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LeoKRogue
05-27-2017, 10:11 PM
Assassin's Creed Unity and Assassin's Creed Syndicate both contain an amount of Non-Lethality in their Stealth gameplay. It is the barest minimum acceptable in a Stealth game, but it is present, and for that, I'm grateful. The Non-Lethal Chokedown animation in Unity is long. It can be interrupted, if the player needs to run from guards that are turning around, but the more optimal decision is to finish the Choke, because it removes one of the enemies that would otherwise begin chasing you.

AI Manipulation is possible in Unity with Cherry Bombs, and at-will line of sight blocking is possible with Smoke Bombs. These two are largely the extent of the Non-Lethal possibilities available at all times. Unity is very barebones when it comes to Non-Lethality. Because there is nothing Arno can do from a Choke animation, except to finish it or cut it short and cause a deliberate Detection, playing Non-Lethally involves the use of a lot of Tools, perhaps even more so than playing Lethally.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcN5ldp96YU
AC Unity - "Graduation" Non-Lethal Chokedowns

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The pacing here feels stuttered, staggered, a little unnatural. Compare that to the fluid stabs and hits that are possible with a Hidden Blade Kill, which lets the player quickly harvest the lives of multiple enemies in quick succession. If a player tries to play the game both Lethally and Non-Lethally, they will notice that Unity is balanced around Lethal gameplay to the extreme.


Enemies investigate Cherry Bomb lures long enough for the player to run past them from behind, or to kill them one after the other with their Blade, but they do not investigate Cherry Bomb lures long enough for a player to successfully choke more than one of them without a Detect.
They are stunned and their vision is obscured by Smoke long enough for a player to successfully kill up to four or five guards in quick succession, but they are not stunned/obscured for long enough that the player can Choke Down more than two guards, sometimes not even more than one if they were too far when they threw the Smoke Bomb.
Guards that are eliminated Non-Lethally will drop to the ground and make a loud noise that always "distracts" nearby guards and makes them investigate. This makes the Non-Lethal takedown functionally useless for intentional Stealth gameplay if the the player's target-guard is too close to other guards, and the player does not use any Smoke. When a Low Profile kill is executed with the Hidden Blade, the target sways on their feet for several moments before going down, only then do they make the noise and only then are their allies informed that something happened at all. During those two to three seconds, the player is free to move away from the guard's position, allowing a Low Profile kill into a stealthy exit, which is the entire fantasy of Assassin's Creed.


Since the Non-Lethal takedown animation itself takes so long, it's *more than reasonable* to have the Assassin *gently lower the enemy to the ground* so that it doesn't make any noise.

There are Weapons in AC Unity that have the "Non-Lethal" tag attached to them; these are weapons that, when hitting an enemy with a Finisher, will not actually kill them, but leave them wriggling in pain on the ground. It may seem at first a clever and expedient way to shortcut and "reskin" weapon usage for the Non-Lethal fantasy, but it does not work, due to the fact that Weapons in AC Unity are fundamentally attached to the Combat Playstyle. As such it's completely useless for Non-Lethal *Stealth* because there is no way for the player to engage with it. If there were a way to clobber a guard over the head with a Rifle for a noisier, but much faster Non-Lethal Takedown, that would be a different story. AC Unity does not allow that.

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Assassin's Creed Syndicate added a number of things that show Ubisoft are experimenting, trying things out, attempting, making little efforts here and there to enhance the Non-Lethal fantasy in their games about shadowy rogues sneaking around and staying subtle. This is good. Let's take a look at some of these new tweaks, and what Syndicate learned from the expression of Non-Lethality that existed in Unity.

First, there is the [Speed Knock-Out] Perk, which lets the player's Knock-Out animation finish much, much faster. To unlock this, of course, the player has to Stealth Kill a huge number of guards throughout the game. This is a step forward, and a half-step back. On the one hand, in order to enhance your Non-Lethal fantasy, you must engage in the Lethal fantasy a hell of a lot more. I shouldn't need to point out the design-dissonance here. On the other hand, this means Ubisoft have *considered a method for the player to UPGRADE their Non-Lethality!* This is super encouraging! Future games can allow upgrades to Non-Lethal Chokes or Takedowns that don't involve engaging in the opposing playstyle.

