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H2H Combat Strategy

Latest update by CMBF on Dec 4th 2012

The system of hand-to-hand combat in the Assassin's Creed game series has only changed a little with this most recent sequel, and most gamers will say that what little changed was change for the better! The presence of a variety of weapons that are somewhat new to the series -- muskets with bayonets affixed instantly springs to mind -- along with new uber enemies who have unique combat styles that require specific Assassin reactions also note high on the list of changes, but with a little forethought and preparation, even the rawest of Assassin Recruits (ie new players to the series) can quickly find their base skill and start seriously and effectively kicking some Templar and Redcoat buttocks!

The first point that should be raised though is that until you complete your Assassin Training around Sequence 05 there is really no point in getting all serious about butt-kicking -- you need to have access to the primary skills sets and kit before you can do that, and that means primarily your Hidden Blade, Sword, and pistol.

Before we go too far down the path of strategies for each situation and weapon though, we should address the issue of weapons specifically. You will have plenty of opportunity to purchase weapons of various types in the game, spending your hard-earned Pounds Sterling in the process, but before you do that you should be aware that there are alternatives -- and in particular alternatives to replacing Consumables (Snares, Bait, Shot, and the like) -- and of those you should be very aware.

Your Weapons

To start with there is the issue of weapons. From the first Sequence in which you take on the role of Connor you will have access to basic weapons from a small list, but as you progress through the game that list of available weapons blossoms, and you are certain to end up having favorites among them! To help you in appreciating the details of that arsenal of we will cover the basics below prior to addressing the different special moves and strategies that will make you expert at H2H Combat and, more is the point, prevent you from having to witness that blood-red tinged screen that reads "Desynchronized" to a minimal rate.

  • Axes

As you start to find yourself facing the Hessian elite troop type called “Jagers” (in German that word loosely translates to “Hunter”) you will note that among their preferred weapons is the combat Ax, or what is generally known as a War Ax. This is a two-handed weapon that is generally classified as a Heavy Weapon, and its use requires considerable strength and the testicular fortitude that is required for the use of a weapon that tends to leave its wielder over-exposed for riposte types of attack.

That covers the drawbacks, while the benefits tend to include massive trauma, stunning blows, and an intimidation factor that is right up there with looking down the barrel of a cannon. Sort of. From a practical and defensive POV however the use by Jager's of their axes tends to broadcast itself – when an ax-wielding Jager begins to set up their attack you get the familiar yellow/orange triangle that, much like the beginning of a Musket shot, gives the skilled Assassin plenty of time to decide how they are going to react to the attack – which in most cases is a simple dodge move that places Connor beside or behind the attacking Jager when the move is executed, opening up wonderful possibilities on how to respond.

Facing this sort of attack – and weapon – is a significant drawback for players who have yet to become adept in H2H combat, as the capacity for killing a Jager who knows how to use their ax is a bit of a challenge (understatement intended), as the usual course of action here is to disarm and then engage the target. There are other methods to dealing with the ax that we address below in the strategy section, so until we reach that point, enjoy this listing of the different weapons in this weapon class:

  • Boarding Axe: Offers medium damage and speed; available in Sequence 09 @ $7k.

  • French Naval Axe: Lower damage and medium speed; available in Sequence 06 @ $5450.

  • Hessian Axe: Low damage and speed; available in Sequence 06 @ $3650.

  • Naval Axe: High damage and speed; available via artisan crafting at the Homestead.

  • Pirate's Boarding Axe: High damage & speed; sadly it is strictly a pre-order reward.

Fighting with an ax (regardless of its type) is something of an acquired taste, and relies upon a more significant measure of discretion with respect to what sort of enemies you use it against. That said, it can be one of the more effective melee weapons in the game.

  • Bait

While it is not really a weapon in the common sense of the word, when it is used in conjunction with a Snare, or when it is used to lure specific types of animals to a more convenient killing location, Bait is certainly part of a weapon system, which is why it is grouped here.

When your objective is to obtain perfect pelts/fur the use of Bait in combination with a more graceful and effective weapon (generally that means hand-to-paw hunting of cats), and makes up the significant end of the luring skill. You will find that Bait and Snare combos are required elements in order to complete some of the Hunting Challenges.

