Tag Archive: Evie Frye


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A jolly good time

Assassin’s Creed is one of gaming’s constants. Like a sports title or Call of Duty, the Assassin’s Creed series has maintained a high-level of quality on an annual basis for a long time now (since 2009) and has turned into a solid go-to for everyone who needs a regular action-adventure fix. Until last year.

Assassin’s Creed Unity dropped the ball in terms of what people expect from the series in terms of gameplay, narrative, and general design, putting an unusual amount of pressure on 2015’s annual entry to right the course—or risk potential ruin for Ubisoft’s crown jewel. Luckily, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate does indeed strike true with its hidden blade, plunging the series back into the conversation for favorite fall games after jettisoning multiplayer and focusing on trying to put together the best single-player experience possible.

Once again, players assume the role of an Initiate, using their hacked Helix—a home entertainment version of the Animus that allowed you to relive ancestral history in the franchise’s early games—to help the Assassin Brotherhood in their search for Pieces of Eden that can turn the tide of their struggle against the Templars back in their favor. This time, you are sent to Victorian Era London, and for the first time in the series, you can freely switch between two protagonists as you step into the boots of the young, brash, yet highly effective Jacob and Evie Frye.

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If nothing else, this is one of the more memorable narratives the series has seen yet. Jacob and Evie not only have a great rapport with each other, but each has their own separate arcs that watch them grow and change in different and compelling ways. Jacob’s brashness and charm sometimes goes too far, and Evie’s single-minded approach to things costs her in ways she doesn’t necessarily realize in the moment. Each of their respective decisions has consequences on their lives—as well as the lives of those they’ve sworn to protect in London—and will keep you entertained throughout. The siblings even play differently, with Jacob being a plodding bruiser, and Evie the truer, stealthy assassin, with many side missions offering you a choice of who to play as.

Upon arriving in London, Evie and Jacob have a singular purpose: to bring down Templar Grandmaster Crawford Starrick. His crippling grip on London’s infrastructure has made the Templars strong, so the goal of breaking it makes playing the game far more interesting—especially when the Frye twins handle Starrick in their own one-of-a-kind ways. A strong, clear counterpoint to our respective heroes is something the series has lacked since the Borgias butted heads with Ezio and the narrative flows more smoothly from it.

The only point where the narrative stumbles at all is in the present day aspect of the series. Your Initiate character again remains chained to the Helix for the entirety of the game. While you do get a larger glimpse into the present day, meeting new assassins and seeing old friendly faces like Shaun and Rebecca from the Desmond days, things unfold as little more than long cutscenes.

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Playing around in the present day—last available to us in Black Flag—was beneficial in that it afforded a brief respite from the intense situations of the main game, with puzzles and conversations giving players the chance to catch their breath and let what just happened to them sink in more. It also aided the pacing of the game, allowing for drastic movement in time in a more cinematic way. Because we don’t have that here, we really see all of Syndicate play out in what feels like a few days, and at that point, why even bother with the idea of breaking up story beats into “sequences” besides as a cute reference to early titles in the series?

And since I mentioned puzzles, I do wish those would return to Assassin’s Creed. There is one puzzle in all of Syndicate, and another scavenger hunt for legendary armor. At the very least, in order to mix up the gameplay a bit, there is a special sequence that unlocks about halfway through the narrative that fast-forwards us in time to a World War I London about one-third the size of the Victorian Era one. It’s an extremely fun twist that doubles as a critical chance for moving the present-day story forward—unlike the weird, minigame-esque time jumps we saw in last year’s Unity.

And speaking of Unity again, I do have to mention there are some major, welcome differences between Syndicate and its predecessor that are clear indicators of the series being back on track. One of those is the setting, but I’m not just talking time or geography-wise. 1868 London feels more alive, more vibrant, and more like its own character than late-18th century Paris ever did. NPCs call out to Jacob and Evie with unique dialogue as the duo runs around town. Train stations are bristling with life as people rush to the platform to get on trains that actual speed around London. And, the addition of horse-drawn carriages mingling with pedestrians on city streets gives the illusion of authentic hustle and bustle that you’d expect from the heart of the civilized world.

