Let's Talk... Escalations

Since Hitman 2016 there has been much talk about escalations. We have seen considerable experimentation in their format. This thread is a place to discuss what we feel makes an escalation good. Feel free to use examples of existing escalations to make your point and make useful contrasts, but please keep your posts measured and constructive. Also, if you use examples of escalations, then please use spoilers if you are referring to specific elements. Some people might not have played the escalation yet and we don’t want to ruin their experience.

I’ll start the ball rolling…

I think that escalations are a perfect opportunity for players to experience something different to existing content. The challenge in making an escalation good is having sufficient variety and getting the right balance of freedom.

Those of us who played through them all from the beginning in Hitman 2016 will recall the five level format. Although the challenges escalated, some of the levels felt too similar to the previous levels and it was clear that the designers were sometimes struggling to think of a reasonable way to escalate. We are so grateful that IOI took on-board comments from a number of us who asked them to consider a three level formula. I believe we have all benefited from the greater degree of variety and creativity that is now introduced from level to level.

But in terms of variety, we are looking for something new. That is, an escalation should never feel like it could have been made in contract creation mode. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is introducing forced restrictions that are simply not available to us when creating a contract. This is where balance in freedom is key. Too limiting and it takes away the fun. Too much freedom and it defeats the purpose of having those restrictions. Targets, their movement, and the number of approaches are also key.

For example, the first two levels of Seven Deadly Sins Act 1: Greed escalated well and I enjoyed playing them. I loved the atmosphere and the whispering in 47’s ear. On level 3 there was a fantastic and unique mechanic, with the restricted loadout, you are forced to choose between sacrificing your hard earned coins for a silenced pistol or use a loud pistol on the map if you wanted to complete the challenge of collecting all 60 coins. I don’t like to be critical, but in my opinion one of the targets (the guy in the technical crew outfit) was badly chosen because he was in an area with two other NPCs and one container; one of them isn’t there immediately, but when she arrives she never leaves. Yes, you could get creative, but with restricted loadout and wanting those coins to complete the 60 coin challenges (I guess the notion of greed was successful here), knockouts were almost essential (you all know my preference for NKO) and it made dealing with that target far too limiting in approach. Having now completed all of the challenge in that escalation, I’ve yet to go back and get silent assassin rating on level 3. I will do it at some point, but I am in no hurry to do so, which is a first for me.

In my opinion, The Satu Mare Delirium escalation is a true masterpiece. The removal of almost all NPCs except the biker gang made it feel like I was playing on a different map. Although there were forced kill methods, the continuous changing of targets and locations from level to level felt like I was playing through an actual mission, with each level giving you chance to catch your breath before you continued to the next three targets. For the first time ever I thought it was a shame that we can’t select to replay individual levels again without having to reset the whole escalation and work through all of the levels again.

So on that final point, I believe that whether or not I would want to replay an escalation correlates strongly with an escalation being good.

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for me, a good escalation changes the map sufficiently and gives us kill opportunities not encouraged / available in the main mission.

it also needs a sense of progression, something that makes you feel like you actually “beat” the previous level. that can be interpreted in many ways imo… it can be the same targets, or different targets with the same kill methods, or even what Satu Mare Delirium does (make you actually “escape” the level, like a reverse mission)

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For me two things make an escalation good

  1. A unique mechanic/change that differentiates it from just three contracts strung together. Escalations thrive on being the most experimental forms of hitman content

  2. Each level must build off of the last in a meaningful way, while also not simply repeating the last with extra steps. Some escalations do this by simply adding extra complications/targets/objectives to the previous level, but those must be careful to recontextualise the previous level and not just make you retread the same ground 3 times (that’s always monotonous and frustrating). Escalations that keep a looser structure but retain a thematic/mechanical core have also grown on me over time too (The Proloff Parable, The Sinbad Stringent, The Satu Mare Delirium)

Always been an issue imo. It’s pretty arbitrary and honestly the biggest problem in their way of replayability. I don’t want to have to lose my progress each time just to replay them. Sometimes I just want to play level 2 :smile:

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I’ll continue off of what I said in prior threads. Nothing is wrong about Escalations, as what the OP said they do provide new and meaningful experiences and are essentially the testing ground for ideas.

My issue with Escalations is simply what should be escalation and what shouldn’t be a escalations. While yes there isn’t a true answer about what should or shouldn’t since we don’t work at IO we all interpret it differently. With that said and out of the way this is the part where I share my opinion, I’ll be using the final Deluxe Escalation and Easter Content as examples.

Satu Mare Delirium

This is one of the best Escalations we’ve gotten. It has a meaningful sense of progression and tells a linear experience that has been received well among the community. This is what the ideal Escalation is in my opinion. It’s a clear cut objective that grows and becomes more.

