Ionly made it through the prologue of Assassin’s Creed: Unity before the infamous chorus line of glitches began to parade across my screen. They were cosmetic only. I never encountered the game-breaking fall-off-the-planet bugs so many battled. I should’ve been able to push forward and make it through the rest of the game. I was fatigued, however, and let the goofy bulging eyeballs of some French Revolutionary act as my passport to skipping an AC installment. It wasn’t a happy moment in my gaming career. This is a series, after all, that I’ve played (and often 100-percented) since day one, when the first word of the title carried a bit more weight. The craven nature of Ubisoft’s token annual offering I could handle, but when they couldn’t even be bothered to vacuum the interior of the lemon they were selling me… well, that’s where I had to draw the line.
One year later, like an Appalachian wife or Rihanna, I’m back in bed with the entity that abused me and took me for granted. I don’t know why. Maybe I was foolishly clinging to the hope that I’d somehow find more of the pockets of fun that had been scattered haphazardly throughout the series in abundance in this iteration. Finally, the perfect Creed game, I’d sigh as my hidden dagger gutted the final boss of Syndicate. Well, nothing in this or Syndicate’s world is perfect, but for the first time since AC: Brotherhood, I found engrossing gameplay and a not-so-heinous storyline. Sure, the usual claptrap about Templars vs. Assassins, tradition vs. innovation, Sharks vs. Jets is in there but, putting aside those millstones Ubisoft has perpetually hanging from its neck, it’s easy to see Syndicate as fun series of Dickensian vignettes telling the story of an economically shifting and unstable London as the sun begins to set on the British Empire.
As far as gameplay goes, jumping back into the world of Assassin’s Creed was easy enough. I had just been playing Arkham Knight prior and with but a switch of the discs I was zip-lining and brawling my way through another sooty metropolis, albeit in a slightly less responsive fashion than what I had just become accustomed to. (The AC zipline could use a bit of fine-tuning.)
The rest of the usual Ubisoft gameplay gang showed up too: tower climbs to unlock map sections, gear and character upgrades, and multiple in-game currencies. Hell, even microtransactions make an appearance, though they’re mercifully hidden away in a sub-menu.
The chief innovation seems to be the ability to swap between twin protagonists, Jacob and Evie Frye. Jacob’s the bruiser and Evie the stealthy one. Or, at least, that’s what you’re told when introduced to them. Not once did I find myself thinking Damn. I keep getting spotted in this stealthy section. Better switch over to playing as Evie. The gear, skill, and perk upgrades do a decent enough job gradually turning both characters into undetectable killing machines that it renders any difference between them moot. That said, I didn’t really hate not having to switch back and forth. It just seems like the entire two-protag idea was a bit half-baked, if not just a reactionary knee-jerk to the gaming community (rightfully) bemoaning the lack of playable women assassins in the series.
But the game IS fun. It’s a step back into the right direction for the series that we’re likely stuck with for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope Ubisoft takes the good will they’ve engendered from this installment and spends it wisely on something a bit more daring for the next chapter.