Assassin's Creed Valhalla is one heck of a game, in my humble opinion. Ubisoft's open-world Viking RPG, actually ended up being one of my favourite games of 2020. Even so, I fully understand that for a generation of older Assassin's Creed fans, the franchise has lost its way since moving from hardcore stealth action to more of an RPG model.
In recent weeks, Assassin's Creed fans have lamented the loss of hardcore stealth. Reddit user DandalfDaWhite expressed their wish to see Ubisoft get more creative with the stealth in future games, arguing that the stealth mechanics present in Valhalla just didn't cut it.
"Speaking mainly about Valhalla, I loathe how being 'stealthy' in a settlement boils down to putting up a hood," they wrote. "And even then if you move at more than a walking pace guards are immediately suspicious of you. Let us steal Saxon outfits from kills; force us to ditch our armour and put on some commoner clothes so we can actually blend in properly but at the cost of stats. Or let us take armour from Saxon soldiers to equip as a set disguise outfit. If I want to sneak around a monastery and take out the guards one-by-one before triggering a raid, let me dress as a monk and really hide in plain sight."
It's the kind of thing that most Assassin's Creed fans agree with. Bring back social stealth and make everyone happy. It seems like such an easy solution for Ubisoft, right? Of course the reality is never quite so simple.
In a recent interview with PC Gamer, Assassin's Creed creator Patrice Désilets shared his thoughts on why AAA franchises like Assassin's Creed have moved away from social stealth. In a nutshell, it's not easy. The more powerful consoles get, the harder it is to pull off social stealth realistically.
"Because it's tough," Désilets explained. "It's hard to make you believe in it. It's tough to render a crowd and make sure that players get that they're hidden. AAA is a lot about precision, in the character models and the rendering of the crowd.
"But I still find it interesting. It was unique and different and not easy to make. But maybe that was abandoned for something more trendy. You said AAA, and AAA, it's money, man. It costs a lot to make, so you need to make sure a lot of people will appreciate it. That's why, I guess, people say, 'We'll just do the hack and slash, and NPCs will be there but they won't be the main part,' which is a shame. We had something."
Who knows, perhaps as the series grows further down the RPG route, complex stealth mechanics can evolve into a path that's more optional for those players who want to follow it? With that said, that's the kind of thing that sounds like a ton of work for an optional feature... We'll just have to wait and see what future games hold in store.
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