Thursday, January 7, 2016

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate: Jack the Ripper DLC review

    Assassin's Creed: Syndicate was an excellent addition to the Assassin's Creed franchise. It wasn't an exceptional game, really, due to the rather stereotypical depiction of the Assassin vs. Templars conflict and greater difficulty at parkour but it was miles more enjoyable than Assassin's Creed V. I was, thus, glad at the prospect of a DLC expansion involving Jack the Ripper vs. the Frye Twins. So what did I think? Eh, I don't have much in the way of any real strong feelings about it. It's as fun as other Assassin Creed games but the story's potential is wasted.
It's not great. It's not terrible.

    Twenty-years after the Frye Twins defeated the Templars in the main game, Jacob Frye loses control over the Rook gang to his apprentice Jack. Yes, Jack the Ripper is an Assassin and has adopted a policy of trying to terrify the public into reforming their behavior by sending a message through murder.

    This isn't that far from some theories about why Jack the Ripper did what he did but that's rather beside the point. The problem is the story has a really good premise but is hurt by underdevelopment.

    One of the things which carries the Assassin's Creed games is the relative moral ambiguity. While the Templars can be treated as and often are cartoon villains, they have enough humanity to be interesting. Here, our depiction of Jack the Ripper is he's a psychopath who has weird messages appear in his head that order him to kill and spread terror to the masses--all because his mother was an Assassin killed by Templars which he blames Jacob for.

    Whenever you talk about a character's motivations and it's, "because he's crazy" then you run into problems. Not only is it insulting to the mentally ill it's also inaccurate to real-life psychology. Jack the Ripper appears to have motivations beyond his mental illness, including a "Creed of Fear" but this gets insufficiently examined. The game's presentation of Jack is, fundamentally, he's just a murderous lunatic.

Playing Jack the Ripper is an interesting experience and I like his "brutal executions." A nice contrast to the Assassins.
    There's an interesting plot here but it's hurt by the fact we're told Jack was like a son to Jacob rather than seeing it ourselves. We also are informed that the Rooks have been taken over by Jack and turned into his own private army. Which would, again, have been nice to see. We're told Jack the Ripper blames Jacob for his mother's death but we don't get any reason as to why this is. Was his mother working for Jacob when she was killed? Why doesn't Jack blame the Templars? Did Jacob not notice Jack was a paranoid schizophrenic? Did Jacob not think teaching a man with mental illness how to kill people more efficiently was a bad idea?

    There's a story here which is arguably more interesting than Evie tracking down the psychopath and killing him. In a very real way, the DLC raises too many questions for the small amount of time which is available to play. This storyline deserved to get its own proper game or, at least, should have been a full-blown expansion. You might have even put the Ripper DLC in the main part of the game and made the WW1 scenario of the main game as a download.

Evie gets a more balanced share of the Frye's story since you play her for the majority of the DLC.
    Either way, I have to give the story some credit. It's unusual enough playing a woman in video games but playing Evie Frye as a noticeably faded middle-aged woman is a fascinating experience. We also get to play Jack the Ripper for a few segments, the monster being a unique opportunity to cut loose with the absolutely horrifying potential of the Assassins. I was pleased they also made all of Evie's weapons non-lethal, signifying she's made a bigger commitment to life than most of her order.

    I do find it interesting that Jack the Ripper, one of history's most famous misogynists is completely removed from that element in his depiction here. The women sent after him are Assassins rather than prostitutes (or they're both). Jack has mommy issues but there's no indication these are affecting his sexuality. Furthermore, the issue of "Unfortunates" and Victorian England's obsession with them is only touched upon in the lightest manner. I find this interesting given the rather obvious way they could have gone with the story and its female heroine.

The Assassins erase Jack from their records. Unfortunately, for them, Abstergo now knows.
    The biggest addition to the game is the "Fear System" which is where you can kill someone brutally to terrify other opponents into fleeing. Likewise, using gas bombs designed to send people running rather than murdering. I'm not sure I really warned to this system but it added methods for cutting down on the killing (or ramping it up--depending on your playstyle) which I approved of. There's also a couple of new activities like rescuing kidnapped prostitutes from Jack's men.

    Jack the Ripper contains enough material here for a sequel to Assassin's Creed: Syndicate and it's kind of sad we don't get that but it's also a bit too slapdash. Still, I'm glad I bought it. For those who complained the main game was too light and fluffy, this DLC is one of the darkest installments of the series yet. We also get some small insight into the India branch of the Assassins.

    In conclusion, I give this DLC a rating of "okay, but not great." There's nothing really which leaped out from it for me. There's a couple of new sidequests, some new equipment, and a decent enough story but there's way too much going on for the DLC to really do it justice. Jack is also annoying with his scene-chewing relish and not even in a fun way like Crawford Starrick.


1 comment:

  1. Review matched my exact thoughts once I played this dlc, it really would have worked a lot better if it had been part of the main game and Jack had been shown as part of the cast in the main storyline to give his arc the tension, gratias and emotional torque that the writers of this dlc were aiming for.

    Plus it have worked nicely into showing the consequences of the Fyre's actions and also explore fully of when an assassin takes the creed and twists it around or take's it to the extreme that jack and Bellic probably would have done.

    This would allow for an AC game to be different and allow for deeper storylines and characters as well if it's done right.

    That or allow us to play as a full Templar with no past ties to the assassins and very different mechanics to play with. Something to freshen up the very worn formula the series has.