  • Bow and Arrows

The Bow is the basic ranged weapon for Connor and his people, and the type used by Native Americans was thought to have been invented and developed in parallel to that of the Europeans, so its design is distinctly different, consisting of a much thicker body that incorporates bone and wood rather than purely of wooden design. That is significant as it has slightly more power than a similar sized European bow but less power than the vaunted Longbow of English fame. That is OK though, as by the time of the Revolutionary War the bow had long fallen out of favor with the English and their hired Hessian Mercenary Troops, making for a silent but deadly weapon almost exclusively the province of the Native American in North America.

Connor is very adept with the bow, and favors it for reasons that include the fact that it is silent in the kill, but also because it is much faster to reload than a musket, and when it is paired with expertly crafted arrows, allows him to take down animals while hunting that unlike the musket, does not damage the pelt or fur of the targeted animal.

When it is used as a hunting tool, the bow and arrow will fell most small to medium animals in a single shot without damaging the fur/pelt, but with larger animals (including man) it can take multiple shots to do the killing job, and there is a small chance that you could damage the pelt/fur with each successive shot at a larger animal.

In the game there is only one type of bow available and used throughout – the crafted version that is favored by the New England tribes, consisting of a thick short bow and medium-length hunting arrows. From the start of the game Connor can carry up to six arrows at any time, but thanks to the Crafting System, once he has access to the Homestead and has expanded its artisan population, the number of arrows he can carry can be increased.

Replacing arrows as ammunition can be accomplished through purchase from Merchants and the traveling Peddlers who can be found driving their wagons through the Frontier, but bear in mind that as long as the arrow did not break, Connor can recover it from the corpse of a man/animal that he shot it into.

  • Flintlock Musket

While both the British and the Colonial soldiers were armed with long-weapons that are commonly called “Muskets” it should be noted that there were some significant differences between what the British soldiers were armed with, and what the typical Colonial soldier was armed with.

The type of Musket carried by the British troops during this period was a smooth-bore variety called a “Brown Bess” (properly known as the Land Pattern Musket) – and that is the weapon you will find yourself picking up after you defeat its original owner. Commonly equipped with a bayonet, allowing the fired weapon be remain useful against cavalry, and for close combat either as a club using the stock or as a thrusting weapon using the pointy-end, most skilled soldiers could fire up to three shots a minute, the emphasis being on rate-of-fire over accuracy.

The Colonial Troops in comparison where both better armed and less likely to engage in traditional line combat, preferring to fire from cover rather than standing in the open, in ranks, and firing on command of an officer or NCO. The long-weapon preferred by the Colonial Troops was the Kentucky Rifle type, which while it was produced by a wide range of gunsmiths in the period, generally featured a longer barrel than that of the British musket, was chambered in either .36 caliber or .45 caliber ball ammunition, and of more critical note, featured a highly precise rifling of the barrel (spiral grooves in the bore) that caused the bullet (whether ball or shaped type) to rotate or spin as it exited the muzzle, making it reliably accurate at ranges up to and exceeding 100 yards for the novice (untrained) rifleman, while a skilled rifleman or hunter could accurately hit a target at ranges surpassing 400 yards, making the Kentucky Rifle one of the most feared long-weapons on the battlefield at that time.

While outfitting Connor with a long-weapon is a process that is naturally limited by what is available to you, you will be more likely to find him picking up a Brown Bess rather than a Kentucky Rifle, but when you consider that there are very few opportunities in the game for sniper combat it all pretty much evens out, with the bigger challenge here being learning how (and perhaps more significantly WHEN) to make use of a musket or rifle, as well as how to effectively use that weapon as part of hand-to-hand combat.

As odd as this may sound, when it comes to having a musket or rifle in hand for combat, you are better served in remembering this advice: Have Fun!

  • Flintlock Pistol

The type of short barreled sidearm most commonly carried by soldiers during the era of the Revolutionary War were largely personal weapons, supplied by the individual rather than the military (with the exception of the Royal Navy, which considered the weapon to be a standard sort on board ships and an excellent weapon for use in boarding and capturing enemy vessels, and so outfitted large numbers which were carried in special belts or braces, with an officer having as many as six pistols that could be drawn and fired in quick succession).

