By now, everyone should know what the term metagame means, but for the uninformed, it generally applies to the current state of stategic focus in a specific game’s community. For example, “4 Gate” Protoss pushes are a dominating factor in Starcraft 2 currently, so much so that most Protoss players will employ 4 Gate themselves to counteract it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the two point conversion is such an infrequently used tactic in football that no defending team ever considers defending against it, even though actual point-after kicks are rarely blocked.
In most competitive communities, the metagame is always evolving. As one strategy becomes popular, certain strategies evolve to counter it. If it can’t easily be countered, more players may use it, to the point at which it is so frequently assumed to be taking place that any divergence can take a foe completely by surprise. Sometimes games grow stale due to a lack of viable strategic options, but these scenarios can be revived with balance changes, add-ons, or incentive tweaks. If a two point conversion became a three point conversion, perhaps teams would consider the risk worth the reward, no?
As I recently discussed in my latest YouTube channel update, many top players in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood have recently taken to a fairly safe, deadly strategy in Assassinate gameplay. Equipping Smoke Bomb and Poison, they stand in a fairly obvious area, attracting pursuers. Often, they will stand on a wire or a ledge, and when a pursuer gets close, they will expose him/her (locking onto them to instantly drain their low profile meter). At this point, if the killer attempts to climb onto the wire, he or she must enter high profile, which will ensue a chase. The scheming player can then easily lure the opponent into a Smoke Bomb, earning an Escape (+100), Stun (+200), then lock on to the victim for an Incognito (+300) Grounded (+50) Focused (+150) Slow Poison (+300) kill (+100). While not all of these factors always align, the recipe is there to consistently score 900+ points.
Why is this strategy so good? The main reason is that it’s nearly impossible to circumvent. If you try to move towards the player, you risk being exposed or (worse) being targeted as the victim. If they’re on the ground and you lock on and move towards them in a blended group, they’ll Smoke Bomb the group then spam Stun into the crowd to catch you. Since these players are typically on ledges, you can’t usually just blend into a crowd and walk into them. Worse still, if you ignore them, it’s possible they might kill you first. If you attempt to chase them, you will get stunned unless you perfectly predict the timing of their Smoke Bomb and counter with something like Mute to prevent hijinks.
Faced with these prospects, I decided the best counter to this strategy was simple: equip the Hidden Gun and/or Throwing Knives and simply nail these players when they’re standing in plain sight. They can’t realistically dodge a gunshot* and if they’re hit with throwing knives, you’ll be the one getting the easy bonuses. While Hidden Gun has a long cooldown and isn’t worth many points, it sends a powerful message: “If I see you, you die.”
To my surprise and chagrin, my use of this counter-strategy drew the ire and insult-laden hate of the opposing player, even as he continued to dominate me and everyone else in score. Sure, I wasn’t falling for his tricks, but everyone else was. Yet the idea that his tactics had been trumped by just one player infuriated him. The next day, I found many many players in Assassinate were opting for the Hidden Gun instead of Poison. I don’t think I started a trend; I only suppose other players met the same realizations I did.
Within a week, will most players be using the Hidden Gun to shoot down players employing the chase trap? If so, will other players start countering a bullet-laden battlefield by focusing more on stealth, making it harder for would-be snipers to take a shot? If players become more incognito, will skills like Templar Vision and Firecrackers regain popularity? And, if so, will Smoke Bomb and Poison come into favor to take advantage of this situation?
And so the metagame evolves, cycles, and continues. Yes, Smoke Bomb is easily the most powerful Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood ability, but it has counters, as does everything else. And while those counters are not as versatile as Smoke Bomb, the payoff to equipping or using them grows geometrically as more players rely on Smoke Bomb/Poison combinations.
The only question that remains is: When the fuck will anyone have a reason to use Sprint Boost?**
*I have yet to meet man who can outsmart bullet.
**I actually have a theory that Sprint Boost may see some use in Escort soon.