In Defense of Assassins

Nope. No one noticed. He should be able to get clean away.

Nope. No one noticed. He should be able to get clean away.

I’ve not been playing my Rogue Assassin very long. But I love what she can do.

I’m also enjoying Update 23’s changes to over overbalancing of enemies noticing your assassinations that effectively challenged how you used this skill.

Yet I noticed this thread and some older ones that complain about how the class still seems borked.

Again, I haven’t been playing it long. But I have been playing their spirit-twin class, the Ninja Spy, for much longer. In fact, much of my success with Suki comes from my solo experience with Kiricletica.

So, in defense of the current Assassin (and knowing that today’s update patch might fix things that I’ve not found a problem with though others might have), let me ask some critical points.

Do You Expect Not to Be Noticed?

Update 22 tried to make enemies much smarter against ranged enemies and aggro in general. In short, if you’re an archer that shot one someone inside a mob at long range, others inside that mob may get annoyed and chase you. While this didn’t change the effectiveness of ranged damage, it made for more realistic gameplay in that you shouldn’t be able to snipe at things without some consequence.

The same mechanic was used at the melee level. There is no such thing as a “silent takedown.” Some noise is made. Update 22’s problem was that the enemies seemed to not only notice but home in on the silent attacker as if they were fully revealed, making Assassinate nearly useless.

But Update 23 reduced this overbalance. I’ve been able to assassinate enemies that are not very close to others. But once I do, they notice the death-rattle of their fallen–but they appear to be attracted to the sound, not the sight. As a result, I “stick-and-move”. I hit my target and then sneak away rapidly from that spot, leaving the enemies flustered but unable to find me.

This balance seems logical to me in that I shouldn’t get a free pass on killing someone within a thick, angry mob. It would be like no one sitting left and right of Abraham Lincoln not noticing the sound of the assassin’s bullet injected into his head at point-blank range.

How High Are Your Stealth Skills, Anyway?

Like Ninja Spies, an Assassin’s Hide and Move Silently skills must be high to avoid being noticed. The Assassinate ability allows you to kill without breaking stealth, yes. But you can’t just sit there in place after your kill. You must move away unless you killed a rather isolated enemy and no others heard their death cry.

When enemies charge a location, I don’t believe their Spot check is getting bonuses but their Listen check is still going. If your Move Silently skill is lacking, especially at close range to them, your pursuers will find you by your elephantine foot plodding. If your Hide skill isn’t as strong as it should, their Spot bonus will reveal you.

In addition to good H/MS, a strong Assassin moves fast in Sneak. That means to train all three ranks of Faster Sneaking from the Thief-Acrobat’s tree for a 50% boost to speed, while also wearing your best Speed/Striding item.

Are You Alone?

The mechanics of aggro are still present for Assassins. In fact, we’re supposed to take full advantage of this.

Unlike my ninjas that often take the forefront in attack, Suki sits back. In solo play, I set a Cleric in front and let her go aggressive, attracting a mob around her. I wait in Sneak, until the moment is just right.

And then I move in. I’m learning fast how to make multiple Assassinate hits if I strike just as I swivel my character. I’ve taken two guys down pretty easily when they’re grouped together and sometimes three if I’m lucky.

But if you’re trying for that solo Assassin bit, you’re going to get in trouble because of the aggro counterbalance of Update 22.

Now, twelve seconds to recharge Assassinate isn’t a long time at all given the benefit of removing your enemy immediately. If you’re not patient, you’re going to get what you deserve: Aggro. A good meat shield takes a few moments to gain aggro. But once they do, you go in, make a hit, and then pull back.

In the case where there the mob is too large and the meat shield can’t keep up their own healing, that’s where you make a hit but then take advantage of a Rogue’s Sneak Attack. With Suki’s Single Weapon Fighting speed, she can mow down mobs from behind. But like assassinations, I don’t continually do this or I’ll get the mob to turn against me and not staying fixed on my meat shield. I make a few strikes to remove one or two and then back off again.

By then, I’m also ready to assassinate again.

In a live party, the Assassin really shines. I was in a run in “The Coalescence Chamber” with some guildmates–and at Level 14, to boot. Staying in stealth keeps the scorpions down (bats just show up, sadly). But when in the spiraling shafts, my non-stealthed party got the maddened attention of everything in there. Still in stealth, I made a beeline to the next destination, assassinating everything as I went because the trog’s attention stayed on the rest of my party.

Yes, Some Things May Still Need Work

I don’t use Bluff as often as I should. But reports indicate that it tends not to attract a single target but multiples, as if you made a single ranged attack That’s not good.

But then, I also tend to use noisemakers and break objects, or use meat shields. For now, I use Bluff when I want to pull a very isolated enemy, but I don’t expect it to allow me to assassinate them because of the broken mechanic.

And today’s Update patch is said to fix Venomed Blades from preventing Sneak Attacks: good news for Ryncletica as well as Suki.

Suki herself also needs more work. She’s been plowing through any unfinished lower level quests to build up favor for her +2 tome of her choice–an INT tome in this case. Then she can use a +3 Upgrade tome to reach 29 INT. She’s still looking at the Harper’s INT to-hit and to damage options but I’m favoring Master Assassin Nokowi’s build ideas. I just looted a +3 Lesser Heart of Wood. Perhaps I should give Suki a quick rebuild to reallocate an INT point or two.