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The most impressive aspect of this digital London, however, is how each section of town feels truly inimitable. Whether slumming it near the asylum in Lambeth, or sipping tea at 10 Downing in Westminster, London’s districts give off a specific tone that makes it easier to navigate and, again, feels more authentic and alive.

Speaking of navigation, Syndicate adds a lot on this front. The previously talked about carriages are hijackable and everywhere in London. The map may be massive, but who knew two-horsepower could get you across it so quickly. The handling of the carriages does take some time to get used to due to their wobbly nature, but with enough practice, you’ll be racing down London’s streets in no time and covering distance faster than in any Assassin’s Creed game to date.

Not every situation, or space for that matter, is ideal for a horse drawn carriage. This means that the series’ traditional parkour returns, and feels as smooth as ever. The addition of tapping the left-bumper to hop in windows, combined with what feels like more intuitive transitions between last year’s up and down movements, means scaling buildings has never felt better.

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The biggest upgrade to traversal, though, may be the much talked-about rope launcher. London’s most famous towers and buildings now can be scaled in a fraction of the time when you get close to their base, or you can swing across the city’s wide avenues when firing the rope launcher from rooftop to rooftop. Unlike the carriages and traditional parkour, I thought this new piece of equipment needed a bit more work, though.

For starters, the rope launcher has no aiming reticle, so you often lack the precision you’re looking for when using it, especially when moving horizontally. Also, there’s no clear definition of how far you can fire the rope launcher, or what edges you can latch onto with it and which ones you can’t. Just “eyeing it up” gets tiresome, especially if trying to make a quick escape—so the rope launcher definitely needed to either latch onto anything, or be something that should have offered clearer working parameters. The in-between ground the device found is okay, and when it works it works well, but you’ll be on top of a church asking yourself why you can’t just launch down to a building below way too often.

The rope launcher isn’t just for navigation, however. While it doesn’t come into play in direct combat, it’s great for creating stealth opportunities when looking to assassinate someone via the air. By creating a zipline between buildings or across a courtyard, Jacob and Evie can position themselves directly above their targets and drop, blades drawn, onto their unsuspecting victims. A new “kidnap” mechanic also helps players be stealthy. By slowly approaching an enemy from behind, our heroes can wrench their prey’s arm and guide them around guard patrols, using them to make it seem like they actually belong and not drawing the ire of nearby foes. If you wander too close to an enemy, however, the ruse is lost. These are just a couple of new ways you can infiltrate enemy spaces and minimize your risk of being detected, and more options are always a good thing when trying to be sneaky.

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Combat has also seen a marked improvement in Syndicate. New offensive weapons like the “Voltaic” stun bombs and hallucinogenic darts—which make enemies temporarily fight on your side—allows you to whittle down enemy numbers before a full-blown fight erupts. Once melees do ensue, taking on a horde of guards at once can still prove difficult, but combat isn’t nearly as punishing as it was in Unity thanks to the return of the counter. Even better, a much clearer counter window allows Jacob and Evie to pull off some spectacular combinations that lead to supremely cinematic, bone-crushing multi-kills when several opponents are all near death.

Whether the gameplay is new or old, one thing Syndicate also does well is ease players into its mechanics. Side activities like fight clubs and carriage races are great opportunities to practice driving and fighting, while the Gang War missions—Jacob Frye’s one-man march towards unifying the underworld of London under his banner—freshens you up on old techniques, even if they have new twists or if your hidden blade happens to be a bit rusty.

