I used to love Assassin's Creed combat. Now, I can't freakin' stand it.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Trying to finish Assassin's Creed III this weekend, for about the 3rd or 4th time I might add, has reminded me of an unueasy feeling I've been having about the folks making Assassin's Creed.

Now, I really love the original Assassin's Creed. It's not perfect, but it was still an awesome idea that I still think pulls off some of the concepts better than any other game in the franchise. Assassinations themselves, which were the primary draw in the original game, are not only boring as all fucking hell in Assassin's Creed 3 (I'll get into why later) but I've only performed a couple after many hours of playing the game. The game is called Assassin's Creed, but most of the encounters I've had with bad dudes involve half an army of obnoxious "tough guy" enemies that ignore all of the mechanics of combat save for one. This stands in rather stark contrast to me trying to sneak my way to a point of my choosing to dive down on my prey from, like the original Assassin's Creed allowed the player to do.

That being said, one of the things I really liked about Assassin's Creed, especially the first two games in the franchise, is the combat. I think the counters were a bit tricky to pull off in the original in some kind of annoying ways rather than purely challenging ways, but they were also very smooth, very predictable, and very satisfying to pull off. I feel like Assassin's Creed II really nails the feel of the combat, making it even smoother and more fluid than before.

But as I played on in the series, I noticed a pattern. One that started from the first sequel, Assassin's Creed II, but wasn't really an issue for me because it was small enough that it wasn't a bad thing, just a different thing. I'm talking about the "tough" enemies that resist your combos, counters, grabs, etc. In AC2, they weren't an issue because they felt spread out, you'd encounter one or two but rarely would they make up any significant portion of the enemies you saw. Towards the end (where Assassin's Creed games have always struggled in my opinion with this exact issue) this changed and things got a bit annoying, but it was a very small sequence of the game. In Brotherhood, I couldn't help but notice that there were even more of these guys. It started to be pretty cumbersome to have to fight in some instances because of it. There was almost always a few guys in the group that were going to completely ignore any of the finesse you were using, and in fact punish you for attempting to use any.

But man, the "third" game in the series takes that to a whole new level. I'd say 70% of the enemies I've been fighting in this part of the game (with a completion rating of around 30%) have been these "tougher" enemies. Before, it made the combat less interesting because all I could do was hit X on em till they died. There were other ways around it, but not nearly as many with the normal enemies. In Assassin's Creed III however, this troublesome trend becomes even worse because they've tipped the scales to the point where it makes the combat drag out significantly longer, which means I'm tending to end combat with very little health. Now, to be fair, this is also in part due to some really and truly awful camera design (a significant step back from previous games) that makes it impossible to get a view of the action around you. As well as this, the countering can be pretty janky, especially if you're busy with another guy. Sometimes, hitting the button totally works, others not so much, and others still you don't know to hit the button because no prompt shows up so you assume there's nothing to worry about. But still, fighting those tough enemies makes the combat far too simple, far too lengthy, and goes beyond making it boring but actually quite frustrating.

As a sort of parallel to this slow change to the nature of the game, there's another pretty major issue I have with the combat in Assassin's Creed III, which again has come to a peak after steadily growing over the course of the franchise. It's the number of dudes on screen in combat scenarios. In the original game, you rarely engaged more than a few guys at once, and once you did that you usually had time to run off and get to safety. In Assassin's Creed III, A fight started with three guys turns into 50, half of them being the tougher enemies. And that's just messing around in the open world with stuff like liberation missions. Go to a fortress, and you'll have 10 guys spawning around you ready to shoot your ass, and another 20 swarming around your area trying to kill you. It's obnoxious. It's not even that it's difficult: I rarely die in the game. It's just not fun to engage in that kind of combat. The reason the combat is cool the way it is in Assassin's Creed games is that it's quick, and efficient. You rip apart a group of guys and seconds later you are already gone. But as the series progressed, it became more and more of a "just keep fighting until there's no one left to kill" kind of game, which isn't my idea of a fun time. Especially in a franchise that started as something of a stealth game.

I feel like rather than fixing what was broken and focusing on the strengths of past games, Assassin's Creed III exaggerates past problems (probably because they feel each time "has to be" bigger and badder), hinders the strengths of the gameplay, and strays much, much too far from it's roots.