Second, once a Choke Animation is finished, the Assassin can haul the enemy over their shoulder by tapping the Choke/Non-Lethal button again. This is taken verbatim from Dishonored, and doing this does *not* cause a detect or alert from enemies nearby. It is a method of taking down a guard and removing them from the area without being noticed. This is good, this is progress. The only thing wrong with this mechanic is that it is *not* included for Lethal/Killer players. This is bad. This is a half-step back. Once a player stabs a guard, they should also be able to hold down the Non-Lethal/Grab Body button to fluidly transfer into a similar animation of picking them up. This is an obvious oversight and it should be corrected in later releases.

Third, the player now has a method of moving the enemy before the takedown; the "Kidnap" mechanic. As silly as its name is, and as much as it should really have been called "Take Hostage" this mechanic is exceptionally powerful, and combined with Smoking an area to approach the Kidnap target, can almost single-handedly break the entire game. Still, its inclusion is good because it does help the Non-Lethal role do what it needs to do. Sometimes, Choking a guard in the area they're already in would be a bad idea. Moving them somewhere else before taking them down safely is a useful option to have. Additionally, Kidnap serves the function of allowing a player to, more or less, "Corner Non-Lethal Takedown" much more consistently. Mashing the Kidnap button while an enemy comes to investigate the player's Whistle at a corner makes sure that you can Choke them from Kidnap without having to time the actual button press very precisely.

It's worth noting that Kidnap, Choke, and Carry Body all combo into each other in that order. During a Kidnap, the player can also *cancel* a choke to punch the enemy in the stomach again and move them somewhere else. This does not cause a Detect and is a good way to change your mind and take your target away from some approaching enemies who might see it.

Fourth, I mentioned Whistle before. Whistling is back in Syndicate, and this is good because it represents the ability for On-Position AI Manipulation. IE, it's a Distraction that has the Assassin as its origin-point. It will always lure enemies to the position you were in when you Whistled. This means a player can Whistle, knowing the enemy would come to that point, then, say, circle around a building and move behind the investigating enemy's back.

There is, however, another step back that Syndicate committed; its Throwing Knives can sometimes be helpful as a Distraction item to lure enemies around to a position that's not player-originated, but most of the time they're not the ideal distraction tool. It's a damn shame that Unity had Cherry Bombs, but no Whistle, and Syndicate had Whistle, but no Cherry Bombs.

Lastly, *neither* game has a Ranged Non-Lethal weapon. The player doesn't need to have many of these, and indeed, maybe they shouldn't, but letting them carry a maximum of three Sleep Darts, combined with all the Non-Lethal-related mechanics from both Unity and Syndicate, would be an absolute dream, and would finally let certain players be the *type* of Assassin they want to be.

The type of Assassin that sneaks into a guarded location, leaving everyone alive except for the Target, who is found the next morning with their blood all over their desk, running from a slit throat. The message is clear; "I held *all* of your lives in my hands. I could have killed *all* of you, but I believe you better than your boss. Do not prove me wrong, or I may have to come back for you as well. Good day."

VestigialLlama4
05-27-2017, 11:22 PM
There has been non-lethal stealth in AC games for a while now.

AC3 had it, you could go to a guy and choke him out. Black Flag introduced the sleep darts and also had non-lethal chokes.

LoyalACFan
05-27-2017, 11:45 PM
There has been non-lethal stealth in AC games for a while now.

AC3 had it, you could go to a guy and choke him out. Black Flag introduced the sleep darts and also had non-lethal chokes.

