I had actually thought both Unity and Syndicate were a part of the Kenway saga. The names of Edward and Haytham pop up often enough for them to feel like they are. But apparently they’re their own thing, which doesn’t really affect this post all that much except making naming it more complicated.
I’m talking about the endlessly fascinating Assassin’s Creed series, by the way. I’m behind in posting my thoughts on Rogue, Unity and Syndicate.
We’ll start with the game I finished playing just last weekend: Syndicate.
What I Loved
Which is mostly going to be a list of what I liked, in some cases very much, as I didn’t really love this one. I loved the beginning and felt the game actually got less interesting as it progressed, most markedly when Jacob and Evie arrived in London. There began the relentless and monotonous conquering of the city, which I enjoyed for the sake of clearing out the rabble, but quickly abandoned once I’d leveled the twins and finished upgrading all of their gear. Westminster remains unconquered.
I really enjoyed the Thames as a borough, and had fun riding up and down the river on barges, sabotaging and stealing shipments. I stumbled into the World War I segment by accident and enjoyed that immensely. I liked the short and defined nature of the quests and the feeling of actually making a difference. Also, shooting the planes out of the sky was fun.
I liked how the present and precursor stories were handed in Syndicate. No more tedious traipsing around an office hacking computers for files we didn’t really need. We also got a huge chunk of precursor story, but felt a little recycled. Was it recycled? I did miss solving the logic puzzles, though. I’d rather have scanned barcodes on buildings and solved puzzles for database entries and keys than complete endless London Stories that often had no bearing at all on the main quest.
But we’re talking about what I liked. I loved driving carriages and quickly achieved Wanton Destruction, thus making my carriages even more dangerous! I liked not having to level my lockpicking skill and waiting for tumblers to settle. But I sort of missed that as well?
Jacob was loveable. I made up a ton of stories for him in my head and if I still had the time to write fan fiction, he’d quickly consume my life. I loved his personality. His cheekiness and blunt way of getting things done. I felt he had a lot more emotional investment in his quests than Evie, too.
Finally, being able to infect multiple targets with a poison dart? Delightful.
What I Didn’t Love
The overall story was… dull. Basically, it followed a chain of linked characters who had to be killed before the big bad, Starrick, could go down. And Starrick wasn’t all that big and bad. In discussing this one with my husband, we came to the conclusion that while we like the blurring of the lines between the ultimate aims of the Assassins and Templars, this game really suffered from the shades of grey. Yeah, Starrick was evil, but he also seemed like he had the best interests of London at heart. I dunno. I didn’t feel as though I was ridding the world of super dangerous scum at the end of this one. But I did like that Jacob and Evie had settled their differences by the end.
Continuing to work backward, let’s talk about Unity.
What I Loved
Just about everything, actually. I had FUN playing this one. I loved the brightness of Paris and the difference between the neighborhoods. The city felt much more distinct than in previous games, which was probably because I’d played Black Flag, Freedom’s Cry and Rogue in the year or so leading up to it, and so had been wandering the developing world, sacking and pillaging ships and villages for a long, long time. It was nice to shake the mud off my boots for a while and rediscover civilization.
I think my favourite aspect was that it felt like a return to Assassin’s Creed II in gameplay and design. I enjoyed making the city mine and bumping into history via quests and the engaging Paris Stories. I loved solving the mini-quests like the murder mysteries. Again, I fell into the expansion without warning and though I was a little under level for it, persevered and came out all the richer for my troubles.
I enjoyed sneaking into and out of the Bastille. I enjoyed sneaking into and out of just about everywhere, actually. What I loved most about this installment, though, was the story. Yes, it was another shades of grey episode, but it really worked here with the star-crossed romance angle, which I really liked. Arno had so much more purpose than the average assassin. In fact, he kind of reminded me of Ezio, my all-time favourite. Giving the assassin a personal quest as well as a world quest definitely makes the story more engaging.
I also just really liked Arno.
Oh, and the World War II segment was really, really cool. I took so many screenshots of the balloons over Paris and all of the other craziness.
What I Didn’t Love
The present part. BORING. I miss the present story having a face. I miss Desmond. 😦 I also feel like the present and precursor stories have stalled. I love that the series has unlimited potential when it comes to tracking down the pieces of Eden using the memories of certain bloodlines, but what drew me to and kept me fascinated through the end of Revelations was the intertwined story threads of past, present, and possible future (or ancient past). I’d love to see more of that.
Finally, let’s talk about Rogue.
What I Loved
A lot, actually. My most defined thought is that Rogue is what Assassin’s Creed III should have been, starring Haytham Kenway. I’ve complained loudly and often about Assassin’s Creed III—the game that nearly had me quitting the franchise. If not for Black Flag, I might have. Rogue took the best elements of both—giving us the story that should rightfully have been Haytham’s, that of a man born to one creed and raised by another. Conflict within and without.
If you don’t know Haytham’s entire story, I recommend reading Oliver Bowden’s novel, Forsaken.
Back to Rogue. I really liked Shay’s story. I felt his motivation for leaving the Assassins and joining the Templars was sound and his continuing struggle with his decision was handled well. Not over the top, but not ignored. I played the game with a sort of, “about time” attitude.
I loved the more confined map. This isn’t as big a game as Black Flag, although it was markedly similar in a lot of ways. But the story was much tighter and more cohesive with less reliance on real-world or “storied” events. More its own thing. Like Revelations, the story here was organic to the game world and current character than the more sprawling installments in the series.
I really enjoyed sacking and pillaging.
I always enjoy sacking and pillaging.
I don’t know what’s so fun about it, except that there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment attached to defeating another ship or claiming a plantation or warehouse and relieving each of all their supplies. Maybe it’s that those supplies were then used for upgrades, so there was a real drive to engage in this activity, over and over again. And it wasn’t as tedious as all that shipping and trade introduced in AC II (only to be dropped thereafter, because ugh).
I enjoyed the mini-game of expanding trade routes, though, with the turn-based ship battles. I liked building and maintaining that fleet, and watching my wealth escalate as a result—not that I ever figured out what to do with it all? I’ve generally finished the main plot of every Assassin’s Creed game before realizing the benefits of all the side quest actions like conquering districts and building fleets.
What I Didn’t Love
The limited access to the world map at the beginning of the game. I’m a natural born wanderer and as such, like to wander wherever, whenever. I became so frustrated with the limitations of the map and not being able to clear and claim areas and complete quests ahead of schedule. Same with the access to tools and equipment.
Thankfully, this seems to be the only game where the limitations were so fierce, and I’ve wandered freely since.
So, what’s next up? Origins, I guess! I’m usually two games behind, so I doubt I’ll even get to Origins before Odyssey is released, though. Probably not even this year. I’m playing The Evil Within right now, and loving it, and I’m hoping to squeeze the new Tomb Raider in before the new Fallout drops. Then there are all the other new games coming up soon (which I talk about here if you want to read another gaming ramble).
I am looking forward to playing both Origins and Odyssey, though, and despite myriad small complaints, really do love the Assassin’s Creed games. They’ve become my comfort game of choice, taking over from Skyrim. When I just want to kill stuff, I now slip on my hood and become an assassin for a while. Keeps me off the streets. 😉