This week we go in depth on why you should play Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Stacey’s Game of the Year!
Full transcript after the cut.
STACEY: This episode contains spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
JAYLEE: Hello and welcome back to the Push to Smart Water Cooler. This week we are going to be talking about one of our Games of the Year, which was Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
JAYLEE: I think it’s probably important to say now it is the last yearly Assassin’s Creed title to happen for who knows how long.
STACEY: With an asterisk, because we’re getting Assassin’s Creed Chronicles this year, as well as some sort of mobile game that’s been in a pilot program in Australia.
STACEY: So, last Assassin’s Creed game—asterisk: on consoles, that has a bazillion dollars put into it.
JAYLEE: Exactly. But this was really your darling of the year.
STACEY: I love it so much!
JAYLEE: I’m just going to give it to you.
STACEY: Okay, because I was thinking… So, we did the Tomb Raider episode, which that was a game that you liked and I disliked, and then hated the more I thought about it.
STACEY: So this was kind of going to be a counterpoint to that as far as I thought it would be me defending why I hated Tomb Raider for being too much of the same, but loved Assassin’s Creed Number Fifty Billion.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)
STACEY: And I think the main takeaway, which we discussed in our Game of the Year episode, is that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is so joyful, and it’s so lighthearted, and it doesn’t take itself seriously in a way that, when things do go wrong—which they are bound to do in an open world game—you can kind of laugh about it and move on. And it doesn’t kind of stick with you like, why isn’t this realistic enough? I felt like the central story was a little bit weak, but Assassin’s Creed, to me, really lives and dies on its characters.
JAYLEE: Oh, absolutely.
STACEY: And Jacob and Evie are so likeable and so fun.
JAYLEE: I feel like this is the first time in a long time where I liked every freaking character.
JAYLEE: I mean, that hasn’t happened since the Ezio days.
JAYLEE: I mean, there’s a lot of similarities between Syndicate and the Ezio Trilogy, or at least—
STACEY: The lead writer on Syndicate wrote Brotherhood.
STACEY: So that makes a lot of sense. (laughs)
JAYLEE: And Brotherhood was my favorite Assassin’s Creed, so that makes perfect sense.
STACEY: Me too!
JAYLEE: (laughs) You mentioned in the Game of the Year episode that Unity was kind of, at times, mean-spirited. And I felt like, because of the big controversy and ridiculousness of the “inability to animate women” and all that garbage…
STACEY: Can I add: playing Unity, that becomes much worse.
JAYLEE: Oh no!
STACEY: There is a side quest… A couple side quests that are hosted by the world’s greatest swordsman, who is a man who likes to dress as a woman, which, “Ha ha! That might be strange!” he says. And his character model is a generic female NPC model in a dress. Who is capable of fighting with a sword and doing all the things Arno does. So it’s like, not only did you lie about not being able to animate women, but you’re also making this transphobic joke!
STACEY: Fuck you! (laughs)
JAYLEE: (laughs) So it’s really like night and day after Unity and Syndicate. Even going back to Black Flag, I did not give two shits about Edward Kenway.
STACEY: Oh, no.
JAYLEE: The characters weren’t really there to hook me into it, so I never finished it. But this game, like, right off the bat, you’ve got the twins and then every new character they introduce, whether it’s Abberline or the ridiculously attractive Henry Green…
JAYLEE: It was just fun! And these characters has distinct personalities, and just watching them interact with each other… It was just a delight. And! And and and! The prime minister’s wife, who is the greatest character—
JAYLEE: I mean, I feel like she is kind of me as a player if I were in an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s like, she was so tickled by everything. And I’d be like, “Oh, I’m around the ruffians!” The game is just so fun!
STACEY: It feels like an apology for a lot of what came before. Which, in the wrong hands, that could feel like checking off boxes. Like, “Okay, the SJWs complained! We better do it.” But instead it’s like they honest-to-god internalized criticisms and went, “We can do better.” And then did better. In a lot of ways. It’s no completely perfect, but it felt so much— Like I said in Game of the Year, I was just thrilled no one was dying to further Jacob’s pain with each sequence. It’s like, I can deal with this for this game. This feels great. And if they keep improving on this, the next game will be great whenever it comes out.
