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A rope dart

A rope dart, or shéng biāo in Mandarin Chinese,[1] is a flexible weapon of Chinese origin that consists of a long rope with a metal dart attached at one end.

This type of long-ranged weapon can be swung at enemies, and, once anchored into the target, can be used to pull them over distances. It was a signature tool and alleged invention of the Chinese Assassin Shao Jun who shared it and its associated techniques with branches of the Assassin Brotherhood across the world.

Description

Aptly named, a rope dart is created by securing a sharp, metallic blade to a long rope approximately three to five metres in length.[2] In this regard, it is akin to a whip with a sharp end, and it can be employed in a variety of ways either as a weapon or as a tool.[1]

History

Shao Jun's rope dart

16th century

The rope dart was allegedly the invention of the Chinese Assassin Shao Jun.[3] She carried a variant that bore an exceptionally broad blade with her when she journeyed to Italy in 1524 to locate the legendary Italian Mentor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, in the hopes of learning from him the means of saving the Assassins in China.[4][1]

Two years later when Shao Jun returned to China, she utilized the rope dart prolifically in her quest to destroy the Templars in her homeland and resurrect her branch.[5] It proved indispensable in many of her missions not just as an assassination weapon but also as a freerunning tool,[5] by which she escaped the great fire of Macau in 1526,[6] again in a similar scenario in the Forbidden City,[7] and finally pursued Zhang Yong along the Great Wall of China in 1532.[8] Through her mastery of the weapon, she popularized its usage among the Assassins and was later credited by Colonial Assassin Mentor Achilles Davenport with introducing it to Assassins of the Western hemisphere.[9]

Edward Kenway holding a rope dart

18th century

In 1720, rope darts were given to the pirate Edward Kenway by Ah Tabai, Mentor of the West Indies Assassins,[10] after Edward proved himself worthy of having ties with the Assassins. He most notably used one such dart to slay the infamous pirate Bartholomew Roberts during a naval battle off the coast of West Africa.[11]

Shay Cormac, a Colonial Templar who served under Edward's son, Haytham Kenway, also utilized rope darts during the Seven Years' War.[12] Haytham's Assassin son, Ratonhnhaké:ton, was trained in the use of rope darts by Achilles Davenport beginning in late 1773 and applied it in his missions.[1][9]

19th century

In 1841, rope darts were used as grappling hooks by Indian Assassin Arbaaz Mir during his quest to recover the Koh-i-Noor from Templars.[13]

20th century

In 1918, during and immediately following the Shooting of the Romanov family, Russian Assassin Nikolai Orelov equipped himself with a rope dart, which he used when assassinating guards from ledges. During the same period, Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova, infused with the genetic memories of Shao Jun, used a dagger given to her by Orelov and rope to fashion a makeshift rope dart.[14]

21st century

In the year 2016, Lin, a descendant of Shao Jun who had absorbed her skills, escaped the Abstergo Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Madrid with her fellow abductees by using a rope dart to fight off the guards.[15]

Techniques

Achilles explaining the rope dart to Ratonhnhaké:ton

In open combat, rope darts are generally swung at enemies from afar to impale them, following which the user can drag them in for a close-ranged attack. Techniques in conjunction with this combo include wrenching the target to the ground for a swift assassination or simply following up with a sword slash. The Colonial Assassin Ratonhnhaké:ton was known to use this method to grapple enemies to be used as a human shield against hostile fire.[1] However, merely impaling an individual in a vital area like the chest or throat is normally fatal.[5][1]

As an assassination weapon, the rope dart has commonly been used to impale unwitting enemies from higher ground, like rooftops or treetops. The target could then be used as a counterbalance for the user to drop down to ground level, secure the other end of the rope to the ground, and hang the victim in the process. This harrowing technique was a signature tactic of the Assassin Edward Kenway and his grandson Ratonhnhaké:ton, the former of whom killed the pirate Bartholomew Roberts in this manner. Apart from its lethality, it serves an additional purpose of psychological shock in the midst of ambushing a hostile group.[1] However, hanging enemies with the rope dart can be unnecessary at times; as aforementioned, a strike to the throat or chest is enough to be fatal, and this simpler tactic was more typical of Shao Jun.[5] Alternatively, the reverse method of yanking enemies from their higher vantage points is also possible.[1]

Outside of combat, rope darts can be employed as traversal tools in the same manner as grappling hooks. The darts are usually durable and sharp enough to be embedded into structures, allowing the user to anchor themselves and swing them across gaps and chasms.[5]

Behind the scenes

Name

The Mandarin name shéngbiāo (繩鏢) literally translates to "rope dart".

In Scroll 16 of Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, the name shéng biāo is introduced with its diacritics indicating the tone of each word in pinyin. While they help readers to pronounce the words correctly, these diacritics are conventionally omitted in romanization of Chinese names, a convention abided by the game itself with the sole, inconsistent exception of shéng biāo.

Historical inaccuracies

In Scroll 16 of Chronicles: China, it is stated that the rope dart is Shao Jun's original invention. This is historically incorrect as the first known written description of the weapon dates to the Tang dynasty (618–907).[16]

Development

The rope dart first makes an appearance in the 2011 short film Assassin's Creed: Embers in the possession of the Chinese Assassin Shao Jun. The following year, it debuted as a playable weapon in Assassin's Creed III. The long-ranged weapon of the player character, Connor, was originally meant to be a "chain blade" that extended extended from the Hidden Blade similar to the Hidden Gun, but this was scrapped as it was considered too fantastical. Instead, the rope darts replaced this concept as they were deemed more realistic.[17][18] Exploring the game's assets reveals a planned icon and code for the weapon, suggesting it was scrapped late in development.

Gameplay

In Assassin's Creed III and its sequels Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin's Creed: Rogue, the rope dart is a supplementary combat tool. At its most basic, the rope dart can be used to grapple an enemy and pull them towards the player, following which the player may attack with their primary weapon or perform a Hidden Blade assassination. Either triggers a unique kill animation. With the human shield mechanic in Assassin's Creed III, the player also has the option to turn a pulled enemy in reaching distance into a shield against enemy fire.

In all three games, the player can perform a unique assassination with the rope dart from tree branches, ship spars, or beams. Perched on the vantage point, the player throws the weapon at an enemy and in one motion, drags them into the air, using them as a counterbalance to drop down onto the ground and plant the other end of the rope, thereby hanging the target. Doing this expends the rope dart, and attempting to hang too many bodies from the same tree branch causes all of them to fall to the ground.

True to lore, the rope dart returns in Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China as a fundamental element of Shao Jun's moveset. It functions differently in the 2.5D side-scroller, with Shao Jun using it automatically to extend her reach in air or ledge assassinations. Apart from this, it is also manually used by the player in freerunning; places where the rope dart can be used as a makeshift grappling hook are colour-coded in red. In certain areas, this can be required to advance further as it is needed to swing across gaps while in others, it is an option for stealth, allowing the player to rappel upward to the ceiling. This gameplay of rope dart is carried over in Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India and Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia.

Lore–gameplay inconsistencies

In Assassin's Creed III rope darts can be looted from enemies, including British soldiers, despite the fact that it is meant to be unique to the Assassins. Notwithstanding this, they can be looted even prior to "Sequence 6, Memory 1: On Johnson's Trail" where they are first introduced to the protagonist, Connor.

Gallery

Appearances

References

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