The Gang War side content also acts as a great way for players to clearly follow their progression in the game. A bit like an RPG, Evie and Jacob level up as they unlock and learn new assassination abilities, weapons, and armor, including some specific to each character. As they grow, they can more easily handle enemies of higher difficulty. While it’s not impossible for a level five Evie to stealthily assassinate a level eight Templar, should the hit be botched, she’s more likely to walk away from that encounter if they are closer in level.

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With that in mind, the sections of London are similarly labeled, usually housing enemies of a level equal to the location, ranging from Whitechapel’s two up to Westminster’s nine. By freeing London borough by borough from Crawford Starrick’s gangs, both characters level up. Jacob and Evie each max out at level 10, and thankfully, they’ll both earn points toward reaching that goal no matter who you’re playing as. This paves the way for an easier time in the story, while also providing that satisfying feeling of accomplishment that comes from freeing the entire city from Templar control and snagging a couple hundred collectibles along the way—and which Unity made nearly impossible with its cluttered map and unclear progression system.

As good as Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is, it does share one familiar trait with Unity, however: there are a fair amount of bugs in the game. Syndicate froze up on me several times, mission objectives would glitch (forcing me to reload checkpoints), and both Jacob and Evie fell through the world or got stuck in walls far too frequently. It makes one wonder if the yearly Assassins Creed cycle is just too much for Ubisoft to handle, because—while not nearly as bad as Unity—this is back to back years where my gameplay was noticeably hindered at times due to technical issues.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is a return to form for the most part for Assassin’s Creed. Sure, the removal of all multiplayer might ding the replayability of the title, but I’d rather have an awesome 30-40 hour experience that I’ll one-hundred percent once and be done with—which is what Syndicate is—than the feeling of being forced into online play to try and squeeze a few more hours out of it. Syndicate features a compelling story with great protagonists, some terrific gameplay, and a beautiful new world and time period to explore, which remains Assassin’s Creed’s calling card. If Ubisoft can just work out those last few kinks, Assassin’s Creed would be ready to truly take new-gen by storm. As is, Syndicate is a strong addition to the series’ ever-expanding timeline that should reassure fans who were questioning its viability after last year.

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Developer: Ubisoft Quebec • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10.23.15
8.5

A fair amount of bugs and lack of a present-day scenario detract from what is otherwise a strong return to form for Assassin’s Creed. Syndicate touts not one, but two great protagonists, strong gameplay, and Victorian Era London is neck and neck with Renaissance Italy as the best place the series has been to.

The Good London may be the most impressive setting for the series yet. Strong narrative and gameplay.
The Bad Glitches galore. Lack of present-day scenario. Rope launcher could use some work.
The Ugly I wonder if PETA will come after Ubisoft for all the horses I killed during high-speed carriage chases.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is available on Xbox One and PS4 and is coming later to PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review.

Hey there everyone. It’s been a long time, but I had a chance to get some extra footage of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate when I went to London, England, to preview the game. In this video, I played as Evie in Sequence 7 and took on the side mission “Stalk the Stalker”, where I help out train conductor Agnes with a problem. We see some rope launcher gameplay, some assassinations, some tailing, and even a quick look at Evie’s upgrade menu. Be sure to stay tuned as hopefully this is the start of me bringing this channel back to life. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be out on October 23 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

We all know that Ubisoft has gone on record saying they wanted to get back to the roots of the Assassin’s Creed series with Syndicate. It’s why they removed multiplayer and co-op, turning their sole attention onto the single player experience. Until I was able to go hands-on with a couple of the game’s early sequences last week at a special London event, however, I wasn’t sure just what that would entail.

Well, it meant we’d get what could be some of the most memorable characters the series has yet to offer. New villain Crawford Starrick, the Templar Grandmaster who has wrapped an iron fist around 19th century London, made his power felt right from the get-go of our time with Syndicate. A cruel, ruthless man, Starrick takes no prisoners when it comes to making sure things are done his way, and has zero tolerance for the Assassin Brotherhood.

