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?