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My Thoughts on the Rope Launcher

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DarkAlphabetZoup's picture
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In Syndicate’s marketing, it’s called “the iconic Assassin Rope Launcher,” when it’s neither iconic nor terribly Assassin. In-game, Jacob and Evie Frye steal it off a gang leader’s corpse, and the whole affair is disappointingly lacking in ceremony. It’s used as a way to introduce Alexander Graham Bell as the Inventor figure in this story, the same way Leonardo was in AC2. It works in AC2, it doesn’t work so well here. Why? The difference is that Leonardo repaired Ezio’s father’s Hidden Blade, a symbolic and definitively ceremonial weapon with which Ezio’s family has a history. The Rope Launcher has no such charisma. It’s the only tool of its kind in the entire game, therefore it must be special, and therefore the guy they kill for it must also be special. Yet he doesn’t factor heavily into the story, and neither does the Rope Launcher. The Hook Blade was a genuine mainstay of the Turkish Brotherhood, the Ropedart was something Shao Jun invented herself, while the Rope Launcher is given the same attention and gravitas of picking up Bullets or Throwing Knives from a dead body.

Is all this because Syndicate’s devs at Ubisoft struggled when it came to weaving the Rope Launcher into the game as an integral part of the Brotherhood? Or was it because it was brought into the game too late in the development process, when they realized the streets were too wide for consistent Parkour, and needed a quick fix? Or was some other reason that we don't know about at play?

Either way, the Rope Launcher is a very limited tool. The player can’t use it while hanging from Ledges. It has no interactions with the AI. Enemies don’t hear the noise it makes if the player is too close, so they’re never incentivized to use normal navigation to skulk around in the shadows instead of making a loud sound. It is not usable in Combat, except to leave it. It’s not usable in Stealth, except to move around or stay out of sight. It’s such a simplistic tool that fulfils only the one function it’s Lock-and-Key’d to, and that’s all. It’s meant to be the game’s signature tool, but there’s so little the player can actually do with it. All of this means that while the Rope Launcher is useful, it is also both narratively and mechanically uninteresting.

Would it have been helpful to allow the player to drag enemy bodies back with the Rope Launcher, after killing them with a ranged weapon? Would it have been made more interesting if using it to climb and leap across gaps were left as-is, but using it to Stealth kill enemies subtracted from a resource? Would it have deepened Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s systems and gameplay if it could not only be used from a ledge, but also aimed manually (you can kind of do this already by aiming a Pistol, Throwing Knives or Hallucinogenic Darts before tapping the Rope Launcher button)? I don’t know. But all of the above is worth thinking about.

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You forgot it's main secondary purpose: allowing you to access vertical space to collect uninteresting collectibles that you otherwise couldn't. Wink

In all seriousness, I think the rope launcher came out of necessity. Ubisoft got so wrapped up in making as big immersive city in a time period defined by large thoroughfares for the fist time, that they forgot they part about this being an assassin game while they were building Grand Theft Carriage. They forgot that an Assassin still shouldn't kill civilians and damage property while driving these monsters down the street. They forgot all about social stealth and the blending mechanics have gotten worse and worse every game in that regard. They forgot that people like the parkour side of navigation instead of fucking driving a carriage. Again, they forgot they were making an Assassin's Creed game.

Then someone had the balls to point this out in a meeting, and it hit them all that they should be building an Assassin game. The execs probably said, "Well, we're not changing the carriage mechanics, or the lack of social stealth options, so what else can we do?"
Someone else probably said, "Remember when we lied in the Black Flag promos and said being an Assassin is all about having vertical advantages over your enemies instead of the social stealth we've been getting rid of for the better part of decade?"
The higher up probably said, "Yep. Good thing too."
Then the first guy probably said something like, "What if we had a way to give the player that vertical advantage that didn't involve any Grand Theft Carriage slowing in the way of climbing?"
Someone else probably chimed in with "Batman has a grappling gun after years of very expensive research at Wayne Enterprises."
Then the higher up, "I love it! Let's get one to our poor, fight for the people, Assassins."
"How do we do that?"
"How about we give it to the even poorer solitary street boss that they fight first?"
"Love it! Now we don't have to pretend to be a stealth game anymore! Now we can be the Grand Theft Carriage: Arkham that everyone wants us to be!"
"uhhh..."

"Victorian values meant brutalizing people who were often poor." - Charles Palliser

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It's just, such a lack of focus and cohesion on what the series is supposed to be about, leads to having to solve all of these little problems that would never be popping up to begin with, if Assassin's Creed still maintained a strong design vision.