Easter Content

Seasonal Content shouldn’t be Escalations. This should of been a clear thing since Holiday Hoarders where we have control over what we do. The Easter Content misses the mark and doesn’t do anything inventive outside of adding eggs that have gimmicks to them. This is no different to Holiday Hoarder exclusive items in my opinion. The Easter Content feels more like a bonus mission then a escalation cause of this. The content by no means is bad but I simply don’t think Seasonal Content should be Escalation’s especially one like this.

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I find escalations to be the closer that Hitman gets to have an Arcade Mode of sorts, with it’s own twists and deviations from the main game.

As a whole, they can be pretty fun to mess around with but for me they aren’t as good as the normal missions. At least not per usual.

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I overall think H3 escalations are waaay better than 1 and 2’s

One specific thing I find I like a lot in escalations is when the next level has you take out at least one of the same targets as the previous one, but either complications or the placement of the new target(s) makes the obvious “easy” strategy not work anymore. So you need to start finding even more complex or subtle ways to solve the same problem. I can’t think of any specific examples right off the top of my head, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

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I like escalations fine. Virtually all the best escalations are from Hitman III too, IMO. Satu Mare was really good.

I just think the concept is starting to feel played out and that it’s not the best direction to expand the game anymore.

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One escalation from H1 (that I believe most people hated) that I actually liked since I figured it out (no emetic or weapon dropping necessary) is ‘The Malory Misfortune’.

Satu Mare Delirium was good. Very good with it’s progression in escaping the “asylum”. I only had trouble on the 3rd level due to the insta-fail upon being spotted. But it flowed pretty well once you got the NPC patterns down (e.g. my 3rd or 4th try).

That one for Dubai to get the Gold Devil suit - another good one (IMO).

The one where you had to throw the knives at the boxes, then shoot some later? I didn’t like it as much. It felt a bit like a chore to go around hunting objects. But it did show me some interesting ways to get around the level.

The one for Chongqing to get the suit and sniper rifle? It wasn’t too bad. You did feel a bit rushed with getting some of the kills in time - and that can be a bit stressful. It’s just a matter of replaying it several times to get the patterns down. There was that one bug with the chair that stuck to one target on the bridge, and if it came back while 47 was in the right spot - you’d get stuck. :laughing:

That’s all that comes to mind for now - probably because those were the most recent ones I played.

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As a result of IO releasing much of their recent content in the form of escalations, I get the impression the concept in itself got a lot of criticism because people expect “more”, as in the holy grail that is a bonus mission. But aside from that unfair comparison, I think there’s very little you can hold against escalations.

I like to think back to the first time i ever got familiar with the concept and honestly: it was exciting. And to this day I still think that it is. It’s a great way to show new people there are many ways to approach a mission. The approach that worked for the stage 1 of the escalation probably wouldn’t work for the last stage, or could at least be optimised. This step-by-step progression offers both a challenge and a reward at the same time, all the while making you familiar with more mechanics by bringing you out of your comfort zone. When finishing ane scalation stage, especially for the first time, I have this “hell yeah” feeling, which quickly subides for an “oh no, what are they throwing at me now” feeling right afterwards. It’s a fulfilling kind of rollercoaster. It starts with the first stage of the escalation, where you just try to figure out a way on how to complete that, like any other contract, knowing that later on it willl probably get more complicated. It’s another approach that is unique to escalations. The alternative would be to just have the last stage of every escalations and present it as a contract instead, but then you take away a lot of the gameplay mechanics mentioned earlier. And that’s just talking about escalations that go A → A+B → A*+B*+C. Lately we’re also getting escalations that go A → B → C , which can be considered bite-sized campaigns.

I also like the liberty this kind of content offers in terms of lore, in that it can go wild. A nightmare, an easter egg hunt, serial burglary, heavy nods to earlier games (my favorite kind of content), it’s all possible because it’s happening in the wonderful world of escalations. This gives the creators a liberty the player can profit from. It’s a good place to play around with novel ideas, and innovation is always good. They’re like the testing grounds of what the future of the franchise could bring.

On top of all that, IO has really been going out of their way to put a lot more work into their escalations, by making the changes to maps quite considerable. All that actually makes me look forward to what next escalation IO may bring. Not one single minute did I regret buying the Deluxe pack, and I’m pretty confident I will say the same about the Seven Sins. So far, so good, in any case.

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I know I’ve seen people complain about the lack of being able to save during escalations, but I kind of like it. It makes it feel very tense and different from a normal mission on Professional difficulty. Escalations really feel like some sort of test to see if I really learned all the different necessary mechanics to solve these trickier puzzles.

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I’m personally fed up of escalations, I think most people feel that way now, unlike bonus missions they feel more like an one and done ordeal rather than a fully fleshed out mission, I know that’s unfair to some of the masterfully crafted ones but I’d rather the berlin egg hunt be a whole new mission in that style rather than a multi level escalation which doesn’t have any challenges to get you experimenting with kills etc.

