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What should the principles of AC combat be?

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I think everyone has their own idea on what combat should feel like in AC, so I thought I'd start this thread to get a sense of it.

For me, I think that AC is overall meant to be an accessible game, and that it follows that its combat system should be simple and easy to learn. That said, I think it should be less about a lot of slow sweeping attacks, and more about a few quick, precise attacks during opportune moments. It should convey the feeling of being an exceptionally agile combatant who isn't as directly powerful as their opponents, but more dangerous. Guard morale should return, eroded by the comrades killed and bolstered by new allies joining the fight. (nothing as binary as "kill the captain and they all run away", though such an action should have a larger impact than taking out a basic guard.) And at a certain critical mass of enemies in a fight, they should have the ability to instantly kill you if you don't run, and make running more difficult. (things like holding you down for other enemies should come back, and be evadable)

EDIT: one less-important thing I didn't mention is tweaks to the idea of end-of-combat animations that Unity introduced. those animations should introduce different failstates depending on the enemy you're fighting. For guards they should knock you to the ground and bind your hands, for criminals/templar affiliates they should stab and loot you, and targets could have their own unique kills that fit their personality. (this is NOT an important aspect of combat or something that should be high priority, but I'm just thinking of an ideal system, not a realistic one)

Anyone have a different perception of the ideal AC combat system?

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I'm not sure if you read my post on what my desired AC combat system would be like, but your post is essentially how I see the "feeling" of mine in my head too.

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Assassins Creed had two combat overhauls in the last few games (them being the Arkham Asylum style combat for AC3 and the fencing style in Unity), so another one would be welcome.

Whatever the new combat system, it needs to fix existing problems. Some glitches with combat mode were annoying. In Unity I've had times where I wanted to do a dodge or staggering strike, but took cover instead. Air assassinations on guards during combat started with the tackle part of the animation and ended with drawing out your main weapon. And what's up with sneaking up on an enemy who's busy fighting, only to attack him instead of assassinate? The previous combat system had none of these problems.

One thing I'd like to see implemented is grappling. In other words, grabbing your opponent's weapon. Useful for disarming and maybe a doorway to another type of kill animations.

I guess this grapple disarming would lead to a quick time event. Different weapons would of course have different chances of the grapple move working. Swords and daggers would of course have the least chance of success, while spears, axes, maces, hammers and clubs have a much higher chance because of how much opportunity each weapon has to be grabbed.

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My worry with disarming is that it's just another version of breaking someone's guard. I think having animations where you use someone's weapon in them is fine, but I'd rather that not be a mechanic and just something to add flavor. introducing a QTE system isn't really very interesting to me either. I disliked that the combat against animals in AC was QTEs rather than a more dynamic system.

Guard breaking should definitely be part of AC, but I think it could be simplified from its current state. There's no real reason for it not to be a contextual action performed by the normal attack input, meaning the obstacle is refocused on having to spend longer dealing with one person. It also establishes the Assassin's natural skill against a normal single-target enemy. those who can't be guard broken should be done in by counters or sidesteps, which is similar to how it works now. (counter on empty hand, sidestep on legs) I'm also not too fond of the "hold button for [something else]" from Unity, at least applied to the weapon hand input. And also the heavy attack/normal attack split made it feel more like I was often using brute-force and less like I was using redirection and sneaky stabs.

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Grappling certainly wouldn't work along with your quick death approach. It'd be more compatible with some of the previous entries, probably the Ezio games. No chance of the series going back to that, so oh well.

Your combat might work great for an ancient China or Japan setting, which I hope Ubisoft would do soon, and no, a 2D sidescroller doesn't count.

I would like to see shields used if a future game takes place in a period where shields are prevalent. The assassin would be able to carry a small or medium shield on his back, while a large shield can only be held after taken from an enemy. Shields would of course offer a great defense and require a strategy to get past.

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to be a bit more specific about what I mean by "quick" attacks and feeling "agile", I'm talking about the amount of time it takes from when you press a button and the action being performed, the length of the animation, and the ability to cancel out of animations either by pressing sidestep, parry, or beginning to run away. same goes for transitioning between animations, which feels sluggish at the moment. Speaking of, the reason I brought up "sidestep" is because it's a less involved animation than a roll, and could be considerably shorter.

There are also some unusually unresponsive actions such as throwing a smoke bomb, which often leads to player pressing the button twice and throwing two. It seems to make more sense for initial activiation to be quick but throwing a second one to be on a short recharge, something easily represented in the UI. And if the sluggish activation is intentional because of the power of the smoke bomb, then I feel that's another argument for making them far more limited, more like the stun bombs in Unity. Less about reducing visibility for a sustained time, more about throwing up a LoS blocker that fades quickly, and thus something used when surrounded or about to jump into a hide spot/duck around a corner. Best used when escaping from combat, not as a shortcut to make it easier.

The start-up time on getting to full running speed during a fight has led to some awkward-looking moments in recent games, where the assassin gets hit on their backside. I think that the assassin should be able to break off from a fight without taking damage as long as they're not surrounded, aren't facing an enemy with similar skills to theirs, and don't start running during an enemy attack.

And with both the smoke bomb and movement, the ability to parry/sidestep/attack should be available to cancel into at any time, so even if you make a mistake when timing your escape, you can avoid damage if you time your inputs correctly. Also to make entering a fight less of a laborious process. related, Instead of air assassinations doing nothing if the enemy's detected you, when not have them transition instantly into a normal attack? An assassin should be aware of their target being aware of them, and this could be a better way to show what's happening than the traditional "throwing the assassin off" animation. I've consistently seen new players get confused by that.

Trying to give more mechanical detail as to what I'm talking about rather than just using vaguely descriptive terms.

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I can answer the question in the topic title with a single word.

Fun.

It's a video game. I want to have fun.

“To have peace there must be strife; both are part of the structure of the world and requirements.” - Ancient Egyptian Proverb

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Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
I can answer the question in the topic title with a single word.

Fun.

It's a video game. I want to have fun.

This thread isn't asking "what do you want it to be", it's asking "what do you think it needs to become what you want it to be".

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
I can answer the question in the topic title with a single word.

Fun.

It's a video game. I want to have fun.

This thread isn't asking "what do you want it to be", it's asking "what do you think it needs to become what you want it to be".

I think his one word answer still applies, though.

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My main idea is, it needs to have the same fluidity of Brotherhood's system. It does not have to be the exact SAME system, but it should evoke much the same FEELING. The lack of fluidity starting from AC3, to AC4 and Rogue (which made it worse) to AC Unity (which made it the absolute worst, most sluggish and just least Assassin-like) is absolutely horrendous. If I were to play an hour of Brotherhood Combat right now, and 10 minutes of Unity Combat it would feel like something disgusting to the palate.

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JoeyFogey wrote:
Calvar The Blade wrote:
Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
I can answer the question in the topic title with a single word.

Fun.

It's a video game. I want to have fun.

This thread isn't asking "what do you want it to be", it's asking "what do you think it needs to become what you want it to be".

I think his one word answer still applies, though.

You're right, I didn't specify that the answer should be an attempt at meaningful contribution to the discussion or at the very least useful as a critique. Loopholes.

@DAZ, my problem with the flow of brotherhood combat is it meant enemies offered very little resistance, in terms of counter windows, damage dealt when hitting, or length of time required to defeat them. In something like the Animus VR it worked because it was an endless stream of enemies and became a pure reflex challenge. In actual situations with finite numbers of guards, combat never kept that pace, became monotonous, and ended too quickly.

AC3 attempted to solve that by having larger numbers of enemies, giving them more ability to resist due to different inputs needed to kill some enemies, more varied attacks that had to be evaded in different ways, and some that required more time investment to kill, requiring you to make sure you didn't overdedicate and get hit by another attack. I think this was the most satisfying flow in the AC series, challenging and fast-paced, but still pretty overpowering once mastered. Black Flag neutered it slightly, except in the ship combat where enemy density and a cramped setting combined to make fights occasionally intense.

Unity's goals were different than all previous games: to create a combat system that could not be used to take on limitless numbers of foes. It was undermined by another goal: create a meaningful progression system. The bones of Unity's combat are fine, built to make single-target encounters more personal, and multiple-target encounters more threatening. The messiness introduced by wildly varying health/attack stats and poorly-implemented unlockable moves (the moves feel like they were layered in after the other mechanics were built, with the result them being both unnecessary and overly useful) is what's wrong with it. It's like playing the same game on 10 different difficulties at once: where once your fights might have seemed pretty close to the design intention, going over a block in the city will reset the balance in either your favor or theirs, and result in a less interesting experience either way.

It's an example of a progression system not suited for the structure of the game it was implemented in. The answer isn't necessarily to cut the concept entirely, but to implement it in a way that doesn't feel like it undermines the relationship the underlying combat system is attempting to establish between you and the enemies you face. I don't want to fight the stars over someone's head, I want to fight them, who they are. Someone stronger can exist, but I'd prefer if they weren't stronger solely because of the longer bar also over their head. And I'd prefer that they didn't look and behave like a clone of the guy with fewer stars and a shorter bar.

You and I may disagree on this, but when I say I want faster-paced fights I don't mean I want to be able to kill as many people as quickly and easily as I can in Brotherhood. I mean I want the pace to raise on both sides. I want fast attacks, I want them to have faster attacks, if not as fast as mine, and same for ability to kill. I want fighting seven of them to be a serious challenge (that looks badass when pulled off), and I want more than that to mean near-certain death if I don't run and either re-engage from stealth or escape. I want, in general, to feel as if I am a heightened version of a human without feeling superhuman. Unity's combat structure could definitely become that with some tweaking to attack speed, rethinking or discarding of the "special" movelist, and a more suitable progression ecosystem.

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I'd be fine with your idea for the Combat System, actually.
Your comment and explanation are sensible and reasonable - and on closer inspection of Unity (ie, playing a few combat encounters while reading this comment) it's glaring how true this all is.

"I want to feel like a heightened version of a human without feeling superhuman."
^That. Even AC's lore supports and seems to WANT this sort of feeling in its protagonists.

