I Regret Sleeping on Assassin’s Creed
Whenever there’s a sale on the PlayStation Store I tend to check it out. They’ve usually got some great steals, and even new games can be heavily discounted. I find I discover pretty fun games this way, taking chances I wouldn’t normally take when dishing out cash for a game, and so slowly my backlog is growing into a nice repository for a rainy day.
It was why I picked up Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, Unity, and Syndicate bundled together for a mere $22. What a steal! I’d never played an Assassin’s Creed game before, mostly because I once found the idea of killing even fictional someones not very nice, so I honestly had no clue what to expect. I’d first seen the series through a trailer for the Revelations game that I could not and will not ever stop watching, which introduced me to the wonderful artistry of Woodkid as well, and thought it exuded a level of cool I was too afraid to try out.
Well I’m sorry for not giving it a shot at the time, truly I am. Because I’m playing through Syndicate right and having an honest-to-gods blast. Killing included! Even if the body physics feel clumsily hilarious in how your victims can cascade down buildings as if they were boneless jelly creatures. I feel so far removed from the me that used to find ways to avoid murdering people in games. I now find new and interesting ways in which to do just that.
Assassin’s Creed takes history and says — certainly, hm, yes, but what if you could zipline across the entirety of Big Ben? What if you could cause absolute chaos in the streets of Whitechapel by simply murdering every opposing gang member and cop you saw? Here, take this carriage’s reins and knock over every lamp post in the city for all we care, and Grand Theft Auto your way anywhere! I feel gloriously unhinged.
There’s also the actual historical tidbits sprinkled through the narrative and the appeal of a somewhat non-steampunk rendered London in 1868 that sets my heart aflutter. The gritty streets and gloomy nights have already been done to death in media but I simply refuse to get enough of it. I get it, this is a very popular setting, but I am still overjoyed at the fact that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate allows me to freely parkour my way across a relatively lawless London hijacking carriages and getting into skirmishes in order to free the city of its abusive puppeteers. I also really enjoy the company of the protagonists, twins named Evie and Jacob Frye, and the entire affair of the Templar v. Assassin war that seems to have its claws in every large institution ever.
The open world of London is painstakingly fun to explore. I used to find open world games a bit too indirect, and I actually oftentimes prefer the linearity of more straightforward and story-based JRPGs so I can cling to a given path. But getting to explore this dramatized real word locale instead of watching it in a BBC drama is wonderful, as is finding new and creative ways to tackle my foes and bring down enemy strongholds. I most certainly do want to loot a train, even if I don’t need to! Especially if I don’t need to.
The most embarrassing revelation of a foray into a game like Assassin’s Creed is that I, a History major, failed to account for the fact that my small entertainment brain does not care for the particulars of certain historical inaccuracies. Alexander Graham Bell is a delight to encounter, and a surprising face among the more publicly notable likes of Dickens and Darwin, but I’m not entirely certain of how true to fact these depictions are aiming to be. I feel a bit guilty for enjoying a gamified snapshot of the past but I also find history shines best when displayed by those who had experienced it, so the fact that this game has gotten me to read some of Alexander Graham Bell’s actual journals and learn a bit more about his life is a testament to its ability to make me care. And if you like history this may spark some wild fascinations and deep dives down Wikipedia pages. I can already feel the tingle of that need. And while I find that playing with the real lives of historical figures can be a bit dubious, when they’re more window-dressing than titular it can come off as charming rather than overwrought. This game just toes that line. But there is an outstanding amount of work that goes into realizing these game worlds, and it’s honestly where I want to take my degree.
The only real issue I have is that it’s admittedly a bit jarring to be suddenly snapped back to the “real world” and its modern, sterile-looking work environments when waking from using the Animus. After spending a dreary, atmospheric night hopping around rooftops with Evie and Jacob the last thing I want to do is wake up in a modern office and realize it’s all basically not real. How very meta of you, Assassin’s Creed!
I don’t have any stake in the discussions of Ubisoft as a company or the franchise’s fate as a whole like I do with series like Final Fantasy, I just heard about Syndicate, saw it was on sale, and decided what the hell, might as well get the lot of them! So my idea of this series is pretty fresh and I know very little about the overarching and larger plots that I’m sure span multiple games. Did I have to play I — III to really get the gist of things? Why does everyone love this Ezio guy so much? Do you have to be an actual genetic relative to play through these peoples’ lives? Also, what the hell is the Animus, really? How did this all come to be? I don’t know and frankly I don’t really want to be told this outside of learning it in the game’s story. Now I’m here for the ride.
If you have a PlayStation 4 you can still pick up the triple pack as well as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and a ton of other games for heavily discounted prices on the system store. Syndicate plays a bit rough on PS5, apparently, but I doubt I’ll get one of those this year — so here’s to the continued overheated shouts of my 7 year old PS4 serenading every game cutscene I have to watch!
If you’ve ever been curious about Assassin’s Creed but haven’t played yet I say just take the leap of faith. Extraneous circumstances aside, and from someone who is tired of being told how and what to play, so far I think it’s a grand old time.