#1 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4690 posts) -

I agree with all this. The combat is real bad in AC3. In the first two games I enjoyed it regardless of how simple it was. It was something you never always had to do, because you were supposed to stealth kill dudes. In Ac3 for whatever reason assassinating people is an afterthought and practically never happens. When it does it's super linear and impossible to fail and you must fight 20 dudes after.

Ugh! Ac3 is so gosh dang awful.

#2 Posted by TobbRobb (4732 posts) -

I think you just killed the last ray of interest I had for Ac3. Thanks! :D

#3 Edited by PillClinton (3291 posts) -

Well, now I'm reconsidering picking this up on today's Steam sale. I think I'm still going to, though, as I played all the other ones, but I'm seriously less enthused about it now. Damn, I hope they get it right with 4.

#4 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -

I had no trouble with the combat in ACII. My trick was to just equip fists against sweepers and heavies, disarm them, and then kill them with their own weapons. It was way more finessed than mashing on the stupid-shit fucking attack button until I lowered people's health enough to finally kill them; that shit was retardedly annoying.

I still think the combat in the first game was the most satisfying of the entire series. The fact that you couldn't block with the hidden blade and had to rely completely on counters, coupled with the fact that you could just run around the whole fucking city aggroing every guard and then just fight like 30 dudes at once, made it really fun. It also definitely helped that a successful counter was a GUARANTEED KILL, because it's fucking stupid in ACII that you can time shit precisely, but still have to mash out attack until you've lowered the guy's health enough to "break his guard". I'm a fucking master assassin who's spent years of harsh training perfecting the secret techniques passed down for centuries, but some bumfucksville nobody sellsword is somehow able to match me blow-for-blow for ANY length of time in a fight? Yeah, no way.

Also, counter-kills with the dagger were way more satisfying in AC1 (the dagger in II was just unsatisfying in general imo), and I liked the extra skill that was applicable in AC1 in regard to in-air assassinations, which took actual timing, planning, and finesse in AC1, as opposed to ACII where they made it a stupid button prompt any time you were within 20 feet of a dude.

Overall I feel like AC1 was the purest game of the series in general, to the point where I liked it better than II.

#5 Posted by JasonR86 (9742 posts) -

AC 3's combat got a little too technical for my tastes. It became more engaging which should be a good thing but wasn't. It just became frustrating. I was totally fine counter-killing every guard I ever saw in the previous games. I wish I could have done that in 3.

#6 Edited by Ennosuke (59 posts) -

One of the reasons I didn´t like AC3! The changes in the combat system are just a few, but the whole time I had this feeling, this is not the AC I liked. Overall a really strange experience playing AC3.

#7 Posted by Humanity (9581 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: You and I are in the minority that think Assassins Creed 1 did a lot of things way better than the games that followed. They kept one upping themselves and the gameplay to the point where the whole thing seemed to have become a parody of itself. While the original game had you wearing long white robes that blended in quite well with the indigenous population and especially the travelling monks, the later games become completely absurd with the outfits. AC: Revelations truly goes to new heights with it's purple, full platemail armor that Ezio hops about in, especially given his old age. As you mentioned, while somewhat repetitive in nature, the first game executed perfectly the feeling of stalking your prey and then striking when you wanted and how you wanted. There were hardly any moments where Altair is disposing of 15 guards in the middle of the city as you were an assassin and not Jerusalem-Rambo.

Everyone moans how the first game was such crap and how Brotherhood is the high point but I still believe the first game is the best and most "pure" Assassins Creed experience you can get. Everything after that is just a cosmic circus that keeps slowly imploding in on itself.

#8 Posted by Jimbo (9866 posts) -

The combat has never not been dumb in AC, it's just been dumb in different ways. I think the combat in AC3 is probably the 'best' in its own right, because it actually has layers of depth beyond just Counter Everybody, but it's still not a good fit for AC. And it's still a piece of piss once you get a handle on how to deal with each enemy type.

I agree that the emphasis should be put back on assassinating dudes rather than cutting a path through whole armies, but that requires open combat to be made much more challenging, not even easier than it is already. You should be able to take on 2-3 enemies tops, with any more than that being difficult enough to compel you to find another way to your target or to flee if you're being chased. The whole freerunning bit has always been underused because it's always been so easy to just stand your ground until everybody is dead.