I don't necessarily need to be able to murder people at the exact same pace as Brotherhood, but I do wish that fighting didn't seem crippled or made boring on purpose. It's possible to make people avoid a system without eliminating how engaging it is. The Last of Us combat is extremely satisfying but even on Normal at times, it just makes sense to maybe pass by this group of hunters for now. Shadow of Mordor achieves this with the insane amount of Uruks capable of fighting you at one time, and I've run from combat from time to time even after killing a large number of them, realizing my health bar can't keep this up for two more minutes. I think AC does need to be special by adopting its own method of Fun but Challenging combat. Your proposal of increased flow, but making even individual opponents feel like more than moving scarecrows to chop up is a good one.

The flow and speed of AC combat since Brotherhood and AC3 has been dramatically lowered, and it's becoming more and more obvious that most if not all of Unity's problems were due to good intentions that were in no way thought through properly. After thinking about what you said, it's no surprise that I started Unity going, "I sort of like the combat system, it's pretty damn fun!" and as I got closer to the end of the game, I changed to, "This is literally the worst combat system I've ever played in my life, what was I thinking?"

I feel like they may have lowered the speed of combat a little out of worry for players not being able to pick it up with a faster speed - but this is an act of cheating both the skilled players and the beginners of a proper experience.

EDIT: My friend is currently playing AC2, AC1 had become one of her favorite games of all time after I asked her to play it, and she and I had a conversation about fighting random Templars in AC1. They have all of Altair's moves, they can Grab Break you, they can Guard Break you, they can Throw you, they can COUNTER you! And even fighting a single one of them feels like an intense experience - but it is very possible to kill them. We both miss that.

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I do appreciate things like enemies that use stun bombs and dodge attacks. AC has definitely avoided having any guards that really feel as potentially overpowering as the high level AC1 guards. It was partially their mechanics but mostly how much it simply LOOKED like they were brutalizing you. I do get some sense of that in Unity with the animations enemies now perform when they kill you. No longer does the player merely do a silly ragdoll.

EDIT: and to clarify what I said about attack speeds, I'm thinking in terms of reducing the time between player making decisions and the player's action being performed. I still think parrying should be easy to do if you're paying attention, with a fairly forgiving window (at least for the basic parry) but that you'll just have to worry about it more often per enemy.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I do appreciate things like enemies that use stun bombs and dodge attacks. AC has definitely avoided having any guards that really feel as potentially overpowering as the high level AC1 guards. It was partially their mechanics but mostly how much it simply LOOKED like they were brutalizing you. I do get some sense of that in Unity with the animations enemies now perform when they kill you. No longer does the player merely do a silly ragdoll.

EDIT: and to clarify what I said about attack speeds, I'm thinking in terms of reducing the time between player making decisions and the player's action being performed. I still think parrying should be easy to do if you're paying attention, with a fairly forgiving window (at least for the basic parry) but that you'll just have to worry about it more often per enemy.

Definitely, yeah.

@EDIT: That's what I thought. I really dislike pressing the button and it feeling literally laggy/unresponsive. It's truly unpleasant to fight in AC3/Black Flag/Rogue with anything except Tomahawk/Swords/Sword+Dagger. It's completely WEIRD to me, AC2 to AC:R had Hidden Blades be the fastest, most responsive Weapon in the game. Starting with AC3, and even MORE HORRENDOUSLY in AC4/Rogue, Hidden Blades are so freaking SLOW/laggy despite being light extensions of the Assassin's arm!

As for Unity, well it completely shot itself in the foot in terms of this, by eliminating Hidden Blade as a combat weapon entirely.

About Parries:
Yes, completely agree. I need to say this, though; Assassin's Creed should seriously look at one specific part of Arkham or SoM's parry system.

In Arkham and Shadow of Mordor, if you parry/counter during the prompt, you have no doubt that the game is THERE for you, it's got your back, it says, "okay player, you did exactly what you were supposed to, and I'll now uphold my part of the bargain." Arkham and Mordor are insanely fluid, and despite the fact that their parries don't do any DAMAGE, they've always felt much, much better and more reliable.

Contrast the fact that I've had SO many times in Assassin's Creed starting with 3, then Black Flag, then Rogue and now Unity where I have clearly done the input for a Parry/Counter, and that same input lag/unresponsiveness bleeds over to that too. There's nothing more bitter-tasting and unpleasant than feeling cheated out of a successful Counter; the same :/ feeling as a Smoke Bomb not being thrown, so you press the button again and it throws two, the same feeling as your Assassin not tossing an attack out/doing it too slowly despite the fact that you've clearly done input for it.

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Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
I can answer the question in the topic title with a single word.

Fun.

It's a video game. I want to have fun.

How about fun without copying another game's combat system. Ubisoft favors Arkham Asylum's simplistic fighting, but there's too much much of a difference in the games to make it work right. Batman has only his fists for attack and some gadgets, which resulted in the awesome flying-across-the-room freeflow experience, while the assassins didn't require as much agile movement due to the various weapons, ranged weapons and tools.

The whole locked on combat deal won't make a return, but they could always bring some moves back. Like my previous idea:

aurllcooljay wrote:
Head Button in Combat
Head button : When being attacked, parry attack. Just like in AC3 except just press it, not hold down, and no slow motion effect. When parrying:
Armed hand : Counter attack.
Empty hand button : Throw
Legs button : Stun with a kick.
Head button : Disarm.
When not being attacked, Head button will taunt (wave weapon around and say random phrase).

Empty Hand Button in Combat
Empty hand button : Grab for human shield. Human shield will be like in Splinter Cell Conviction. You use the character to ward off attacks, both ranged and melee. Enemies won't try to attack with the character in between you and them, but they'll try to go around. Options while using a person as a shield:
Empty hand button : Throw.
Legs button : Quick release.
Armed hand : Attack enemies. You'll be able to do this by having the human shield in a headlock with one arm and holding the weapon in the other hand. Helps with enemies trying to go around the shield.
Head button : Kill grabbed character.

Legs Button in Combat
Legs button : Press to strafe, direction influenced by Analog stick . Hold and release to dodge.

Armed Button in Combat
Armed hand : Attack. Nuff said.

If they could bring back a few of these moves, I'd be happy. Of course I like using PS3 R1 button and PS3 R2 button for ranged attacks and tools in Unity.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Calvar The Blade wrote:
I do appreciate things like enemies that use stun bombs and dodge attacks. AC has definitely avoided having any guards that really feel as potentially overpowering as the high level AC1 guards. It was partially their mechanics but mostly how much it simply LOOKED like they were brutalizing you. I do get some sense of that in Unity with the animations enemies now perform when they kill you. No longer does the player merely do a silly ragdoll.

EDIT: and to clarify what I said about attack speeds, I'm thinking in terms of reducing the time between player making decisions and the player's action being performed. I still think parrying should be easy to do if you're paying attention, with a fairly forgiving window (at least for the basic parry) but that you'll just have to worry about it more often per enemy.

Definitely, yeah.

@EDIT: That's what I thought. I really dislike pressing the button and it feeling literally laggy/unresponsive. It's truly unpleasant to fight in AC3/Black Flag/Rogue with anything except Tomahawk/Swords/Sword+Dagger. It's completely WEIRD to me, AC2 to AC:R had Hidden Blades be the fastest, most responsive Weapon in the game. Starting with AC3, and even MORE HORRENDOUSLY in AC4/Rogue, Hidden Blades are so freaking SLOW/laggy despite being light extensions of the Assassin's arm!

As for Unity, well it completely shot itself in the foot in terms of this, by eliminating Hidden Blade as a combat weapon entirely.

About Parries:
Yes, completely agree. I need to say this, though; Assassin's Creed should seriously look at one specific part of Arkham or SoM's parry system.

In Arkham and Shadow of Mordor, if you parry/counter during the prompt, you have no doubt that the game is THERE for you, it's got your back, it says, "okay player, you did exactly what you were supposed to, and I'll now uphold my part of the bargain." Arkham and Mordor are insanely fluid, and despite the fact that their parries don't do any DAMAGE, they've always felt much, much better and more reliable.

Contrast the fact that I've had SO many times in Assassin's Creed starting with 3, then Black Flag, then Rogue and now Unity where I have clearly done the input for a Parry/Counter, and that same input lag/unresponsiveness bleeds over to that too. There's nothing more bitter-tasting and unpleasant than feeling cheated out of a successful Counter; the same :/ feeling as a Smoke Bomb not being thrown, so you press the button again and it throws two, the same feeling as your Assassin not tossing an attack out/doing it too slowly despite the fact that you've clearly done input for it.

I disagree that the hidden blade should be a combat weapon. The fact that it's strapped to wrists means it has far less reach than a sword, not to mention that it's more awkward to parry or strike a sword with. This would definitely result in slower attacks. On the other hand the standard assassin sword is definitely meant to be quick and nimble in their use. Again looking at the sword-fighting shown in cutscenes versus in-game.
With 3 Ubi was intending to make it clear what the hidden-blade's purpose was, but it was diluted by the ability of many other weapons to perform the same stealth actions. Unity is far more successful in its logical limiting of which weapon can be used in what context. It still appears in combat animations, but only in ones where it makes sense to incorporate it along with the other weapon.

The thing about the hidden blade is it's an unusual weapon, one that doesn't really need to be there to create a stealth game where you sneakily stab people. Many games have similar gameplay using daggers. And so when it's not immediately clear from the gameplay why Assassins use these things, what clear advantages they're meant to have, it causes people to question why they're there. The main thing I think could change about the split between these weapons is adding the ability to display your hidden blades as a less-noticable version of unsheathing your weapon. It's also a bit clumsy how the main weapon works now, with holding the attack button. But I appreciate that guards and npcs both react to that action. It would be interesting if hidden blades were able to be used as a more tactical way of intimidating an NPC, since such an action could easily go unnoticed.

I actually disagree as far as counters in AC3. Activating it is extremely responsive in my opinion. Their speed is what makes the sluggishness of throwing a smoke bomb stand out. And in Unity too, it was fairly simple if you were timing it properly. Im unsure exactly what you're talking about in regards to how arkham or mordor differs. Are you referring to enemies being open for a lot of hits after being countered? I feel like that's pretty identical to the [counter] > [break defense] > [attack] combo in AC3.