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On the flip side, you know what they say, sex sells. Or, in the case of this game, we have to recognize that we are in the minority. Not many people would buy a 4th game in a row where you have a guy in a white robe that pretends to be in a group of monks in infiltrate a church and assassinate a religious figure. The game has to evolve. The game has to have new features. A new combat and/or navigation system, as well as it would be received around here, just wouldn't sell as many copies of a game as steam engines, top hats and grappling hooks. Dougie's lightning

"Victorian values meant brutalizing people who were often poor." - Charles Palliser

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Actually, that may not be so true anymore, since Ubisoft are cutting it out with cranking out a game every year and giving it a shiny new skin while keeping the guts the same. That they're taking a break shows that doing what they're doing just ain't going to cut it anymore, neither with the hardcores, nor with players who simply want to buy something worth their cash. Money is the only language a corporation understands, so if Ubisoft is taking a break, that means they're also making a huge investment in AC 2017's extra development time.

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I was thinking of how Blink works as a great form of transportation in Dishonored. How often you use it depended on how patient you were for mana to fill up, and although it may be a little overpowered, you certainly need it when guards get on you.

Now if the rope launcher could feel that way. They could try limiting it in ways, such as you can only use the zipline to move downward. Would have been nice if grappling wasn't so fast so that enemies actually had a chance to shoot you down (making assumptions here since I haven't played Syndicate). In future AC's that have the grapple hook, they can make it work slow at first and with a more limited range, then you can upgrade it throughout the game. Even give it other uses, like climb leaping to places you normally can't reach and grasping faraway ledges in midair. Just throwing out some ideas here.

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Not just limitation, because the Rope Launcher is terribly limited on its own. But that's not in terms of quantity, it's more in terms of quality. There's so little you can do with it already, but you can do what you CAN do, infinitely. So your suggestion of giving it more uses seems pretty great, as does the idea of not just letting you pop it off willy-nilly. In terms of only letting you move down, is that only using the zipline, or the actual vertical building-climb? We should be trying to be specific here so no miscommunication happens.

When it comes to rocketing up the side of a building in order to instantly reach its roof, that is the Rope Launcher's primary purpose and what it was invented for to begin with -- the buildings in Syndicate are too tall (as they are in London) for an Assassin to spend entire minutes of their life climbing them by hand. Same thing with the gaps, due to realistic streets. It's really one purpose, two halves of a function (bridge unreasonable distances quickly). Nobody would climb on buildings and most players would stay on the ground (which is an interesting challenge, truth be told).

I think in Syndicate enemies do have a chance to shoot you down pretty much anywhere, but it is genuinely just a Chance now instead of an almost complete guarantee because you can press a button to dodge them. This was one of Unity's worst sins. In previous Assassin's Creeds, you could Catch Ledge by holding your Empty Hand button while falling after being Shot or Rocked off a handhold. In Unity and Syndicate, no such control exists at all. So if you're shot off a zipline or building, you're screwed, having to do all of that again at best, or fully Desynchronize from the height of buildings in Syndicate at worst. Syndicate on the other hand does let you Dodge Bullets with the former Head button, even when on Buildings. So it might already let you Dodge bullets while on a zipline, I just don't remember that clearly. If so, that's a decent way of adding a sort of organic QTE that's actually alright, and kudos to them for it.

Grasping Ledges in mid-air with it would have actually been a perfect use! We can't even Manual Jump in Syndicate anymore, let alone do so in dangerous ways. But that is a damn good idea, and would be awesome for future ACs that end up using it, if there will be any.

I think, considering the Mana Regen on Blinks, it may have worked to give the Rope Launcher a literal cooldown. As in, the mechanism itself heats up quite a lot as you use it, and you have to wait for it to vent steam or heat before you Rope Launch again, even seeing the cool air-warping effect of the intense heat venting out. The Rope Launcher has so few uses, but in both of those uses it is hands-down overpowered beyond belief. Having a cooldown that not only functions as a limiter but also looks and FEELS cool to hiss and vent out of it might've gone a long way toward making rocketing up a building feel even more special and rewarding than usual.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
When it comes to rocketing up the side of a building in order to instantly reach its roof, that is the Rope Launcher's primary purpose and what it was invented for to begin with -- the buildings in Syndicate are too tall (as they are in London) for an Assassin to spend entire minutes of their life climbing them by hand.

We did it with Altair and Ezio just fine. And those big ass trees Connor had to climb weren't a detriment. I think the problem isn't the climb time of buildings. The problem is the UNINTERESTING climb time of buildings. Make them puzzle and people won't care so much.

Actually, the problem is the vocal majority that didn't like the "climb this viewpoint to open another portion of the map" present in just about every Ubisoft game. So in Syndicate they built consistent-looking buildings that would be boring to climb and gave the player a way around it. This is another aspect where AC3 had it right. You could unlock/unfog the map by *gasp* walking through the environment.

