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June 24, 2019
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[AC Syndicate] Tonal Dissonance regarding Enemies vs Player

by Leo Karakolov on 12/14/15 01:33:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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I recently finished playing Bloodborne. One of its strengths is the sense of place it strikes the player with, making them feel like a sensible part of its world. All of the enemies in the game verbally interact with the player in very believable ways. When enemies scream insults or terrified curses at you, it feels genuine. The reason for this is because every enemy in the game, at least the first several times you face them is legit scary. They can kill you. They will kill you. When they scream at you, swear at you, roar at you or moan at you in frightening ways, it fits tonally with the player’s experience. The world feels consistent because those enemies are always a threat, so it makes sense that they’d act that way. To summarize: This post does not address the difficulty of combat, because that's played out by now. This post highlights how powerfully enemies can help the consistency and logic of a game's world when their aesthetics align properly with their mechanics.

This is something Assassin’s Creed lacks, and it makes Assassin’s Creed feel less real. I started playing Syndicate again after beating Bloodborne, and this is really
worth mentioning because it’s quite jarring.

Enemies yell things like: “You’ll be singing a different tune once I’m through wit ya!” “You’re done for!” “He’s as good as dead!” “Spill his innards over the floor!” “Take ‘is head off!” “Cut 'is eyes out!”

They continue to do this when they can be destroyed in less than three strikes and the damage they can do to the player is disproportionately small compared to the power of the player's character. It is inconsistent and harms the world's sense of reality. Why? Because the lines suggest threat, but the enemies are absolutely not threatening. If enemies are this weak mechanically, then they should be fearful of the Assassin when they start fighting them. This isn't so much about the mechanics of combat, but of the aesthetics that should align to those mechanics, in order to have them make sense and feel reasonable.

Things that make some amount of sense, thematically: “Keep him busy!” “Don’t pull any punches!”

Those were pretty the only two lines which were reasonable in their mechanical context. A group of hostiles who knows they can be killed extremely quickly, so they’re a bit apprehensive, a bit worried, they want to team up and coordinate and work together to take the player down because they know that one on one they’re in great danger. One line that was just goofy was, “Flank him!” In a street fight? Most of these enemies do not move at all, so this also seems out-of-place.

Ubisoft recorded all of these lines, spent time, money and effort making them, and they’re ineffectual in the final game because of the mechanical contexts they're applied to. Imagine the subtle difference in quality if they focused their efforts in more reasonable, logical directions.

Of course, the flipside of this coin is to make the actual fight difficulty harder (and not artificially so - ie Unity) but that's not what this post is addressing. If the combat Ubisoft develops does not make the player experience harsh friction, it’s fair to expect they work on the opposite side of the rope, as it were. There is a huge dissonance between the mechanics of combat and the aesthetic of how enemies perceive the player character as they grow in strength.

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