In Unity it depends on what kind of enemy you're fighting, some might only be open to a few hits if you don't land a perfectly timed parry. I suspect that might be what you're referring to. I don't think removing the advantage for better timing is a solution, but I think that the window for the perfect parry should probably be wider for the basic archetypes of enemies and narrower for the higher-level ones.

@Aurllcooljay
Simplistic doesn't always mean that something has no depth, and complicated doesn't always mean that something has a lot of depth. I think there's a reason that a lot of these things were taken out of AC's combat.

What is the purpose of a taunt? To draw the enemy to you. What does this add to a fight? does it mean you get to counter the enemy's attack faster? that problem can be solved by making enemies attack more often. Does it have any bearing on the tactics of hand-to-hand fighting? Probably only in movies. Taunting fits better in stealth scenarios, as splinter cell has shown. There it has a clear use that can't be as simply solved without it. It makes more sense for voices to be investigated than a rock being thrown, as a human being in a restricted area is a more clearly pressing matter to investigate than a random sound. The fact that claiming the Y input means less opportunity for an Eagle-Vison related combat mechanic to come in also a factor, but the same could go for any other idea folks have for a move there.

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I've watched a bunch of people play AC3, and in combat a clear issue emerged: they always pressed the empty hand button twice to ensure they got the counter, which resulted in the enemy being thrown. In your example they would disarm them, and slowing down to think about their choice wouldn't help. I don't think AC is better served by rewarding parries by presenting players with four choices to make in a very short amount of time. Instead why not map parry to the button that normally performs the move they'd most likely want to use after parrying: attack. The obvious problem being that AC's parry system is partially meant to require the player to switch out of the "attack" mentality and into defence.

To solve this problem, it could be based not only on your timing of the press but on the timing of pressing the directional stick towards the enemy who is attacking you. This effectively simulates the same sort of "gear switch" in your mind, but does it while allowing you to keep your fingers in the same position, touching the same things you were already touching: an different twist on the player's natural state, but also a more natural extension of it.

It also becomes a way to highlight the dangers of being surrounded: more angles you must react from. I believe this sort of system is similar to how Metal Gear Rising: Revengance handles its parries, though in that game they are on an extremely narrow timing window. Clearly AC would need to be more forgiving, but the concept itself is not inherently "hardcore".

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I have issues with the Assassin grabbing and breaking defense in combat. I think of them as agile opponents who find and exploit weaknesses, not brawlers who create openings through force. Grabbing is more of an issue to me because it sort of trivializes the fact that you're in a fight, and makes you ask questions: "if he was able to just reach out and grab that guy in the middle of a fight, why doesn't he kill them instantly when I use the normal attack button?" "Why did it look like that guard put their weapon down at their side, turned around, and waited for the 'i'm being grabbed' animation to complete?".

I think this is another case of something that has a place in the game, but in a different aspect of it. Unity introduced non-lethal takedowns as something accessible at any time by holding the empty hand input. This is a nice option, but rather mechanically uninteresting. Without our pre-existing concepts of what "Alive" and "Dead" mean, this just seems like a slower takedown. How do you make that more interesting? What about a non-lethal takedown resulting in that splinter-cell style grab from behind? Your assassin puts their blade to the guard's throat and can interrogate, kill, knock out, or choose none and just move them along, using them as a hostage that deters and alerts guards to some extent. Clearly there'd have to be a lot of thought put into how different levels of guards would react depending on how high-value the hostage you have is, if you'd be able to do this to targets and how the options would differ if the hostage was a target, and if there'd be a limit on how long you'd be able to restrain them before you'd be forced to either knock them out or let them break free.)

The result: new way to directly interact with guards that hinges on the fact that they are still alive. (making it matter if they're alive or dead AFTER you're done with them is a whole different issue, possibly involving letting NPCs revive unconscious folks and a more complex notoriety system that contextualizes the specific effects of your play style on the world.)
A little bit more detail than I needed to go into, but just an example of how this could be better served to enhance a different area of the game while feeling more consistent with how we think of the Assassin: they gain the advantage from the shadows, and so it's fitting that stealth is the mode they have to be in to take hostages. Obviously this could be used as a prelude to combat, allowing you to position yourself advantageously or lead a group into a trap.

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I like the idea of strafe/side-step, but I want to make sure it isn't a repeat of how it worked in the past games, where it only threw off enemy attacks in very specific circumstances. I believe the roll in Unity is influenced by movement direction, and it has the kind of reliability I'd want. That kind of combination would also tie in well with a directionally-influenced parry system. I talked before about changing the animation and distance traveled on the roll to speed up it up, and a brisk side-step was definitely what I had in mind.

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With all that said, I understand why AC has looked to Arkham for a while. After all Arkham came out of a similar philosophy for what AC was doing with combat (and came out after the first AC) even though it took it in a different, more movement and aggression-oriented direction that AC did at first. It's only natural to look to what competitors are doing in this industry: after all games are still such a new thing, and everyone's still figuring out what the best ways to do certain things are. The general direction of Arkham isn't where I'd like the series to go combat-wise, and Unity has at the very least shown that's not what Ubi wants either.

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@Metal Gear Rising-esque Parry System.
I'm in favor of this. It doesn't have to be the same level of surgical precision as MGR:R, as you mentioned, but it would be great to have something like this, where the shift is more Mental than it is Physical. Assassin's Creed is a game played more in the Mind than on the Controller - most things point to it. Its Parkour is simple to execute physically, yet so many new players still fumble on it. The Combat is generally easy to get a handle on, and even those players can get through it with fair ease. The Stealth is in a weird area right now, but historically it's also been about giving you room to breathe within a crowd despite being mechanically uncomplicated.

I like this control change because of the level of streamlining that went into thinking of it.
It is true that the player's hands are going to be on the left stick and the attack button anyway, and having to press that button in the direction of an incoming attack certainly would make being surrounded add to the depth of combat by the mere positioning of enemies relative to the player.

Physical Simplicity that gives way to Mental Depth is what made the early Assassin's Creeds games of such quality in my eyes. I'd like to see an honest return to such principles and this would help that.

@Hidden Blade not being a weapon - Assassin's Creed is only halfway about realism, and they can do whatever they want. The Hidden Blade is iconic, it's what makes Assassins differ from an easily visible Lore standpoint from any other silent killer. Not only that, even if it weren't included in combat, I would want the Hidden Blade to at least be treated with the same amount of respect it was in AC1 to Revelations. In those games, it was easy to get attached to the little device - almost as if it were a part of the Assassin, or even as if it were both weapon and ally in tough times.

===============

It's still extremely strange that AC "looks to Arkham" but since AC1 to Revelations its Counters have felt nowhere near as fluid or intelligent.

And it's exactly after AC 1 to Revelations that it started this apparent idolization.

I can appreciate the sentiment of AC having its own combat system but so far all its done with several consecutive attempts is not impressive. Also, AC DID have its own combat system in AC 1 to Revelations and I was pretty happy with the way things were back then, as a core. As far as I know, no other game series has had that exact same system, that you could really make parallels to. Not with the same veracity as you could say Arkham and SoM's combat systems are physical clones. It relied on actual timing, something that was getting phased out of games more and more in favor of a prompt.

You've got to understand where I come from when I see Shadow of Mordor rip an entire system from Arkham, first say, "well that's dumb," then play it and feel pleased because it simply just WORKS. When I contrast that with my experience with AC combat post-Desmond Saga (AC3's was still alright with Tomahawk, like I said) it's just obvious which system preserves flow better, which system feels tenser, which system gets old less quickly.

Maybe I'm just cynical, maybe I've been let down by post-Desmond AC enough times.

I don't really feel like Arkham and Shadow of Mordor fulfill 100% of what an Assassin would fight like, either. It's just that I'm willing to accept that "for now," because it's the closest acceptable alternative I have.

I think much of that MIGHT have to do with animation quality, though. Compared to SoM and Arkham, some of AC's combat animations are just very... I'm not even sure what the right word is here, but incongruous? With the rest of the system, and with Fluidity? Starting in Black Flag and moving into Rogue and Unity, you can sit a player down and ask them what they think of all the animations. They'll likely tell you, "They're buggy as hell." Some are overly long. Certainly in SoM and Arkham, some animations (like ones that actually cause a KO or Kill) are fairly long as well. If they're Standard, then this is compensated by your character being able to get hit out of them. You're still in control and able to Counter that. In the case of Executions, they cannot be interrupted, but they're at least much flashier than normal ones and you choose when to actually use those. They're also not that much longer, and for an animation that hefts a high function (actually taking a hostile out of the fight) after having to build up to it (playing flawlessly for an amount of hits) the payoff feels significant.

For reference, I land 100% of Perfect Parries in Unity, and I land about 90% of Counters in AC3/4/Rogue. Unity especially makes it incredibly easy to Perfect Parry even SEVERAL opponents surrounding you if you stop mashing Attack to strike everything and be more prepared to tap Parry once you see Golden Flashes in between your strikes. I want to think it's fair to say that I "know how to play these games." When I talk about what I talk about, I'm again referring to a feeling of occasional unresponsiveness, so I'd like to think it's rarely a problem on my part. Especially because as comparison I never had this problem with AC1 and 2, or AC B and Rev - NOR do I have it in SoM and Arkham, not even when I go back to replay these games. AC3, 4, Rogue are the only games out of that bunch (they did fix this in Unity, but added other problems) where I often feel "cheated" out of a successful Parry. Combat in Assassin's Creed hasn't felt like it's had a rewarding Flow for a long time for me. It feels very Stop and Go.

However, I recognize all this is just nostalgia in the face of current displeasure.

In terms of making AC's incoming Combat better, the only real option Ubisoft's going to have is trying out different combat systems, playing them for EXTENDED periods of time and seeing which ones they're genuinely satisfied with. That's sort of the key word there. I feel as if, credit where credit's due, even Unity's devs could tell all the things that were wrong with their game, and the pressure to finish it quickly just had them cover them up with shiny stuff and pray. The Parry on Attack Button idea is something they should seriously try out. DmC: Devil May Cry also did it, and it works pretty well.