His early emergence in Syndicate was a welcome sight, as it gives the Frye twins a clear and ever-present goal throughout the narrative. Eliminate Starrick and save London; not since Rodrigo Borgia and Ezio have the battle lines between Templar and Assassin been so clearly drawn. Nor have they been so fun.

Getting to Starrick is, not surprisingly, going to be very difficult. Between him and our would-be Assassin heroes are Starrick’s seven lieutenants, each in charge of a key part of what keeps London ticking. High-rolling bankers, members of Parliament, even the city’s most prominent crime boss all get their marching orders from Starrick, and only by drawing them out and removing them first from their respective territories will you have a chance of luring out the Grandmaster himself.

To do this, you’ll have to perform a variety of both new and familiar side quests. As an added bonus, many of these missions take advantage of the new mechanics introduced courtesy of the time period. For example, one set of side quests requires you to kidnap key Templar targets and then transport them via stagecoach across London for interrogation. Others missions more recognizable to fans of the series will require you to tail a particular target and listen in for information, or remove a certain number of Templar thugs from an area before claiming it in the name of the Brotherhood. Thankfully, new devices like the rope launcher make it easier than ever to traverse across rooftops or line up air assassinations in large, open courtyards.

Not all the memorable characters have aligned themselves with the Templars, however. Some of history’s greatest faces from the Victorian era have thrown in with the Assassins—although not all knowingly. Famed author Charles Dickens is a man about town, is as well connected as they come, and the Frye twins will surely use his contacts to ascertain vital information. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell provides the Frye twins with some of their greatest weapons and gadgets, as well as a kind ear to bounce ideas off of. Not since Benjamin Franklin or Leonardo da Vinci have we had such a colorful confidant standing side-by-side with the Brotherhood. And then there’s Henry Green, the Indian Assassin mentor who guides Evie and Jacob throughout their adventure and knows just where, who, and when to strike the Templars to cause the most harm to their cause. There’s even some comedy relief from Agnes, the train conductor, who maintains the Assassin’s locomotive base of operations.

Yes, you did not misread. Much like Monteriggioni or Café Theatre, the Frye twins have their own base of operations. And in fitting Industrial Revolution fashion, it’s always moving. Through a series of fortunate events, the twins come to acquire an entire train, and enlist the aid of its conductor, Agnes. From there you can collect coin from parts of the city you’ve liberated from Templar control, receive new quests, keep track of upgrades, and more.

But, of course, the most important characters in the game are the ones you play as, and Evie and Jacob are as different as they are similar. Jacob’s brashness and Evie’s thoughtfulness provide some brilliant banter between the two, whether in the company of others or on their own, planning their next movie. Their ever-growing personalities will surely influence you when it comes time to take control of one or the other while exploring the open world Syndicate provides. The other aspect of this is that they both play very differently, each with their own set of upgrades, equipment, and special abilities that can be unlocked as they level up by exploring and freeing more of London from Templar control.

There is still one more character that I haven’t touched on yet, though, and that is London itself. From its iconic architecture like Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral, to the small alley markets teeming with life, London gives off a personality unlike any city we’ve seen yet from Assassin’s Creed. Each neighborhood truly comes across as unique, with stark contrasts that you can see and feel. You’ll instantly be able to recognize when you’ve moved from the seedier parts of town like Devil’s Acre or Whitechapel to the more affluent avenues of high society in Westminster or Buckingham. Syndicate’s London may be the most impressive city Assassin’s Creed has recreated yet.

If getting back to the early days of Assassin’s Creed was the plan all along for Syndicate, then from the two sequences I played, it could well be on its way to doing that. The team at Ubisoft Quebec seem to be crafting a narrative and a setting that looks to suck players in right from the start, and lead them by the nose through one of the deepest adventures the series has provided yet. We’ll just have to wait for October to see if it can follow through and deliver on this lofty promise.