I guess my point is made. I’m still a novice in the art of the perfect Rogue kill, but my Ninja instincts tell me that issues with other Assassins is less of a bug than in failing to recognize that the environment behaves more proactively. I don’t blame others for griping per se because the change may seem more sudden for this class than others. But you can adapt; it’s all a matter of noting your behaviors and adjusting accordingly.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. saekee
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 10:08:40

    You can use assassinate on a breakable as an easy noisemaker/draw. Very useful–saw this in a Mr. Cow video. Also he did a great trick–when a mob has aggro on you–he bluffed, dropped into stealth, then assassinated! Very clever! The Sap feat breaks stealth but you could conceivable make multiple attempts to assassinate a lone mob using SAP, wait, bluff-stealth-assassinate–SAP again if this did not work. Takes time but useful against high hp mobs.
    How has the flaming sphere worked for aggro? Easy to UMD

    • teachersyn
      Oct 27, 2014 @ 10:13:00

      Good point on Bluffing. I’m still tooling with the Sphere, but I do love it since it’s a fire-and-forget (pardon the pun) thing I can use as a wild weasel when a large mob is in my way. I’ve got Sap and should use it more often. But I also just discovered the runestones. 🙂

  2. teachersyn
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 10:17:59

    And, yay! In a season-appropriate theme, the devs returned more brains back to our hirelings in a Frankensteinian fashion.

    Hirelings will now resurrect allies automatically when possible. It is also now possible to specify a hireling to resurrect during combat, or wait until combat has ended.
    It is now possible to disable the pause in movement a hireling does when someone in the party is hit by a trap.
    Hirelings told to stay put will no longer follow players after combat.
    More hirelings that can heal themselves will no longer ask to be healed.
    Melee hirelings told to stand their ground in a spot will no longer help their master when their master gets hit.
    Hirelings now respond better to debuffs and spells.
    Hirelings will now respond more quickly to companions being hurt.
    Hirelings with Repair will now repair Iron Defenders.
    Players can now customize the AI of their Iron Defenders and Druid Companions.
    Iron Defenders with the Hunter of Boxes enhancement will now break boxes more reliably. If a character’s Iron Defender stops breaking boxes, the player can press the “come to me” button on their hireling bar, after which point the Defender should once again break boxes.

  3. Tholgrin
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 12:37:14

    It does seem logical that an assassin would have to play like an assassin, wouldn’t it? 😀

    • teachersyn
      Oct 27, 2014 @ 13:05:43

      Yep! I’m not sure why some many players see them as super-inviso-killers and balk when the game suddenly decides to behave more realistic.

      • Tholgrin
        Oct 27, 2014 @ 13:11:33

        Clearly, they are not familiar with the classic ninja of word or film.. or, in the modern gamer sense, played Tenchu.. or Metal Gear.. or Splinter Cell.. or Assassin’s Creed… I could go on, but I think that’s enough examples. My first reaction: improper play.

        • teachersyn
          Oct 27, 2014 @ 13:57:30

          As noted in the post, I understand their grousing since the AI change was comparatively sudden. But the change also exposed an unrealistic path to kill. I don’t want to pick on just Assassins here since Monkchers and Shuricannons have also taken advantage of “nuke ’em from afar” where aggro didn’t happen. Now, it does–and hopefully U23 keeps it from going the opposite direction. I’ll see when I try out “Frame Work” soon.

          • Tholgrin
            Oct 27, 2014 @ 14:43:14

            Now the sudden onset – that I understand. But having to learn a sneak character that actually has to sneak? That part.. not so much. Take my ongoing grousing about casters – it’s not the class I’m upset about, just my painfully apparent lack of play-how. ^_^

            • teachersyn
              Oct 27, 2014 @ 15:36:16

              I’d love to reply to that thread and say, “try reading my stealth guide,” but others have chimed in to say, “What are you smoking?” as they haven’t any serious issues.

  4. FuzzyDuck81
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 14:01:35

    Sadly, while effective they still aren’t as good as they could be, mechanically speaking. Compare & contrast vs. a swashbuckler:

    Thark was frightened.
    He’d joined the warparty because hey, that’s what was expected of a young hobgoblin. Guard the entrance, they said. Defend the village against those adventurer incursions for fun & profit, they said.
    One of his comrades was down already, a short cry of pain – and not an enemy in sight.A few moments later, another, just gone!
    They ran to investigate, but no-one was there, nothing! The officer was getting nervous & making them run in all directions to investigate, but still no luck, just shadows.. and the feeling that something was watching.. waiting.
    Then a third was down – only 3 remaining.
    Thark was frightened.

    Thark just stared as the lone adventurer strode in, bold as brass, dressed immaculately in a top hat & cane & singing.. singing! Something about.. a ritz? putting it on? What was that, his hat? What, did he have a deathwish or something?
    The warparty readied their weapons, moved to catch this easy prey, and then.. something happened. The music.. it was… compelling.. beautiful… the warparty just stopped, fascinated by the melody, unable to move in case they disturbed that utter perfection.
    And then the killing started.
    Springing lightly from one member of the warparty to the other, singing as he went, the adventurer made a quick blow to the heart,dropping the party one by one with a single flourish each time… all the while, the rest of the warparty were simply helpless, unable to respond, enraptured by the terrible, magnificent sight.
    Thark wasn’t frightened.
    Thark was TERRIFIED.

    • teachersyn
      Oct 27, 2014 @ 15:35:09

      Might have a point, although I’ve not tried to take my Swashbuckler into Assassin mode. Still, with the right use of Fascinate and Coup de Grace, yeah! It does work. And Bards are natural spies so they get H/MS numbers that are decent.

      GREAT story, bro! 🙂

  5. DDOCentral
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 04:15:49

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  6. erdrique
    Oct 30, 2014 @ 09:29:52

    The assassin really shines when he/she has the ability to use others to distract the enemies. I agree, it is just unrealistic for an assassin to not be spotted a good amount of time when they take out a single enemy within a group of mobs. Especially if that enemy is not on the fringes of the group. When I had an assassin, I only really tended to use his abilities when others were around to gather the attention or when I made sure my hirelings had everything’s full attention.

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