Assassin's Creed 3's Domination multiplayer delivers a true spy party
Though the Assassin's Creed series is largely known for its expansive single player campaigns, the unique multiplayer modes have been a big draw for gamers looking for something outside of the traditional deathmatch experience. Thankfully, many of these fan favorite multiplayer modes are returning in Assassin's Creed III, alongside several new modes which promise even more variations on the game's backstabbing fun times. Last week I got the chance to try out the new Domination multiplayer mode at Ubisoft's AC3 preview event in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was honestly surprised at this awesome reimagining on the single player's stealthy action.
Domination mode seems to draw influence from an unlikely source, Chris Hecker's yet unreleased multiplayer game SpyParty. Unfortunately, though SpyParty has been the subject of many a glowing preview, it's still yet to make it to market, which is why I'm not too upset with AC3's take on the game's "walk like an NPC" gameplay.
In Domination, two teams of three each attempt to stealthily secure and defend the map's three control points while avoiding the blades of their enemies. The more points a team controls, the more the sliding bar at the top of the screen will move in their favor, with the match decided either by the bar filling completely for one team, or by who's leading the race when time runs out. The twist is that each level is littered with NPCs, many dressed identically to the two teams, so spotting your enemies will require some serious observational skills.
The key then is to act as much like a computer as possible, hoping to trick your enemies into keeping their eyes on actual NPCs while you either (on offense) capture their control point, or (on defense) swiftly dispatch them. To make this easier, select groups of NPCs have glowing markers beneath their feet, which indicate that you can join them on a walk through the city, or perhaps a spirited chat. By making use of these crowds (especially ones where you aren't the sole member wearing your chosen NPC costume), you'll be able to better observe your surroundings, and decide how and when to act.
The three control points are each contained within distinct maps areas, with large glowing walls indicating when you're about to enter enemy territory. Once beyond this point, any enemies within the territory are instantly notified that an enemy assassin is en route towards their control point, while the assassin themselves are notified whether they can expect to meet resistance. When working to capture a point, a major source of help is the incognito ability, which allows you to temporary change your character model. If your opponents are on the hunt for the big burly savage, they will likely be a bit confused to see their control point being captured with only well dressed Englishmen standing around. Of course this disguise is rather temporary, and takes a long time to recharge, though it's still one of the most powerful abilities in Domination.
Still, it seems as though defense is granted the most perks in this mode, most notably being that assassins can only kill within territory their team controls. Though you can choose to confront your enemies on their own territory, you're only given the chance to stun them for a short while, and even then only if you're able sneak up on them (all face to face confrontations end in favor of whoever controls the territory). If you're lucky, this stun will give you enough time to finish capturing the point, though most often you'll be forced to run off and rethink your strategy. Defenders will also be more likely to make use of the coin drop ability, which lets them throw a pile of cash on the ground for NPCs to fight over. When your character fails to react to the prospect of free money, you can be sure you're about to catch a knife to your exposed gut.
Though most of Domination's mechanics seem well thought out, I did think it was a bit of a mistake that the mode forces players to automatically start capturing contested points the second they enter the zone, often giving away your identity immediately. It seems that the proper tactic is to try and step into the control point at the same time as a similarly dressed NPC (or rely on the incognito mode), though that opportunity was a bit too rare for my liking, and I wish I could've had some time to mingle with the crowd before alerting the enemy that their point was being contested.
Despite this small gripe, Domination is honestly a ton of fun, and really plays up the stealth elements of the Assassin's Creed series. Though I'm still waiting to check out SpyParty when it eventually releases, this should serve as a fine distraction until then!