 

I had a chance to go hands-on with the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Gamescom demo recently, which allowed us to play as Evie Frye for the first time. The demo tasked us with eliminating Templar Lucy Thorne who has critical info on the location of the Shroud of Turin—one of the Pieces of Eden—and a prize that Evie has been hunting for some time at this point.

The demo also re-introduces us to the Blackbox Assassination Missions from Assassin’s Creed Unity. Evie has several opportunities at her disposal to try to get close to Lucy and make the kill.

For the sake of time, several inconsequential cuts were made removing some of Evie traversing through the environment (climbing buildings, sliding down every zipline with the rope launcher, etc.).

To get my full impressions of what I thought of the demo, be sure to check out my written preview from earlier in the week.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 23.

To say that last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity had issues when it launched would be an understatement. But for as many problems as it had, there were a few glimmers of good gameplay that the folks at Ubisoft Quebec have polished up and are re-implementing in their freshman effort, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Of these returning ideas, the most significant one might be the Blackbox assassination missions.

These open-ended efforts still task players with assassinating a high value Templar target and continue to offer up multiple paths to do so. You can take your time and use all of the extra distractions to your advantage for a cake-walk assassination, employ a few that better fit your fancy and your playstyle, or ignore them completely and charge head first into the fray, causing as much chaos as possible.

During my hands-on time with the Gamescom demo of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I had a chance to play one of these missions and—for the first time—take control of Evie Frye, the more level-headed of the twins that serve as Syndicate’s protagonists. Evie interestingly plays far more differently from her brother, Jacob, than I ever would have expected. While she still has the trademark tools of an assassin of the era, she carries more throwing knives than her brother, sports a special “Voltaic Bomb” that acts as a type of stun grenade when it explodes into electrified shrapnel, and can utilize a unique “Chameleon Skill” that allows her to completely blend into her environment, even seemingly out in the open, when she remains perfectly still.

More throwing knives make sense, and I didn’t mind the Voltaic Bomb (even if it did seem to be a bit of a stretch for the era) but I worry about the Chameleon Skill being almost game-breaking. Unfortunately, the demo was brief enough that I didn’t really get to put the Chameleon Skill through its paces to know for sure. Still, considering how important fixed hiding points have been in the past in Assassin’s Creed games, I’m hesitant about what on-demand invisibility might do to the balance of the game’s stealth.

In regards to the mission itself, Evie had to infiltrate a castle to find her target and hopefully obtain more info on the Shroud of Turin, a Piece of Eden she was hunting while Jacob was building his gangland army. There were three possible paths before her. The first would have her try to steal the keys from one of the castle guards, which would allow her access through each and every door. A second route would see her free a captured constable, who would then call police reinforcements to cause a ruckus and result in the perfect distraction. The third—and my personal favorite—method was for Evie to befriend a castle guard and pretend to be captured, allowing her to walk right up to her target to deliver the killing blow.

No matter the method I tried (I sampled all three), I found myself relying on the rope launcher far more than even I had originally expected to, since it provides such quick access around environments. And since it seems no one ever looks up in an Assassin’s Creed game, I was able to launch Evie across wide open courtyards, from tower to tower, to almost always put myself in the best position possible to make my kill.

The only time I got into trouble was when I botched the assassination of a guard I needed to remove before I attempted the fake capture plot. Another guard that I’d failed to notice turned a corner and saw me just as I finished stabbed his cohort in the neck. Needing a quick escape, I naturally wanted to turn back to the rope launcher. In the heat of the moment, however, I found myself fumbling over the brief window of time it takes to line up shots with the gadget—although I would finally recover and make my getaway on foot.

Now, I hate comparing two unrelated games, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been ruined by the simplicity of Batman’s grappling hook in the Arkham games. I was so used to just pressing a button and launching to the nearest perch, away from danger, that aiming to line up my escape felt foreign. I’m sure that once I’ve spent more time with Syndicate, I’ll be able to unlearn my habits and use the rope launcher as intended, but for the moment I feel like the manual aiming could wind up leaving it a clunkier imitator of a feature we’ve already seen.

