Saturday, January 9, 2016

Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Jack the Ripper DLC Totally Worth It

I just finished my first play through of Assassin's Creed Syndicate and the Jack the Ripper DLC and I feel this is one of the best games in the Assassin's Creed series. Why do I feel that way? Well, let's get started. Set in 1868 London, you don't get to play as just one assassin; you get two. Jacob and Evie Frye who are twins and assassins. Each has their own special skills that you can upgrade as the game progresses. For example, Jacob has some impressive brawler skills and Evie has a very handy stealth skill known as chameleon where she can blend in and become invisible. For the majority of the game you can switch between them in the menu system quite easily depending on who you want to play as. There are missions as part of the story that are specifically designed for Jacob while others are designed for Evie.

The Frye Twins, Evie and Jacob.

Both Jacob and Evie are likable main characters with differences in how they do things. Evie wants to hunt down the remaining Pieces of Eden to stop the Templars while Jacob wants to help their city in a more straightforward way without the mysticism, which does bring up their sibling rivalry during some cut scenes, but it's done in a way that is meaningful and shows that in spite of their differing worldviews they do love each other. Guiding them along the way in the various missions is fellow assassin Henry Green. Henry Green became a favorite of mine because he was this interesting person who was great at handling arguments between Evie and Jacob with such graceful diplomacy. I also loved the interaction between him and Evie because it was sweet and it was clear that they were both fond of each other which was why I found the collecting all the pressed flowers around London for Henry side quest so endearing, because it leads up to a wonderful moment between the two.

This is Henry Green and he's fantastic!

Victorian London is impressive. I mean, there are some truly beautiful scenes in the game that show tons of details right down to the background people. There is a lot to see and do in the game that can keep you busy for hours. There are side missions where you can take over different gang boroughs and then you have a gang war where you have to eliminate the gang leader of that neighborhood adding power to Jacob and Evie's gang The Rooks. There are also Templar hunts where you find and assassinate them from a variety of locations.

One of the many gorgeous views in Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
Another impressive view. 

Some of the side missions I really liked were the ones with Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Alexander Graham Bell. They're fun to do and add a little extra something to the story. You also get some very cool assassin's tools to use courtesy of Mr. Bell like voltaic bombs which when dropped shock people with some massive electricity. That's right. You get an electric ball of doom which works great when you're fighting a mob of enemies. There's also some side missions with Queen Victoria.

The main story isn't too shabby either and it is interesting to see how Evie and Jacob handle the situation in their own unique ways. I did find that I played as Evie more because I loved her stealth abilities and I enjoyed the heck out of her weapon of choice; the sword cane. I also liked Evie herself a lot because she is this intelligent, independent woman in a time when women were not really allowed to be and she can handle her own in a fight and be totally ruthless. I also loved that she looked like a real person; not an over the top sexual fantasy ideal. I also felt that this made up a little (not a lot, but a little) for the whole "women are difficult to animate" fiasco and found that I enjoyed the heck out of the game running around London playing as Evie. 

Evie is awesome!

Evie kicking ass. 

That's not to say I didn't love Jacob too. His fighting skills are equally impressive with his weapon of choice, brass knuckles. I also had a fan girl moment when I recognized the voice actor for Jacob as Paul Amos (that's the actor who plays Vex; one of my favorite characters on the show Lost Girl folks) and that just added to the fun for me. I even took Jacob to some of the Fight Club areas to earn some cash (yes, I took Evie too) for the various crafting and upgrades needed and it was so much fun to play.

Jacob goes to town at the Fight Club. 

That's not to say there aren't any flaws in the game. There were a couple that drove me crazy. Let's highlight the Queen Victoria missions, because that's where I noticed this particular problem. I know that there are timed missions in Assassin's Creed and they can be insanely frustrating. For the record, I hate timed missions. It adds a lot of pressure. All of the Victoria missions were timed which had me swearing a lot, but none as much as the second mission in the series known as Drive for Lives. I HATED Drive for Lives. I hated that mission so much; not only did I swear in all six languages that I know, I thought about finding the sadist that designed this mission and throat punching them repeatedly. It took me at least five tries until I got this done. For starters, the insane challenge of getting a wagon full of lit dynamite across the bridge and into a safe area in 80 seconds was just not going to happen because while the carriage driving controls aren't terrible; they're not great. It felt like I wasn't going very fast at all even with the boost and carriages can't take a corner when you're hurtling at a high speed. Then there was the factor of it felt like every single carriage that ever existed in 1868 London was blocking the path and the bridge completely along with the enemy carriages trying to stop you. I was determined to beat that mission out of sheer pride by the fifth time. I finally did it, but I was pretty angry by the end so I had to take a break from the game for a bit.

Operation: Drive for Lives. Pure Evil. 

Free run still gives me problems occasionally. There are times where it's okay and then there are times where all of a sudden be it Jacob or Evie, I'm sticking to a wall when I didn't want to or climbing up something when I'm chasing a target which can be rather annoying especially when some of those chases require that I be stealthy. Those issues aside, I enjoyed playing the side missions and the main missions a lot. There's also a fun surprise mission in the game that is worth checking out when it appears.

Once I finished the main story, I started up the Jack the Ripper DLC. This puts the Frye Twins in London twenty years later with Jack the Ripper terrorizing London. Jacob has disappeared and Evie arrives in London from India having received a letter from her brother asking for help in dealing with the Ripper. It's refreshing to see Evie as a middle aged woman so well done and the fact that she's still kicking ass is completely awesome. Evie's learned a few new tricks, the big one being the ability to strike fear in enemies. This introduces a couple of new assassin's tools, fear spikes and fear bombs which come in handy during a fight where the challenge is you can't kill or harm anyone as they're non lethal.

Evie older and still amazing.

The side missions and main missions for this DLC are done quite well with a mix of all out brawls and some where you have to do a bit of sleuthing. There are some places in the story where you do get to play as Jack the Ripper and it's done in a subtle way that isn't too in your face about everything and doesn't detract from the story. Most of the events take place in Whitechapel of course, but you are free to explore and get all the side missions done if you wish. Evie really shines here and I loved playing as her again. I do admit that I missed Jacob however, and wished I could have played as him here as well. Another thing I noticed was a rather irritating glitch that happened every time Evie was driving a carriage. There would be a lag spike and the game would stop in places and then start. Luckily, there weren't too many of those carriage chase scenes so I still enjoyed playing the game. Overall, the game is fantastic and so is the DLC. There's tons to explore, even more to do, and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Black Flag, perhaps even a little more than Black Flag. Assassin's Creed Syndicate and the Jack the Ripper DLC are totally worth it and worth playing through more than once. 

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