Assassin's Creed III Multiplayer Hands-On Preview - Domination
Written Thursday, October 04, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
A few years ago it seemed that everyone was slapping unnecessary multiplayer on traditionally single-player franchises. Frightened by the short life-spans and early trade-ins endured by campaign-only titles, nervous publishers ensured that a glut of games suddenly sprouted online play.
Assassin’s Creed was no exception, jumping on the multiplayer bandwagon for the first time with 2010’s Brotherhood. Upon announcement it was largely written off by commenters as an afterthought. Yet while games like Dead Space 2 could only manage multiplayer as limp as a dismembered Xenomorph tentacle, Brotherhood did a surprisingly good job.
A couple of years on and Assassin's Creed multiplayer has matured and a sizeable community has blossomed around it. Still a side issue to the campaign's main event, it has nevertheless grown in importance to become a fan favourite. And the reason for this is ideas. Assassin's Creed multiplayer has ideas.
At its best AC multiplayer succeeds by accentuating what is unique and fun about the series. It plays to its free-running, stealthy strengths. As a result even familiar modes – so uninspiring elsewhere – feel fresh and interesting.
All of which brings us to Domination, a new mode introduced in Assassin's Creed III alongside Wolf Pack (which you can read about here). Ostensibly it's a simple control point game in which two teams of four compete to capture and control three areas on a map, merely by occupying it. So far, so familiar. But there’s a twist.
While in the control point area the aim is to remain incognito for long enough to capture it. This is tough because the control points are really quite small and they are occupied, typically, by no more than 5 or 6 NPCs. It's your job to blend in as much as possible.
In this way Domination is a little like Manhunt in that remaining incognito is key. But because the area in which you are hoping to remain unnoticed is so small, Domination actually resembles a kind of AAA version of Chris Hecker's SpyParty.
SpyParty is a highly-regarded indie game that's been in development for donkey's years. It features two players; one must do his best to blend in with the NPCs during a dinner party, while the other has his sniper rifle trained on the group, waiting for the spy to reveal himself. One must survive, the other must kill.
Domination plays out in a similar way, yet there are rules as to when exactly you can be killed. If you’re controlling an area and you are stood within it, you can kill indiscriminately. If you’re not yet controlling an area then you can only stun.
In most cases stunning is a terrible idea as it merely reveals your presence. It blows your cover. Your enemy will just fall to the ground, roll around for a bit, then get up and kill you. However, if you use it correctly, it can be quite a handy tool.
Basically, it works like this. When you are in a control point, the clock will tick down for a set length of time until you capture it. If you are on your own, it ticks down slowly and if there’s a group of you it’ll tick down more quickly. Stunning an opponent can buy you time.
If there’s just a few seconds left on the clock, you can stun your opponent safe in the knowledge that when they recover, you’ll be controlling the area. It takes correct timing and a little educated gambling, but done right it’s a handy little bonus.
What Domination really boils down to however, is your ability to blend in with the crowd and spot an enemy. With a range of character models to choose from (each team of four shares the same model), you can slink in and out of the NPCs stalking your prey. Act like an NPC, identify those that don’t, and you’re half way there.
Well, kinda. Layered on top of all of this are portrait signifiers in the top right hand corner of the screen, indicating whether an enemy is close and in plain sight. Learn to use these properly (fans will be familiar with ithe system from previous iterations) and you’ll have the edge. Meanwhile, your opponents will be feeling the edge of your blade.
If I’ve managed to make Domination sound overly complicated, then I apologise. It’s actually a massively entertaining and accessible mode that just so happens to have loads of little tricks and tactical ruffles. It’s fun, a brilliant addition to an increasingly entertaining multiplayer suite that - like the very best Assassin’s Creed MP modes - draws on the series’ strengths to make something that feels entirely fresh.
Whatever you’re looking for from Assassin’s Creed III, all the evidence suggests that you will not be let down. Online or offline, single-player or multiplayer, co-operative or competitive, it promises to be one hell of a game.
Assassin’s Creed III is out on October 30th in North America and October 31st in Europe.