I actually think AC3 introduced sleep darts as well. They were throwable (no blowpipe) but yeah, there was definitely a ranged non-lethal tool in AC3. I'm pretty sure it's technically possible to play through AC3 without killing anyone but key targets, but considering that the fists are mechanically identical to other weapons except for a slightly longer takedown animation, it's no great accomplishment to play AC3 mostly non-lethally.

Frankly, I've never been that interested in non-lethal stealth takedowns. I prefer to either ghost through, or kill everyone silently. The way I see it, if you choke out an enemy, they're eventually going to wake up and realize somebody has been there, so if I'm completing a mission where I'm supposed to get in and out without anyone noticing, leaving a bunch of unconscious goons on the floor seems like a bit of a cheap trick. I much, much, much prefer using tools to manipulate enemy AI to get them to look the other way, but Assassin's Creed AI is notoriously dodgy for a stealth game, so I'm more likely to just stab everyone to avoid frustration when a guard detects me for no reason (like, for instance, if I approach a pair of guards stationed at a door from behind after infiltrating the area via a different entrance, even while moving slowly in stealth mode, they instantly go to combat mode when I get within four or five feet as if they psychically knew I was there. WTF?).

LeoKRogue
05-27-2017, 11:51 PM
There has been non-lethal stealth in AC games for a while now.

AC3 had it, you could go to a guy and choke him out. Black Flag introduced the sleep darts and also had non-lethal chokes.

You're absolutely correct, I'm analyzing the two most recent Assassin's Creed games as they are, by virtue of their recency, the most relevant to current development.


I actually think AC3 introduced sleep darts as well. They were throwable (no blowpipe) but yeah, there was definitely a ranged non-lethal tool in AC3. I'm pretty sure it's technically possible to play through AC3 without killing anyone but key targets, but considering that the fists are mechanically identical to other weapons except for a slightly longer takedown animation, it's no great accomplishment to play AC3 mostly non-lethally.

Frankly, I've never been that interested in non-lethal stealth takedowns. I prefer to either ghost through, or kill everyone silently. The way I see it, if you choke out an enemy, they're eventually going to wake up and realize somebody has been there, so if I'm completing a mission where I'm supposed to get in and out without anyone noticing, leaving a bunch of unconscious goons on the floor seems like a bit of a cheap trick. I much, much, much prefer using tools to manipulate enemy AI to get them to look the other way, but Assassin's Creed AI is notoriously dodgy for a stealth game, so I'm more likely to just stab everyone to avoid frustration when a guard detects me for no reason (like, for instance, if I approach a pair of guards stationed at a door from behind after infiltrating the area via a different entrance, even while moving slowly in stealth mode, they instantly go to combat mode when I get within four or five feet as if they psychically knew I was there. WTF?).

I prefer that myself! :D The issue is that, yes, AI in AC is notoriously dodgy for a Stealth game. Assassin's Creed doesn't support a great amount of Non-Lethality in either "direction," whether you want to go full Ghost (which I often do, and have made huge, huge video playlists doing exactly that) or whether you want to Knock Out enemies without tearing into them with sharp knives. Regardless of your feelings on whether it's a "cheap trick" or not to knock enemies unconscious, surely it's reasonable that Assassin's Creed should evolve, step up its game, and enhance the bare minimum of Non-Lethality that it's introduced to-date?

Using tools for AI Manipulation and distractions is a fine thing, and that should be something that's reworked and enhanced significantly, to be more consistent and work as predictably as the items in other Stealth games do. The best case scenario would be that the entire game is playable via AI Manipulation and Ghosting, save for Stabbing Main Targets. That would be great, and that's the first part of Non-Lethality, the ability to remove threats is another part of it.

There are different players who play these games, and there are different types of Assassin that they may like to embody. Improving Non-Lethality improves the entire game across the board, for everyone, even Lethal/Reaper players.

In Stealth games that allow for Non-Lethality, Guard placements become more well thought-out. Missions become more interesting. Power levels and balance of enemies are taken more seriously. It is overall, a good thing for all players. The great thing about Assassin's Creed is that at the end of the day, all Main Targets must be killed, which means there is no issue of the game taking its Non-Lethality "too far." I don't see how we wouldn't want this, if we care about having a great experience, even on a purely selfish level.

