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May 27, 2019
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[AC Syndicate] The Unfulfilled Potential of the Rope Launcher

by Leo Karakolov on 02/17/16 02:08:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


In Syndicate’s marketing, it's called “the iconic Assassin Rope Launcher,” when it’s neither iconic nor terribly Assassin. In-game, Jacob and Evie Frye steal it off a gang leader’s corpse, and the whole affair is disappointingly lacking in ceremony. It’s used as a way to introduce Alexander Graham Bell as the Inventor figure in this story, the same way Leonardo was in AC2. It works in AC2, it doesn't work so well here. Why? The difference is that Leonardo repaired Ezio’s father’s Hidden Blade, a symbolic and definitively ceremonial weapon with which Ezio’s family has a history. The Rope Launcher has no such charisma. It’s the only tool of its kind in the entire game, therefore it must be special, and therefore the guy they kill for it must also be special. Yet he doesn’t factor heavily into the story, and neither does the Rope Launcher. The Hook Blade was a genuine mainstay of the Turkish Brotherhood, the Ropedart was something Shao Jun invented herself, while the Rope Launcher is given the same attention and gravitas of picking up Bullets or Throwing Knives from a dead body.

Is all this because Syndicate’s devs at Ubisoft struggled when it came to weaving the Rope Launcher into the game as an integral part of the Brotherhood? Or was it because it was brought into the game too late in the development process, when they realized the streets were too wide for consistent Parkour, and needed a quick fix? Or was some other reason that we don’t know about at play?

Either way, the Rope Launcher is a very limited tool. The player can’t use it while hanging from Ledges. It has no interactions with the AI. Enemies don’t hear the noise it makes if the player is too close, so they're never incentivized to use normal navigation to skulk around in the shadows instead of making a loud sound. It is not usable in Combat, except to leave it. It's not usable in Stealth, except to move around or stay out of sight. It’s such a simplistic tool that fulfils only the one function it’s Lock-and-Key’d to, and that’s all. It’s meant to be the game’s signature tool, but there’s so little the player can actually do with it. All of this means that while the Rope Launcher is useful, it is also both narratively and mechanically uninteresting.

Would it have been helpful to allow the player to drag enemy bodies back with the Rope Launcher, after killing them with a ranged weapon? Would it have been made more interesting if using it to climb and leap across gaps were left as-is, but using it to Stealth kill enemies subtracted from a resource? Would it have deepened Assassin's Creed Syndicate's systems and gameplay if it could not only be used from a ledge, but also aimed manually (you can kind of do this already by aiming a Pistol, Throwing Knives or Hallucinogenic Darts before tapping the Rope Launcher button)? I don't know. But all of the above is worth thinking about, and opening a discussion on.

So if you found anything of value here, feel free to discuss! 

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