Assassins creed syndicate- a big leap in the series
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Everything about Assassin’s Creed Syndicate feeds into that core idea of fun. Every discipline, from artists to musicians to programmers to designers, all focused on that keyword. From the ground up, the game is there to provide players with the tools, systems, and freedom to create their own fun. In conjunction, the game’s story, characters, and world seem to be leaning away from the serious, somber tones that may have weighed down prior games in favor of something more light-hearted and adventurous. This depiction of London is less Downton Abbey and more Guy Ritchie. And after the slip-up that was 2014’s Unity, Ubisoft’s pillar series could stand to use a bit of fun.
The team kept mentioning specific moments in AC’s history as examples of the fun they’re striving for. In particular, Ezio’s trilogy and Black Flag, which are not only my favorite entries in the series, but generally the most well-regarded ones by fans in general. Yes, those games had their fair share of dark, powerful, and emotional moments, but as a whole, they exuded a sense of internal energy and fun. Ezio was a brash, lively young man who didn’t mind cracking a joke about the fact that yeah, sometimes the eternal struggle between the Assassins and the Templar can be a bit of a wet blanket, so why not have some fun with it?
Likewise, sailing the high seas in Black Flag provided such an incredible sense of freedom and exploration, and AC Syndicate aims to capture that same sensation with its various modes of transportation around London. Bombing through the streets on a carriage (which thankfully control much more arcade-y and much less like an actual carriage would), getting in a fist fight and tossing a fool off the top of a moving train, and zipping up to a rooftop using your new rope launcher all work in unison to allow the player to get from point A to point B in whichever manner they deem most fun. AC Syndicate is a game that sets out to give you a bevy of toys of play with, then steps out of the way and lets you create your own stories and anecdotes.
We’ll be doing a deeper dive into the characters of AC Syndicate later on in the month (man oh man am I excited to hang out with Charles Dickens in every single pub in London), but the short of it is that the sibling leads Jacob and Evie Frye seem to be a fantastic representation of the duality of the AC series. Jacob is cut from the same cloth as someone like Ezio or Edward Kenaway – he cares less about the archaic nonsense of the century-spanning feud, and more-or-less just wants to beat the living snot out of anyone who’s trying to do the city of London and its people wrong. The pen may be mightier than the sword (or is it hidden blade?), but to Jacob, a well-placed fist to the face trumps them all.
While playing as Jacob sounds great and all, it’s his sister Evie that really has me excited for AC Syndicate. She’s more in the mold of an assassin like Altair – she holds the creed as doctrine, and wants to do right by her father and the rest of the assassins that came before him. Lucky for all of us, she has the tools accomplish this with the finesse and expertise of the best of them. From the handful of story beats we’ve seen, the dynamic between Jacob and Evie is hilarious, entertaining, and rife with narrative potential.
As fans of the series are probably aware, Evie is the first playable female character in a core entry of the AC series (Aveline and Shao from Liberation and Chronicles predate Evie). It’s 2015, and I couldn’t be happier to have more and more games give players the freedom to hop into an avatar that more accurately represent them as a person. Hell, I can’t wait to play as Evie, because I’m just really excited to sneak up to a bunch of guards and toss a voltaic bomb at them, which pretty much causes a gigantic electrical explosion which I don’t understand but honestly don’t really care because giant electrical explosions look awesome, and are, you guessed it, fun.
The Black Box missions that anchored each chapter of 2014’s Assassin’s Creed Unity were some of my favorite things about the game. Being shown your target, getting a quick glimpse of your playground, then having the game let go of your hand provided some incredible moments of player creativity and agency. For AC Syndicate, the team wanted to take this freedom and inject it into every mission throughout the game. Do you want to steal a guard’s uniform and explore a mansion undetected? How about pretend to be captured by an agent on the inside, and be walked right up to your target? Or maybe you just want to throw caution to the wind, cause a riot, and go straight in through the front door blades-a-stabbing? All of them are possible, and the various outcomes and encounters make me want to replay missions and see what I missed out on.
The best open-world games are ones where you never feel comfortable doing things one and only one way. From what we’ve seen of AC Syndicate so far, Ubisoft has done a great job of skillfully reminding players of the wealth of options in the world, and rewarding us for experimenting. Micro-achievements and goals pepper your adventures across London. Throughout the game, you constantly have a couple dozen carrots dangling in front of your face, encouraging you to play around with the game’s systems and mechanics. Do X amount of Y, and you’ll be rewarded with Z — oh, I’ve got only a few more air assassinations left until I hit my quota, so maybe I should climb up to the roof and tackle this mission from a higher vantage point.
Aside from the core story missions that have Jacob and Evie taking over the seven Boroughs of London, AC Syndicate has a slew of side quests and activities that provide more than just a simple distraction. They add texture to the world, give you insight into who Jacob, Evie and rest of London’s citizens are, and add some new and unique gameplay scenarios to the series. Immersing yourself in the seedy underbelly of a fight club, or dropping your hood low and setting out to rob a train have much more personality than a traditional “collect X number of doodads” side mission. Likewise, liberating child laborers from the harsh confines of a dark, dangerous factory adds insight into real issues of the time, as well as further progress the heroism of Jacob and Evie.
In your quest to liberate London, you’ll slowly be taking over small chunks of the Burroughs. What was once a neighborhood crawling with hostile enemies will transform into a safe zone filled with buddies that you can wrangle up into a posse, hop into a carriage with, and cruise around London with looking for trouble. The city of London actually transforms and becomes your ally as you get further and further into the game, which is an exciting prospect. We’ll have much more on AC Syndicate’s depiction of London later on in the month.
Everyone I talked to at Ubisoft Quebec gave off an infectious amount of enthusiasm, positivity, and honest excitement. While the 10-year-old studio has helped on the series since Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, this is the first game that they’re fully in-charge of. They’re humbled by the opportunity to take the reins of Ubisoft’s core franchise, and doing everything in their power to treat it with the care, respect, and creativity that the fans of the series deserve.
They don’t mind scraping things that were central focuses of past games in the series, the biggest example of this being the complete absence of multiplayer. Since Brotherhood, multiplayer has played an auxiliary role in each game in the series, culminating in 2014’s Unity having a heavy focus on cooperative play. But in its goal to get the series back to its roots and really focus on what will make the game fun, the decision came to forgo any form of multiplayer in favor of delivering the best single-player experience possible.
The folks at Ubisoft Quebec understand what made the Assassin’s Creed series such an important, special franchise across the last generation of consoles. They know the characters we fell in love with, the worlds we enjoyed exploring most, and the freedom we used to tell our own stories. Likewise, they know what hasn’t worked in the past. They know which heroes haven’t clicked with fans, which stories haven’t resonated with us, and which stumbles caused the series to take a couple knocks on the chin along the way. They know all of this, and are using that knowledge to create an experience that is, at its core, fun.
If Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is even half as fun as I expect it to be, we’re in for something special.
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