Combat in Assassin's Creed 2

Combat is Choreography in Assassin’s Creed 2

by Darius Kazemi on December 2, 2009

in Assassins Creed 2,combat,design

I want to talk a little bit about why I love the combat in Assassin’s Creed 2. In AC2, and to a lesser extent AC1, combat is almost entirely about expression. First and foremost, this is evident in the fact that combat is easy. It’s very hard, though not impossible, to die in combat in AC2. So the combat system isn’t about survival at all.

The fact that the combat system is easy also gives me time to decide how I’m going to resolve combat. I can hold down the block button and automatically block almost any attack, and often I find myself doing auto-blocking while thinking, “Given the number of enemies I’m up against and the environment I’m in, how would I like to resolve this combat situation?”

The best thing about the AC2 combat system is the number of ways I’m allowed to fight an enemy. Here are some options:

  • Use any of the many weapons provided to me in game, the basic types being the sword, the dagger, throwing knives, my fists
  • Block, counterattack, block (most common)
  • Put away my weapon and attempt to disarm my opponent
    • If I’ve disarmed my opponent I can use their weapon, and often this gives me access to very unusual weapon types (the spear and the ax, for instance)
  • Dodge and attack
  • Attack one enemy, then turn away and sneak attack an enemy who is not paying attention
  • Grab an enemy
    • Throw the enemy into a wall
    • Throw the enemy off a ledge
    • Throw the enemy into another enemy
    • Headbutt or knee the enemy
  • Switch weapons mid-battle as I see fit
  • Run away
  • Deploy a smoke bomb and run away

This is an incomplete list of the available actions in combat.

The combat system in AC2 allows me to choreograph my own sword fight.

By giving me all these tools at my disposal, along with laughably simple artificial intelligence for the enemies, Ubisoft has done a brilliant job of simulating swashbuckling sword fights. I’m talking Errol Flynn style cheesy old movies where the hero is beset by dozens of goons but bests them all with his sword as they rush the hero one by one. The combat system in AC2 allows me to choreograph my own sword fight, which would be almost impossible if it weren’t for the “dumb AI” that I’ve seen some people complain about.

The best part is that feeling like I’m in control of combat at all times very much evokes the aesthetic of being a capital-A Assassin and all that entails. Of course I’m invincible. Of course my opponents are stupid (relative to me). Of course I get to take my time and choose how everyone is going to fall to my blade. That’s exactly the kind of character I am playing!

I suppose the combat in AC2 faces one of the same issues as the overall gameplay does in The Sims. For some people, it’s a dreadfully boring casual game. For others, it’s a creative outlet. Fortunately, in the case of AC2, I sit firmly in the latter camp.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

A.R.Nakama December 3, 2009 at 2:11 am

It’s worth noting that most of the enemies (in AC1, at least) we’re not that good at combat historically, either. Combat training wasn’t particularly sophisticated back then, so someone who had specifically trained in advanced technical combat easily has an edge over town guards swinging broadswords. Especially if you’ve had Magical Assassin Training. So people whining about “realism” are, in fact, arguing against themselves; what they really want is the convention of a Hard Game.

Also, I’m so waiting for AC8, where dude has an ancestor who is a mystical ninja fighting the Illuminati of Imperial Japan. Then the circle will be complete.

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Trenton Kennedy December 3, 2009 at 7:18 am

While the combat in AC2 was an improvement from AC1, I was actually pretty disappointed with this part of the game (luckily the rest made up for it). I would have liked a way to be more aggressive instead of just counterattacking so much. I tended to avoid combat for this reason (maybe that was the intention?).

Batman: Arkham Asylum just did it so much better. I realize they had totally different goals, but damn. I LOVED fighting large groups of enemies. It also felt exactly like how Batman would fight. The “choreography” felt fantastic.

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Darius Kazemi December 3, 2009 at 9:41 pm

It’s kind of funny that you’d like to be more aggressive in a game where you can scale a wall and drop down on two enemies, stabbing them both in the neck, and then stand up and stab a third enemy in the face! But essentially, AA lets you feel like Batman and AC2 lets you feel like a magical stealth assassin. They both do a great job, but I guess if you want to beat tons of people up, you’re gonna like AA better.

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solipsistnation December 7, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Aw, come on. You can be totally aggressive. I pound X and beat dudes down with my sword like whoa. It’s not as flashy (or as quick) as counter-kills, is all. It’s pretty quick to switch between enemies, and you can grab one, throw him at another couple of enemies and keep them occupied while you stab it up with another– group combat is fun! Just make sure you have a good sword…

(And here I am, extolling the virtual of fighting lots of guards, when not so long ago I was all into total 100% stealthing Thief missions. If only Thief 3 could have been made with as much attention to awesomeness as even AC1. If they’d done something like AC1, with steath instead of stabbing, imagine how great that would have been. Do we dare hold out hope for ThIVf? I’m not.)

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George Katsaros January 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I haven’t played Assassins Creed 2 yet (lack of money and time) but contrary to popular opinion I did like the first one. I felt as if people disliked the combat because they were playing too aggressively. Pounding the attack button over and over doesn’t work too well. The thing I loved most was the sense of rhythm of the attack. Holding down the attack button gave a longer and strong thrust which totally mimicked your button action. If you press the attack button on contact with the two swords a 1 kill animation took place. This caused a visual pleasing and exciting scenario. I felt like I was in a REAL sword fight! I was advancing the enemy, the enemy was advancing at me! And every action I made was thought out and intentional. It made a more immersive feel. That’s just the way I felt when I played.

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