Not that challenges are necessary, I’d just prefer something which isn’t split up in three parts, it can still escalate but think of the Satu Mare Delirium as a whole level without it being chopped up in three parts, that wasn’t really an escalation since each stage of it was somewhere completely different, therefore I didn’t find it got harder like escalations should do, I just felt “why isn’t this just it’s own thing?”. We’ve had reskinned maps before like the special assignments, I don’t see why these can’t be like those but better. Yes, the Hitman 2 ones were pretty bad Illusions of grandeur cough cough but you can learn from your mistakes IO.

Don’t get me wrong, I like escalations, hell I replay some of the best from time to time, but not everything deserves to be an escalation. The egg hunt should of been it’s own stand alone seasonal map, it alone has more changes than the Hokkaido snow festival and that’s it’s own thing, why can’t this be the same? We need new escalations which drastically increase tension and difficulty but at the same time the really cool map change ideas should be little sandboxes we can mess about with and fully explore to our leisure. Unless it’s the greed escalation, that had almost nothing in terms of map change and I don’t want to be reminded of that for a while.

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I like playing Escalations and I’ll never complain when they’re part of the free live content released as part of the roadmaps/Seasons Of Sin, but they’re a part of the WoA that I never, ever feel like replaying once I’ve completed them.

I’ve had lots of fun playing Escalations in the last 5 years but, due to the one-and-done nature of them for me, even the very best Escalations aren’t as good as the very worst Bonus Mission/Special Assignment. The lack of saves and the enforced completion conditions are fun first time through, but they can’t compare to the freedom and replayability of what I consider the ‘meat’ of the game: the Main and Bonus Missions.

They’re a nice snack… but as I load my game up for the millionth time and demonstrate how replayable the WoA trilogy is for me, I’m firing up HITMAN for a Mission meal, not an Escalation snack.

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I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Escalations can be excellent content and can be extremely enjoyable to play - once or maybe twice. That is the basic problem with them. One and done content feels fine when it’s free or very low cost (like under a dollar low cost) but when it’s something that you pay for, and you can’t really replay it, that stings.

I don’t know that I’ve really read any post by anyone that actually hates escalations as content, but I have read plenty from people that don’t like to pay for something that they can never really play again. It’s the basic problem with the elusive targets. It’s content that we aren’t allowed to replay. When we pay for something that we don’t want to replay, no matter how good it is the first time, that’s a problem. The entire price we pay needs to be contained in that first play through and if it isn’t, we feel ripped off.

One of the hallmarks of Hitman is the replay-ability of the game. You can, and we all have, play a single map over and over because it’s a sandbox. Escalations, no matter how good they are, are not replayable.

I absolutely loves Mills Reverie, Satu Mare, Greed, and plenty of other escalations but when I load the game and look for content to play, I’m not looking to the escalations for that content. Even with challenges, it’s one and done, or two and done at best.

If IOI wants to continue to put out escalations as paid content, they need to come up with a way to make them replayable over and over. If they manage to do that, I think they’ll find a lot more players are a lot more satisfied with them.

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I think early hitman 2 escalations were the best, they were simple, could be done fast, and escalated naturally. I feel hitman 3 escalations are artifically padded to justify their price, I like some restrictions but it’s not fun when it requires you to complete in a very specific way. Late escalations are basically suit only runs with absurd restrictions.

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One of the things I find interesting about Escalations is the experimental nature of them as led to different areas of appeal.

Aesthetic: Some of them, particularly the deluxe, take some interesting changes to a level - most noticeably like Satu Mare Delirium and Greed Enumeration. It’s pretty damn fun being in these altered levels.

Reward: This is less of an issue in Hitman 3 due to the inventory of many players already being bulked up, but it was definitely a factor early on that some Escalations were worth doing just to get ahold of the item you seek: tricked out sniper rifle, special bomb, etc.

Challenge: This is the one I am most conflicted on because I understand the appeal of some escalations being, essentially the Hitman version of a grotesque, and this creates an odd situation where they can help build skillsets by pushing the player, some of the “more advanced” scenarios can have the opposite effect of highlighting the cracks in the system.

Learning to “subdue” around corners is great, but can create frustration when you learn that NPCs can become immune to it by… leaning against a wall. Similarly putting tight timelines on throwing items can lead to a lot of throwing through walls, or discovering just how arbitrary the “spotted” mechanic can be.

Personally I prefer that difficulty be enforced with firepower rather than instant fail conditions, but I can also see how that creates problems with these scenarios and how - if they’re looking most popular Contracts obviously those people don’t have the option to up the firepower of anyone… however it is still infuriating to have to start from scratch because of a half-second error.

I suspect that Escalations are the aspect with the most potential for expanded content simply because they have a mix of ability to add content but also keep it within reasonable budget limitations by the limitations in place - though I am now curious how it might shape the future perception of Hitman. (Remember, I am old and can remember when Suit Only runs were not yet imagined)

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