Ubisoft execs have explained that sales of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate have suffered because of the negative reaction to last year’s bug-riddled release, Assassin’s Creed Unity. …
Annualizing a franchise means having to regularly introduce new ideas to keep it from becoming stale. Each year, Assassin’s Creed introduces a new design philosophy, whether it’s controlling twin siblings, assassinating targets alongside friends, or sailing the high seas, in order to differentiate entries and maintain player interest.
Below are five unique and potentially divisive suggestions to implement in future Assassin’s Creed titles. Because of how unorthodox they are, each concept is followed with a reason for why it could work, as well as an argument for why it may just as likely fail. We welcome your own opinions in the comments.
Control A Neutral Protagonist With A Choice-Driven Narrative
Assassin’s Creed IV’s Edward Kenway was an interesting departure from traditional series protagonists because he wasn’t truly an Assassin until the last third or so of the game. The pirate captain masquerades in the iconic hood while largely pursuing his selfish goals. Let’s take that idea further with a hero who has no association to either group, but is desired by each. Players could interact with and perform tasks for both factions, providing an alternative viewpoint on both ideologies. Eventually, a situation arises that forces players to permanently choose a side, dramatically altering the events moving forward. This would also provide replay value for anyone who wants to experience the opposite path.
Why It Works: With exceptions such as Shay Cormac in Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Ubisoft has tried – and mostly failed – to paint both groups as shades of gray. This approach could effectively highlight the differences between the groups while also pointing out the good they each hope to accomplish. Providing an objective viewpoint and allowing the player to side with the cause they deem just may be purest method of capturing the moral ambiguity the Assassin/Templar war is supposed to embody.
Why It Doesn’t: An interesting hero is crucial for getting invested in the story, but a neutral protagonist could wind up being a boring blank slate that players have to define by their choices. Plus, Ubisoft has struggled with ambiguity; “Assassin” and “Templar” are essentially synonyms for “good” and “evil,” respectively.
Set A Game In Atlantis
Ubisoft excels at creating compelling period pieces, but instead of keeping things grounded to actual events, what if Ubisoft tackled something a bit more fantastical? Atlantis is the first idea that comes to mind, as it’s one of the most fascinating and storied locations in mythology, plus it’s rarely explored in video games. From a story perspective, the lost continent could be established as being a part of the First Civilization that fell to ruin due to a struggle over pieces of Eden. Naturally, the protagonist would be a First Civilization Atlantean, putting players in the shoes of this ancient race for the first time.
Why It Works: If one series could do Atlantis justice, it’s Assassin’s Creed. Previous real-world cities have been phenomenally realized, and Atlantis’ alleged Greek/Mediterranean architecture would be a wondrous sight to behold. Thanks to the First Civilization’s hyper-advanced technology, the sky’s the limit in terms of creative, possibly otherworldly weapons, equipment, and traversal options. Most importantly, players would experience a first-hand account of a piece of First Civilization history.
Why It Doesn’t: Experiencing an alternate take on real history is one of the primary draws for many fans, myself included. Personally, I’m open to experimentation, but I can easily understand why others would be averse such a drastic departure. Using a fictional setting means Ubisoft will basically have to make up history, which could potentially derail the overarching narrative more than it already has been.
Completely Rip Off The MGS V Buddy System
Bringing specialized buddies into the field was one of the strongest aspects of Metal Gear Solid V, and a similar mechanic could work for Assassins’ Creed. Instead of just having faceless underlings perform the same duties, players instead have a smaller pool of more fleshed-out characters who sport unique abilities suited to different situations. Perhaps a Quiet-like sniper who neutralizes enemies from a distance or even their own dog that sniffs out memory shards, distracts guards, and, of course, bites Templars in the butt.
Why It Works: As proven by The Phantom Pain, there’s a satisfaction in choosing the right partner for a job, having them carry some of the load, then watching them progress and acquire new skills. Buddies also present another batch of potentially interesting personalities for players to grow attached to, on and off the streets.
Why It Doesn’t: Competent A.I. companions are tough to pull off, and the series’ unfortunate history of technical hiccups could make this an extremely risky venture. Terrain and traversal would also have to be taken into account and could be tricky depending on the buddy (can the dog scale buildings too?). Not to mention that fans may not want to be saddled with buddy at all.
