Assassin's Creed Needs To Be More Difficult

I've been revisiting Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released fourth game in the series, Assassin's Creed: Revelations. I started a new game, and within an hour or so protagonist Ezio Auditore was effortlessly laying waste to dozens upon dozens of enemies — guys on horseback, heavily armoured pikemen, and scores of sword-wielding Roman guards. I paused and blocked, then countered, then chained my attacks to insta-kill foe after foe. Maybe it's all the Witcher 2 and Arkham Asylum I've been playing, but I found myself mentally checking out the more I fought. It's not exactly new news, but damn, this game is easy.

I like a lot of things about Assassin's Creed. I like how classy and clean it is, how effectively it weaves together timelines to tell a story that somehow feels coherent despite, y'know, being a total mess. I like the sense of vertigo I get when I climb to the tallest point in the city and jump, and I like the audio design and how it blends with Inon Zur's musical score.

But I've never felt satisfied by Assassin's Creed's combat. It's too forgiving, too prone to exploitation. The more toys Ezio gets, the further the imbalance is exacerbated — facing eight enemies, I've got my choice of shooting them, chain-killing them, picking them off one by one with counters, crossbowing them, throwing knives at them, overpowering them by hammering the attack button, or if I get bored, just dropping a smoke bomb and assassinating them one by one. The menu in Brotherhood offers no way to change the game's difficulty. I don't know what kind of balancing would be required to make variable difficulty possible, but I can't help but feel like it's a shame that it's not an option.

I have spent a lot of time this year playing The Witcher 2 — CD Projekt's game lacks the smoothness of Assassin's Creed, but it's refreshingly challenging. The addition of the extreme new "dark" difficulty and its challenge arena only serve to enhance my enjoyment, and to highlight how different the game feels than Assassin's Creed. I've had a sadly small amount of time to dig into Dark Souls, but if it's anything like Demon's Souls, the swordfighting remains unforgiving and tense, and therefore incredibly exhilarating. Batman: Arkham Asylum's ever-escalating challenge rooms work well despite not having variable difficulty settings, and the more-complex, layered challenge rooms in Arkham City sound like an evolution of an already winning formula.

In Revelations, Ezio's arsenal continues to grow more varied and powerful — the new trailer has him seriously ruining some shit. He's got bombs now, and in demos we've seen him manning some mounted, heavy weaponry as well. So in addition to all those new tools of destruction, I'd love to see some options that let me give myself more of a challenge. It'd have to be adjustable, of course — plenty of folks love Assassin's Creed just how it is. But give me the option to lower the power of Ezio's counters, or make his healing potions take effect over time. Shrink the windows that allow for successful dodges and counter-attacks. Make me work for it!

This would be especially nice for a second playthrough, particularly with some sort of New Game+. With each past Assassin's Creed game, I've torn through the campaign doing a pretty large amount of sidequesting, but I haven't felt that pull to go back and do it over again. A higher difficulty would help with that, and give the hardcore a reason to do a second playthrough. I can tell you for sure that I'll be doing a New Game+ in Arkham City, but at the moment I'm not as sure about Revelations.

I'm writing this just before I head down to Ubisoft's San Francisco HQ for an extended hands-on with Revelations, so when I get there, difficulty will be one of the first things I ask about. But even if we don't get a variable difficulty in Revelations, Assassin's Creed is a franchise that Ubisoft will clearly be supporting for a good while. Hopefully as they continue to add inventive new ways to kill my enemies, they won't forget to teach my enemies some new tricks as well.


Comments

    Yeah, kinda agree... I don't really like the combat in the AC series, where it's basically a counter-insta-kill-athon...

    Obviously though, this far into the series I can't expect it to change. I think an Arkham Asylum style combat would be amazing for the game.

    He's a Master Assassin and has been learning these skills his whole life, of course it's easy. The "challenge" is in getting 100% sync, or even in the act of sneaking past guards instead of going all gung-ho and fighting them.

      +1
      Exactly what I was thinking.
      (Although I occasionally start a big fight just to feel like an unstoppable badass assassin)

        +1 on the big fights. When I'm about to finish a gaming session, I start a massacre of every man woman and guard I can find in Brotherhood, just to make it feel awesome

      Yeeeah but an assassin still shouldn't be able to casually kill half a dozen veteran soldiers armed and armored to the teeth in a straight up fight.
      Better I think if you could only take on three or so at once and so need to run, hide, split them up, whittle their numbers down with ambushes then disappear into the crowd.

        "Yeeeah but an assassin still shouldn’t be able to casually kill half a dozen veteran soldiers armed and armored to the teeth in a straight up fight."

        Aaaaah, yes he should. He's a MASTER ASSASSIN ;) Seriously, if this guy actually existed (and I'm sure there's been a few real Ezio's over the centuries) he would be TERRIFYING... and that's the point!

      His a master button masher? It's all fine that his a 'master assassin' but really if you keep mashing counter attack or any other button there should be a 'wift' action where your inactive and could potentially get punished for.

      Also, while playing brotherhood where I was trying to die. The guards could not kill me.