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I definitely think Arkham has a combat system that stops less and is more interesting to play over and over, but I don't think the latter is related as closely to the former as you do. AC is more focused on a sense of physical reality in movement, wheras batman is trying to replicate the exaggerated movement of a comic book. AC shouldn't move like that, and the nature of the lethal weapons you're using makes that even less appealing, since it cheapens the life of every enemy. Brotherhood was where AC started taking influence from arkham: kill chaining, indicators for when to counter. AC3 just added more onto that: faster movement and more brutal animations. I'd agree that there's not as much clear physicality put into the choreography of fight animations in AC, but that again has to do with the way they commit to overexaggeration of movement. Batman looks "smooth" to me, but he also looks incredibly ungrounded and non-human at times, when he magnetizes to an enemy from across the room. I actually prefer something that looks "rough" but relatively human. And Talion is all about wraith powers that allow for similar but more justified strange movements. AC would have to work harder to reach the same level with the same kind of presentation, which is why I appreciate Unity reducing the emphasis on canned combat animations. Hopefully that can allow the general fight animations more room to improve.

The current thing of non-lethal kills by default and real kills if you feel like it: that's dumb. If killing is just an inconvenience in combat, then it makes no sense why you'd kill anyone. And if it makes no sense and we're so good in fights that we can win everything non-lethally, then why do we even have the option to kill? For combat kills to be in the game, they shouldn't exist only as something you can do for fun. That sets a grim tone. Either we're the magical non-lethal assassin who only kills targets, or we kill by default and not doing so requires you to do non-lethal stealth or escape the fight. Combat should be a consequence.

Regarding the hidden blade: realism doesn't matter, but suspension of disbelief does. You put someone in a world that is identical to our own on the surface, and you give them a strange and unique weapon. You don't need to prove that the weapon would be realistic, but you need to show why it's used, and why it's effective. And once that's done, you need to make clear where it's NOT effective, or else the fact that you still carry around a sword starts to hurt the suspension of disbelief. The hidden blade has been given plenty of respect in all the games, but respecting it to the point where it makes your world seem inconsistent is a problem. If it's the best weapon at everything, then the Assassins lose all justification for ever carrying around any other weapon. And so they can either refuse all other weapons and build the combat around hidden-blades only, or they can make it very clear what situations the hidden blade is for that no other weapon would suit, and vice versa.

It's already stretching belief that a person with blades designed to be hidden would spend the majority of their time displaying un-hidable weapons proudly, as that negates a lot of the unexpectedness concealed weapons grant. I liked the hidden-blades-only assassination mission in AC4. But again, it doesn't matter if it's not realistic as long as it's not prohibitively distracting. I always disliked how interchangable a lot of the tools were from AC2-AC4, and it definitely brought me out of the experience a lot.

I would agree that it being usable only for specific situations makes it feel less like a personal companion and more like a tool. I'd argue that's exactly how an Assassin would think of their weapons: each one an extension of their will in a different context, no favorite weapons, only favorite actions.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I definitely think Arkham has a combat system that stops less and is more interesting to play over and over, but I don't think the latter is related as closely to the former as you do. AC is more focused on a sense of physical reality in movement, wheras batman is trying to replicate the exaggerated movement of a comic book. AC shouldn't move like that, and the nature of the lethal weapons you're using makes that even less appealing, since it cheapens the life of every enemy. Brotherhood was where AC started taking influence from arkham: kill chaining, indicators for when to counter. AC3 just added more onto that: faster movement and more brutal animations. I'd agree that there's not as much clear physicality put into the choreography of fight animations in AC, but that again has to do with the way they commit to overexaggeration of movement. Batman looks "smooth" to me, but he also looks incredibly ungrounded and non-human at times, when he magnetizes to an enemy from across the room. I actually prefer something that looks "rough" but relatively human. And Talion is all about wraith powers that allow for similar but more justified strange movements. AC would have to work harder to reach the same level with the same kind of presentation, which is why I appreciate Unity reducing the emphasis on canned combat animations. Hopefully that can allow the general fight animations more room to improve.

Yeah, I thought about bringing this up as a counter to my own point as well. It really is tricky to strike the kind of balance that AC "needs."

The current thing of non-lethal kills by default and real kills if you feel like it: that's dumb. If killing is just an inconvenience in combat, then it makes no sense why you'd kill anyone. And if it makes no sense and we're so good in fights that we can win everything non-lethally, then why do we even have the option to kill? For combat kills to be in the game, they shouldn't exist only as something you can do for fun. That sets a grim tone. Either we're the magical non-lethal assassin who only kills targets, or we kill by default and not doing so requires you to do non-lethal stealth or escape the fight. Combat should be a consequence.

Hmm. In terms of combat, I do actually have to agree with that too. Combat should definitely be a consequence. Non-Lethal Takedowns in Stealth are fine.

Regarding the hidden blade: realism doesn't matter, but suspension of disbelief does. You put someone in a world that is identical to our own on the surface, and you give them a strange and unique weapon. You don't need to prove that the weapon would be realistic, but you need to show why it's used, and why it's effective. And once that's done, you need to make clear where it's NOT effective, or else the fact that you still carry around a sword starts to hurt the suspension of disbelief. The hidden blade has been given plenty of respect in all the games, but respecting it to the point where it makes your world seem inconsistent is a problem. If it's the best weapon at everything, then the Assassins lose all justification for ever carrying around any other weapon. And so they can either refuse all other weapons and build the combat around hidden-blades only, or they can make it very clear what situations the hidden blade is for that no other weapon would suit, and vice versa.

I do not see a single problem with this and would embrace it like a first love.
Toss out every other weapon, whatever. Doing literally everything with the series' signature weapon would be freaking WICKED. It's how I played every game anyway, and I'm willing to bet my left ring-finger I'm not even close to the only person who did this, and preferred it.

This would also serve the function of allowing the devs to focus on less things - which someone might argue is what they tried in Unity, but fighting with a customizable Hidden Blade is very different than fighting with several different weapon classes, most of which only change animation, speed and rarely make a difference in damage the player can feel ("I don't want to fight the stars over someone's head" etc.)

It's already stretching belief that a person with blades designed to be hidden would spend the majority of their time displaying un-hidable weapons proudly, as that negates a lot of the unexpectedness concealed weapons grant. I liked the hidden-blades-only assassination mission in AC4. But again, it doesn't matter if it's not realistic as long as it's not prohibitively distracting. I always disliked how interchangable a lot of the tools were from AC2-AC4, and it definitely brought me out of the experience a lot.

Exactly. Therefore Combat would feel like even more of a consequence, not just in gameplay but also fitting in thematically. The Assassin and the player would not want to reveal their weaponry at any time. Tool/Weapon overlap is something I also feel is excessive, and has been excessive for a long time now. Most of the time, I used little to none of all of the different tools in AC3/4/Rogue/Unity by necessity, and only ever out of pure "hey, what if I just went ahead and used this for the heck of it?"

But unlike a game like Grand Theft Auto, AC's open world is MUCH, MUCH LESS encouraging of "messing around" in such a fashion, nor does it fit the fantasy. GTA's world is prone to players messing with it because criminals may plausibly wreak havoc and act as vandals. A proper Assassin would not do this and there's some ludonarrative dissonance we can talk about here as well.

I would agree that it being usable only for specific situations makes it feel less like a personal companion and more like a tool. I'd argue that's exactly how an Assassin would think of their weapons: each one an extension of their will in a different context, no favorite weapons, only favorite actions.

I admit this is a nice idea, and I could, with small effort get into the exact mindset that you've painted with this last part of this comment. However, then the game should allow us free reign over whether to choose them or not, else the impact of what's "good" or "best" for the current context is entirely lost to the player, as they have no input in it. In Dishonored, for Stealthy Play Sleep Darts are strictly better than the Pistol, but they won't kill someone. That game doesn't force you into using Sleep Darts, it allows you to make the choice yourself, as an intelligent player. It feels rewarding when you make those decisions.

This differs from the choices present in Black Flag/Rogue/Unity because in those games the difference between the Situations that tools will Cause is often not that defined. In addition, there aren't very many situations in the level design that actually test the player's tool or weapon choice, whether in stealth, navigation or combat. This means that the player never really feels a need to choose between them, because either the choice is made for them [Sword only in Combat, forced choice, NOT iconic weapon = two strikes in my eyes] or because the choice is too easy. [Just Smoke everyone and murder them all.]

Masking an obvious or easy choice by giving it to the player as a Forced Default, is NOT the answer.

It's cheap, and it cheats players of meaningful agency.

In the case of training with Hidden Blades to become Combat Proficient in the Assassin's background or storyline, this is fine and an easy exception I can make because again, they are the Assassin's signature. Forced Defaults should not be used, but if they ARE used, then The Hidden Blade should be the one they defer to, not a common sword, spear, axe or rifle. It just makes sense both thematically and mechanically.

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Using only the hidden blade in combat would certainly go with Calvar's idea of quick, precise attacks during opportune moments. And you would have to rely on dodging/strafing since blocking would seem unreasonable, and it would further help convey the idea of assassins being agile quick killers, opposed to being warriors.

The only thing is many players would feel that takes away variety, unless customizing the blade(s) gives you different battle moves. Another option is to pick up enemies' weapons, although you can't keep them.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
What about a non-lethal takedown resulting in that splinter-cell style grab from behind? Your assassin puts their blade to the guard's throat and can interrogate, kill, knock out, or choose none and just move them along, using them as a hostage that deters and alerts guards to some extent. Clearly there'd have to be a lot of thought put into how different levels of guards would react depending on how high-value the hostage you have is, if you'd be able to do this to targets and how the options would differ if the hostage was a target, and if there'd be a limit on how long you'd be able to restrain them before you'd be forced to either knock them out or let them break free.

Time to upgrade the human shield idea. After grabbing an enemy, here are the options:

PS3 triangle button / Xbox Y button - interrogate and other commands, such as "drop your weapons".
PS3 square button / Xbox X button - kill enemy (with equipped main weapon that you hold at their throat).
PS3 circle button / Xbox B button - knockout enemy with a strangle or neck snap.
PS3 cross button / Xbox A button - hold down to throw enemy or press to release him, accompanied by a phrase like "don't turn around" or "move and you die", which demoralizes him for a short time.

