For the first time in the series, Assassin's Creed has variable difficulty settings.
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Speaking with GamesRadar, game director Ashraf Ismail says the change is intended to preserve the series's traditional mainstream appeal alongside a greater focus on gameplay challenge in its latest entry.
"Some people play for the historic context, some people for the narrative, some for the gameplay, and what we felt was by going deeper into the gameplay challenge of the game we’re feeding one part of the audience, but not others. So it was a natural step for us to think ‘well, let’s give difficulty settings.’”
Combat has often been a weak point of the Assassin's Creed series, and if that's put you off in the past, you can probably take today's news with cautious optimism: it suggests the new combat is deep enough that Ubisoft consider variable difficulties necessary to keep casual players invested.
The changes applied by the variable difficulty sound fairly standard. In hard mode, “stats are much more aggressive," says Ismail. "There’s a bigger curve of difficulty, enemies are more aggressive." Presumably the reverse is true at lower settings.