Sunday August 7, 2022

The stealth features that were supposed to be included in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla were disappointing and there weren’t many options for performing skillful assassinations. The most recent games in the series have almost eliminated the stealthiness that made Assassin’s Creed stand out from other action RPGs. Although there were a few stealth options in Valhalla, there were some issues with using mechanics like the hood, and the other combat features in the game made sneaking around enemies lackluster.

With the prospect of being a master assassin, stealth was one of the major selling points in the first Assassin’s Creed, and many of the titles that were released after it built on the concept of developing the protagonist’s stealth abilities. However, the new games have moved away from the concepts in the original title. The ability to hood Eivor and the inclusion of the hidden blade were the only stealth options included in Valhalla, but the weapons system was focused more on head-on combat.

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Returning to the original concepts in the Assassin’s Creed series would be a surprising and welcome change compared to the recent titles that have phased out the notion of becoming a master assassin. Given the characters in AC Valhalla, conquering England as a Viking was a much more authentic experience than stealthily traversing the country and taking out enemies one by one. Instead of expanding the combat system in the next game, Ubisoft should enhance the stealth abilities and bring back the mechanics that once made the series unique.

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Although stealth was somewhat included in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the features were minimal and felt forced. The weapons system, inclusion of raids, and the quest to expand the Raven Clan by force made using stealth feel out of place and unnecessary. Eivor’s personality and principles directly conflicted with the values held by the Hidden Ones. Eivor was even hesitant about receiving and using the hidden blade at first because they believed in facing an enemy head-on rather than sneaking around in the shadows. This concept made using stealth in most situations seem inauthentic. Eivor did find the advice of the Hidden Ones and their alliance useful, but there wasn’t enough in the way of shared ideals to encourage a stealth-heavy playthrough.

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One of the more prominent stealth elements was the ability to pull Eivor’s hood up, and it was supposed to let them walk through Distrust Zones freely. However, enemies would still identify and attack Eivor in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, so the system was essentially useless for sneaking around, and it further discouraged the use of stealth in any capacity. Unfortunately, it felt as if the stealth features in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla were an afterthought, as everything else in the game seemed to direct players away from using them.

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Aside from story missions and a few optional side quests to take on, there were few opportunities to use stealth. Eivor was easily spotted by enemies while exploring Viking-era England, and clearing enemy camps stealthily wasn’t rewarding because a raid still needed to be started to collect all the resources. Since Assassin’s Creed Valhalla‘s Eivor couldn’t open large chests or blocked doors on their own, it was just easier, and arguably more fun, to call in their allies upon arriving at an enemy camp. Completing raids with a Viking party rather than sneaking around with a hidden blade helped to maintain the immersive experience.

When Assassin’s Creed was first released in 2007, it was able to stand out compared to the myriad third-person adventure titles on stands. The concept of hiding in the shadows, taking out a target, and getting away without being caught was a large part of what made the series so enjoyable and unique when it started out. The newer main Assassin’s Creed games are still highly entertaining, but they’ve lost some of the elements that made the older ones stand out from other action RPGs.

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Recent Assassin’s Creed games feel increasingly like they’ve conformed to a general action RPG formula rather than using the staple stealth elements that arguably made the series so popular when it started out. Eliminating the features that made the protagonists true assassins took away from the core gameplay that used to make the series so distinct. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, along with Origins and Odyssey, is still a very successful titles even without the stealth features. However, continuing to exclude assassin abilities like in AC Valhalla may lead to a decline in the series because the games will start to blend in with every other title in the genre.

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To continue elevating Assassin’s Creed to the top of its genre, Ubisoft will need to integrate stealth back into titles that also have enhanced combat options. A game with some of the old and new features introduced with each title would make the series as distinctive and memorable as the first game was when it came out. Stealth has always been one of the best things about the series, so to keep creating massively successful titles, Ubisoft should apply some definitive changes and make good on their promise to bring stealth features back.

The new Assassin’s Creed will reportedly revolve around Basim, a character from AC Valhalla who led a branch of the Hidden Ones in England. Since Basim is already a master assassin, it could be possible that the new game is revisiting some of the best features in the series that were introduced and developed with characters like Altaïr and Ezio. Basim is exactly the type of protagonist that the series needs to make a smooth transition back to its roots without stealth feeling forced or inauthentic.

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Although focusing more on stealth would be a welcome return to the systems that made early games in the series thoroughly entertaining, the development of different combat styles in the newer games can’t be ignored. Switching back to the old style without including the ability to upgrade or expand the Assassin’s Creed protagonist‘s arsenal may cause just as many complaints as doing away with most of the stealth mechanics. For the next game in the series, Ubisoft should expand on the stealth that was supposed to be a part of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla while maintaining or building on the enjoyable features included in the title.

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