Reintroduce the Truth
The Truth mystery was one of the most exciting and intriguing aspects of Assassin’s Creed lore, and the puzzles surrounding them provided a fun and challenging diversion. Reinserting it back into the series has been requested by a vocal portion of the fan base.
Why It Works: The Truth was arguably the most talked-about aspects of the earlier titles, igniting a wild fire of fan theories and giving players a plot point to look forward to in each release. If Ubisoft can craft another mystery as gripping as pseudo-sci-fi Adam and Eve fleeing unknown pursuers, they could reinvigorate an excitement around an aspect of the franchise that hasn’t existed since Assassin’s Creed III.
Why It Doesn’t: The fire has pretty much cooled on the First Civilization mystery /modern-day plotline and what’s present isn’t all that interesting. Fans simply might not be as invested in that element of the story as before, and asking them to solve a ton of complex puzzles centered on it may be asking too much–especially if the payoff winds up just being another narrative letdown.
Competitive Multiplayer-Only Entry
Assassin’s Creed’s competitive multiplayer was a generally well-received feature in the titles it appeared in. Players hunted each other while blending into crowds and other hiding places, creating a more cerebral variant of traditional online modes that fit within the Assassin’s Creed framework. Syndicate removed multiplayer entirely, but what if the next entry was fully dedicated to it?
Why It Works: Building a full release around the concept could allow Ubisoft to expand on the mode in new, exciting ways. Perhaps they could construct a full-sized city filled with players engaged in a massive (and deadly) game of hide and seek.
Why It Doesn’t: Multiplayer offshoots of established franchises seem to carry a negative stigma, proven by the less-than stellar reception games like Umbrella Corps and especially Metroid Prime: Federation Force have received. An Assassin’s Creed title adopting the same approach would likely face the same backlash. Also, the likelihood of such a massive online infrastructure faltering is a concern.
It's hard to keep up with annualized franchises. Have you played every Assassin's Creed since the original released in 2007?
I played the original, and each of the Ezio entries, but my interest began to wane over the course of Assassin's Creed III. I completed it, however, and started Black Flag, but never made it through the introduction. The same thing happened during my time with Unity. I didn't encounter any glitches in Unity, nor did I find the story or characters unappealing (I enjoy French history!), but I had just hit a point of fatigue. I never even started Rogue. It was time for a break. I haven't started Syndicate, yet, but after reading Joe Juba's review and chatting with him about the game on the podcast, I am excited to start the game, though it remains to be seen if it will reignite my appreciation for the series.
How about you? Have you played all of the Assassin's Creed games? Are you a die-hard fan, eager to play each entry? Or are you ready for a break? Let us know in the comments below.
Update: We recently streamed a whole lot of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and now the archive of the stream is available to view online.
You can check out the stream below with Andrew Reiner and Joe Juba, who reviewed the game. We jump to a later point in the game, and play for just under two hours.
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Original Story: As you can tell from our review of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, the latest game in the series is a bit of a redemption for the series after last year's stumble with Unity. We wanted to share in the excitement of today's release alongside some fellow Assassin's Creed fans with a live stream! Game Informer's Joe Juba will be checking out the game alongside some other editors as we climb and stab our way through a bygone London.
The knives were out for Assassin's Creed Unity, some justified and some not, leaving many with a bad impression of the game. Regardless, Assassin's Creed Syndicate is not only a new experience separate from Unity in several ways, but it's definitely a step up in many departments. If you didn't like Unity or are worried about its impact on Syndicate, don't let last year's game interfere with your enjoyment of Syndicate.
Here are some key areas where Syndicate improves on Unity's feature set and makes Syndicate worth checking out. For more on the game, take a look at Joe's review and be sure to check out his 10 spoiler-free tips for players.
The Fast Flash of a Blade
One of the deserved criticisms of AC Unity was that combat wasn't very fluid as you tried to strike multiple foes. This wasn't helped by Unity's propensity to drop frames and its revised approach to combat. Syndicate's contribution to the series' fights improves Unity's multiple issues.