While using human shield you can move him around and use most ranged weapons and tools. When you run into other enemies they'll go into fight mode but won't attack (depending on the level/importance of the person you're holding hostage). Instead they'll try to find opportunities to get behind you and attack, so you'll have to continuously position yourself.

I can see missions where you break into a fort or large building, take someone hostage and escape.

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@DAZ, I feel like it might be too late to make this kind of choice. AC established Assassins as having one foot in grounded reality, with their swords and throwing knives and guns, and one foot in a heightened one, with hidden and phantom blades and such. That sets a certain tone for what rules their world holds them accountable to, what they have to rely on the real world for and what they have to rely on their own stuff for. "Swords are for combat" is one of those things where the series has acknowledged "the physical reality of a sword's superior reach and maneuverability is a factor here".

They've spent years selling AC on a very specific type of fantasy, and most of it is rooted in the grounded historical aspects rather than the heightened fictional aspects. Leaning too hard on the thing that isn't the main draw could be dangerous. And I personally don't think I'd like it. I like the fiction to feel like it could have happened, no matter how outlandish. And I like to feel like a person that could have existed back then, and done most of the things I'm doing in the same ways I am. Having weapons that connect me to the time and place is an important part of that.

It's perfectly true that a hidden-blades only combat system could work mechanically, of course. I just don't like what it would do to the feel of the world.

--

Your Dishonored example is kinda flawed. Dishonored allows you to do non-lethal takedowns (which you could consider as one type of 'weapon') and lethal takedowns (which could be the other) while in stealth. When in melee combat, dishonored takes one weapon away, and only allows lethal takedowns. Dishonored only allows the kind of 'wrong' choice you mention outside of combat with ranged weapons. This is probably because if it were contextual you might run out of nonlethal ammo and be unable to fire your lethal ammo unless you entered combat, which doesn't allow the player to initiate lethal combat at range. combat melee kills have unlimited ammo, so the player can always do something, even though they might not be able to do the thing they want to.

This reveals the actual function of the way ranged weapons work in dishonored: not to allow the wrong choices, but to allow the player to use ranged weapons as much as possible in any circumstances. In the case of something more directly analogous to the hidden blade and the sword, because there is no limit on how many melee attacks you can do, they choose for the player what is wisest to do in the situation, and don't allow another option. So the principles of the two games aren't actually that different.

--

@aurll
I like the demoralization idea. Good way to go for no-kills/no knockouts for folks who want to, but they should definitely run and raise an alert after a while. I'd prefer for human shields to not be powerful enough that you could walk all the way out of a fortress with someone. My ideal scenario is sneaking to the entrance of the fortress, taking a hostage, and having enough time to get out and around the corner before having to either let the person go or knocking them out, and beginning to run on your own.

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We may be onto something with the combat ideas. Using the hidden blade for quick precise kills without the ability to block makes it fast and risky. But instead of completely removing other weapons, start out with the hidden blade and obtain them part way through the game.

By the time you get melee weapons you'll be used to the quick fights. Now with the weapons it'll be different. When you get hit some damage will be deflected away, but at the cost of being unable to perform quick kills, resulting in much slower combat. So hidden blades are for offense, while weapons are for defense. That would make using hidden blades more rewarding and the biggest reason people would use weapons is for the sake of using weapons.

I hope they bring back the ability to throw melee weapons, so you would have some other use for them. Maybe even give each kind of weapon a different throw range and throw speed (the purpose of throw speed being the chances of an enemy dodging or catching the thrown weapon if they see it coming).

Another point I would like to make is how much faster you should be able to kill enemies in assassinations. In AC3 you could hold down Armed hand and assassinate multiple enemies in succession, but it didn't seem much faster than double assassinations in previous entries. This needs a complete makeover. You should be able to sneak up on a group of several and quick stab all of them before they know what's going on, the speed of each kill no longer than half a second, including the time it takes to move between kills.

How it could work is an indicator can appear that shows the enemies you can target when holding down Armed hand. And of course it needs to reward patience. Run in there and you'll get detected partway through, cancelling the rest of the kills.

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I like both of those ideas. They'd be great compromises, and give us a progression system a little better than what we've had in a while. The balance between Hidden Blades for Offense and Weapons for a more Defensive style is also nice, and it'll really separate the Stylish players from those who want to enjoy the game at less risk.

I agree with raising Stealth Assassinate speed, that's something that Assassin's Creed can differentiate itself with, from other games that have stealth kill mechanics.

At this point, they just need to try new things, and things that they honestly believe will improve the experience. Once they find something fluid and nice, and hopefully well-received, they should stick with it.

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I understand what you're going for with that idea, but going back to the purpose of conventional weapons being to ground the player in the world, it doesn't make sense for the player to start out with the more fantastical weaponry and end up with the grounded ones. The purposes of a welcoming introduction kinda require a different order.

And what you're describing sounds a lot like where we started out: where hidden blades are hard to use but the most effective. The problem with this kind of tradeoff is that instead of giving people one basic way of fighting to master, it neuters the effectiveness and challenge of the obvious approach in order to add another one that's objectively more efficient but less accessible. It's the kind of thing where skilled players will gravitate towards the hidden blades and consider the other weapons a waste of time, and less skilled players will be bored while using the normal weapons but unable to use the blades. It's a lose/lose scenario. Main weapons can have different attributes and required levels of mastery, but they should all belong to the same combat system with the same rules so that they can be designed to appeal to both experts and novices.

Back to progression/acquisition of skills or weapons, I think it would be best for the game to begin with the Assassin having access to the default main weapon and non-lethal takedowns, but no human shield/interrogation system, and no tools. This allows for a basic introduction to stealth and combat systems with minimal mechanical complexity. Whether they're an assassin novice, begin outside the order, or start the game having lost their equipment, hidden blades and other gadgets should come later.

Unity technically did this, but it was hampered by the incessant switching of characters and location and story that interrupted the lessons and made them harder to remember. And then it shoved us into the game with pretty much all of our tools and no explanation. It's silly that they do that. Give us one mission that shows us how to use our blades and a single silent ranged weapon, make every other weapon and ability unlockable based on player XP and not story progress, make sure that the unlock screen is easy to find and clearly tutorialized (by making upgrading to hidden blades and silent ranged mandatory) and then after that mission give us a simple but non-linear assassination. No-one who wasn't intimately familiar with Assassin's Creed gameplay was ready for the Notre Dame level. The difficulty curve once you get into the "real game" has been pretty unfriendly to newcomers for a while.

I see I'm back to rambling again, sorry. I forgot to mention before, but I totally approve of the concept of hidden blade customization, but I'd prefer for it to be in the context of how to make it perform differently as a stealth weapon rather than how to change its behavior in combat.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I understand what you're going for with that idea, but going back to the purpose of conventional weapons being to ground the player in the world, it doesn't make sense for the player to start out with the more fantastical weaponry and end up with the grounded ones. The purposes of a welcoming introduction kinda require a different order.

It may seem silly that you start out with the hidden blade(s) and get the weapons later as an after thought, but that's what will have to happen if you want to feel more like an assassin than a warrior. Training with weapons will be a "just in case" kind of thing.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
And what you're describing sounds a lot like where we started out: where hidden blades are hard to use but the most effective.

It's different from the early games because you'll be able to perform executions instead of counters.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
The problem with this kind of tradeoff is that instead of giving people one basic way of fighting to master, it neuters the effectiveness and challenge of the obvious approach in order to add another one that's objectively more efficient but less accessible. It's the kind of thing where skilled players will gravitate towards the hidden blades and consider the other weapons a waste of time, and less skilled players will be bored while using the normal weapons but unable to use the blades. It's a lose/lose scenario. Main weapons can have different attributes and required levels of mastery, but they should all belong to the same combat system with the same rules so that they can be designed to appeal to both experts and novices.

That's another reason you'll have only the hidden blades for a while. When weapons become available, people will see how much better it is to stick with the blades they've become used to. Combat has already become slow in the games, so it can't be much of a disappointment. But they could tweak it bit and add unlockable skills for each weapon to make them more usable.

This system will need some testing out, but I can see this as the kind of revamp we need.

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Again, I get what you're going for, but I don't think I'd agree about that being the order Assassins are trained in. Makes little sense for an inexperienced person to be trained in using signature stealth weaponry before they even know how to defend themselves if they're caught. And even if novices did start off that way, that means that the protagonists of the game have to start off as novices. No other option. We don't necessarily need more games where we play as a person who's not an assassin til the end, but to cut out the option of not being one until the second mission? That seems really limiting.

And I just don't think the idea of introducing a mechanic as "Here, now you can do this thing, it sucks" is good. I understand that you want to encourage stealthy play, but it's better to do that through framing it as a POSITIVE thing, rather than introducing non-stealthy play as a negative. Doing that is basically begging for your players to rebel against you. This is a game that allows combat as a facet of it, and framing that as the player doing the wrong thing is disingenuous: you built the world, you defined what the player can do. Even if the combat system were fun and challenging and DID encourage stealthy behavior, the fact that it was introduced as a negative could easily provoke players in a bad way. Instead it could be "I learned how to fight and sneak, and now I got this tool that gives me better sneaky kill abilities. Cool!". If players gravitate towards stealth, fine. If they want to be more direct, they should be able to bias their progression towards that playstyle. But they shouldn't feel pressured in either direction by a negative introduction to one of them. I just want AC to be straight up with "this is how hard combat's going to be and you might have to run sometimes, stealth is tricky but can be a rewarding path." and letting folks go from there.

--

One thing I routinely keep forgetting to mention: the combat camera is EXTREMELY important. In AC3-4, it was great. In Unity, it seemed to stay fixed at the same zoom, which resulted in enemies attacking from offscreen. I can deal with it by positioning the camera manually, but I shouldn't really have to do that, and I don't imagine most people acclimating to the combat would do it.

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Sad It truly is a lose/lose situation. To make you feel more like an assassin, I didn't want it to be the same as the other games, where you use mostly weapons and then get the hidden blade.

As you pointed out, it won't work good to start with the hidden blade and then get weapons. And of course if you only had the hidden blade, people will complain about lack of weapons/variety. But the precise kills idea could still work good. Somehow I think that would work very well in an Asian setting, China or Japan.

