in: Opening your bloody eyes!

      I understand you use a more aggressive type of play (one which I used aplenty), but still, pursuers can either approach stealthily or without giving you plenty of time to listen to whispers. Not both.

      Back to the point, I wouldn’t say Ubisoft are taking the classical three steps as they are taking one backwards and two to the side, completely in another direction from where they should or are asked to go.
      Example microtransactions. In an already overpriced game. Which give you a huge advantage over other players early on. And then the launcher shows you advertisements after you close the game, because there’s still a smidgen of more milk left in you.

  5. I agree entirely regarding determined, it’s a lazy perk which 90% of players I meet in DM use as a crutch or safety net. For my money, it goes against the whole ethos of the game, which is carefully stalking your prey, and striking from above – where they can’t contest you – or from a blend group. I believe when any perk is so popular, a la smoke bomb in ACIII, it means it’s way too powerful.

    One thing I’d love to see is aerial/acro stuns. I believe that if I can find my pursuer and put myself in a advantageous position, I should be able to take them out. Many times I’ve got myself away from my killer, and put myself in their blind spot, but then I’m unable to do anything about it. Personally I think the difference between a good score and a great score is the number of times I can stun my killer, and take 200 points. Plus, if I can stun foolish pursuers, it is a marvelous method of point starving them.

    • Good point, however if you had uncontested advantage as both pursuer and target while acrobatic, it would encourage everyone to roof all the time since being on the ground would be completely helpless.

      • I thought about it and it’s isn’t a viable option, because then every time you see your pursuer you would lock him, then run away from him and he would start chasing you. Then you could easily find a climbing spot in front of you, climb for a second then easily stun him. A no-no for me.

      • If a mod can delete the previous post, because i replied while my browser had already logged in with another facebook account. Thanks

        I thought about it and it’s isn’t a viable option, because then every time you see your pursuer you would lock him, then run away from him and he would start chasing you. Then you could easily find a climbing spot in front of you, climb for a second then easily stun him. A no-no for me.

  6. I do wonder if Ubisoft monitor usage data of the online game. It would be interesting to see what the percentage is of players who use determined as a perk. Conversely, how many players use the appalling abilities once they reach prestige 1?

    If the usage of any ability/perk is incredibly low, it makes a cogent argument for getting rid for good and coming up with someone fresh.

      • They do track stats, even whether an ability was used successfully (define as you may). That’s part of what convinced me they aren’t even interested in keeping game balance; During an interview pre-Revelations I believe, they said that Smoke was perfectly fine and that Firecrackers needed nerfs because they had been used successfully far more. Well, first, that’s not hard to achieve when crappy servers ensure Smoke does nothing near what it’s supposed to, and second, I probably don’t have to tell you that saying that Firecrackers were and are used over Smoke is complete and utter (insert rant here).

  7. I have proposition for this non-stealth and stupid perk Determined – remove Determined kill from kill streak :).
    Btw, this best Wanted players with his Determined, Revelation and zero stealth gameplay are boring already for me.

  8. Determined should have never been put in.

    I miss Chases being in the game. I’d like to see them return but I’m guessing that would scare a lot of new players off the multiplayer.

    I noticed it hasn’t been brought up but the contract system in Wanted/Deathmatch seems pretty unrelenting. Some people might like it but I feel like it would be nice to have 5-10 seconds with no pursuers when you sucessfully manage to stun the 2-3 you get on respawning again instead of constantly being bombarded; it feels like there’s very little time to close distance to your target/gloat after you pull of some awesome defensive maneuvers.

    • I agree about the “unrelenting” nature of the contract system in AC4. In some ways I like it, because it keeps things moving along (and nobody can complain it’s “broken” and “won’t give me a contract.” At the same time it means setting up stealthy kills is much harder.

      Overall though I think it’s for the best. It reduces lulls and makes high-point kills much more valuable overall.

  9. I disagree with the aerial and acro-stun comment. Those would essentially just be easy dropstuns. I also believe Determined should be outed.

    • It seems that Ubisoft shares your opinion; In Revelations, if you got the positioning JUST right, you could trigger an alternate animation which had you pounce your pursuer to the ground like the two of you were in love, then smack them right in the face. The only spot where I have been able to make it work is with you being on the sacred wire in Mont St. Michel’s Deathmatch area and your pursuer standing on the roof it comes from (not the one surrounding the courtyard.)

      Short story, there is clear evidence in the game files that they were thinking about including more ways of punching people, but scrapped those ideas not too far into development. (The stun counts, but the animation overall looks poorly optimised.)

  10. Very late commenting, but I had respond to the Determined comments.

    Firstly, I’m going to skip my sarcastic opening of “play in a competitive lobby for once” and get to the nitty gritty, because I’m assuming most of you here have indeed already played competitive lobbies and will understand what I’m about to say.

    In AC4, I play exclusively Deathmatch, and I use Determined and Hot Pursuit, all the time. Hypocritical as it may seem, I contest this random level 45 and press select to see his score breakdown – voila, Determined. I’m annoyed, understandably and unreasonably slow. Granted, that Adventurer with the terrible bandanna customisation (oh my God it just looks so awful) fast-walking towards me in a zigzag fashion cutting through every single blend group in the map is not the a layman’s definition of stealth, but let’s face it, for the better players among us, it doesn’t matter whether someone runs towards us sporting Templar Vision and Sprint Boost (ACB players will know the true feels behind this <3) or whether they use Disguise and spend the entire ten minutes of the match stalking – they'll be just as easy to spot either way.