BananaBlighter
05-28-2017, 12:45 PM
Non-lethal really is quite fun. Initially I was very disappointed with Syndicate because the stealth was was so ******* easy, especially after coming from Unity. However I soon realised that it became much more interesting when played non-lethally.

The throwing knives, which I probably used 3 times throughout the entire playthrough, could now serve as a small distraction to lure one specific guard, while voltaic bombs (which I never used once - most useless and OP gimmick I've ever seen in AC) could serve as Unity's equivalent of cherry bombs (though with a smaller range), attracting multiple guards. Whistling, which was not present in Unity was also useful for luring guards towards you, and the kidnap mechanic, which I never used because of how stupid it felt, finally became useful for taking a guard out of the way before eliminating them, or to get past a group of guards unnoticed. All these things I've listed completely break the game when playing normally, but the challenge in non-lethal is sufficient that using them feels a little more justified. The kidnap mechanic is still OP, but I let it pass in this case.

Unity isn't built for non-lethal, but I think that it is sufficiently challenging without it. I mean, it depends. I tend to stay away from my tools and stick to the hidden blade because I see most of them as cheap gimmicks. The best tools are patience and creativity. I barely used Unity's phantom blades because they felt cheap (though at least you couldn't carry 30 throwing knives like Syndicate), and even the smoke bombs felt a little dirty, so I used them only when I couldn't see a way to accomplish something with nothing more than cherry bombs. Cherry bombs are the most useful stealth tool, and require a little more creativity to use effectively than smokes and especially the phantom blade. I'm happy there was no whistle because honestly it was OP in the previous games, however you can use money bags as short range cherry bombs (like Syndicate's throwing knives) and as the equivalent of a whistle when standing behind a corner.

Honestly I can't see myself completing Unity's 5-star heists non-lethally. There are many instances where you have multiple guards surrounding a chest/painting, and you would be very rushed for time if you threw in a smoke, grabbed the goods, and ran out. Even doing this, you cannot reach certain chests because they are placed outside, and the surrounding guards would notice the smoke cloud, which isn't exactly stealth IMO. This tactic also feels a lot cheaper than using a few well placed distractions and takedowns, even if it's lethal.

However overall I think Unity used it tools well and I never felt the need to go non-lethal - restricting my use of tools like smoke bombs and phantom blades was enough of a challenge for me. Unity is the only game where I've found the berserk tool to be useful, and I often found myself using it to create a huge distraction. The problem with Syndicate is that even without any of the tools, the stealth is still ridiculously easy, and mind-numbiningly stupid with them. By adding the extra challenge of non-lethal, Syndicate's stealth finally became interesting, and I even felt more justified in using some of the gimmicky tools and mechanics (whistling, smoke bombs, throwing knives, voltaic bombs, and of course, kidnapping). I mean, even non-lethally, it's still easy because of the overpowered nature of smoke bombs and the kidnap mechanic, but I no longer feel like I've committed a sin every time I use them.

To be honest, I prefer Unity's way of doing it, where regular stealth was hard enough that I felt justified in using the tools from time to time. Maybe they could make non-lethal more accessible, but I also want ghosting a mission to be a challenge, and something you attempt if you're feeling like you want to really work your brain a bit. Do not bring back whistling, kidnapping, and severely reduce the range and time of smoke. Instead give us useful tools like cherry bombs and the rope dart (best stealth tool in the series IMO) which require a little more creativity to use. The most important thing though is to ensure that, given enough thought and patience, all missions are perfectly playable without gimmicks like throwing knives, even if the game decides to include them for the purposes of accessibility. This is where the pre-AC4 games failed, because the 'stealth' was very restricting. Stealth in AC2 was running around spamming throwing knives as far as I can remember - it was not a game built for stealth.