The basic pistol as found in the game and used by Connor is a flintlock pistol of indeterminate caliber, but is of heavy enough strength to take down most man-sized targets in a single shot. Early on Connor will only have one flintlock pistol, but later he gains the ability to dual-wield two of them – but the important point is that he is pretty good at reloading his pistol, even while moving quickly through the brush or forest, which will come in handy during combat as it is a basic element of the strategy for dealing with Jager and British Officers (due to their Axes/Swords but more on that in a bit).

While many players consider the pistol to be useful only as a first-strike weapon, used to open a combat engagement, later in this wiki page you will learn how to effectively use the pistol as a core element in special offensive attacks.

Pistols can be purchased from Merchants, and in rare instances picked up as dropped weapons.

  • Hidden Blade

The Hidden Blade is the iconic weapon of the Assassin, and although through the ages others have taken to its use, from Ninjas to freelance Assassins and even members of the Templar Order, to this day it is still widely associated with the Brotherhood of Assassins, and as such given a measure of fear and respect that in their hands it richly deserves.

At its very basic the Hidden Blade consists of a small but razor-sharp dagger that is attached to the forearm of the Assassin by a special mounting system of leather straps, which hold the mechanism that allows the Assassin to deploy the blade with just the flick of a wrist and twitch of certain muscles. The construction of the blade is very different than the average dagger in that it has a very thick base and cross-section that allows it to be used for both stabbing and slicing, an important feature as it prevents the blade from snapping off when it meets resistance.

In AC3 the Hidden Blade is a newer and better engineered model that while it retains the same basic use parameters of the Hidden Blades of the past, also doubles as a removable dagger, allowing Connor to detach it, making it particularly useful for skinning animals that Connor has killed while hunting.

The Hidden Blade was originally designed and engineered to be the ultimate personal offensive weapon, concealed until it is needed, but bear in mind that while it has some defensive value, it was not intended to be used to defend against enemies wielding long-blades, battle axes, muskets, or bayonets.

  • Obwandiyag's War Club

The reason that this is listed seperately has more to do with the fact that it is a pre-order exclusive weapon more than anything else, which means the vast majority of players are never going to have it to play with. Also known as “ Pontiac's War Club” this special weapon was wielded by rogue Pontiac Firebird's with automatic transmissions and 6-cylinder engines and... OK, yeah, kidding.

Seriously though, if you have this baby you may want to use it – it is a powerful weapon (disproprtionately powerful early on) but considering its very slow speed, the trade off of power for speed may be an issue. Though it is a pre-order, it is unlocked starting with Sequence 06 in the basement of the Homestead Manor House, its effective use in combat almost always means single combat, as in one-enemy not groups, because the slow deployment of the attack means that if there are any other enemies present you will end up with a bayonet in your back before you can strike. Just saying...

  • Poison Darts

One of the more interesting and, depending upon the circumstances, most effective weapons in your kit, the Poison Dart is used pretty much the same way that throwing weapons were used in the previous games, the difference being that as with previous Poison-based attacks there is a slight delay before the toxic substance passes through the blood-brain barrier and does its thing.

Once the target is fully engaged by the Poison though, you get the familiar and yet satisfying effect of them flailing around, doing more harm to those around them and themselves than to you – assuming you were smart enough not to hang around that is. Since the effect of the Poison is both predictable and reliable, it is strategically preferable to use it on the more powerful enemies like Jagers and sword-wielding officers, since they are more likely to do heavy damage to the other enemies around them, realistically killing two (or more) birds with one Poison Stone (figuratively speaking).

The Poison Dart is one of the best stealth tools in the game, and is particularly effective at drawing the attention of nearby enemy soldiers and guards, potentially causing them to abandon their post in order to investigate why that Jager over there is doing the Chicken Dance? Another bonus for this piece of kit is that in addition to being sold in the usual way, it can also be crafted at the Homestead, assuming you have all of the stuff you need in place to do that.

  • Rope Dart

The Rope Dart has more in common with a Grappling Hook than it does with any other type of tool or weapon, and in fact by its form and function it actually feels like some sort of fusion between that and a small Harpoon. According to the presentation CS in which Davenport introduces Connor to this neat little piece of Assassin kit, the Rope Dart has its origins solidly in the far east and, specifically, from the hands of a member of the Brotherhood who may have originated in Japan, in the previous century or three.