I will say that the games often play a lot better if you have the discipline to stick to the 100% sync objectives, though they are definitely not as well implemented in AC3 as they were in Brotherhood. The mission in AC3 where you ice William Johnson (the negotiator guy) is pretty slick if you try to do it without triggering open combat, there just aren't enough moments like that.

#9 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@example1013 said:

I had no trouble with the combat in ACII. My trick was to just equip fists against sweepers and heavies, disarm them, and then kill them with their own weapons. It was way more finessed than mashing on the stupid-shit fucking attack button until I lowered people's health enough to finally kill them; that shit was retardedly annoying.

I still think the combat in the first game was the most satisfying of the entire series. The fact that you couldn't block with the hidden blade and had to rely completely on counters, coupled with the fact that you could just run around the whole fucking city aggroing every guard and then just fight like 30 dudes at once, made it really fun. It also definitely helped that a successful counter was a GUARANTEED KILL, because it's fucking stupid in ACII that you can time shit precisely, but still have to mash out attack until you've lowered the guy's health enough to "break his guard". I'm a fucking master assassin who's spent years of harsh training perfecting the secret techniques passed down for centuries, but some bumfucksville nobody sellsword is somehow able to match me blow-for-blow for ANY length of time in a fight? Yeah, no way.

Also, counter-kills with the dagger were way more satisfying in AC1 (the dagger in II was just unsatisfying in general imo), and I liked the extra skill that was applicable in AC1 in regard to in-air assassinations, which took actual timing, planning, and finesse in AC1, as opposed to ACII where they made it a stupid button prompt any time you were within 20 feet of a dude.

Overall I feel like AC1 was the purest game of the series in general, to the point where I liked it better than II.

Seems like in AC3, heavy weapons are best. You just need damage more than anything else. In the original game, different kinds of weapons had different characteristics beyond speed and damage, and man, I loved both the dagger and the hidden blade in combat. So quick, so great for counters.

I agree that AC1 felt the purest, which I guess makes sense considering it was the original concept fort he franchise. I also feel like in some strange ways, AC3 feels less polished, which really shouldn't be the case but somehow it manages to, at least to me.

@jimbo said:

The combat has never not been dumb in AC, it's just been dumb in different ways. I think the combat in AC3 is probably the 'best' in its own right, because it actually has layers of depth beyond just Counter Everybody, but it's still not a good fit for AC. And it's still a piece of piss once you get a handle on how to deal with each enemy type.

I agree that the emphasis should be put back on assassinating dudes rather than cutting a path through whole armies, but that requires open combat to be made much more challenging, not even easier than it is already. You should be able to take on 2-3 enemies tops, with any more than that being difficult enough to compel you to find another way to your target or to flee if you're being chased. The whole freerunning bit has always been underused because it's always been so easy to just stand your ground until everybody is dead.

I will say that the games often play a lot better if you have the discipline to stick to the 100% sync objectives, though they are definitely not as well implemented in AC3 as they were in Brotherhood. The mission in AC3 where you ice William Johnson (the negotiator guy) is pretty slick if you try to do it without triggering open combat, there just aren't enough moments like that.

OG Assassin's Creed was wayyyyy more than counter everyone, it's just what most people did. You could dodge and combo and do heavy attacks to break blocks, grapple with guys and throw them into other guys/weak structures/off ledges, and even maneuver around to do assassinations in the middle of combat. I think you could also disarm. In AC3, it IS just counter everybody, the difference being once you get one kill, the rest are automatic if they are near by. Otherwise, you're just countering, and occasionally hitting "A" in a counter instead of mashing "X" to do a normal counter. Also, sometimes counters just don't happen. Dodging is just countering when a certain attack is coming your way, it is just a counter without a damage opportunity. Grappling doesn't really seem to exist, unless I've forgotten it. You can break guards, but it's just press button to execute. You can't really assassinate in combat, even with a smoke bomb. I don't think there's really any new COMBAT stuff in AC3, it's just structured around countering more heavily. I will say the assassination stuff is at it's best, with whistling and corner kills and that sweet walking assassination, running assassinations, etc.

