Today is Friday, October 27, 2017, and that means Assassin’s Creed Origins has been released worldwide! I hope you enjoy your new game while people in the storm ravaged areas of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and beyond search for missing pets/grandmas, struggle with crippling depression, and fight to put the pieces of their shattered lives back together. I wonder how many bottles of clean drinking water $65 could buy?
Also, if you preordered Origins, you get the bonus mission “Secrets of the First Pyramids.” Fun!
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Release Date: 10/2015. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Syndicate is basically Unity in England with the game set to “fun” in the options screen. Oh, and also a sweet grappling hook.
The game looks and plays much like its older, buggier brother, but introduces a pair of main characters that the player can switch between on the fly. Meet brother and sister duo Jacob and Evie Frye, who bring slightly different skills to the table. Jacob, who specializes in combat efficiency, is probably the most charismatic and likable murderous psychopath since Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed II. Evie, who specializes in stealth, is more of a generic by-the-book assassin we’ve come to expect at this point. There’s a few Odd Couple-style interactions between the pair, but their relationship is mostly played for drama.
While Jacob has the better personality, it soon becomes apparent that Evie’s skillset is more useful. That’s why it’s so infuriating that most important missions are exclusive to her asshat brother. I’d suggest that Jacob is favored by the game developers simply because he’s a man, but the Jack the Ripper DLC (see below) is almost exclusively Evie’s show. Chalk it up to making a more challenging game, I guess.
Anyway, the Frye twins spend the game building up their own gang, the Rooks, and trying to reestablish the waning assassin presence in London. It’s yet another situation in Assassin’s Creed where the storyline is neither memorable nor what you’d call “good,” but the Fryes are surrounded by a gaggle of excellent supporting characters to spice things up. From a pair of Chareses (Dickens and Darwin) to transgender businessman Ned Wynert and badass Indian prince Duleep Singh, it’s the endearing characters that keep cut scenes from dragging, not the lukewarm tale of… whatever’s going on in London. And mercifully, the present day interruptions are kept to a bare minimum this time around. Anything that lets me get back murdering random people on the streets because I don’t like their hat, or their horse is ugly, is much welcome.
Speaking of horses, buggies (no, not like Unity’s levitating townspeople) are a big part of Syndicate. It’s a fast way to get from point A to B, but it also leads to some of the dullest missions around. (Doesn’t every gamer want to drive slowly to protect their passengers?) Other highlights include recruiting gang members to do your brutalizing for you, the aforementioned grappling hook that makes climbing easier but only works when it feels like it, and shooting civilians off their rowboats on the Thames River and into a death’s icy, wet embrace.
In true AC fashion, here’s literally hundreds of things scattered around the industrial slums to collect and immediately forget about. It’s not good game design, but it appeals to the completionist in me, so it gets a pass. Other returning annoyances include paying real-world cash for in-game currency, missions where you slowly follow some rando around until the game remembers it’s an action title again, and load times that afford the player a convent break to stop and make themselves a grilled cheese.
Overall, Syndicate is the game Unity should have been. Industrial Revolution London is a lot of fun to explore, and there’s even a brief section focusing on World War I for variety. Strangely, Syndicate’s biggest problem is that there’s too much content on offer: the game was still giving me new missions after I earned the platinum trophy. Had the more tedious aspects had been lessened and some sleep inducing-missions cut, Syndicate could have been a classic. But even as it stands, the game stands head-and-shoulders over most of its AC brethren, stabbing its way nearly to the top of a long line of bestselling, iconic games and also AC Revelations.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper. Release Date: 12/2015. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
|Oh, I say, BRRR!|
Set 20 years after the main events of Syndicate, the Jack the Ripper features a bite-sized chunk of Creedy goodness wrapped in a familiar package.
Continuing the Assassin’s Creed tradition of underwhelming DLC, JtR takes place entirely in sections of the game we’ve already seen in Syndicate… or does it? In fact, there are several episodes in this ten mission arc that take place in entirely new locations. Of particular interest is Lady O’s mansion, which is an excellent playground for destruction. With underpowered enemies, no place for them to escape, and plenty of dark nooks in which to lurk, this mission starts feeling less like Assassin’s Creed and more like a movie in the Halloween series.
The creepy atmosphere is enhanced by a wicked (like the witch, not Boston) soundtrack, the cold, unforgiving landscape of London in wintertime, and Jack himself, who looks like a cross between Charles Dickens and Jason from Friday the 13th Part II, what with his burlap sack mask and penchant for stabbing.
The new fear-based combat system rounds out the spookiness by letting the player terrorize enemies. Unlike its parent game, the focus in Jack the Ripper isn’t to kill the bad guys, so much as it is to brutalize them physically and mentally. Sometimes, you feel more like Batman than Evie Frye. The difference is, Batman never left criminals to die pinned down to the middle of a busy road or scared them into shooting each other in face.
Some of the side missions are eye-meltingly boring, but on the whole, staking around London in Jack the Ripper is great fun. Too bad this one isn’t a standalone like Freedom Cry, or I’d have recommended it to people who don’t feel like plunging into Syndicate’s plethora of content but still want to take a short trip to Jolly Old England.
An Arbitrary ranking of all main Assassin’s Creed Games
All right, folks. You had to know this was coming. You can’t do a proper retrospective without a list of the author’s favorite and least favorite titles.
Only entries into the main 3D series will be considered for this list, so any handheld or 2D Creed games will not appear. Liberation is not an exception to this rule since we’ll be reviewing the HD version on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, not the PS Vita original.
Expansions and spinoffs such as The Tyranny of King Washington and Freedom Cry are considered part of their originator game and thus will not be ranked separately.
All games are ranked as they stand today, with all stability patches install. Basically, imagine a new copy of each game purchased and played on October 27, 2017 with all updates applied.
The higher up on the list within the tier, the better the game.
Now, without further ado:
LEGENDARY TIER – Great games worth playing for all gamers.
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
- Assassin’s Creed II
EXCELLENT TIER – Great games worth playing for fans of Assassin’s Creed and maybe other gamers too.
- Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
- Assassin’s Creed III
- Assassin’s Creed Rogue
GOOD TIER – Fun games, but nothing special. Worth a play for AC fans, or if you get ‘em cheap.
- Assassin’s Creed Unity
- Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD
- Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
MEH TIER – Not bad, but you’re not missing much if you skip it.
- Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
AWFUL TIER – One of the worst games ever made.
- Assassin’s Creed I
Brotherhood ranks so “low” because it’s basically just ACII again, but note that it’s still in a tier of recommended titles. Assassin’s Creed III is aided by its expansion, The Tyranny of King Washington, helping it to pull ahead of Rogue. Black Flag is unhindered by the shrug-worthy Freedom Cry expansion and the Jack the Ripper DLC made the choice between Syndicate and ACIII much easier.
So there you have it, folks. Now you should be all ready for Origins! Or if you’re so inclined, take a look at the earlier entries in the Assassin’s Creed series in Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV of the retrospective. Happy stabbing!
(And seriously, why not donate a few bucks to the Red Cross?)
(And seriously, why not donate a few bucks to the Red Cross?)