      I was literally standing there for ages whilst guards were stabbing me, letting the energy deplete to 1 where the game tells you that you need to runaway and recover... thing is, I didn't need to run! after 2 seconds my life started to regenerating.

      I guess the 'Master Assassins' challenge is to die.

      That explanation doesn't work in the first game where the guard AI acted exactly the same as Altair :p

      I don't think the game needs to be made more difficult but the combat mechanics are rather boring. Arkham Asylum got it right, both in the being sneaky department and in the beating dudes into submission department. If Assassin's Creed took a few notes, I don't think anyone would object.

      One of my main gripes with the non-difficulty is how it isn't reflected in cutscenes or story. I could swear there have been times when Ezio would be forced to run like the Dickens away from guards, or be forced to stealth past them, just after the game has unlocked a new ability which lets you, with no drawback aside from a 30 second cooldown quickly murder 3 guards, with the bare minimal alert raised or attention drawn to you, (Assassin recruits, crossbow, smoke bombs, poison darts and now throwable bombs for eff's sake).

      The general tone of this series seems to have gone from mindful stealthiness to Michael Bay style blow-all-the-shit-up and stab-every-dude-ever. But that's a debate for another time.

      I liked how in AC1 your hidden blade was an insta-kill but removed your ability to block, that was a great risk/reward system, pity they made it so powerful, by you being able to take out the guards who were distracted by the kill too.

      It's weird, in general I like the Asscreed series more than any other modern game franchise so I think I'm harsher on it because I expect it to be better, and all the previews I'm seeing of Revelations makes me think it's aspiring to achieve mediocrity, nothing more, nothing less.

    No.

    Leave it pretty much as it is, please. If I want challenge, I'll pick up another game. AC has its own little place on my shelf because it's an easy action adventure game with a fairly interesting story.

    If you want to make it challenging, forbid yourself from using the counter button. Not that hard.

    I think that there should be the option for a harder gameplay, it seems to get to easy to quickly.

    Games in general are too easy these days. What with regenerating health, auto-aim/lockon ect.

    Playing Deus Ex on it's hardest difficulty, the only time I really felt the challenge was in the boss fights, which are almost unanimously agreed to be bad game design.

      I'm currently 1/2 through Deus Ex 3on the hardest difficulty too, and completely agree.
      But I've decided to treat it as a puzzle game, where the "difficulty" is working out how to knock out every enemy without being spotted (... right up until said boss fights).

      totally agree.
      and speaking of the most blasphemous auto-regen of all....

      the new X-com!!

    I gave up on AC after trying to fight the damn jumping / camera mechanics.

    I was finding it impossible to complete timed segments of the game (Venice). Which is a pity, because I quite enjoyed the history stuff it was working with.

    In case you haven't noticed some areas of the game have difficulty levels. If you want a challenge, as soon as you start the game try and tackle them, then tell me it's easy.

    don't use a sword then, just sit around and use hidden blades to fight with. Much better challenge.

      Hidden blade only is the easy mode, it's the only weapon where all the counters are instant kills. Once I worked that out, I didn't use anything other than hidden blade and just waltzed through every combat section.

    I've found with each game the combat has gotten easy and the videos for Revelations seem to see this trend will not stop.

    I'm perfectly fine with this.

    It think it more lends into the face Ezio is a master assassin. The main draw for the series for me has always been exploration aspect and sneaking up to a guard and getting my stab on.

    If I wanted balls to the wall combat I'd fire up Bayonetta again. Where is my sequel for THAT?!

    Yep my biggest problem wit ac series is they are getting easier, acb bought waypoints so you dont get lost. Really way points. I fought it was open world ubisoft. But really ac1 was my fav, story is the only one that made the slightest sense and was interesting, and there was more freedom in assassining your targets as ac2 was more scripted.

    I don't ply games to challenge myself. That's what life is for. I play games to relax and be entertained, and the AC series does an excellent job in that department. I don't want it to change.

    If you don't like the game, don't play it. Play Dark Souls or Ninja Gaiden instead.

    I always saw Assassins Creed's fighting mechanic more like an action cinematic then a challenge. It was something I could enjoy watching as I stabbed my hidden blade into many a chest.

    Kinda like the platforming in The Uncharted series, it's not there to be difficult. It is there to create atmosphere and an experience.

      This and many other comments like this sum up how I felt about the combat.

    Well the game is called "Assassin's Creed" after all. I can't recall the last time an "Assassin" went right into combat with lots of enemies.

      That's exactly what I was thinking. Master Assassin is by no means another way of saying unstoppable bezerker.

    The action leans towards fun over challenge. The challenging part is fighting perfectly, bot just surviving.

    AC has other difficult elements, chase segments and climbing obstacles to name a few. Oh and those goddamn glyph puzzles, damn some of those are tricky.

    But like others here I kind of love it the way it is, Brotherhood mixed things up from the parry/stab/parry/stab of previous games and for the better. But I don't think I'd enjoy it more if fighting was harder, like Batman Arkham Asylum it's more a badass simulator than a fight game.

    wouldn't mind a few more mini-boss like enemies happening while in open-world mode (some big ass ones like in Infamous 2 wouldn't be half bad)

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