On paper, it seems more interesting in combat, but in execution, I found that AC1 was way more interesting if you actually used all of the mechanics they give you. Most people chose just to do the countering. Plus, I hate the enemy behavior and how numerous they are, so even with exactly the same quality of combat, it would still be less fun to fight over all.

I liked that in the original, the combat was super streamlined and simple if you wanted to just get out of it really easily, because it wasn't supposed to be a hack and slash, it was supposed to be a kinda stealthy game, so if you were fighting with guards, you should be doing so just long enough to disengage, and it should be fast and fluid. It didn't need to be super complex, but it was actually fairly interesting. I felt the same way about the original Darksiders combat, which had a lot of cool moves but not really man true "combos" so you could just make up your own. It felt dynamic as a result, rather than just you reacting to the color on the screen. If an enemy attacked, you could counter. Or you could side step and then do a power attack. Or you could run off while he was winding up.

My biggest issue is it just takes too much freakin' time. Combat is so slow in AC3 compared to the first game, where everything was tight and quick. Just look at the counter window. In AC3, it's fucking massive. Depending on the weapon you used in AC1, it was much smaller, and with certain weapons it was pretty tiny. But you got a lot more out of those counters.

#10 Posted by Jimbo (9866 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: AC1 never really required you to use the other mechanics though, and most people chose to use wait/counter because it worked every time and against an unlimited number of guards. That isn't good game design, especially if you're trying to encourage people to get in, kill the target and get out without getting into a street brawl with the whole city watch. I agree that you 'should' have only been fighting long enough to make a break for it, but the game made no attempt to encourage or necessitate that. There was really no incentive to play AC1 'well' at all, which was also why nobody paid any attention whatsoever to the rewards they were getting from the optional prep missions (things like guard patrol maps, which you would never need because guards are a joke), which in turn made those seem completely pointless too.

Unfortunately that lack of incentive to play 'well' (as in, like an assassin) has remained an issue throughout the entire series. The 100% sync objectives are a decent compromise though, when implemented properly.

I can't say that I noticed the combat in AC3 being particularly slow. It's slightly more complex than 1 (in terms of mechanics you NEED to know), but once you know what you're doing you will still tear through groups efficiently and without taking a scratch. I don't think any of the combat systems lend themselves to what AC should be. I'd agree that AC1 is still a better game overall than AC3 though, for a lot of reasons.

#11 Edited by themangalist (1739 posts) -

I still think AC2 has the worst combat. It felt mad inconsistent until u learned to counter grab weapons off enemies did I feel like I'm a badass for timing right, like in the first AC. But then again, AC combat was never too skill based.

#12 Posted by Seroth (722 posts) -

In the original game, you rarely engaged more than a few guys at once, and once you did that you usually had time to run off and get to safety. In Assassin's Creed III, A fight started with three guys turns into 50, half of them being the tougher enemies.

Ohhh, my experience with the first game was exact opposite. Perhaps I was just too dumb to play the game back then, but I became infuriated with the game near the end because it just became constant battles for me. I would kill a large group of guys, bodies would litter the streets. Another guard would stumble upon one of the bodies, call for help. I killed that group, more bodies on the ground, more guards showed up. Running away just resulted in a long, frustrating experience, and I'd end up all the way on the opposite side of the map by the time I finally escaped.

Having to fight a million dudes does suck, and it's a problem that I think has persisted throughout the series, but it was alleviated somewhat through chain killing and items such as smoke bombs. I think the whole notoriety system is just super unfun to begin with and I'd wish they would get rid of it or completely overhaul it again.

But as for the combat itself, I like it a lot in 3. Every enemy type has an easy strategy to quickly kill them, it's just a matter of discovering that, then applying it. And even if you don't want to bother with doing the correct type of counter on an enemy, you can just shoot them once or twice and they're down. I WOULD like it a lot more if they encouraged you to use different weapons, though. There are so many different kill and counter kill animations that I never saw 'cause I pretty much only used the tomahawk and guns. The crappy inventory system doesn't help (seriously, why get rid of the wheel from 2? I guess to sell a Wii U feature?).