While its most obvious (and entertaining) use is to spike an enemy from above, haul them up and leave them hanging, you will find that it also happens to be one of the most effective methods for dealing with an enemy on horseback, and when the Rope Dart is used in hunting, it permits you to spike prey that is just out of reach and then haul it back towards you, where you are better able to get at it, which is great when you know you may not be able to skin a beast if you kill it where it stands. Unfortunately using the Rope Dart on an animal while hunting pretty much guarantees that you will end up with a damaged pelt/fur. Sigh.

From a cost-to-benefits ratio the Rope Dart is rather expensive, costing a retail price of $125 at your local Merchant, but on the other hand nothing is quite as intimidating as leaving an enemy or three hanging around dead for their mates to find! As with the other consumables, working with your artisan crafting folks at the Homestead allows you to obtain better pouches, which directly translates to more capacity for carrying these weapons and tools, which is something you should be thinking about seriously.

  • Swords

Strictly speaking and from the point-of-view of the Assassin the sword is probably the greatest weapon ever devised, since you never have to reload it, it is as reliable as you are, and the addition of a little poison to the blade can make it superbly effective at fomenting confusion on the battlefield... If only...

As a Weapon Class the Sword offers quite a bit of variety in Assassin's Creed III, with the following types available from Sequence 06 onward:

  • Cpt. Kidd's Sawtooth Cutlass: Among the best, but as it is a pre-order item, not likely...

  • Cavalry Saber: Fast speed and higher damage rate, it's priced at $3500.

  • Cuttoe: Low speed/damage, the Cuttoe weighs in at a sticker price of $4100.

  • French Cutlass: Medium speed and medium-to-high damage, it's priced at $1575.

  • French Rapier: Slow speed and low damage rate, and a price tag of around $4K.

  • Hanger: Medium speed/damage, the sword is bargain priced at just $1250.

  • Lincoln's Sword: Fast and Fast, crafted as well, but did Lincoln know how to use it?

  • Officer's Sword: Wicked fast speed but its very low damage and $5k price means steal one.

  • Sword (normal): Slow speed and low damage rate, and a price tag of just $700.

  • Washington's Battle Sword: The best sword damage and speed, and crafted to boot!

Bearing in mind that money is pretty easy to acquire in this frontier world of Colonial America, having said that we also want to remind you that unlike some of the other weapons in the game, when an officer or other combatant drops theirs, if you don't happen to own one, picking theirs up means you can slide that puppy home into your own belt or sash and make it your own!

  • Tomahawk

The Tomahawk is the basic weapon of Connor and his tribe, so naturally he is well-versed in its use as a combat tool. But in addition to combat it has other uses, from hooking on to lines in order to slide down them in a fashion similar to that of the Hook Blade in the previous titles, and using it as a climbing assist under certain circumstances, and there is the fact that the Tomahawk is a Weapon Class, not a weapon!

What that means is that Connor will be upgrading and replacing his Tomahawk throughout the game, since there are several different types, including the following:

  • Assassin's Tomahawk (acquired during Sequence Play)

  • Iron Tomahawk (purchased from merchants)

  • Stone Tomahawk (basic starting weapon)

  • War Tomahawk (player crafted, requires specific artisans in Homestead)

The variety of sub-types in this weapon class should not shadow your understanding of this very basic yet deadly Weapon Class – while you may quickly grow to consider Connor to be an Assassin in the tradition of the previous games, you should try to never forget that in addition to being an Assassin in the Brotherhood, Connor is also a Native American Warrior and as such has key benefits when using weapons that he is very familiar with and culturally bound to.

Basic Combat Strategies

The first point that needs to be made is that from the beginning of the game (assuming you have not had previous experience with one or more of the games in the series) you should take the time and make the effort to understand what each mode means and does in combat. Regardless of whether or not you are using your fists, Hidden Blade, or some other weapon, you need to know what the effect of each of the button and trigger and button + button combos does. You should in fact spend time just practicing those and drinking in everything that the combat mini-tutorials teach you.

The bottom line is that if you are dying in combat, or allowing an enemy to hit you for any other reason than missing the timing on a block, you don't know how to fight. Fix that! Seriously, in practical terms as long as you are blocking and attacking properly the enemy should be lining up for you to kill them.

