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Gaming: The Daily Creed 03: Press square to win

The Daily Creed is a series of (mostly) bitesize posts about my ongoing playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, sequel to what is still currently my fourth favourite game of 2009. The first post is here.

Ezio seems to be stabbing one opponent while using the pistol on a second, which as far as I can tell isn't actually possible to do in the game. Or not yet, at least.

I wasn’t a big fan of much of the original Assassin’s Creed. Accusations that it was a nothing more than a tech demo for the game’s engine were a little unfair but the game was definitely lacking in many respects, which Assassin’s Creed 2 more than made up for two years later.

For me the game’s saving grace was undoubtedly the combat, with a fighting system that scaled well up to massive fights (which I would deliberately start, leading multiple groups of guards into one another before fighting them). Get the timing right and you were unstoppable, executing a series of perfect counters and dodges to take down all foes (or until the remaining opponents fled), but get it wrong and you could very quickly be in trouble. It felt like you were on fairly equal terms with your opponents, getting by on skill but still being very vulnerable even to the most basic of enemies if you made mistakes.

You could make things more interesting by using the hidden blade instead of your swords, because with that equipped you could neither attack or block, relying solely on timing your counters right. It was challenging but it was fun, and a victory against a large group was satisfying.

In Assassin’s Creed 2 combat was made considerably easier. You had a supply of medicine that could restore your health at any time, you had much higher health levels very early on and the timing for counters and dodges was much more generous, letting you press the counter button earlier and still have it trigger. Even playing with the hidden blade was easier as it could now be used for attacking and blocking just like a short sword. I would have appreciated an option to increase the difficulty but I understand that the first game’s combat was pretty punishing, and even for me it had worn out its welcome before the end of the game (where they made it even harder).

In Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood they’ve managed to make it even easier. The big addition is execution kills, which allows you to chain kills together. Once you’ve successfully killed a guard you press square (or presumably X on the 360 controller) and Ezio moves over to another guard and immediately kills him, upon which you can then press square to do it to the next one, and so on. The challenge there is in executing in the right order, as if you don’t kill the one whose is going to attack next he will attack and break your flow.

There are no obvious restrictions to the executions. Enemies that can’t be killed with a sword attack, either because they automatically parry or dodge, are just as susceptible to execution kills, as are the pikemen and brutes (who both exist to be unconventional enemies requiring special tactics). As it stands you just need to kill a basic enemy and can then execute the challenging ones without having to expend any special effort, making things considerably easier. I can’t say for sure but it also feels like the timing for counters and dodges is even more generous, triggering as long as Ezio is still performing the animation when an enemy attacks.

You don’t have to use the execute kills, of course. For a while I avoided those, stopped using medicine (only healing from visits to the doctor), made sure I was always on full notoriety so that guards attacked me on sight, avoided certain weapons, and generally just did what I could to up the challenge. After a while though it began to feel like I was just arbitrarily stretching things out, making the game last longer for no real reason. Fights weren’t harder, they just took a little longer and I spent more time running back and forth to doctors.

I still have notoriety on full all the time because I never pass up a fight and that lets the guards initiate things, but by and large I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the series has become more about being the ultimate badass rather than a game of skill. For the most part I’m okay with that.

Next on The Daily Creed: Thrum… Thrum… Snikt!

Previous on the Daily Creed: Kiss the horse

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