JAYLEE: And I think something that you’ve said a lot whenever we talk about Syndicate, the game is delightful and it’s so delighted that you are playing it.
JAYLEE: It really does come off that way. The game is so happy to have you and it kind of forms this bond between me and Syndicate. (laughs)
JAYLEE: I mean, it sounds so cheezy, but it just was so fun and it was so… I don’t know.
STACEY: It could have gone wrong is so many ways, and I think they just took the right approach to everything. Like, in any other game, Evie would have been a wet blanket who just wants to stomp on all Jacob’s fun. And all Jacob wants to do is get out there and help people. Or, not even help people, but just get out there and experience life and get treasure like Edward. And instead you have these two characters that are great at what they do, they are really empathetic and want to genuinely do good, and even though they don’t agree and don’t necessarily understand each other’s approaches, they still love each other.
STACEY: And that really comes through in the way that it’s performed and the way that it’s written. And it’s just really great to see that without some kind of asterisk next to it, like “Just wait!” Or like… I just… (sighs) I’m so happy!
JAYLEE: Yeah. And the historical characters that they add in add so much character as well. It just reminded me of what I fell in love with the Assassin’s Creed franchise to begin with.
STACEY: Mhmm. I feel like some of the things it did, it kind of drops off characters after they’ve served their purpose. So there was a point 20 hours in where I’m like, where’s Alexander Graham Bell? I haven’t seen him in awhile! (laughs) And it’s just like, oh, he doesn’t have any missions for you so you don’t get to see him.
JAYLEE: Or like Florence Nightingale.
STACEY: Yeah. You meet her and then… There’s actually a really funny mission with her where you meet her and you hear nothing, and then Charles Darwin gets kidnapped and Florence Nightingale comes to you for help. (laughs)
JAYLEE: That’s amazing. I didn’t get that.
STACEY: It was so absurd. But it’s like, in that particular sense it’s like, I love that I just stole a carriage to take Florence Nightingale to a gang hideout to rescue Charles Darwin. (laughs) I forget where I was going. Because there’s so many moments like there where it’s like, you’ll never guess what I just did. But I really wish it tied up some of those loose ends a little bit better. And I think it’s still… Even though it chopped a lot of Unity’s fat, it still relies a little bit too much on you searching for icons on a map instead of organically discovering things.
STACEY: Like, the music boxes. Did you collect all of those?
JAYLEE: I did not.
STACEY: Okay. I did because I was obsessed with this game. But I felt like that was a really interesting kind of way to explore. Because you’ll be running around and you’ll hear the music and you’ll stop in your tracks. (laughs)
STACEY: Like, I gotta find this! (laughs) So I’d love to see more stuff that happens organically like that. But that said, the collectibles you do find are so fun. A lot of them lead to either really cute cut scenes, like the flowers. There’s a historical pub-crawl that series regular Shaun goes on in the codex that’s really funny to read through. Yeah. I just… I just really love this game!
JAYLEE: One of my favorite things that games do is when they take game mechanics that are traditionally used in more violent acts and they recontextualize them into something a bit… Sometimes sillier, sometimes not. Like, opposed to not being seen by a guard and then dying, or getting into a combat, it’s escape the paparazzi outside the prime minister’s house, and take her to a shady place, and then she has her Corgi in her purse, so make sure that you don’t come across any cats, because then people will notice that you’re there and people can’t see her there.
STACEY: (laughs) It’s so easy to overlook its flaws when the rest of the package is so delightful.
JAYLEE: A lot like Tales from the Borderlands.
STACEY: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, so what if there’s a man floating away?
STACEY: Which he clearly isn’t supposed to. Because it’s really funny! Have you played any of the DLC yet?
JAYLEE: I have not.
STACEY: Because the Jack the Ripper DLC takes place 20 years afterwards.