Encounters are noticeably smoother than the last title, both in how they look and how it feels to execute your moves. The timing window for counters is communicated via a yellow indicator; sometimes the enemy you're countering is close or far away. Regardless, tapping the circle button (B on Xbox One) once to counter during the window does the job. This creates an easily understandable and reliable rhythm to fights. I concentrated on putting in my combo attack strings and threw in counter commands when I needed to (including pressing Triangle/Y to dodge projectiles). Things can get hairy and quite difficult when you're surrounded by a blood-thirsty gang, but you can trust Syndicate's combat to see you through.
Syndicate's altogether improved character movement, a big part of its fights, also aids general world traversal. Climbing into windows – an adventure in itself in Unity – is now easily executed by hitting L1 when prompted by an icon.
The City at Your Feet
Unity's online integration was a mess, and Syndicate avoids this completely by not only axing multiplayer, but also by doing away with a companion app or other connectivity. Apart from any unintended bugginess, the online components may have caused in Unity, it feels great in Syndicate to be free of any frustration with the map or what you see in the world. Thankfully, a chest is just a chest again, and if you see it, you can access it. Speaking of chests, the removal of the Nomad missions and chests gives players access to that feature's equipment rewards via normal side missions. A large map, an inviting city, and an urge to explore – this spirit is definitely back in full force for Syndicate.
Crafting New Meaning
The worlds of the Assassin's Creed franchise have never lacked for things to do, but Syndicate introduces a crafting wrinkle that gives new impetus to take on the game's many side missions. Crafting supplies are earned across four categories, and you must have the requisite items to create and unlock specific weapons and upgrade your gang (more on that below). Furthermore, crafting is also how you unlock important character upgrades such as being able to carry more medicine punches, bombs, knives, etc.
Giving players a reason to play the series' many side missions has always been a challenge, and the integration of crafting components gives players more of a reason to take many of them on. You are also encouraged to take on side missions since helping out allies will sometimes give you specific weapons or equipment beyond the normal XP and money.
Skills for Any Situation
I wasn't as annoyed by Unity's skill tree – where you had to spend points to learn even fundamental aspects of the Assassin craft – as some players were, but there's no doubt that Syndicate's version of the skill tree is simply better.
Like any good skill tree, Syndicate's gives you the freedom to pursue the avenues you see fit while unlocking some impressive and useful abilities along the way. It's broken into three sections: Combat, Stealth, and Ecosystem (which includes skills like becoming a faster driver, gang options, a bigger Eagle Vision cone, and more). There's simply more variety than in Unity, and this dovetails nicely with the Frye twins.
There are many instances in the game where it does not matter which Frye twin you're controlling. The game even encourages this by allowing you to switch freely between them when you're not in a story mission, but the skill tree is the one area where who you control actually matters.
You can effectively create two different character builds for the two characters, tailoring Jacob and Evie towards specific needs. For instance, I didn't spend points on lockpicking or other stealth-related skills for Jacob. However, that's not to say that I didn't buy combat skills with Evie. However you do it, be sure to investigate the six character-specific skills (three for each) to unlock their true potential.
Eventually you will earn plenty of skill points if you do enough of the side missions to unlock all the skills for both Fryes, but in the early and middle parts of the game, you won't have to waste points on branches of the skill tree you're not interested in.
The Fryes' adventures around London have also made them leaders of the Rooks gang – who have their own extensive skill tree. Apart from improving your gang (which costs money and craft items), you can also direct up to five members in the world. Although you can't command them to kill instantly like in AC: Brotherhood, they're handy in a scrape and remind me of the franchise's heyday.
Whereas the skill trees are about choice, Syndicate's 29 perks are passive upgrades unlocked according to how you play the game. For instance, if you perform 50 multi-counter kills you'll get an increase in your counter attack damage. These let you feel even more like a lethal assassin, something that Unity didn't always do.
Now that Assassin's Creed: Syndicate is out in the wild, we wanted to revisit this conversation to get your thoughts on the current state of the Assassin's Creed franchise. This article was originally published on May 9, 2015.
I'm growing disenchanted with the Assassin's Creed games, a series that once dazzled me with its melding of period piece storytelling and secrets tied to an ancient civilization possessing technology far beyond ours today. Ubisoft's focus is now mostly on exploring the past, something they do quite well, but I'm finding that, without the mystery, the experience is different and and not nearly as engaging. Part of its DNA missing.