If you should find yourself facing one enemy while one or more are behind or beside you and attacking, you need to dodge and reposition yourself for a better area of defensive coverage. There is no excuse for taking damage in order to line up an attack or a shot -- in fact your goal should be to take as little damage as you can manage.

The most basic of combat strategies should entail your patience as you stand and wait for one of the enemy around you to attack, whereupon as soon as you notice the red triangle that designates the attacker you react, as time slows down, and you immediately initiate the attack of your choice as your response. As long as your timing is good the result should be a dead enemy!

-- Advanced Techniques --

One of the more annoying situations that you will find yourself in -- especially when you are attempting to take over a Fort or dealing with groups of solders in the city -- is when you find yourself dealing with a mixed group of enemies that includes several Officers, or Officers and Jagers. While handling the regular soldiers is simply a matter of waiting for one to attack and then initiating your response.

Bearing in mind that the combat system -- and particularly hand-to-hand combat -- in AC3 has been completely revamped and tweaked to make it more intuitive... Perhaps not easier, but then how hard can it really be when you consider that you have one button for attack, one button for block, and one button for disarm? When a regular soldier attacks you hold down the trigger and initiate a block, then release the trigger and hit the attack button. The result? One dead enemy!

When the opponent you are facing is an Officer wielding a sword or a Jager it is slightly more complicated because every time you block, they either riposte (attack through your block) or they body check you, but either way you are not in a position to directly attack them let alone kill them in that instance. So what do you do? The answer to this is you make use of the combo system of course! That is why it exists.

Perhaps the most simple and effective method for dealing with this type of opponent is to give them the kiss of death in the form of a simple one-hit-kill that you deliver thanks to your trusty pistol!

Wait for a red-triangle attack from the advanced enemy and then block it, immediately initiating a pistol combo rather than trying to use your Hidden Blade or Sword, which you KNOW they will block. By using your pistol you almost guarantee a kill (probably 99% effective), as your block morphs into a limited combo and you put the muzzle of your pistol to the side of their head and pull the trigger. Boom! No more advanced enemy.

When there is more than one Jager, Officer, or combination thereof, you have to decide how you will deal with them. Once option is to dodge using the right trigger and then immediately whip around and assassinate them with your Hidden Blade. Another option? Disengage and then trot in a wide circle while you reload your pistol on the fly, then let them attack you and deliver another ball to the temple. Dead is dead, and making them dead is your job mates!

Always remember to search (rob) the dead bodies as you almost always are able to replace the shots you expended in killing the Officers/Jagers that way, as well as other consumables you may have used, and of course you pick up a few pounds as your reward as well -- hey, it is just pocked change, sure, but it adds up. Besides they put you to the trouble of having to kill them, the least that they can do is buy you some beer, right?

That's Why they added Disarm

If you don't like the idea of having to trot in a wide circle while reloading your pistol and you tend to get frustrated by the unwieldy size of the musket you could pick up off of the dead solder laying there, well, situations like this are why the disarm button is there! With the more advanced enemies you know that they are going to block every one of your attacks when you are in a tight melee battle, so don't bother attacking them until AFTER you have disarmed them -- then they can try to block, but nine-times-out-of-ten they end up dead as the result, because in addition to using the disarm button you know how to attack, making for a very nice -- even sweet -- brace, disarm, attack combo set.

Have you noticed that there are a lot of animations for combat these days? Or rather that there seem to be a lot more animations? That is because there are! In fact the entire illumination process of combat moves, blocks, combos, and attacks are subject to the weapon you happen to be using, and each weapon has a dozen alternate sub-moves associated with it, so you can easily go through an entire melee event with a half-dozen enemy, hit the same combination of buttons, and see a different animation each time!

The important thing to remember is that you always have more time. When the animation switches to attack after a block, time slows down for you, and that means you have the opportunity to be creative. Trying to remember that the game really is basically a combination of single-button choices when it comes to hand-to-hand combat can really make the process much less tense, and much easier to master. All that you need to do is give yourself a little more time to react, and try to stay calm.

That is all that there is to it! Well, that and the ongoing process of constantly reminding yourself that you are having fun...

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Latest Updates for the Assassin's Creed III wiki
Homestead Missions Note Updated by CMBF
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