STACEY: So that kind of closes a lot of the time that you could potentially have a sequel. And I’m really curious to hear your thoughts, because there are some things that it does. It brings back the prostitutes.
JAYLEE: That’s the main reason I haven’t picked it up, because I was like, oh, you know, you have the save the good prostitutes, the ones who don’t kiss on the mouth or fall in love or something,
STACEY: Yeah, I was kind of concerned because… Especially when the DLC opens, you control Jack the Ripper.
JAYLEE: Oh lord.
STACEY: I was like, oh no. But they kind of change him. He’s more of a Batman villain, so he has this whole criminal underground he controls. And there’s no “good prostitutes” versus “bad prostitutes.” I don’t know how much spoilers I should get into.
JAYLEE: That’s fine.
STACEY: But all the ones he killed were actually assassins.
STACEY: And I think the gamesmakes a very deliberate point to have Evie as the playable character, so it’s Evie who is protecting and helping these women against him. Still, just because it’s such a loaded situation…
JAYLEE: Yeah, you kind of don’t want to touch it. (laughs)
STACEY: Yeah. I don’t know if you can give it a seal of approval, like “That was a great use of prostitutes.”
JAYLEE: Yeah! (laughs)
STACEY: But I feel like it tried to do everything it could.
JAYLEE: Mhmm. With this very iconic London moment in time.
JAYLEE: But one thing we forgot to mention—spoiler alert—the World War I segment.
STACEY: Fuck yeah! Lydia’s amazing!
JAYLEE: Like you said, it could have come off as checking boxes, but there were two female assassins that you played in this game. And they weren’t like, “Hey guys, we have two this time! Come back!”
STACEY: Yeah, but you don’t even have to play as her. Like, this was something I think was spoiled for a lot of people because I think Eurogamer discovered it very soon after the game came out and posted a video of it. And other outlets who were less discrete with their spoilers announced it. (laughs)
STACEY: But because I was super busy at this time, I missed all that coverage. So, the way that it comes out in the game,is all of a sudden an icon will just appear on the map. So this is maybe a way to make that organic discovery work with the map. Because you see that and you think, “What’s that? That’s new.” And you make your way over to it, and Juno or Minerva or whatever one starts talking to you, and you get sucked into a mini Assassin’s Creed game set in World War I.
JAYLEE: With Jacob’s granddaughter? Great-granddaughter? I can’t remember.
STACEY: Yeah, granddaughter.
STACEY: Who is awesome and teams up with Winston Churchill.
JAYLEE: To take down the spies!
JAYLEE: It’s so… I love it.
STACEY: Yeah, it’s just such a delight, and there’s this sense that, wow, I discovered this! It was a really great twist on the usual Assassin’s Creed chasing icons. I feel like the one caveat you have to talk about is the Maharajah, who was getting his own DLC. But there was point toward the end where he felt like he was edging on that, “Ah, the person of color exists to give the white woman relationship advice!” Where he’s talking to Evie about how he knew her father, and, you know, giving her this cryptic advice about how she should follow her heart. And as this is happening, I’m like, oh no. Oh no, don’t go there. And then it kind of goes back, so. (laughs)
JAYLEE: I will say, though—not necessarily as a counterpoint or anything like that—but I did really like the mission where you had him in the carriage and you were driving around, and he’s like—
STACEY: “You’re kidnapping people from Parliament, basically?!” (laughs)
JAYLEE: Yeah! He’s like, “I just want a moment of your time.” I really liked that!
STACEY: Yeah, that was great.
JAYLEE: Words in closing, to wrap it up, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate… I don’t think it makes up for Unity and the past transgressions of the series, but um…
JAYLEE: It’s definitely a step in the right direction.
STACEY: Mhmm. A very big skip. Like it’s a happy step. (laughs)
JAYLEE: Yeah. (laughs)
STACEY: I love it. I love it so much! So, keeping with the Assassin’s Creed theme, now that we’re taking a break, we’d like to ask you, what time period would you like the see the eventual new Assassin’s Creed take place? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on our videos and Water Cooler discussions.