Why 'Assassin's Creed' Style 'Eagle Vision' Is Terrible Game Design And Needs To Stop

Posted: Jan 31 2014, 8:40pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 31 2014, 8:46pm CST, in Gaming


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Why 'Assassin's Creed' Style 'Eagle Vision' Is Terrible Game Design

In Assassin’s Creed games you can enter a super-sensory mode known as “Eagle Vision.” The primary reason for this mode is to tag enemies, items, or reveal hiding spots—a useful sixth sense.

In the recent Tomb Raider reboot there’s something called “Survival Instincts.” It allows you to highlight enemies, reveal hidden objects, and points you in the direction of your current objective.

In the Batman: Arkham games Batman has a special “Detective Mode.” It highlights enemies based on their weapon, unveils objects, and helps you solve puzzles.

In Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Joel has a peculiar “super hearing” ability (Listen Mode) which, yeah, you guessed it, allows you to tag enemies even through walls and so on and so forth.

In the upcoming Shadow of Mordor game the ranger Talion can use his “wraith mode” to do all the above-mentioned stuff in one form or another.

The list could go on. Other games use special goggles to do the same basic thing. Think military shooters with heat vision or whatever. This “sixth sense” has permeated video game design in all its genres.

And it needs to stop.

Seriously, using these sixth senses as a game mechanic may have been clever once upon a time but now it’s just lazy.

It’s a built-in cheat system that rewards players for doing nothing, robs level design of some of its most fundamental surprises, and always feels like a knock-off of some other game.

Because it is.

It’s becoming commonplace these days, too, which is problematic. I loved the new Tomb Raider but the use of “Survival Instincts” was profoundly lame, granting super powers to someone who isn’t supposed to have any.

At least in Assassin’s Creed, Eagle Vision is tied to the fiction. In Tomb Raider? Not so much.

The Last of Us is even worse. Joel isn’t a super hero. In many ways, he’s the antithesis of super-hero, and yet he has this miraculous ability to visualize auditory cues. It’s probably the dumbest thing in what is, by and large, a very smart game.

To me, the entire practice feels like a built-in cheat system, designed at once to make gameplay less demanding and game design less interesting. Exploration becomes little more than popping in and out of normal and special vision.

It’s bad enough so many games leave treasure chests filled with goodies lying around everywhere (not to mention permanently lit torches and lanterns, etc.) now all our protagonists also have super vision.

Enemies won’t ever surprise you because they’ve all been handily highlighted ahead of time. Secrets are just a button-click away. Levels needn’t offer their own sort of clues and deceptions.

It’s a cop-out on the part of developers—unoriginal and uninteresting most of the time, and rarely put to much use (though I will say that at least the Batman games make it more involved.)

For gamers, it offers a quick and easy way to cheat without having to call it that, and rarely anything more. And sometimes having that power at our fingertips doesn’t actually make these games more fun. Quite the contrary.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

Source: Forbes

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