    Which brings me to my point – the reason I think Determined should stay is that in a competitive lobby where even a half decent player with a broken wrist and Down's Syndrome will be able to contest me even if try to approach stealthily, it is extremely aggravating to have your kill score halved simply because well, the game mechanics don't allow for true stealth. I will admit however, that AC4 is by far the best regarding stealth, in Deathmatch at least.

    Either make stealth a viable strategy by removing or severely nerfing whispers, or remove Contested Kills whilst keeping Honourable Deaths and only then should Determined be removed. On paper, Contested Kills sound pretty good – heck, when ACR was announced I thought they were a great idea, but in reality, it simply does not work because the players are just way too good.

  11. First of all, I am in complete agreement on bringing back Alliance, it was a fresh take on the multiplayer team aspect especially for one with a limited pool of gamer friends that play the AC multiplayer series. I don’t play team modes because I play with people I don’t know who don’t use a mic but the simpler strategy involved in Alliance would diminish the need to be in full communication while at the same time allowing for a sense of “team play”. I also think they need to reboot Assassinate mode to something closer to its original ACB roots. It no longer is a “stealth” mode and even with the baiting toned down, it’s a bastion for those who want to exploit the nuances of the game to get big high scores and gloat. I think they can best accomplish this by getting rid of the game lab but taking that concept and modifying the rules of each game type to allow for differences of play, but maintaining the stealth factor and back and forth/cat and mouse style that makes the game so unique and intriguing. The old days of staying hidden for as long as you can and waiting for a great kill score by delaying your assassination attempt until the latest possible moment are gone. If they’d revert back to starting at an incognito bonus for only assassinate mode that would help, but they could look to incorporate other rule differences across game modes that would reward stealth and seriously penalize/de-incentivize runners baiters, it would return to its glory days as a game mode. I think AC3 ruined it as I have a hard time playing more than 3 rounds before everyone in the lobby quits because of those who exploit just for a high score at the expense of keeping the integrity of the game. I think you have a pretty fresh take on your other points as well and your insights are spot on.

  12. From a deathmatch player’s perspective, I love determined and think that’s how contested kills should be. Sprinting at my target and having them contest me is far different than slowly walking to them and having them only notice me at the last second isn’t it? If you get close enough to a target while building your meter carefully during the approach, I think you deserve to get the full 450 points. They could have easily ran away if they noticed me earlier on my approach and made no successful move to stun me, so why should they be able to cut my approach in half? It’s fair that multipliers are removed though, and seems to work well.
    The other reason that I like determined is that it is a nice counter to the overly defensive baiting style in modes like deathmatch. With whispers being so loud now, people love to just drift away from them without knowing exactly who their pursuer is. Some would say that I should gun them down or use poison dart, but having built up my meter already, I like that I can just take the contested kill with determined and move on. Anyways great article even though I disagree on the first point, the other suggestions I can agree with.

  13. Ok, I’m a 99,9% Wanted player with only 30-40 Deathmatch sessions and a dozen Assassinations. Now, being on my 10 prestige and with a win ratio of 0.41(there’s a reason of saying this), I want to add my 2 cents on the article, plus my opinion.

    As for Wanted, I believe the contract system is favoring the first player and this is unfair for the other players who try to catch up. I’ll explain.

    I can say that It’s very important to be on the lead early on. I’m always trying to score a good first kill and almost use all my abilities to stun my first pursuer. If you do that, you’ll probably be on the first two places. This means, that most of the time, you’ll have 2-3 pursuers, which guarantees you’ll be in action almost all the time netting points from stuns and contested stuns, but most importantly YOUR target usually will not have more than 1 pursuer. So every 10 seconds you’ll be doing something. Either trying to kill you target or trying to stun your pursuer.

    This means that you won’t get in that spiral mode when you are 4-5th place where you spawn, few seconds later “contract lost”, then wait for another contract, try to run to your target only to get another contract lost and so on. You lose precious time, trying to kill usually the guy in the 1-2 place.

    So, in my opinion, 2x loss streak is crucial to offset the downside of that spiral that I mentioned and needs to stay in the game. And of course 2x score is a huge trap, when you have it activated. You try NOT to stun your pursuer and try to score the highest kill possible only to have someone poach you at the last moment or not even kill your target, beacuse you want also your hidden multiplier.

    As for Determined, it should go, because most of players use it and if you DONT use it, you usually lose, because there isn’t any other single perk that can net you more points in match than this. Unless the room is full of new players, you usually need it when all players are 2+ prestige.

    Now, I believe that the best perk loadout is Determined/Overall cooldowns/Revelation/2x score. I don’t even use Blender, because it gives you away immediately when you blend in a group. I have killed numerous people trying to blend, only to be revealed because their clone has that halo on their feet!

    As for whispers, I feel that they are fine and for the players in this forums, let’s not forget that most of us here we are veterans that have played most of the MPs of AC. The game has a steep learning curve and since in real-life you get low-level players matched with players with numerous prestiges, since the player base is small. You need to give them a chance, otherwise you’ll dissuade them and won’t stay in the game. Even crafting and unlocked abilities give us a huge advantage against them. It’s unfair to make whispers harder for them to understand their pursuer.

    Also, as you can see, the players have adapted to the smoke bomb nerf. Now to ensure the stun from the bomb, they use a new technique, that I would call KnifeBomb! I’m sure you have experience it.

  14. And now this entire post is irrelevant now that Unity has ditched competitive multiplayer.

    Unless the long-rumoured and almost confirmed AC: Comet has multiplayer, then these changes won’t be happening any time soon.

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