Assassin’s Creed III Devs Explain Difficulty Settings

Unlike most modern gaming franchises, Assassin’s Creed has never offered users an alternate difficulty setting. Ever wondered why? Well, it seems that the developers think difficulty settings – in particular ‘easy modes’ – effectively ruin games.

Assassin’s Creed III lead designer Alex Hutchinson tells Edge that “a lot of games have been ruined by easy modes.”

“If you have a cover shooter and you switch it to easy and you don’t have to use cover, you kind of broke your game. You made a game that is essentially the worst possible version of your game… it’s like if I picked up a book and it said, ‘Do you want the easy version or the complicated version?’ [Game designers] can simplify the language, you know; we can make it two syllables.”

Still, with all Hutchinson’s talk of easy modes ruining games, don’t expect Assassin’s Creed III to be the hardest game you’ve ever played. Lead gameplay designer Steven Masters is keen to stress so much, telling Edge that the team’s goal isn’t to make every moment of the game a challenge, but to make sure each moment is passed well – achieved through extensive playtesting.

“I have crazy data analysis tools for these things. I can reach in and pull a video of any moment in a playtest; I can sort different events and say, ‘Okay, I want to see when this guy got detected and then failed within 30 seconds’, and watch that. So in terms of balancing we can do quite a lot of fine-tuning. It’s something that I look after very closely… we don’t do it on the fly but we take a lot of care over it.”

Hutchinson also stresses that the team aren’t looking to make a “brutally difficult game.” Instead, difficulty options will be integrated within the main experience, as has been the case since the optional objectives system was introduced in Brotherhood. So completing goals and targets any which way the player desires won’t necessarily be difficult, but aiming for 100% synchronization could well be.

Masters references the mission we’ve already seen in the game’s reveal trailers – the battle on bunker hill; the one brimming with thousands of NPCs on screen.

“We can let you get through that pretty straightforwardly, but we can put a lot of constraints in like ‘don’t take any damage when you’re coming down there’ or ‘assassinate the target without being detected’. When you’re standing in the middle of this incredibly fortified scenario it’s a serious stealth challenge. It’s really difficult and we’re going to challenge you on all of your different skills and abilities.”

So while the extra optional objectives don’t sound wildly different from previous games (no damage, no detection), their presence alone at least offers a deeper level of difficulty. Just don’t expect Assassin’s Creed III to be a walk in the park.

Which is fine by me. I think the Assassin’s Creed difficulty levels have been pretty well balanced throughout the entire series. That’s not to say I find difficulty levels irrelevant or obsolete; they can still offer different ways to play the game (or indeed, the option to pass through particularly difficult sections of games without having to launch your controller at the screen in frustration).

Do you like the option to play games on a lower difficulty setting? Or do you prefer the Assassin’s Creed style of increasingly more difficult optional objectives?

Let us know in the comments below!