View Full Version : Shiny new game, same tired problems

11-24-2014, 12:14 AM
I guess I should have seen this coming.

For the last few years I've been telling myself Ubisoft would eventually figure it out. How couldn't they? After all, the problems surrounding the Assassin's Creed IP couldn't possibly be more glaring. And yet, release after release I seem to always find myself singing the exact same tune.

Assassin's Creed 3 introduced so many problematic elements to the series that the franchise has never really been the same. Throwing aside all of the game-breaking bugs that these recent incarnations have been shipped with (honestly, Ubisoft, you should be ashamed of yourselves at this point - it's pathetic), recent "enhancements" to the franchise continue to plague the development of the series.

There is so much that could be discussed, but I'm going to attempt to just hit a couple of simple points to illustrate a few of the more obvious grievances. After all, until Ubisoft offers me a job, I see no point in doing all their work for them (hint: make me an offer, Ubisoft).

Player Movement
Parkour and free running are vital to this franchise. In theory, making such a vital piece of the core formula easier for novices to come in and pick up makes. But with the complexity of these environments, such a decision actually ends up causing more problems than ones it solves.

We need to go back to a three button system. Rather than the right trigger (RT) putting the player immediately into free run and parkour, it should only work as a run function. To engage free run and parkour, players should have to also hold down the left trigger (LT). Then, keeping with the (awesome) new ascend/descend feature in Unity, use the A or B in combination with holding down LT+RT to direct your assassin to either climb up a structure or down.

Sure, it seems like a lot at first. But it really isn't. And it's worked in the past - and was leaps and bounds better than this current system too, might I add. The truth is there is just too many climbable surfaces a player encounters on the streets while running to just justify having such a simplistic climbing function. It might take a tiny bit more for someone new to the series to learn how to use, but it will prove to make the game considerably less frustrating to play.

Campaign & Story
With the discombobulated garbage that passed for plot in AC3 and AC4, I didn't have high hopes for ACU. I was delightfully surprised when the story in ACU not only (mostly) made sense, but was actually a nice nod to perhaps the best story in the franchise, Enzio's origin tale in AC2. However, at the same time it felt a little lazy. I mean, another revenge tale? Surely not all of the assassins have to follow the same formula. Do they?

But on a larger point, I don't believe the stories should be focused on one character's need for vengeance - especially during such a pivotal time in world history ripe with historical fiction opportunity. Rather than telling the story of how the Templars and Assassins were at the heart of the change in power during the French Revolution, we instead got a tale about one lost boy who missed his daddy. I mean, c'mon. This is storytelling 101.

It's not that Arno's story of revenge was bad. But most of your loyal fans have already heard this tale with Enzio - and, frankly, it was told much better the first time around. Besides, even if we hadn't and were completely new to the series, I think it would have been much more impressive to learn about a secret agenda behind the French Revolution. That's how you hook new fans for the future - not by telling them rehashed throw-away tales of revenge, especially when it's centered on a character who might not even be the main character in the next release. It's really that simple. Focus on the more relevant story at hand and make the biggest impact on your players as possible.

Missions & Co-op
One of the brighter spots in Unity was the decision to make the majority of the missions actual assassinations. This was one of those fleeting moments while playing Unity where I felt like Ubisoft finally got it right. We are assassins. Give us targets. Stop with the cute stuff.

Unfortunately, nearly all the single-player side missions, as well as the much-touted co-op mode, don't take advantage of such great logic. Instead, we're bogged down with a bunch of side missions that feel more suited for an errand boy than a full fledged member (or members) of the Brotherhood. Go rip down posters? Talk to "ladies of the night" about joining an all-women army? Or how about the oh-so-enthralling "go and defend this person who will almost surely run out and get into a huge battle that you have to jump into in order to save them."

Did someone actually think any of those missions were going to be fun? If the answer is yes, stop letting them make decisions. They don't know what they're talking about. Side missions and co-op missions in Unity should have been more akin to the assassin contracts from AC2: We should have met with an elder assassin in one of the social clubs who would then give us a target and perhaps some minor background as to why we're taking said person down. It could have been something as simple as "this banker is crooked and now aligned with the Templars. We can't have that." That's it. Make it vague enough that it could be applied over and over again in different settings, so that the missions could be different every time. The bounty for each head corresponding to the difficulty of the assassination. AND, just like in the heists, your reward should always go down with the amount of times you are seen.

See how easy that is? We bought the game to be assassins with our friends. Let us assassinate people together. It's so simple that there is no possible way Ubisoft can't get it right next time, right? .... Right?

It's not all bad. I firmly believe there are some incredibly talented developers at Ubisoft Montreal. There just has to be, because even despite the day one game-breaking bugs, garbage side missions and egregious framerate oversights, this game feels like it's might not have been terribly far away from having been in the "incredibly awesome" category. And for that reason alone, I find it difficult to believe everyone up in Montreal is clueless. So, for the few of you who are doing it right (and I'm sure you know who you are), thank you giving us what you could.