As much as I enjoy suiting up as an assassin and exploring landmark events in human history, such as the French Revolution or Italy during the 15th century, the big hook for me, which took root in Assassin's Creed II, was searching for "The Truth," secrets, messages, and images that pointed to a much larger story unfolding. This hunt for clues tied to that ancient civilization was one of the best optional objectives I've ever come across in a game.
In Assassin's Creed II, I was absolutely floored by the secret video that showed Adam and Eve leaping across a futuristic cityscape (which you can view below). I watched it frame by frame, and overanalyzed every little clue within it, hoping that I would uncover more of that world. I was just as engaged with that story line, as minimal as it was, as Ezio's. Ubisoft had a great thing going. It reminded me of the TV show Lost. I thought the setup moving forward would be each game delivering two stories: the primary being the assassin in a historic setting, and the secondary being about the first civilization.
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That never came to fruition, and yes, maybe it was more my wishful thinking than anything else. What followed was game after game of confusion and disappointing plot points tied to the first civilization. As it stands today, I couldn't tell you what happened. Juno is a computer virus? Maybe she's the Lawnmower Man? We can argue over what happened all day long, but I think we can all agree that Ubisoft dropped the ball with a story that could have been a pillar for the franchise.
And it still could. Rather than sticking with the dumb "game development" story line, why not send players into the distant past? What better way could there be to shake up the series than traveling to a world where anything is possible. We saw what the "apple" was capable of. We saw what Minerva could do. Think of what that world would be like. Think of the gameplay that could come from it.
Yes, I love the attention to detail that Ubisoft puts into each historic setting, but the gameplay isn't changing. We're still stabbing people in the back of head and climbing on walls. The first civilization could produce a wealth of new ideas that change up the assassination game. The idea is there. We've seen it. We want it. Well, at least I want it. Why not go there? Why not open up that plot thread again and make it count this time?
Should the first civilization be the primary location for a game? Maybe not, but it would make one hell of a place to visit. I enjoyed playing as Desmond in the sequences set in the near future. Just imagine what it would be like to play as Adam or Eve or a different character in a world that is brimming with science fiction possibilities. Go nuts with it, Ubisoft. At this point I'm more interested in your fiction than the stories that come from history books.
As you can tell from our review of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, the latest game in the series is a bit of a redemption for the series after last year's stumble with Unity. We wanted to share in the excitement of today's release alongside some fellow Assassin's Creed fans with a live stream! Game Informer's Joe Juba will be checking out the game alongside some other editors as we climb and stab our way through a bygone London.
Assassin’s Creed Unity was a complete mess at launch. That fact can’t be sugar-coated; an array of technical issues prompted an outcry from gamers – resulting in an apology from Ubisoft and the discontinuation of the planned season pass. The release of barely functional games is not something to be taken lightly or excused, but in the case of Unity, the backlash may have scared players away from what eventually became a decent game.
In fact, I was one of those fans deterred by the problems surrounding Unity’s launch. After playing a few missions, I decided to wait until the dust settled before diving in – but that took so long that I just moved on to other games. Plus, I had already gotten my AC fix for the year thanks to Rogue. But now, with the release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate only weeks away, I decided it was time to finally revisit Unity on PlayStation 4. To my surprise, I’m playing a fun (and functional) game!
If you’ve been avoiding Unity because of the prevailing sentiment that it’s a broken trainwreck, you should know that it’s safe to come back. The following is a rundown of common problems from the launch window that I’ve found to be improved or fixed completely during my time with Unity.
The most high-profile issue with Unity was the array of glitches and bugs. From characters with missing faces to cutscene-interrupting pedestrians, these errors are distracting at best, and game-breaking at worst. I didn’t play much of the game last year, so I can’t say how pervasive they were then, but I’ve encountered no serious glitches so far in this playthrough. Some of the object collision is weird sometimes, and the physics can act up, but these are well within the expected range in terms of severity and frequency. I haven’t even fallen through the world yet – something that seems to happen to me at least once in every Assassin’s Creed title. Of course, I haven’t finished the game yet, so there’s still time.
