Assassin’s Creed (AC) Valhalla’s trailer has dropped and the Assassin’s Creed and has reinvigorated the Assassin’s creed fans. This time, the setting is in the frigid Norwegian country and the lush green fields of Saxon England and its four kingdoms.
While the story itself is that the Vikings are travelling to England for literally greener pastures, with ensuing consequences, many players have turned their attention to the long-time short comings of the series at the mechanics level.
Assassin’s creed’s combat has always been single combat focused, to the point it became an actual meme. Enemies waiting patiently to strike the player. Of course, over time, such as by AC unity, it became faster but still, it is a staple. Even the latest game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, has Kassandra fighting individual units in quick succession.
There is a distinct lack of feeling of a group fighting style. Perhaps AC Valhalla could take a leaf from the Witcher 3 Playbook. There, Geralt (the protagonist) had a style exclusively called “Group style”. It featured wide sweeping strokes paired with a fluid movement weaving through and around groups of enemies, be they bandits or monsters. This allowed Geralt to fight not only multiple enemies but also beat tougher enemies in groups. His agility is unmatched so even a weaker Geralt could still decimate whole warbands. At higher levels, this skill is truly formidable and he can cut down even the hardiest of monsters in groups.
This is not the case for Kassandra, the legendary Eagle Bearer; or for Bayek, or Arno, or the Frye Twins… and so on. All the assassins so far have had to contend with a sort of fast paced single combat quickly going through all the possible fighters in a scenario.
This problem has plagued other games too, such as The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel, Shadow of War. In it, Talion is often beset from all sides by the various vermin, monsters, demi-gods and orcs. However, he is often only able to fight only one at a time; even his wide-angle strikes just go through the throng of orcs bent on making Talion a pink cushion.
This fix would make battles and fights much more interesting as now Eivor would have the ability to actually be in a fracas, rather than dispatching each adversary one by one in rapid succession. See, the weakness isn’t the combat itself- it does feel punchy enough: it is that Kassandra can only really fully fight one unit at a time.
Ubisoft has promised us that Combat would be much harder-hitting and brutal. Let’s hope they also fix the lack of group combat style too.
In Assassin’s Creed Origins onwards, the loot tables were massively changed. Now, due to the Role-Playing Game nature, the loot was now leveled, upgradeable and flippin’ EVERYWHERE.
It became so common to find some cool sword or article of clothing that they began to lose their significance. For example, very powerful swords could be unlocked in previous Assassin’s Creed games via in game currency. That effort to save up for the legendary saber/pistol felt good, and earned.
AC Odyssey did not have the same feeling of collecting items, especially with the quickly prohibitive costs involved in upgrading at very high levels. This system obviously was designed to help the microtransactions system.
A better loot system would be a return to form, with fewer overall weapons but tied to in-game effort. Unique weapons
No level system
Perhaps its too much to hope for but I yearn the old days when an Assassin the likes of Ezio or Altair could take on the elite guards and still win the day (just barely, though). The new leveling system introduced in AC Origins means that some of the areas of the open world are restricted, which tends to sour player experience.
My experience of playing Origins and Odyssey was full of moments where I was beset by a mere guard 20 levels higher, who then proceeded to make a blood sausage of my protagonist.
As a PCGAMESN article puts it:
“LOOT DROPS, BATTLE PASSES, AND OTHER PROGRESSION SYSTEMS SHOULD NOT BECOME OUR REASON FOR PLAYING”
For me, it felt like I was playing Odyssey working my way to the next legendary weapon or the Amazonian outfit or the reward for beating the pulp out of the manticore or some other creature/warrior of legend. It felt less about the quest, and more about what I could get from it.
The point of a game is to enjoy it, not to work for things;
“there’s a risk that the systems which sell us the illusion of such achievements will crowd out any other reason to sit down at our PCs and fire up a game. If we forget the simple pleasure of play – of the intrinsic value in an experience for its own sake – then we risk eroding what makes games special in the first place.”
A fuller, living map
It seems like the bane of all sandbox open world Role Playing Games is that there is a massive map the size of an IRL metropolis… and not much to do in it. The problem is that the settlements, camps, caves etc. are all few and far between, and there is only empty space, some trees and sparse wildlife.
Also due to the size of the maps, many locations reuse assets and templates of troops, furniture and terrain. This creates a repetitive gameplay loop that gets very boring quickly.
This is why we hope that the map might as well be smaller, but fuller.
A good example is the map comparison of the maps from Game Space shows the progression of map sizes over time:
- AC1: Damascus – 0.13km2
- AC2: Florence – 0.30km2
- AC2: Venice – 0.37km2
- AC3: New York – 0.93km2
- AC Revelations: Constantinople – 0.94km2
- AC Brotherhood: Rome – 1.41km2
- AC3: Frontier – 1.41km2
- AC Unity: Paris – 2.40km2
- AC Syndicate: London – 3.70km2
- AC Rogue: North Atlantic Sea – 70km2
- AC Origins: Egypt – 80km2
- AC Odyssey: Greece – 130km2
- AC Black Flag: Caribbean – 235km2
As one can see, the sizes of the maps have just been massive; the humble beginnings of the Franchise in Damascus could not have imagined the sheer magnitude of the Black Flag seas or the lands of Ancient Greece all in one map.
But the problem is that since Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the maps feel less and less populated with activities and missions and just generally things to do.
And that is because Assassin’s creed always focused on just cities, or a bunch of them. For the first time in Origins, The Black Flag formula wasn’t used, but instead a new formula was sued, where otherwise named settlements with generic NPCs and a couple of non-descript quests. The special quests aren’t found everywhere, and since there are so many locations, it feels like there are too few of them.
Perhaps it is time to bring Assassin’s Creed back to form; the focus of AC Valhalla should be on settlements and things to do in those areas. Tight, small areas with lots to do always feel more satisfying to play in that large expanses that do nothing but bore oneself to sleep.
All in all, these hoped-for improvements would help tremendously with the gameplay experience for fans and new players alike. Ubisoft has been promising upgrades to current system, for a better play. While The recently dropped Gameplay doesn’t show the meat of the mechanics of the mechanics involved, we hope that in the future we are able to see how the game plays out.