Just a few final thoughts for the future:

- If giving us better means giving us less, then please give us less. Less side missions if it means better, more memorable missions. Less graphical beauty if it means better overall experience. Less is sometimes more - as long as "more" means "more polished" and "more enjoyable".

- Stick to the focus of the genre. This is a game about assassins and assassinations. Stop trying to make it anything else. We're not pirates. We're not errand boys. We're not Native American tribesmen, big game hunters or detectives. Make new stand alone IPs if you want to explore those avenues. If the box says "Assassin's Creed," I want to be an assassin.

- Consider keeping the single player character and our co-op character separate. How about the ability to switch back and forth between the two characters and see what they're currently up to, much in the way we can in GTA V? That could be neat. Either way, the stories should be different. My co-op character shouldn't be referred to as Arno. He's not supposed to be Arno. He's supposed to be my co-op character.

- Limit our co-op character's functionality. Having an assassin that can do it all makes co-op less fun. Give us a reason to diversify. We shouldn't all be able to pick locks, carry huge, powerful weapons, and sneak around gracefully. Force the player to make choices about who they want to be.

I have friends who aren't great at being stealthy, but love the game and are actually pretty good in a fight. Unfortunately, playing with them almost always means winding up in a bunch of sword fights. I like playing with my friends, but not so much playing that way. So, what if you let players make choices about how to craft their assassin beyond the outfit and few obscure abilities and weapons? Make their choices matter.

We start out with the hidden blade (standard) and a small, lightweight dagger. As you earn money, you can trade that dagger in as your main combat weapon for something better (if you so choose). Some people might be fine with just a dagger, as they don't like getting into confrontations and would rather have the additional speed and agility that comes with not lugging around a bulkier weapon. But for those who get into combat more often, give them the opportunity to purchase a lancer, or perhaps a huge, bulky battle ax that's really awesome in a fight. The trade off? Well, run speed, agility and detection, of course. You'll be great in a fight, but not so great sneaking around.

I admit, slower and bulkier wouldn't exactly be an easy sell for a game about stealth. But what if you add a gameplay function for such a player? As they tailor their assassin more and more into a "brute" class assassin (I'm making class names up as I go, bear with me), they also unlock class-specific skills.

So, you've made your assassin more combat-ready, but combat almost always means detection. What if you give this "brute class" the ability to use an extended disguise perk that they can engage before starting a fight? The Templar AI won't see them as an assassin, but instead as some unruly citizen and therefore their concern won't be elevated beyond the fight at hand. This way a player can pick a fight and cause a distraction that will allow their assassin teammates the opportunity to slip past unnoticed while still letting you feel like a vital part of the team. And now, suddenly, you have given new purpose to the disguise skill. More importantly, you've created various new ways for a situation to be approached by a group playing co-op. Don't have a brute in your squad? Well, I guess causing a distraction to get past those guards is out of the question. What can we do to get past them? Etc., etc. Each new scenario can be approached a multitude of different ways.


That's just a few examples of what could have been done to make these experiences so much more rewarding. We don't need 100s of collectible items or one-off murder mysteries that we can't really play again with the same kind of allure or excitement. Give us the (perfected) meat and potatoes first before worrying about any side dishes.

I know there are people up in Montreal that get this. But I fear, ultimately, there are just too many cooks in the kitchen. And when that happens, the recipe always suffers. Please, stop letting that happen.

11-24-2014, 12:17 AM
Oh, and one final thing: The beserker dart is lame. Bring back the poison blade and poison dart. The one where you could poison anyone (including civilians) and they'd start swinging their arms and spinning in circles. That was way more amusing and useful.

(And what happened to the whistle lure ability?!)

11-24-2014, 12:38 AM
(And what happened to the whistle lure ability?!)

Cherry bombs are the lures now, so the one thing can do sending away and drawing towards you.

11-24-2014, 01:58 AM
Cherry bombs are the lures now, so the one thing can do sending away and drawing towards you.

Yeah, but it's hardly the same thing. Dropping a cherry bomb at your feet is both less effective than the whistle and twice as foolish looking. I've resorted to standing in hallways until a guard's meter turns partially red and then going into cover. It's risky, but considerably more useful than the cherry bomb.

Regardless, seems kind of like taking a step backwards in regards to gameplay. Similar to how when you kill someone while sitting on a bench you don't sit them down on the bench like in the past. They just sort of crumple to the ground. For all the leaps forward in gameplay (sword fights, descend climbing), we're still regressing on some of the stuff they had already nailed in previous games. It's frustrating.

11-24-2014, 02:03 AM
It is strange, considering that cover assassinations do make you haul the body into your position now.

I can think of one good reason why Whistle is gone, and that's co-op. Firstly, a cherry bomb is much more clear as an indication of what your team player is doing when using a lure. Secondly, can you imagine how it would look with four co-op players, all hidden behind pillars, all whistling? Enemy NPCs walking in confusion between all the assassins at once? I suspect they tried this in testing, saw a situation like this happening, and thought, "Yeah, that's got to go".