Unity crashed on me once in my first two hours. “Oh, great, here we go,” I thought. But I’ve played about 10 hours since then, and I haven’t run into another crash. In the months following release, the game received five different patches addressing various issues, and they apparently did their job. However, some of the loading screens are so long that I was afraid the game had crashed…so that problem was never fully addressed.
This one is a big deal. Originally, opening certain chests required players to use AC Unity’s companion app and the AC Initiates website. These blue and gold (respectively) chests would appear on the map to tempt (or taunt) completionists, containing lots of money and cool alternate costumes. However, the practice of holding these rewards hostage ultimately felt kind of scummy; Ubisoft shouldn’t have dangled these bonuses in front of players so blatantly, then locked them behind boring periphery content that no one cared about. Thankfully, the publisher clearly heard fans’ frustration. With the last major patch to Unity, these chests can all just be opened with the press of a button, with no outside effort required.
I can understand an occasional framerate dip, but the reports of Unity’s performance problems at launch went beyond a few isolated instances. This flaw has clearly been addressed to some degree. It's still not ideal, but it doesn't render the game unplayable. Unity generally tries to maintain 30 fps at a resolution of 900p; it was never planned to run at 60 fps in the first place, which is discussion for another time and place.
It's a shame the co-op functionality was such a buggy mess at launch, because it's a neat concept. Not only that, it's also fun. I recently played a few co-op missions with fellow GI editor Matthew Kato, and we had no issues apart from one short stretch with a chuggy framerate. The idea of working together and coordinating an infiltration is a more natural fit for the franchise than the competitive multiplayer in previous entries, and I enjoyed this approach much more. Plus, it feeds into your single-player progression, so you actually have a reason to try it out. I had no crashes or significant roadblocks in the process of joining up, starting the missions, and completing the objectives. You may have trouble finding random players to fill out a group at this point in the game's lifecycle, but I'd definitely recommend hopping in with a few friends.
With the way Ubisoft has removed the various roadblocks over time, now players have the opportunity to experience Unity as intended. It still isn’t a perfect game (here’s our original review), but at least we are free to enjoy it for what it is without all of the technical distractions. A lot of people are understandably approaching Syndicate with trepidation due to the Unity debacle, but my less-disastrous experience has me optimistic. Assuming we don't see a repeat of last year, I'm excited to see what elements of Unity get pulled out, revamped, and otherwise improved for Syndicate.
The Assassin’s Creed movie seems seems to be coming along nicely, with Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons (The Borgias, The Lion King) and Emmy Award winner Brendan Gleeson (Edge of Tomorrow, Harry Potter films) hopping onto the project. The pair joins leading man Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in director Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Ubisoft’s historical epic.
Both actors are portraying fathers, with Gleeson as the papa of Fassbender’s character, assassin descendant Callum Lynch, and Irons as Cotillard’s. Other than that, there's no additional information on their roles.
This won’t be the only upcoming film to feature Gleeson and Fassbender; the two also appear in Trespass Among Us, which is currently in post-production. Irons, on the other hand, has another big nerd-centric film on the way. He'll portray Alfred Pennyworth in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which also premieres next year.
Assassin’s Creed opens in theaters on December 21, 2016. Meanwhile, the next video game entry, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, releases October 23.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate goes full Ocean’s Eleven in its latest trailer, showcasing the wide cast of villainous madmen and women Jacob and Evie Frye will face-off against in 19th Century England.
Chief among those heinous villains is Crawford Starrick, head of the London Templars, who has a quick trigger finger. Aiding Starrick in his plot for domination are his seven cohorts who exemplify the greed and corruption of England’s Industrial Revolution. This includes the crooked businessman Rupert Farris, wealthy tycoon Pearl Attaway, the mad medical duo of Dr. John Elliotson and David Brewster, bankroller Phillip Tupenny, the corrupt politician James Brudenell, and leader of the Blighter gang, Maxwell Roth.
The Frye twins go on to discuss their overall goal of ridding London of Templar influence once and for all, before engaging in a montage of zip-lining and launching a train off a bridge. All in a day’s work, it seems.
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Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate includes plenty of other benevolent side characters to interact with, including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx. Ubisoft also previously announced Syndicate will receive DLC centered on the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate releases October 23, 2015.