The camera is REALLY bad, though, yeah.

#13 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@jimbo said:

@mordeaniischaos: AC1 never really required you to use the other mechanics though, and most people chose to use wait/counter because it worked every time and against an unlimited number of guards. That isn't good game design, especially if you're trying to encourage people to get in, kill the target and get out without getting into a street brawl with the whole city watch. I agree that you 'should' have only been fighting long enough to make a break for it, but the game made no attempt to encourage or necessitate that. There was really no incentive to play AC1 'well' at all, which was also why nobody paid any attention whatsoever to the rewards they were getting from the optional prep missions (things like guard patrol maps, which you would never need because guards are a joke), which in turn made those seem completely pointless too.

Unfortunately that lack of incentive to play 'well' (as in, like an assassin) has remained an issue throughout the entire series. The 100% sync objectives are a decent compromise though, when implemented properly.

I can't say that I noticed the combat in AC3 being particularly slow. It's slightly more complex than 1 (in terms of mechanics you NEED to know), but once you know what you're doing you will still tear through groups efficiently and without taking a scratch. I don't think any of the combat systems lend themselves to what AC should be. I'd agree that AC1 is still a better game overall than AC3 though, for a lot of reasons.

I personally love when games don't make anything a necessity or even encouraged. Isn't that what we all complain about in games, they are too guided, too focused? I love having the options to get into the combat in a deeper way, while also having the option to do thing the easy way. And even the easy way was only easy if you had really good timing. In AC3, you're doing one of two counters, and attacking. And those "tougher" enemies don't seem to have any sort of instant kill yet, that I've been made privy to at least. Yes, you can break their guard, but what do you do then? You smack on them for a while, then repeat before you get to the combo and he throws it in your face.

I think the "the game doesn't MAKE you do X Y or Z so why should I do it?" is kind of a bullshit excuse for not enjoying the mechanics. You're playing a video game, it's supposed to be interactive and dynamic. If you want to go rambo, you should be able to. If you want to be a ninja, you should be able to. If you want to mix it up, you should be able to. In AC1, you had that freedom of mechanics. You could theoretically get through that original game without hardly killing anyone in combat. Just dodge incoming attacks while you position yourself somewhere you can break away, then escape. It'd be a lot harder than just killing everyone, but you could do it, if you were creative.

Darksiders 1 never really punished you for not exploring the combat either, but you know what? It sure as hell rewarded those who did, because it was super fun to be creative and dynamic with the combat in that game. I'd much rather have combat like that or AC1, where there are 10 ish moves, but they can all work together in really dynamic and interesting ways than something like God of War (not that I dislike God of War) where there seem to be a million combos and they all chain in a very specific way.

FarCry 3 never really encourages any particular style of play and I found myself coming up with a lot of fun things to do with mechanics that they never encouraged or explained to me. In fact, most games are like that that really catch me. Games that let me figure things out and make my own play style are, in my opinion, more fun. And truer to the idea of a video game. I look at it the same way I look at how military shooting techniques have changed over the years. If you follow the doctrine you learned 30 years ago, you'll be decent. If you forge out and try new things out, you'll discover new things. That's how we know about a much higher grip with your non-trigger hand extended to the end of a rifle's handguard, or the current stance most guys use, it's how we have stuff like Magpul's angled foregrip. And it's why I like when games don't try to fucking tell me how to play. Just teach me the mechanics (every combat mechanic is given a full tutorial, you have NO excuse not to understand the combat), and give me freedom to use them. Don't funnel me so I have to just look at the guy, know what he is, and know exactly what to do to kill him. Not even really kill him faster, but have any real chance of killing him before the day is over. That doesn't feel like sword fighting, that feels like EyeSpy. It feels like a fuckin' QTE, except that half of the button presses are always the same.

In AC3, you can do some of the same things but it requires less finesse and more brute force. There are fewer options, which means every enemy has an exact "counter" to their strength, which makes every enemy boring as fuck. And when the counter is to do a thing that lets you rag on them over and over until they finally die, the combat is going to be drawn out. Especially when you're punished for being offensive by making counters really janky when you're in midswing, even though you can start and get half way through an attack before an enemy starts his, but still not finish yours before he gets his in if you're focusing on someone else. In AC1, everything felt quick enough that a couple attacks on a guy wouldn't screw you over, and if you timed everything right you'd get a combo in 3-4 strikes anyway. Now, I don't even know if there's that timing aspect, and if there is it takes much longer to get anything out with it.

