Difficulty and Assassins Creed 2I've blogged on this subject before, but thats not going to stop me doing it again. Quinns, the 5th member of the 4 member blog rock paper shotgun. He has different opinions on difficulty to me. He points out that in Assassins Creed 2 it is very hard to fail, at least in combat. I too, only died while jumping, and never in combat.
First of all, while he dismisses it, one can make the game harder if one wants to, by setting challenges- never buying medicine, for example, would make the game much more difficult, and would be terribly easy to impose: improving your armour only does so much, as you can take a lot of damage quite quickly in this game, its just you can heal it faster than you lose it. If a game is too difficult, however, there is absolutely no way to make it easier- most games don't even come with cheats these days (for, as far as I can tell, little reason).
Second of all, is a game hard if you can't fail? Well obviously a game in which you can fail is often hard, but it can also be frustrating. Having to repeat oneself will necessarily take you out of the role you are playing, and remind you that you are playing a game. One of the smartest parts of Assassins creed 2 is that while there is a whole bunch of gamist interface, its actually explained by the story- you are in a simulator, experiencing the past through a machine, and thus have these interfaces added for you. So failure does remind you that you're playing a game (although its reasonably well integrated), and repeated failure is frustrating.
Well note that the game DOES have repeated failure integrated into it. The platforming sections of the game, where you need to climb high, are classic platforming. You usually won't die if you fail at a point, but you'll usually have to start again. The platforming is the best built part of the game, and its no surprise the designers focus on that.
The combat, however, isn't so great. As I mentioned in my review, its kind of dull, and each combat resolves into the same moves, unless you choose to use smoke bombs etc to kill the guards. Its still actually challenging. You don't die, but you do need to kill these guards to proceed. In fact, combat is essentially turned into a puzzle here- you're not going to be destroyed, but you need to find a way round your enemies defences if you want to keep going. Whether thats done by fighting, running, or using smoke bombs/ pistols, its an interesting dilemma. Would this be improved by failure states? Maybe. In occasional combats it might make sense for some of your solutions to be bad, and those might result in failure, but I don't think it ruins it- if combt isn't working, then the game lets you try something new, rather than force you to restart, go to the same combat, and try something new. It's an interesting style of game design, and, to my mind, better than forcing the player to keep doing the same task over and over until they have read the designers mind, and acquired the muscle memory to perform the particular task.
Assassins Creed 2 will not send you back to the start again very frequently, but it does challenge you. You must fight to progress- there is no easy button to get past (contrast to MGS3, where a legitimate tactic at easier difficulties is to just run away from guards until you trigger a cut scene). I honestly think this style suits the game as it is intended to be played.