I wonder how good it might be to use the hidden blade in conjunction with weapons in combat, and not like in AC3 where you used one blade as a knife. I'm talking about attacking with the main weapon and bring out the hidden blade to supplement the attack. Or maybe if you're locking swords with an enemy you use that to get the upper hand.

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aurllcooljay wrote:
Sad It truly is a lose/lose situation. To make you feel more like an assassin, I didn't want it to be the same as the other games, where you use mostly weapons and then get the hidden blade.

As you pointed out, it won't work good to start with the hidden blade and then get weapons. And of course if you only had the hidden blade, people will complain about lack of weapons/variety. But the precise kills idea could still work good. Somehow I think that would work very well in an Asian setting, China or Japan.

I wonder how good it might be to use the hidden blade in conjunction with weapons in combat, and not like in AC3 where you used one blade as a knife. I'm talking about attacking with the main weapon and bring out the hidden blade to supplement the attack. Or maybe if you're locking swords with an enemy you use that to get the upper hand.

I think I mentioned that before, just incorporating the blade into animations where it made sense. Unity did that.

But now that you mention it, that could be a good unlockable combat ability: to speed up execution animations if you press X at the right time during them, which would trigger a quick kill using the hidden blade. That would be more interesting than simply fast-forwarding through normal animations at 2x speed, but it would have the same effect of halving the time spent on finishing off an enemy.

I guess it would require kill animations be built to having a branching-off point where they can potentially incorporate the blade if the player has the upgrade and triggers it. That seems really complicated and difficult, but it seems like it would be the best way to do it if they wanted to make this a mechanic rather than just a visual flourish on some animations.

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So I'm thinking a bit more about how combat fits into AC as a whole.

The way it's always worked is that once you disrupt the pattern by messing up at stealth, the guards all attack and the importance of the pattern is gone, replaced by the importance of winning this big fight. This means that any time a player fails at stealth, they're forced into gameplay that relies on entirely different core principles, and usually is impossible to fail if you use enough smoke bombs or play skillfully enough. Players who notice this learn that combat is actually the path of least resistance, and this inspires them to use combat as their first order of business, rather than a last resort.

Of course, some people actively choose to run from big fights and reload checkpoints until they complete the missions stealthily, and they do it because combat is used to remove all the complex design of patterns, and essentially flatten out into a brawl. But this doesn't mean that the other people are just "playing it wrong". They're actually playing it right, because it's the path of least resistance, and therefore the most efficient and quickest way to complete the game! And what this tells us is that AC (and many similar stealth games) is a game that is boring to play if you play it correctly. Fortunately, there is a solution.

---

Instead of instantly entirely disrupting the pattern, combat should alter the pattern. Engaging one guard and making noise should alert the other ones and put them into an altered pattern of actively investigating the area, including but not limited to that one place they heard the disturbance from. Then the player's goal should be to complete their objective without being engaged by too many guards at once, and if they DO get engaged by too many, the resulting fight should be 100% unwinnable, and the player should be forced to attempt to escape.

This allows for ghost, silent kill, and combat playstyles, it just also means that ALL of those play styles revolve around navigating the environment in such a way that you will avoid getting too much attention, ALL of those play styles will require you to run if you're outnumbered, and ALL of those play styles will share the exact same fail state. Players actually want to be playing "ghost" because it means that they have a more relaxed guard pattern to deal with. They also feel nervous about playing "combat" because while they can remove more obstacles in the pattern, they are taking more time to do so and the larger mob might use that time to corner them.

---

To be more specific about what each style entails and why I arranged the difficulty how I did:

Ideal: Ghost. navigate the UNAWARE pattern of guards to complete your objective. You don't kill any non-targets which means you have to be patient for the pattern, but that also means you don't have to focus on anything other than completing said objective.

Less Ideal: Silent Kill. You navigate the UNAWARE pattern of guards and silently ELIMINATE those who could potentially detect you later, or who are preventing you from quickly advancing undetected. You have to focus both on completing the objective and hiding guard bodies in places where they will not overlap with other patterns, because a body being FOUND will put this section of guards into the more difficult AWARE pattern, in which guards keep their heads on a swivel and attempt to converge on anything suspicious. (distraction items should not work on AWARE guards, they should be listening for actual signs of someone spotting something or the noise of combat. hearing them shout "he's just trying to scare us, stay focused" would also increase the player's perception of guard intelligence)

Dangerous: Combat. You engage as many guards as you can safely fight for the purposes of eliminating them from your path and reaching the objective as quickly as possible. Engaging guards means you trigger the more difficult AWARE pattern. You have to focus on completing the objective and initiating combat in areas far away enough from the rest of the guards that you'll be finished and gone by the time they get there. Not all of the guards in the area will immediately show up, but the more you engage with at once, the more will come. (since there's more likelyhood you won't be able to escape by the time they get there) Escaping from deeply-engaged combat should become more difficult the more guards there are present, and escape should become impossible before the point when winning becomes impossible. (meaning that when you're at the maximum number of guards you can deal with, you have no choice but to deal with them)

---

As I hope is illustrated in those descriptions, in my vision combat-styles would be an extremely skillful way to play the game, and rely on AC's core principles of navigating undetected where possible. but it would also be the "wrong" way to play the game, because it is not the path of least resistance! It's the path of literally the MOST resistance, and even though a successful completion of the level in this style will be faster than a ghost or silent kill one, a first-time ghost or silent kill play-through will be faster overall due to the player having to reload missions less times.

Hopefully people who actually just want to fight would still be pleased, as successfully pulling it off would look way cooler than just standing in the center of a bunch of dudes and beating them. And I rather like the idea that the safest path would value being patient, staying your blade, and keeping a cool head. It would be a pretty clear argument for the validity of the Creed's tenets.

So in summary, the key to making combat fit is giving it a role in AC's stealth gameplay, which is based on pattern-navigation.

EDIT: I do understand that guards have "alert" patrol behaviors in AC games already, but they're rarely more challenging to avoid and seem in general as though they're not "designed" the way the normal ones are, and are just the AI dispersing without much of a larger strategy behind them. What I'm talking about is a shift to patterns that are genuinely more difficult to navigate through and often result in bigger clumps of patrolling enemies, so that the combat-focused player has to pick their battles intelligently and revert to sneaking when the situation calls for it.

EDIT2: In case you didn't notice, this contradicts a lot of stuff I've said previously, because I was still imagining combat as something that you engage with with no real outside pressures or concerns other than winning the fight. In the form I discuss, getting into a random fight on the street would require you to leave the area or hide afterwards, because combat would always attract attention, even outside of the clear context of a mission where guards are in close proximity to each other. The only difference would be that obviously it would take a lot longer for guards to show up where there were none than for guards in the same complex to reach the scene of a fight they can hear happening.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
Of course, some people actively choose to run from big fights and reload checkpoints until they complete the missions stealthily, and they do it because combat is used to remove all the complex design of patterns.

This is probably the best way I've heard it described to date.
It feels like I'm not playing the same game when I get into Combat-State.
I often avoid confrontation because I want to get back to playing Assassin's Creed and feel most rewarded when I stay out of sight. I don't feel rewarded for it because that's the game's goal - I feel rewarded for it because combat bores me in AC games. Maintaining the more "fun" experience for myself is my Motivation behind remaining Ghost.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
But this doesn't mean that the other people are just "playing it wrong". They're actually playing it right, because it's the path of least resistance, and therefore the most efficient and quickest way to complete the game! And what this tells us is that AC (and many similar stealth games) is a game that is boring to play if you play it correctly.

I grinned when I read that. The sequence of Logic here (as I see it anyway) is really strong.

1) The right or best way to play a Game (something with clear Win/Loss conditions, rather than a Toy without) is the most efficient way.
2) Combat is the most efficient way.
3) Combat players play AC correctly.
4) Combat is boring.
5) Playing the game correctly is boring.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
Instead of instantly entirely disrupting the pattern, combat should alter the pattern.

Agreed. This would do wonders for both Stealth and Combat. Stealth would become more meaningful, and combat would become deeper and nuanced. A stealth pattern is unchanging. Whereas a Combat player will have to react to an incrementally changing pattern when Detected.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
This allows for ghost, silent kill, and combat playstyles.
ALL of those play styles revolve around navigating the environment in such a way that you will avoid getting too much attention.
ALL of those play styles will require you to run if you're outnumbered.
ALL of those play styles will share the exact same fail state.

1) All playstyles become connected by Navigation - AC's BEST gameplay trait.
2) All playstyles become Tests of Skillful Navigation if outnumbered - a test of the player's mastery of this gameplay trait.
3) All playstyles become parts of The One True Playstyle because all have a unified Win and Loss condition, actually. Loss - Death/Desync. Win - Complete objective/assassinate Target. The difference is that in this ideal AC, the Loss condition motivates players a different way, and the threat of it can "chase" a player in a different way depending on which style they act in. The Win condition is also less fragmented because all three playstyles blend fluidly into each other, so you can design for one comprehensive style instead of spreading yourself thin designing for two or three.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
So in summary, the key to making combat fit is giving it a role in AC's stealth gameplay, which is based on pattern-navigation.

Strong finish. Instead of breaking the pattern, and discarding all of the hard work the designers poured in to make the game's levels, the Combat can hook into the Stealth so that the time and effort spent on designing the Stealth Pattern does not instantly become INVALIDATED by one of the game's CORE PILLARS. (Which is basically what I understand to be happening with current AC).

I loved this post, Calvar. It's clear you enjoy thinking about how to improve the core gameplay, and this post tackles one of the most nefarious problems it has.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Calvar The Blade wrote:
But this doesn't mean that the other people are just "playing it wrong". They're actually playing it right, because it's the path of least resistance, and therefore the most efficient and quickest way to complete the game! And what this tells us is that AC (and many similar stealth games) is a game that is boring to play if you play it correctly.

I grinned when I read that. The sequence of Logic here (as I see it anyway) is really strong.

1) The right or best way to play a Game (something with clear Win/Loss conditions, rather than a Toy without) is the most efficient way.