I don't know, maybe I didn't get the "counter heavy dudes" ability yet or something, but right now the most effective move I have is to disarm when they attack, or disrupt their guard and just wail on him until he needs a refresher on breaking his defense. And that takes a while, compared to the crazy fast combat of AC1. If you think that AC3 isn't way slower, you are either crazy or were awful at the combat in AC1.

I like finding my own way, and I like things being dynamic, not just "looking" dynamic, and I feel like that's the main difference between AC3 and AC1. I'm an Assassin. Why am I spending 2-3 minutes fighting off an onslaught of 20 guards, every time I do anything? Why do I get a nasty look walking down the street even though I have yet to do any dirt? I don't mind them being suspicious when I've just murdered a million dudes, but there should be a way to get the fuck out of that situation gracefully, and there isn't really.

#14 Edited by probablytuna (3727 posts) -

I had no trouble with the combat in ACII. My trick was to just equip fists against sweepers and heavies, disarm them, and then kill them with their own weapons. It was way more finessed than mashing on the stupid-shit fucking attack button until I lowered people's health enough to finally kill them; that shit was retardedly annoying.

Yep, that's pretty much how I played in Brotherhood and Revelations. The fists were my preferred way of engaging in combat whereas the hidden blade was reserved for assassinations.

#15 Posted by LiquidPrince (16004 posts) -

The combat in 3 is as fantastic as it was in 2. AC1 was super simple; you could counter everyone to death. That was satisfying but not challenging. In ACB and AC3 you have to plan out attacks more often. Either single out a weaker enemy and kill them quickly, then chain an auto kill very quickly on a bigger foe, or use heavy weapons, or counter a light enemy and chain kill again a bigger enemy. I never really found the game to be all that challenging in this respect and it always looks super brutal and awesome.

#16 Edited by Funkydupe (3321 posts) -

Ah, so the combat is like the Sleeping Dogs combat. You can basically just stand in the exact same spot and do counters and win against everyone you face except some of the guys who like to grapple.

#17 Edited by Kazona (3081 posts) -

I find the combat in 3 to be the most enjoyable of all Assassin Creed games. Having to deal with different enemies during a combat scenario forced me to be more observant and varied with my fighting tactics. In previous AC games all that was required to win a fight was to hold the trigger and press x when someone attacked to counter their attack. Sometimes this didn't result in an instant kill, but it was just a matter of rinse-and-repeat until all enemies were dead. And if your adversary happened to be one of the stronger ones, a single kick to the groin followed by the mashing of x was usually all it took.

In AC 3 I found myself using a far wider variety of weapons, counters and other moves to deal with groups of enemies. Some of those weren't always necessary (like using the rope spear or disarming an enemey and killing them with their own weapon), but unlike in the previous games (with maybe the exception of Revelations) I actually had fun experimenting with different ways of taking on enemies.

And personally I think it makes sense that you can't kill everyone with a single counter. Yes, you are a Master Assassin (although I think that's kinda debatable in 3), but we're not talking about fighting farmers here. And one would think that a soldier is more capable than your average civilian when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

@funkydupe: In a way, yes, but the combat in Sleeping Dogs can be made a lot more enjoyable by taking a more active approach rather than simply relying on counters.

#18 Posted by MedalOfMode (294 posts) -

This game needs a Combat like Batman Arkham.

#20 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5710 posts) -

AC1 is not a good game by any stretch of the imagination; having weird nostalgia about it is just silly; AC3 could be as bad or worse than ACR (it isn't) and still be substantially better than AC1

#21 Edited by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -

I had the game ruined for me because of a game breaking bug. I got to the part when you meet his dad and have to walk with him. All he did was run directly to a cliff and jumped off. It would checkpoint and restart. He would run right there again and jump again and again and again.

#22 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4417 posts) -

It's crazy how I did a 180 from loving that franchise during AC 2 and Brotherhood to no longer caring about what the hell happens in any future game. I'm kinda done.

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