Assassin's Creed 3 Lead Designer Alex Hutchinson recently spoke with Edge about the inclusion of difficulty levels in games and the apparent harm they cause in providing players ample challenge, claiming, "A lot of games have been ruined by easy modes."
"If you have a cover shooter and you switch it to easy and you don't have to use cover, you kind of broke your game," he said. "It's like if I picked up a book and it said, 'Do you want the easy version or the complicated version?' [Game designers] can simplify the language, you know; we can make it two syllables."
Lead Gameplay Designer Steven Masters also explained that his team conducts heavy playtesting when determining the success and failure rates of players during combat, escaping, and high- and low-profile assassinations. "We're not trying to make a brutally difficult game, so we go through all the playtest data and make sure it works," Masters said.
The challenge Assassin's Creed 3 brings, like its predecessors, is optional objectives filled during assassinations. "We can put a lot of constraints in like 'don't take any damage' or 'assassinate the target without being detected,'" Masters said.
Hutchinson's blunt comments seem to emphasize the player's power to add additional (and optional) challenge as they see fit. As a helpless completionist, I know only the most perfectly executed kills will satisfy me, even if they involve stabbing 20 marksmen with their own muskets or clotheslining Boston's mayor for those optional objectives.