If Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed III have taught me anything about stealth in video games, it’s that it requires a careful balance of realism, freedom and threat to succeed.
Dishonored is successful in each of these aspects, for the most part, while Assassin’s Creed III is becoming increasingly less worthy of having the word ‘assassin’ in its title.
Realism is arguably the most important thing about a stealth game as it allows the player to easily grasp the attributes of their surroundings, as in, what can the enemies see, can I reach that ledge or am I making too much noise, and using the Dark Vision and Blink abilities, Dishonored answers all of these questions for the player.
Dishonored doesn’t resort to conspicuous ‘hiding spots’ like ACIII does. The ‘hiding spot’ is wherever someone/something isn’t looking, which is infinitely more immersive and allows you to stay close to the ‘action’ while remaining hidden and, most importantly, cautious.
The world is also compact and layered enough to allow it to become a personal labyrinth against enemies, and the enemies themselves can be distracted and guided around the area.
What makes me dislike the stealth in Assassin’s Creed III is that it feels so artificial and constructed.
Soldiers often don’t care if you smash your horse into them, and even if they start chasing you ACIII just throws out a yellow circle for you to run out of and be automatically safe. There’s no sense of environment. If you jump in a hay stack inside the yellow circle, the guards will find you even though they shouldn’t be able to know where you are, but outside the circle they’ll just go “Eh, screw it”.
Connor anchors himself to obvious ‘stealth objects’ with as much grace as a key going into a lock, so there’s virtually no creativity. Getting caught is completely dependent on whether the game is in ‘going to get caught mode’ instead of cleverly getting out of sight and not ‘range’.
Running isn’t always an option in Dishonored since the streets and buildings are not large areas. Every inch has the potential for being a hiding spot, but there will be times when ‘legging it’ will leave you too vulnerable to pistols, turrets and Tesla Coils from Red Alert 2.
But, excluding trash bins, there are no obvious places to hide. Even though Corvo can crouch to decrease his sound, there isn’t really an ‘invisibility mode’. Dishonored simply makes an area with walls, whether they be literal walls or even closed doors, hedges or crates, and you make yourself unnoticed by guiding enemies away or towards you.
It’s just you and the enemies’ eyes and ears.
But Connor is a god damn ‘stealth/assassin magnet’, locking onto beams, boxes, piles of hay, ladders and small groups of people, so ACIII is inadvertently instructing the player how to act by having blatant ‘stealth objects’ that Connor can ‘use’ but not ‘utilize’.
And this way of traversing the levels, which I’ve nicknamed ‘Train Track Movement’, is incredibly restrictive as it forces you to operate within the world in a rigid way, essentially turning the map into an arena shaped race track.
The enemies in Dishonored are no pushovers, as they will dodge your swings, block your attacks and blast bullets at you.
Corvo, while relying on ‘magic’, gadgets and weapons instead of raw skill, has enough abilities to take on several guards at a time, but any more will be quite tricky to deal with.
Granted, the guards can’t see nine feet in front of their noses, but the chance of them seeing you is too great for you to risk getting careless, because when they catch you, you’re in trouble.
They seem to have exactly the same amount of health as you, which, while making Corvo feel less special, makes virtually every fight engaging and worth avoiding, something every stealth game should aim for.
But Connor is, as I’ve stated before, a tornado holding an axe.
I’m positive that there is literally no situation in Assassin’s Creed III that I couldn’t have handled by dismissing stealth entirely, except when the game arbitrarily decides that getting detected fails a mission.
While enemies in Dishonored can swarm and quickly overwhelm you, soldiers in ACIII circle you like children playing Duck Duck Goose and never attack you all at once. Block, counter, block, counter, block counter. Repetitive, simplistic, boring and, most importantly, too easy.
I’m not saying that Dishonored is perfect and Assassin’s Creed III is horrible. In fact both games have the Arkham Asylum detective mode power which greatly lessens the stress of stealthy situations, even though I never needed it in ACIII.
ACIII should take a page out of Dishonored’s book and stop being so mechanical with its stealth, and even Corvo could learn a thing or two from Connor, like not having gigantic hands.