Rope launcher quibbles aside, it felt great to jump back into an assassination mission like this. Evie has a flourish all her own that makes her truly stand apart from how her brother plays. Jacob’s clear emphasis on fisticuffs from when I played the E3 demo and Evie’s penchant for stealth here are so obviously defined that each player should have an easy decision when they choose who to play as in the open world. And considering you’ll get a taste of both when you follow the main story, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least a few gamers find whole new ways to play and enjoy an Assassin’s Creed game when Syndicate drops on October 23.

British actress Victoria Atkin reveals how she landed the role of Evie Frye in an interview she did with the LA Times at San Diego ComicCon.

Because Ubisoft always uses full performance capture and mocap suits, Victoria was expected to be able to show her physicality in her audition. It was the exact opposite, though, that seems to have won over the Ubisoft casting people.

“I’m a television and film actress predominantly, so the audition was kind of similar to that,” starts Atkin. “I did a tape from home, although there were instructions to run around the floor and do kicks and jumps and things like that, as well as the normal asides that you’d have for a character.

“The casting director told me that a lot of people followed these instructions and did everything. I looked at those instructions and kind of decided that I was just going to run in, do a kick and a jump, and then stop. So, I rebelled, which is not something that I’d normally do, but apparently the director and everybody loved it because it was the character of Evie from the very start.”

Being able to easily do a London accent sealed the deal and before Victoria knew it, she was off to Quebec to start recording lines.

You can see Victoria as Evie Frye in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on October 23 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

For the first time in Assassin’s Creed history, the heroes of the story will use contemporary firearms when taking the fight to the Templars. Sure, guns have been in Assassin’s Creed for several games, but all those previous weapons were slow-loading, single-shot muskets or flintlocks. Now, six-shot revolvers allow new protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye the chance to remove multiple targets quickly from afar. The closest players have ever gotten to anything like this was when Edward Kenway would carry four single-shot pistols on his person, and that was after fishing and hunting all day in the Caribbean to earn the necessary holster upgrades.

Just because Jacob and Evie can use guns, though, doesn’t mean they should. I found during my demo of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate that while I was often strongly tempted to pull out the revolver, it best to use it only in dire situations. There is nothing stealthy about a gun. Using one to eliminate a target, no matter how high-ranking or difficult they may be, immediately draws the attention of dozens of enemy guards, police or rival gang members and turns a manageable situation into an unmanageable one.

This is why Jacob and Evie remain extremely well-equipped for removing their targets from the field with an up close and personal flair. The first, and likely most obvious, weapon is the legendary hidden blade of the Assassin Order. Stabbing people from haystacks, from behind corners or after leaping from a rooftop are still the best and often stealthiest ways to get a job done. With players once again being able to whistle to draw unsuspecting enemies to a blind corner, leap from moving vehicles such as carriages or drop from a zipline created by the new rope launcher, the hidden blade has never been more effective than in Syndicate.

But that’s far from the only tool you’ll be able to use. It’s easy to conceal the Kukri — a small, sharp, curved blade of Indian origin — within one’s coat pocket; it’s great for giving you a bit more reach when needed and for defending yourself against knife-wielding thugs. Brass knuckles are also a classic choice for when you don’t want to kill your enemy, whether it be for interrogation or to send a special message back to the Templars. Instead, you can put them down for the count more quickly and definitely more brutally, than with your fists. Finally, the Cane Sword may be the most devious trick in the Fryes’ book since its sharpened, curved end can hook into enemies, while the bottom detaches to reveal another lethal blade in its shaft.

So, while the change in times has provided a new context for many of Syndicate’s weapons, stealth is always your best option and sometimes old-school strategies trump new-school technology. After all, what kind of an assassin would you be if everyone heard you coming?

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is coming out on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on Oct. 23.