The Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate Quandry
During the first year of this blog, I wrote an awful lot about my thoughts and feelings on the Assassin’s Creed series. In it’s early days it was terrific, hitting its stride with 2 and Brotherhood, going wobbly for Revelations and 3 before being saved by pirates for Blackflag before slumping into the current Unity/Syndicate times.
One of the biggest questions hanging over the series as a whole was “How long until we get a female lead?” Each new game brought with it another fairly generic white dude (Apart from Conner who was half Native American). Last year this question broke out when it was revealed that despite having four-way multiplayer, none of the assassins on offer were women. This was explained by saying it would cost too much to animate. Whether you accept this explanation is up to you of course.
Once the dust had settled and Unity turned out to be rather rushed, attention then turned to what Ubisoft would be doing next. Announcing Syndicate earlier this year, as well as the two lead protagonists Evie and Jacob. Yes, after seven games a woman was finally being given a chance to slip on a hidden blade and go stabbing (Yes, I know about Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, but we’re talking about main game series/character bloodline”) This was well overdue from the developers and they deserve praise for doing so. So why do I have this quandary about AC: Syndicate then? Why am I writing this and not playing it?*
Because it still strikes me as cowardly.
You’d have noticed I said Evie and Jacob. In AC:S you play as both Evie and Jacob who are twins. Jacob is a brawler who works best in an open fight while Evie is better suited for stealth and infiltration work. This newfound distinction between the genders has never been a factor in the rest of the series so why start now?
To make room for Jacob.
There are a few arguments you could make about why having Jacob in the game is a bit dumb.
- The Animus, the MacGuffin that let’s user go back in time via genetic memory doesn’t work that way. By using the subject’s genetic memories of past ancestors to allow them to see through their eyes. So you can only travel back to your direct ancestors, not Aunts or Uncles but fathers and mothers. So unless Jacob and Evie get all Lannister and bang one another (I’m sure Fanfic already exists) you shouldn’t be able to see through the eyes of the two of them. This argument rests on whether anyone at this point gives a single shit about the wider story of Assassin’s Creed.
- They needed a spoonful of man to help the lady go down – If the last year of intolerable bullshit has taught us anything it’s that certain sects of gaming are slow to change. You only need to whisper something slightly progressive on a forum to then be shouted down by a horde of gamer bros decrying SJWs and “Let developers make the game they wanted to make”. Well, here it looks like Ubisoft was trying to appease both the SJWs (For lack of a better shorthand) and the bros by giving us both. So far the reactions to this seem pretty muted, I’m sure on some of the darker parts of the web there is a lot of moaning, but some people are just like that.
As we are told every time we boot up an Assassin’s Creed game, these games are built by a multicultural team of men and women. In many ways, these games are among some of the most progressive in the AAA space right now. We’ve seen in AC:Liberation and Freedom Cry that they can do main characters of African descent **. Now at last this progressive sense is starting to leak through into the main games. Maybe Jacob is just part of a shaky step by the developers, testing the waters of its fanbase to see if they’d be amenable to having a game in the future lead solely by a woman.
If this series continues to go forward in time we will start to enter the 20th century with all the notable flash points in it. We could see a game set in the 20s in Britain and the Suffragette movement, how great would it be to play as a woman in such a climate?
*Also I’m kind of done with the whole series unless they bring back ships.
**Do hope my language here is apporiate, please correct me if not.