An Assassin’s Creed streamer didn’t just beat one game on the highest difficulty without taking any damage, he beat the entire 12-game series, from the first Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. On April 11, Hayete Bahadori uploaded the second half of his Valhalla no-damage run, completing his lengthy and impressive feat.
When I play Assassin’s Creed, I’m hiding in the tall grass for 50 years as I snipe enemies one by one. Bahadori, on the other hand, is freerunning his way through the Holy Lands. And he isn’t fazed when forced into direct boss fights in the newer games. One of my favourite boss fights he’s done occurs in Valhalla, where rather than avoiding or blocking Hemming’s thunderbolt attacks, Bahadori riskily catches them and hurls them back at the draugr. While I watch his videos, I’m excited about revisiting Assassin’s Creed games again.
Pandemic lockdowns are the mother of innovation, and Bahadori started his no-damage runs at the height of the covid crisis. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order was his first successful no-damage challenge run, but he wanted a bigger challenge. He told Kotaku that he enjoyed games that rewarded “stealth, subtlety, precision and various approaches to a given scenario.” Assassin’s Creed seemed to be the perfect fit, as he was already a fan of the series.
Bahadori held himself to certain rules: the health bar could not fall below 100%, starting from the “first possible instance [of] damage to the game’s end credits.” From Brotherhood through Syndicate, all levels had to be 100% synchronised (meaning all the objectives were completed), with no reloads or restarts for a gameplay benefit. All the runs were played at the highest difficulty, starting from Origins (which is the first time that the series had difficulty modes). He also didn’t use glitches for skipping any game content, as he was very serious about the developers’ intentions. If he failed a single objective, then he would restart the entire run. He acknowledged that the series would often have developer-scripted instances of forced damage, which he didn’t count against his run. Whenever he was forced to take damage, he would note them in his YouTube descriptions.
While Bahadori makes the challenge run look easy, clearing the games without taking damage actually took a lot of preparation. On his first playthrough, he focused on identifying problem sections. On his second playthrough, he used an iterative process to find strategies that would help minimise or eliminate risk. Bahadori was not attempting a speedrun, but he adapted many techniques from the speedrunning community.
Not all of the existing strategies were viable, however. In order to successfully complete a no-damage run within his lifetime, Bahadori focused on techniques that would reduce the risk of his attempts. They had to be repeatable, and they had to be consistent. He rejected strategies that required reliance on luck. Through diligent practice, Bahadori estimates that he probably failed over a thousand times. Including his practice hours, almost every game took around 100 hours to complete. Valhalla, however, took a whopping 800 hours due to the length of its main campaign, and Black Flag took 250 hours because of how luck-based some of the challenges were.
Bahadori undertook the actual challenge on October 16, 2021, starting from the original Assassin’s Creed. He took a break from his regular streaming schedule to prevent burnout from his engineering day job, and to spend more time with his daughter. He would play the games during his free time and upload them to YouTube whenever he was successful. Doing so gave him the time for more leisurely playthroughs of Assassin’s Creed. I say leisurely, but he still beat 12 games in nine months while meeting outrageously challenging conditions he’d imposed on himself. Despite his efforts to minimise the effects of RNG, there was a specific section in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood that forced him to rely on luck. When Ezio uses the Apple of Eden, he’s sometimes struck by incoming crossbow attacks against which Bahadori had no defence. The positioning of enemies was also “random,” which caused a number of resets. And naturally, this segment comes near the end of the game, so an unlucky bit of damage here meant scrapping what had been a perfectly good run and starting all over from the start. Talk about painful.
In his Reddit post chronicling his achievement, Bahadori offers his own personal ranking of the series, as well as his picks for the AC games with the best stealth, the best story, the best world aesthetic, and other categories. He says that his favourite entry to challenge-run was Odyssey, because the game designers didn’t force the player to take damage. His least favourite was the first Assassin’s Creed, which he felt was too “camera reliant” when guarding against attacks, causing it to become “RNG heavy.” He thought that Unity had the best stealth gameplay, while Valhalla had the best combat because of its more complex parrying system. He said that Syndicate required the most restarts because of the number of bugs. Some of the most useful tools for his no-damage run were the smoke bomb, the hook blade, and the rope dart. He’s also posted individual write-ups on the various challenges in each game, which might help if you’re looking to undertake your own challenge run.
The streamer also does no-damage runs for other games, having cleared Batman: Arkham Knight and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga taking nary a hit. Bahadori said over email that he’s currently working on a no-damage run for God of War. I have little doubt that he will succeed.