Why Evie Frye Makes Me Love Assassin's Creed Again

5th January 2016, pastemagazine.com

I thought I was done with Assassin’s Creed. Having played every mainline game in the series, I’d like to say I’m well versed in its many highs and lows; witnessing first-hand how the mediocre games have gradually begun to outnumber the good ones, with last year’s bug-riddled Unity still fresh in the memory as an obliterator of any enthusiasm I once had for this historical, neck-stabbing franchise. After that debacle of technical ineptitude, tired ideas and rapidly aging mechanics, there should have been no going back to Ubisoft’s flagship franchise. And yet here we are, just one year removed, and despite the series’ many missteps and current downward trend, Syndicate has managed to keep gnawing at my attention.

Assassin’s Creed has always had beautifully realized cities, from its humble beginnings in the likes of Jerusalem, Florence and Rome, right up to Unity’s phenomenal recreation of Revolutionary Paris. Just walking the cobblestone streets of the French capital was a joy to behold: taking in the sights and sounds, sampling the architecture and the contrast between the rich and poor, from the grandiose golden interiors of La Marais, to a raucous pub of singing Parisians in Ventre de Paris.

And so we come to London, 1868—the bait Syndicate has used to reel me back in. I mean, how could I resist? My immediate family hails from North London, and while my parents were smart enough to move to the outskirts just before I was born, I’m very well acquainted with my nation’s capital. Family outings and school trips made sure the gamut of tourist hotspots was ticked off the checklist of Things to Do in London, while more low-key outings have accrued over the years with venture’s to music gigs and sporting events in Brixton, Finsbury Park and the like. I’ve never been to Italy or the United States (woe is me, right?), and have only ever driven through Paris on a trip to Disneyland, so the lure of an Assassin’s Creed game actually set somewhere I’m intimately familiar with was far too tempting to pass up.

I’m glad I took the plunge.

Syndicate’s London is the visual marvel I had hoped it would be. As intricately detailed as Paris before it, this rendition of a coal-covered London is immediately familiar yet foreign at the same time—a city inching ever closer to modernity, while still seeped in remnants of the medieval era. The landmarks are as you would expect: wonderfully realized in all their vast splendor, from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Big Ben, and beyond. The Tower of London is just as I remember it from a fairly recent visit—the patrolling Royal Guards replacing tourists snapping pictures—while Trafalgar Square is as busy as ever, with its healthy pigeon population offering no better sign of authenticity.

Yes, it may be over a century ago, but familiarity permeates almost every nook and cranny of this London town, particularly when it comes to that distinct London feel. If you’ve ever visited the city then you know the one: a unique sense of place that transcends famous landmarks and recognizable sights. It manifests in the dreary grey skies that blanket the city in gloom.

In the clouds that unleash a torrent of rainfall that lines the streets with puddles, reflecting the chaos of its bustling crowds back onto the populace. And in the trains that bellow out of King’s Cross filled with weary passengers, as merchants with sore backs try their best to sell their wares by shouting at the top of haggard lungs. This is certainly London.

It enticed me back to a series I had fallen out of love with, yet it’s not what made me fall for Assassin’s Creed all over again. That was Evie Frye.

Though the marketing may not have always made it apparent (nor the box art), Evie Frye is one of Syndicate’s two playable protagonists, sharing the spotlight with twin brother (and top hat lover) Jacob. He’s the archetypal Assassin’s Creed protagonist—you know, the one that this series has clung to ever since Ezio Auditore lovingly graced our screens—and Evie is his perfect foil. Intelligent, witty and caring, but relentless when she needs to be, Evie is an astute counterpoint to Jacob’s rogue cockiness and cavalier approach to all things assassin. They’re the consummate double-act and a believable team—one’s strengths making up for the other’s weaknesses—and the writing does an excellent job of bouncing the two of them off each other in the sort of playful way you’d expect of twins who bicker and argue, but still clearly love one another.

Jacob subverts early impressions that he’s just another gruff meathead by slotting comfortably into his role as an act-first-think-later assassin, gladly letting Evie flourish as the brains of the operation, and often following her lead. Jacob’s a loveable brawler—respectful, funny and never the dumb oaf I dreaded he would be—but Evie is easily the more compelling of the two. Whether she’s showing compassion for people in need, exerting a ruthless streak or excitedly planning her next move, Evie’s never not engaging, amusing or just generally entertaining, and that feels significant because of how she’s represented. That Evie’s a wonderfully well-written character may be subjective and rife for debate, but it’s also important that Syndicate nurtures an environment where she can only be elevated by her surroundings, rather than negatively impacted by gratuitous oversexualization or objectification.

Female protagonists in triple-A games are a rarity as it is, so it’s incredibly pleasing to see a game that not only has one, but gets her so, so right. It’s the simple things, too, like her practical attire (perfectly appropriate for a Victorian assassin, not to mention absolutely splendid), and her lethal, non-sexualized combat style. Or the fact that enemies will hurl insults at her that have nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with her status as an assassin and rival gang leader.