I say GET RID OF (defined) VIEWPOINTS ALL TOGETHER. Unlock the map by visiting the map. If you climb higher, you see further. Make the player WANT to visit the viewpoints to use them as, well, viewpoints, rather than a completionist collectible. Unfog the map by learning your environment. Assassin's aren't dumb, they'll remember. Or write it down on their map. And as part of this, use the AC3 pivot system of marking your own map to set your own fast-travel points (say, 10 of them) that we've discussed before.

Now the player WANTS to climb these challenging buildings to unlock the environment on their map - and if they don't, they don't have to, they just have to wander the streets.

Nobody would climb on buildings and most players would stay on the ground (which is an interesting challenge, truth be told).

Good. I'm still bitter about that AC:BF promo that insisted that being an assassin is about climbing on buildings to get a vertical advantage. What part of "Hide in Plain Sight" do they not understand? Social stealth is literally the first tenant of the creed - not "hide on top of buildings where enemies can't see you coming."

"Victorian values meant brutalizing people who were often poor." - Charles Palliser

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^Now that's an interesting comment. Provides solutions to what's going on without just band-aiding. Good stuff, dude. The reason they probably couldn't do that for Syndicate was because it had to be a Unity reskin due to monetary and temporal restraints. Otherwise, damn, climbing buildings feeling like a puzzle again would be awesome. I remember being nervous in AC1 and AC2 sometimes when my path up was blocked and I had to shimmy around and look for a way to continue my route. I was nervous, even though there was no Grip Meter, no danger of falling, etc. Was a cool feeling.

Climbing Viewpoints to actually see farther was an idea that breaks my heart when I see it not used to its full potential. In the demo build of AC1 that they first previewed at game expos and game shows, Viewpoints did not Unfog the map, Viewpoints merely ALLOWED you to USE Eagle Vision AT ALL. This was genius, and shows they already had the idea back then, they just couldn't -- or didn't want to -- do it. It would make me happy to have that brought back in a resurrected, evolved form.

This discussion was originally about the Rope Launcher and what a limited tool/item it is, but this is welcome stuff too.

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Yeah - I went a little off script there.

I honestly think that the rope launcher was designed not only out of necessity because the more modern cities are just too tall and far apart. That's part of it, yes. But I think it was designed as a band-aid/olive branch to the players that are just sick of the "climb this structure and unlock another part of the map" archetype. And that's where the rope launcher gives way to this further discussion of breaking the rules and creating new ones for unlocking the map.

They ventured toward the idea of obliterating viewpoints in AC3. Even if you got them all, there were low-lying areas not near one that were still fogged on the map that you had to walk to. To completely rid the game of them they could create some algorithm - on the ground, you constantly clear a 25m radius of the map, 1 story up that goes to 40m, 2 stories 60m, etc then the higher you are, the more of the map you unlock based on how far you can see. (I don't think they need to deal with sight-lines at all though - just a simple radius).

Of course, as long as currency is in the game, you can just have your character buy/acquire maps as well and bypass the whole unlocking it as you go experience for those that REALLY don't care.

"Victorian values meant brutalizing people who were often poor." - Charles Palliser

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I think the introduction of Currency into the series starting with AC2 was one of the worst parts of the franchise overall. Something about it always just rubbed me the wrong way. There's never a truly valuable way to spend money, because all of it is done for the sake of getting more money later. Refilling Items is the exception, and if that's the case then the amounts of money we get from Side Memories, Main Memories and other activities should be dramatically decreased. Money feels so meaningless in Assassin's Creed. Black Flag did alright with it because the Ship Upgrades you bought with your money actually made a life or death difference, and there was no way to "cheat" getting money quickly by buying landmarks and all that meaningless nonsense.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
I think the introduction of Currency into the series starting with AC2 was one of the worst parts of the franchise overall. Something about it always just rubbed me the wrong way. There's never a truly meaningful way to spend money, except to refill Items, and if that's the case then the amounts of money we get from Side Memories, Main Memories and other activities should be dramatically decreased. Money feels so meaningless in Assassin's Creed. Black Flag did alright with it because the Ship Upgrades you bought with your money actually made a life or death difference.

Could not agree more. Went into AC2 after playing AC1 knowing that there was a monetary system. Was disheartened. It grew on me. Gentrifying Italy/Rome to become assassin friendly and kick out the Borgias is about the only reason for it... but if the only reason is to unlock more shops to spend your meaningless money in... yawn. FLAE's eye roll

"Victorian values meant brutalizing people who were often poor." - Charles Palliser