I completely and utterly disagree. The right way to play a Game is the way in which you have the most fun. Games are a subset of Toys (to use your words); they are not separate. I often find myself inefficiently playing board games because it's more fun. In a tournament setting, the goal is to win. In any other setting, the goal is to have fun. Period.

“To have peace there must be strife; both are part of the structure of the world and requirements.” - Ancient Egyptian Proverb

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That's kind of a matter of personal opinion and at least partially semantic.

Consider that by definition, a Game does fundamentally differ from a Toy - because a Toy cannot be Won at.
Even if they are both things that are associated with "play," the play taking place is radically different from a toy to a game.
A Toy is something you can play with. It is not a game, but it can be used to make a game with. A toy can be a piece of a game. You cannot play Ball, not literally anyway. But you can use a Ball to play a Game with.
A game is something you play within. Toys do not have Rules and Win/Loss Conditions.
Games have Rules and Win/Loss conditions. In all games, the end Goal within the Rules of the game is to achieve Victory.
By definition, the right way to play a Game is to Win at it as fast and easily as possible.
Most people who play videogames want to continue the story, want to get to the end of the game, so they tend to follow this line of thought even without realizing it.

Now, I play games in a way that I find most fun, as well. To me, the best feeling is when the most fun way to play the game and the most skilled/efficient way to play the game sync up with 100% overlap. Hence my Ghost Run videos, and the like.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for playing the game in the way that makes it the most fun; but some games are good at never giving you a boring way to play them. AC is not one of those games.

Even rephrasing Calvar's point, it still makes sense.
"Combat is the path of least resistance, and the path of least resistance in Assassin's Creed is boring. Most players who play AC will go to the path of least resistance, which means most players who play AC will be playing a boring game."
He's still right. The depth of the game shallows out in current combat systems. Combat's practically a minigame separate from the rest of the experience in current AC. Combat is boring. In the minds of players that want to beat the game only, Combat is the right way to play the game. There are many of these players, and they outnumber us, and they get bored with AC often. I have dozens of friends who were Combat Players who quit AC because the game was "boring."

Regardless of how it's phrased, making both Stealth and Combat more fun by blending them together is a good idea.

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Double McStab with Cheese wrote:
DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Calvar The Blade wrote:
But this doesn't mean that the other people are just "playing it wrong". They're actually playing it right, because it's the path of least resistance, and therefore the most efficient and quickest way to complete the game! And what this tells us is that AC (and many similar stealth games) is a game that is boring to play if you play it correctly.

I grinned when I read that. The sequence of Logic here (as I see it anyway) is really strong.

1) The right or best way to play a Game (something with clear Win/Loss conditions, rather than a Toy without) is the most efficient way.

I completely and utterly disagree. The right way to play a Game is the way in which you have the most fun. Games are a subset of Toys (to use your words); they are not separate. I often find myself inefficiently playing board games because it's more fun. In a tournament setting, the goal is to win. In any other setting, the goal is to have fun. Period.

I put "Right" in quotation marks, because what I really mean is it's the most efficient way to play, and that is what most people automatically gravitate towards. (therefore it is "right" for them) As DAZ said, the point is that the most efficient way to play should not be different than the most fun way to play. Nobody loses if the two are aligned.

I'm certainly not trying to actually say you're playing games wrong. I am possibly the biggest offender of playing all types of games the way I enjoy them even if it's not the smartest way to play.

The thing is that players needing to do that to enjoy the game is a design failing, even if it doesn't mean that the game in question is without value. I'm not saying that you're the person who needs to change, I'm saying that AC's designers need to change their approach in catering to you. What THEY should be doing instead is the main thrust of my post, not that any type of player is better than another.

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One thing I want to see changed in combat is the last hit. Whenever it's not a kill animation it's just a plain attack that knocks them down. What I don't like about this is it makes the assassin look like he's aimlessly swinging (even more apparent in Unity when guards with zeroed health just stand there for a short while waiting for a finisher before they collapse) instead of trying to expertly kill from the moment he draws his weapon.

In the game Dying Light I love how they did kills with machetes (and cleavers?). Enemies get decapitated wherever you aim, and it adds to the kill whenever it's in slow motion or shows the skeleton. And even though you're swinging the weapon like normal, it still looks cinematic without fixed camera angles that would make it look like a brief cutscene.

I think that whenever an assassin attacks, he should be aiming for vital areas of the body. And if the last hit isn't a kill animation it should end with blood gushing from the fatal wound and the enemy clutching that part of the body while falling dead.

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I agree that the last hit should be a kill animation. Unity's combat does lead to the uneasy feeling that Arno is expertly non-lethally taking everyone down, and then choosing to kill them for no reason.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I agree that the last hit should be a kill animation. Unity's combat does lead to the uneasy feeling that Arno is expertly non-lethally taking everyone down, and then choosing to kill them for no reason.

Agreement on my part, too.
I started the game realizing that I didn't have to do the last slash on anyone if they were stumbling about.
The only reason I rarely Last Hit was because it wastes time and I have places to be and buildings to climb.
(Each of those animations is obnoxiously long.)
It would have been nice if there were any kind of recognition of the player choosing to just let them drop.
They wouldn't have been able to make that fit in with Arno having a sword before he's even an Assassin. [shrug]
Maybe it would've been better if it weren't in the game at all - last hits should be clean, quick kills.

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I just got done watching a two hour stream of someone playing Unity for the first time. They spent the entirety of those two hours stuck on the first Assassination. Their troubles had to do with it being unclear what exactly the "confessional kill" entailed, and where exactly the entrances they were supposed to unlock with the key were. From there, they had issues with the stealth because it requires precise environmental navigation to slip through the pattern that leads to the confessional. They were specifically going for the confessional kill but it wasn't obvious to them that they could more easily take him out at the altar. I think they had a sense that the confessional kill was the only way to complete the mission.

Eventually they got really tired of dying, figured out that they could buy a new sword, and then went combat-focused and basically killed every guard in Notre Dame. Then Silvert got glitched into the confessional, and they could not kill him. they ended the stream there.

#1: it should not be possible to completely trivialize stealth challenges through better combat gear.

#2: the first mission of the game should not drive players to WANT to trivialize stealth challenges. Silvert's assassination was too complex and difficult.

#3: it seems like this reveals the intentions of Unity: the difficulty spike is MEANT to drive people towards buying better gear, and that's important to the designers because they've been told they need to sell microtransactions for gear and stealth boosts and such. The game is literally designed to push players towards reckless behavior rather than patience and sneaking.

#4: unique kills and optional routes are cool, but they don't need to be presented as if they're the only important thing. Instead they need to be small and intuitive things that the player might try on their own with no prompting. The signposting of complex activities has the potential to ruin the experience of players who otherwise might have easily found their own creative solution.

#5: There is a reason why the glitches got so much guff: these games, especially Assassinations, are complex machines to figure out. It's incredibly frustrating for people who are trying to learn for their progress to be stopped by a bug. Obviously every developer knows this already, but it's just something to remember for us: we don't struggle as much as most of the people buying these games will, and we need to be understanding of issues that might seem small to us. Most people aren't willing to reload a mission because it didn't look cool enough when we completed it the first time, for example.

EDIT: oh, and these games are really really complicated, and need to be more intuitive in any way possible. The player I was watching forgot that they needed to actually enter cover at corners rather than just crouching. If the controls were more like the last of us or AC3/4's method of corner cover, there would be no confusion.

They also entirely forgot about smoke bombs and tools, which made the level a lot harder than it would have been for them otherwise. Would be a lot easier to teach good stealth play if levels didn't rely on tools like that. things like ranged weapons and things that confer actual new abilities (like grappling hooks) are much easier for players to remember they have access to.

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An odd thing is re-watching all of the Interviews from AC Unity and then playing the game.
Alex Amancio says; "Arno is a very brash and witty character - not just in his dialogue but also the way he fights. He's the type of kid who'll rarely flourish, he'll just target the weak-point and go right for the kill, boom."

Me: "That's literally all I could have asked for, and is the exact opposite of what was delivered."

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eh, his finishing moves are usually pretty economical. and he's definitely written as brash and full of one-liners. The flourishes mostly come in during high profile hidden blade kills (which is weird cause why would you flourish with a stealth weapon?) and parkour (which makes more sense, It fits with his personality)

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Oh, I mean, character-wise yeah, it was as advertised.
But I want to disagree, most of his Finishers definitely felt way too "form over function" to me.
It's possible that was because of the crazy length of the animations - but even if it explains it, it doesn't excuse it.
Ezio flourished way more in combat than Arno and his animations felt nowhere near as long or sluggish.
Flourishes during parkour were awesome because they didn't interfere with flow, and I'd like for them to stay in.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Oh, I mean, character-wise yeah, it was as advertised.
But I want to disagree, most of his Finishers definitely felt way too "form over function" to me.
It's possible that was because of the crazy length of the animations - but even if it explains it, it doesn't excuse it.
Ezio flourished way more in combat than Arno and his animations felt nowhere near as long or sluggish.
Flourishes during parkour were awesome because they didn't interfere with flow, and I'd like for them to stay in.

I think his animations are probably the same length or less than Altair's counters, which were about 4-5 seconds if I recall. Remember that final hit kills are meant to replace counter kills as far as flashy animations: you don't really get any others in open combat besides the parry animation. (yeah, I just checked and Altair's combo kills are just as long as Arno's finishers. 2 seconds or so. His counters are about double that time.)

And when I say they seem efficient, I'm thinking about the ones where he puts his blade to their neck and spins around to slash, or the one where he knocks them to the ground and pierces their heart. There's little flair and fancy stuff there, even if it's a rather stylized version of swordplay.

I think the main reason it doesn't feel like his fighting is efficient is because he has to deal with wailing on health bars, meaning his sword doesn't really work like a sword would. Same goes for all the assassins in these games. It's one of the reasons I hope they really are removing swords from the next one: perhaps they can take some time time to create a new system for them that feels more authentic to bladed weaponry without just relying on one hit kill counters.

The system as it exists now makes a heck of a lot more sense for fighting with brass knuckles than it does with swords.

