Editor: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
Most modern gamers have had experiences with the Ubisoft Montreal developed Assassin’s Creed franchise, and most gamers have their opinion on what made it as successful as it is, as well as what features could have been added to either improve it, or just give it that extra boost in variety. I am no exception to that, and I believe that the stealth elements of the title seemed to lack that bit of work that could have put the player right into the boots of a historical Assassin.
Stealth is a factor which would traditionally be intrinsically linked with assassins and something which I feel is severely lacking in the Assassin’s Creed series, due to the Assassin’s only movement options being to climb, run, or walk. Despite the interactivity with objects such as hay bales and benches in an attempt to hide in these situations, the stealth element becomes a singular blight on an otherwise very complete gameplay experience. My personal view is that the series could have benefited from a cover system, or at least a genuine crouching ability, as it would have improved the stealth elements of the titles, offering the Assassins Altaïr, Ezio and Connor, and possibly even Desmond an extra facet to their gameplay.
Cover systems can set a title apart if they are built well, and the Uncharted series shows how. Uncharted, although it has its roots firmly in the shooter section of the action/adventure genre, puts the player in control of the highly mobile and acrobatic Nathan Drake, who has many of the same climbing and traversal abilities as the player characters in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. While for the majority of the title you are embroiled in constant, fast-paced battles with enemies, there are quite a few situations where Naughty Dog had given players the opportunity to use the cover system for more than just stopping the gunpowder and lead-infused hatred of your enemies.
Case in point would be the opening mission in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, where you break into a museum. The entire mission is based on sneaking past enemies, which is where the cover system comes in, allowing players to follow the silhouette of waist-high barriers and pillars to avoid the searching glance of security guards. While this is not the primary usage of the cover system in Uncharted, the sheer simplicity of covering behind an object and following the shape of it would have worked perfectly for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, which is filled with fountains, barriers and merchant stalls which would have been ideal objects to aid in sneaking.
However, cover systems are often difficult to impliment correctly, as proven by titles such as GTA, which suffers from a clunky and often obtrusive cover system that hinders more often than aids the player, but, when a cover system is built correctly it can both the players movement and stealth, as shown by titles such as Hitman and Ghost Recon, where players could have otherwise been severely restricted in their actions and movement.
The other issue to address would have been button mapping, as Assassin’s Creed uses a contextual button mapping which relates to a part of the body. On the PlayStation/Xbox controller respectively, X/A controls the feet, Square and Circle/X and B control the arms and Triangle/Y controls the head. Most of these are fully used both on High and Low profile, but so far as cover is concerned, I believe that it could have been contextually mapped to the X/A buttons in order to snap to cover when facing an object that would be usable as a cover piece, much like how the mentioned buttons function when used near an object that the player can hide in (benches, hay bales, etc.).
Given the emphasis of guns and ranged weapons the aforementioned games, a tertiary factor in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, a dedicated cover system may not be the best route to take. Alternatively, a crouching system, the staple of action adventure stealth could have been used.
Even a simple crouching system could have a huge effect on the stealth elements of the title. Batman: Arkham City demonstrates this perfectly, as the crouch ability is often enough to keep you out of sight of enemies as you sneak behind half-walls and barriers. Given the amount of low objects in the Assassin’s Creed series, including the previously mentioned merchant stands and carts to fountains and rocks, crouching could have given a far smoother stealth experience. In addition to this, it could have been used to further steady the aim of bows, crossbows, throwing knives and other projectiles, while also offering an extra, if clichéd way of traversing the environment through small and otherwise inaccessible areas.
Although crouching could possibly offer a more seamless, stealth-based integration into the Assassin’s Creed gameplay, a bigger question would be posed over the control scheme than there would be for a cover add-on. The main reason for this would be that while covering can be added as a contextualised action, crouching would require a button that could be used at any time – a pressing problem with an already packed control scheme.
Whatever happens, however, I can safely say that the Assassin’s Creed franchise, whatever controversy or speculation it may have engendered, has been one of Ubisoft’s finest productions and has certainly given both this writer and a massive gaming community a countless amount of hours spent exploring the Middle East, Italy, Constantinople and the American frontier.
Let us know if you have any thoughts on the article or if you have any thoughts on what could be added or edited in the Assassin’s Creed franchise!