Could Assassin’s Creed have benefited from a cover system?

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.

Could Assassin’s Creed have benefited from a cover system?

 

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.

Could Assassin’s Creed have benefited from a cover system?

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.

Could Assassin’s Creed have benefited from a cover system?

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.

Could Assassin’s Creed have benefited from a cover system?

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! 

Now moved on, Bracken is an aspiring tech and gaming journalist. Is anyone even reading this?

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  • Jason MacFadyen

    Good point, I’ve felt the same while playing AC. Maybe one day Ubisoft will implement it, until then it’s all about counter attack,…well written btw.

    • CataclysmicDawn

      Yeah, counter attacks and air assassinations! I would love to see Assassin’s Creed with a full on stealth element. It would give the game a real sense of variety in my opinion.

      Thanks for reading, Jason :D

  • Kumomeme

    one features that i stressed with assasin creed is no dodge roll features =..= this is basic move…really usefull for dodging gun shoot and in battlefield

    • CataclysmicDawn

      Actually, from Brotherhood onwards, the ability to dive/roll could have been very useful. Good spot, sir!

  • AG_Sonday

    Excellently written and I agree, the AC franchise is surprisingly still one of my favourites because while the games may have declined in quality, they still had a feel unlike any other and threw you into this rich, atmospheric world that was recreated with an amazing amount of historical accuracy. That’s what I love about every game in the franchise without a doubt.

    There’s been a semblance of token stealth throughout the series but where Assassin’s Creed was more about staying hidden, blending in and not drawing attention the subsequent games tended more towards action and became what Azhar affectionately refers to as “Warrior’s Creed”. It’s more all-out action than anything else and senseless action at that. It’s at such a point that when marketing AC III Ubisoft released a trailer featuring Connor charging onto a battlefield and literally massacring as many Red Coats as he could. What kind of fucking assassin is that?

    Whatever may happen next, Ubisoft needs to retain that core experience that the game offers as well as the sublime free-running system but take a look at the rest of the gameplay. The game should be more geared towards stealth kills, non-lethal playthroughs, using the environment and parkour to stay out of sight etc. What are rooftops for if not to be unseen?

    A full-on stealth experience with Assassin’s Creed would be amazing if Ubisoft could just make it.

    • CataclysmicDawn

      There actually is nothing else like it. There is nothing that gives you the ability to traverse beautifully created cities and explore the intricate streets and alleys with the finesse that the Assassin’s Creed series offers.

      I’ve always pictured it as more of a sense of anonymity giving the Assassins their power, but when you’re openly carrying several weapons, your ability to remain unnoticed is a bit non-existent. Warrior’s Creed seems a fairly appropriate moniker, given the lack of subtlety used within the last couple of AC titles.

      I cannot see a video-game with the title of “Assassin’s Creed” ever being geared towards non-lethal playthroughs, but at the very least, I’d love to see a more subtle and sneaky experience replacing the gung-ho approaches of Connor and AC: Revelations’ Ezio.

      • AG_Sonday

        You’re onto something, it’s not lurking in shadows but rather that you’re unknown and can thus strike from any position. AC III was actually starting to get somewhere with being able to hide in bushes but of course that was overshadowed by the rampant killing.

        It’s probably a bit silly to foresee a non-lethal playthrough in a game where you are an assassin but perhaps there could be more methods by which to kill your target. Maybe poison or a trap or pay off a guard etc. I don’t want the series to become Hitman but an open-world game with the experience and atmosphere of an AC title combined with an absolutely open-ended mission would be something quite special.

        • CataclysmicDawn

          Exactly, an Assassin doesn’t necessarily have to be skulking around in darkness, but they have to retain some form of stealth, or else they are just a hired brute. Particularly in the AC series, where the focus has previously always been on making the Assassins a graceful and subtle sect of society, Connor’s brutish nature seems very very out of place.

          Open-ended in a similar way to how Dishonored was? Several ways to get at your target but ultimately they all lead to the same story progression? Because to be quite honest, I can’t see an Assassin’s Creed game with multiple story arcs working. However, multiple assassination styles working in tandem with a more subtle assassin could work perfectly. Make it feel like more of an art than its predecessors.

          • AG_Sonday

            Open-ended missions with cinematic and compelling linear narrative would be the best option.

          • CataclysmicDawn

            On that, we agree.

    • CK

      That would have to make Ubisoft reinvent the series and i don’t think they would do that but i agree with you. A assassin needs to stay hidden.

  • AwesomeKai

    I disagree with you. The game is about social stealth: hide in plain sight. Not under a box or behind a 3ft wall.
    Although I agree wth AG_Sonday, you can compare AC1 trailer with AC3 trailer and notice that AC is driving away from stealth and into mindless action. AC1 trailer you can see Altair isn’t detected until he kills his target, and even hen he manages to disapear. On the other hand, Connor attacked in a way that he couldn’t get more attention to him. “Hide? Nah, I’ll kill them all”

    • CataclysmicDawn

      See, but I felt, particularly from Brotherhood onwards, there were lots of areas which had no crowds to lurk in, lots of restricted zones which could have been aided by being able to at least crouch. Remember from when destroying Cesare’s war machines in Brotherhood, you had all these isolated, deserted villages where you could have taken full advantage of crouching behind walls or covering behind barriers.

      I do believe the series lost a lot of its purpose by making Connor a veritable walking tank, and in that respect, I think a stealth-based change is needed.

      Thanks for reading and commenting though!

    • CK

      Assassins,Ninjas,secret agents,etc…, should be able to crouch or cover. Ubisoft should definitely incorporate this system in the series and let the gamer decide when and where to use it. I still love the series but i would love to see a cover or crouching system implemented.