EDIT: (oh, and my very favorite example of his no-nonsense finishing moves is the one where he stabs his spear entirely through a guy, and then pulls it out the other side. great example of how simultaneously ridiculous and exceedingly direct they are)

EDIT2: I wonder just how much they're going to tweak animations for Syndicate? I didn't expect them to completely overhaul things as much in Unity as they did, perhaps they have a more flexible pipeline for adjustments now? I hope that means they can make the new protagonists' arms seem less exaggerated as they run

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I think the speed of attacks in Unity was significantly slower than it was even in Black Flag, Rogue and AC3 combat (less so in AC3 because Tomahawk was fairly speedy). The fastest attack animations in the entire series are Hidden Blade combos in AC2, Brotherhood and Revelations, so that's always my Control and what I compare attack speed versus sluggishness to.

The animations don't have to be the exact same (I'll admit that AC2's Hidden Blade combos were almost like watching an anime fight) but how efficient they feel to the player, on the controller, in their hands, that should be a focus for the Combat Design Team.

That being the case, it's hard not to get excited about the idea of brass knuckles and fist-fights in Syndicate if it's true.

@EDITS: I think Assassin's Creed engines are fairly tweakable and one of the things Ubisoft seemed proud of is the rate at which they can tile and build an entire city with their new tools. The changes to how they produce animations were also marketed in a similar way; it being easier for them to do, and a joy to work with the tools for making them. If that's genuine, then I'd imagine fist-combat would be very plausible. They just need to get the hitboxes to work right, and a lot of playtesting with the combat to make sure animations feel good and connect with the enemies at the right places. Making animations for fist-fights is actually a bit harder than for swords. Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us has a segment where the Combat Designer talks about that and how they got around it.

I love that spear animation too ^__^

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I definitely agree that the speed of attacks was another factor. I think it was partially due to wanting to make combat challenging but lower the pace of it so people could still keep up. I think maybe the solution might be to automate things a tiny bit more: rather than having the player control every strike individually, perhaps holding the attack button could initiate a flurry of strikes, and you could perform different moves by altering the rhythm of your holds. It would look cooler and if communicated well could strike a stronger balance between challenge, feel, and accessibility. Plus an animation system like that would be more conducive to swords actually clashing realistically.

But yeah, just a bit faster than the pace it's at now could be good for fist fights.

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That might actually be a really good idea. Consider that most players (including me, admission time) just mashed in Unity because the game gives no incentive for actual timing. It's very easy to mash Square and stop when you see the Red Flash in time to tap Circle for the Gold Flash; and that's the best kind of Defense you can execute. Final Fantasy XV also works this way, but its enemies are usually not humanoids and are instead beast-like so it feels a bit ineffectual sometimes.

In a game like Assassin's Creed where hitboxes and animations are about fighting more human enemies, since most players would mash anyway, a Held Attack system could make sense and wouldn't change the experience that much. Also, no one really enjoyed holding the button to "charge" special attacks in Unity so that wouldn't be missed if done in a better way.

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I'm imagining it as somewhat of a combination between AC3's "avoid damage" parry (hold B) and an attack option. simultaneously defensive when the enemy is attacking, offensive when you've opened them up.

Not actually automating each battle's result, just following the kind of control philosophy already found in the game's parkour: take the governor torres platforming section for instance: you can climb up the walls without moving each arm individually by tapping the left stick up over and over again, but if you climb up while the lasers are shooting out of the walls you'll die.

That similar concept of guiding the flow of your attacks rather than individually babysitting each one wouldn't have to mean any reduction in depth, and other buttons might be even freer to do interesting things.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
Eventually they got really tired of dying, figured out that they could buy a new sword, and then went combat-focused and basically killed every guard in Notre Dame. Then Silvert got glitched into the confessional, and they could not kill him. they ended the stream there.

Quote from a Redditor;

Calvar The Blade wrote:
"Flow"

Yeah, that's exactly it. Assassin's Creed is primarily about flow. The way you propose it;


Fig 1.0 "The Ideal Assassin's Creed Core"

- Navigation and Combat both become systems with a heavy emphasis on maximum Flow.
- - In Navigation, the player can flow through environments without mechanically intense controls
- - - The gameplay is more Mental than physical (improvise route, identify parkour opportunities)
- - In Combat, the player can flow from enemy to enemy without mechanically intense controls
- - - The gameplay is more Mental than physical (understand Archetypes, know When to do What actions)

- Stealth is at the forefront of Assassin's Creed, and Stealth is where the Flow is subtly different
- - Combat and Navigation provide a rush of action and Flow; Stealth provides tension and "rest" points in the action
- - If the player is Detected and failstates, they can failstate into;
- - - Navigation with FLOW (run away fluidly with Mental skill more than Mechanical skill)
- - - OR
- - - Combat with FLOW (eliminate threat fluidly with Mental skill more than Mechanical skill)
- - - Either of these may not work sometimes; some enemies are harder to escape, some enemies are harder to fight

This is how I Read your suggestion to change combat. Frankly, I really like the idea.

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Calvar The Blade
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I'm not sure I meant it exactly like that. I don't want combat to be about flow on the same level as navigation. Rather, I think I want combat to become just another part of the spectrum of stealth possibility: from Ghost to Aggressive. I don't want combat to be viable as a fall-back, but instead as something you have to commit to in your approach, the way I described it earlier.

Change to a held-supported system makes sense to me because Assassin's Creed's combat doesn't rely on combos, so there's not really much point in the player having direct control over each strike. What is actually important is the time you're spending taking aggressive action: time is whittling down health rather than each strike. It feels more honest to have holding the button represent time rather than play at representing a concrete action.

So I guess what I mean to say is that this would just be a more user-friendly version of how the existing combat system already works, and maybe that means they should search for mechanics that take advantage of the current way the player interfaces with it. It seems like that would be more efficient than taking my suggestion and building it out.

Maybe I'm more just noticing a flaw in the current system than I am offering a useful solution.

the posts a bit guy

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I saw similarity between flow in combat and navigation resulting from both being held-button systems.
I agree it's not about combos, but about time spent taking action.
Because of that, I'd like to pursue this line of thought for a bit longer and express what I actually mean.
Parkour's not about individual actions, it's about the route selected. That's how flow's instilled during parkour.
This has been Assassin's Creed's biggest claim to fame since AC1.
Combat shouldn't be about individual actions, but the Time Spent on the Action Selected.
That makes the two feel similar to me in a refreshing way.

I wonder why combat hasn't been made to function with this kind of idea in mind from the start.
Combat can still be difficult with this kind of system, quick decision-making can still be necessary.

I don't want to remove Combat's role on the Ghost-Aggressive spectrum.
I don't want Combat to become a fallback tactic of least resistance.
I just see Navi. as being one way to interact with Stealth on a Ghost-Aggressive Spectrum, and Combat being another way to interact with Stealth on that spectrum.

[Choices: Ghost-Aggressive Spectrum]
Combat and Navigation complement each other because they're both flow-based, and are the legs that Stealth stands on.

You either move past your enemies or you disable them. Any other deep gameplay comes from this primary feeling.
A Distraction can help Avoid or Disable that enemy. A Bullet can Disable that Enemy, but make whoever hears the shot curious. Now you've created a new variable (altered the pattern) that you have to react to. If you're quick enough, you can just leave (NavAggressive) before he gets there. Do you risk taking time to hide the body? (NavStealth) And if you do that, do you do it item-less, or spend a Distraction item to get the approaching guard to look away for long enough? Do you kill him as well instead? How? Close distance and Assassinate? (NavAggressiveStealth) Kill him before others arrive? (CombatStealth) Do you kill him but take too long, and two more arrive, and you have to kill them too? (CombatAggressive) The Choices are yours, and the reason to make those decisions is the player's doing as well. The system and game world exists with or without the player. If they disrupt it, they adapt and react. This is how both Dishonored and the original Thief games were built. Just with less of an emphasis on flow than I propose.

Both should always feed into Stealth, even if that Stealth isn't the strictest, Ghost-Only definition most purists have in mind. Ghost would still be the best, least troublesome Style to play unless a player becomes genuinely skilled at combat on its own.

[Mock-Up of Main Assassination Memory]
You cross a street and run up a wall, getting onto the rooftop fluidly. There's a sniper up there, but you're behind him so you don't bother him, running past and using Parkour Down to enter the courtyard he guards. Once you're down, you run around a corner but three guards see you. You fight in much the same manner you do Parkour, playing more in your mind than on the controller. You kill two of them, but another joins in. If you stay here much longer, too many will come. You run away, shoving past and turning another corner where you stab a still unaware guard in the back without an interruption in your momentum. You climb up the building he stands in front of before he even crumples to the ground. Guards flock to that position, causing a few of them surrounding the target to check it out as well. The best of the Elite that protect him stay Alert and stand their ground even firmer. This causes a ground approach to be much harder. You adapt. You climb another rooftop nearby and Air Assassinate the Target, Combat-Flow Kill one of the Grunts that joins the fight, Shove past the Elite and run for dear life... Gracefully, of course.

[Flow-Parallel: Combat and Navigation]
Both Navigation and Combat follow similar principles in terms of fluidity and mental game. Poor navigation doesn't really have consequences for broken flow except for a less liberating feeling of soaring through the gameworld, but poor combat can have very real consequences if approached carelessly or if Elite guards are challenged by an inexperienced player. Some enemies may be harder to Fight, others may be harder to Escape. This encourages adaptation and reading the situation right to decide what you Can do, and what is Best to do.

Parkour Up, Parkour Down, Parkour Forward.
Combat Normal, Combat Special, Parry/Dodge.
(Note: I don't mean to use this specific control scheme, it's for perspective)

Neither system is about mechanical complexity - mechanical here meaning, the complexity of buttons pressed by your fingers. Both systems are about how well your mind plays rather than your fingers. Both systems are about flow, Actions Chosen, Routing vs Enemy-to-Enemy Refocusing, and how long you do those actions versus when you choose to break away. You should be able to break away at any time, and break away from any Action of any System (Combat, Stealth, Navigation) into any Action of any System fluidly.

Calvar the Blade wrote:
For me, I think that AC is overall meant to be an accessible game, and that it follows that its combat system should be simple and easy to learn.

I share this sentiment.