And while Jacob and Evie both have their own specific story missions, the rest of the time (a.k.a. the majority of the game) you’re free to choose between either of them, with Evie being able to do anything Jacob can. Stepping into one of the many fight clubs with Evie, I really wasn’t expecting this and was just waiting for it to switch to the muscle-bound Jacob, only to be pleasantly surprised to find Evie standing in the middle of the fighting pit, all decked out in her fighter garb and ready to smash some burly men’s faces in. She never once feels like a secondary protagonist—like a sidekick to Jacob’s hero—and it’s clear she was written and designed as a strong, capable woman from the word "go", rather than a late gender-swap in the face of controversy surrounding Unity’s lack of playable female characters (and Ubisoft’s hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-sad excuse for their absence).

The recently released Jack the Ripper DLC maintains form, too. Evie is once again front and center, hunting down the illusive serial killer who stalked the borough of Whitechapel back in the late 1880s. She’s older as well—in her forties, in fact; battle-hardened, experienced and with more than a few wrinkles layered upon her steely gaze. If Evie is a relative rarity as a female protagonist, then her reappearance as an older women is akin to Halley’s Comet: a rare and notable sight.

And this inclusiveness extends onto the London streets, and into Syndicate’s amusing cast of characters. Take a few steps down any road and you’ll no doubt stumble across one of many female enemy combatants, who are just as rambunctious, aggressive and capable as their male counterparts. Or maybe you’ll hop into a story mission and chitchat with a key character like Henry Green, a British Indian assassin and one of the more unique assassins in the series—keen to stick back and gather crucial intelligence, rather than wading out into the field to stab necks with the rest of them. You might even converse with Ned Wynert, a successful thief who’s also a trans man, a fact no one bats an eyelid at. He’s just treated as he should be: like a human being. At a time when we’ve got someone like Germaine Greer making headlines for saying that transgender women are "not women," or countless would-be comedians belittling Caitlyn Jenner, it’s refreshing that we can look to videogames and find a prime example of how trans people should be treated.

It feels significant. And while not always perfect—people of color are conspicuously absent outside of the story—it’s certainly a welcome break from the tired and predictable status quo.

I know some will argue that it’s not historically accurate or realistic for everyone to be quite so inclusive in 1868 London. But this is a game about assassins in the near-future raging a centuries-old war against Templars by using a glorified videogame console to find the locations of magic artefacts. A game where you do missions for the likes of Karl Marx, Charles Dickens and Alexander Graham Bell; where you’re basically Victorian Batman, and can swim in the murky brown depths of the Thames without contracting some kind of horrific disease. I think historical accuracy went out the window like a would-be assassin.

As a straight white man, I’m not even going to pretend to know what women and marginalized people often go through on a daily basis. Hell, maybe I’m off base on a lot of this—I think the last few years have been a necessary learning process for everyone. But I do know that videogames can offer a form of escapism and a hopeful place of comfort away from whatever harshness exists elsewhere in people’s lives. They shouldn’t be restricted to representing just one kind of person, but everyone, with relatable characters no matter your gender, sexual preferences, age or skin color. Videogames are unique in that they let us embody anyone and anything, and I love that I can step into the shoes of an 18-year old girl in Arcadia Bay, a black man on the streets of Los Santos, and a strong, intelligent female assassin in Victorian London. But for millions of other people, this diversity and respectful representation can mean so much more than simply experiencing things from a different perspective. Hopefully Syndicate can be a positive beacon for even a few of these people. It should certainly be celebrated.

source: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/01/ac-syndicate-feature.html





Evie Frye makes it onto Polygon's 'Best Video Game Women' list in their 2015 review!

27th December 2015, polygon.com 

Evie Frye was significant not just for her in-game contributions, but as a testament to the industry’s overall push toward diversification. When last year's Assassin’s Creed Unity failed to include any women among its cast of playable characters, Ubisoft issued a mea culpa — but only after offering a bogus explanation for the homogenous roster.

Two separate members of the game’s development team told Polygon that they elected not to include women as playable assassins because they required "a lot of extra production work." Neither gamers nor fellow developers were happy with that response, and Ubisoft quickly issued a statement reiterating its dedication to diversity.

That's not to say Evie is the result of "affirmative action," so to speak. But knowing that background is certainly important when considering her portrayal in the game, and as one of its two leads. The best thing about Evie is that she's awesome in her own right, and not just there to prove that Ubisoft truly does care about equal gender representation.

This veritable badass serves as a complement to Jacob, her twin brother and fellow playable lead. Where Jacob is impulsive, Evie is logical; while Jacob favors brawn, Evie is more stealth-oriented. These differences merit her inclusion in the game — she’s not just a female-skinned clone of her brother — while also emphasizing that she's a heroine defined more by her skills than her sexuality, and that's a great thing to see in a series like Assassin’s Creed.

Evie even gets her own romantic subplot, which only serves to further humanize her. Instead of turning the character into a sex symbol, her love story is down-to-earth, unique and genuine.

source: http://www.polygon.com/2015/12/27/10668582/2015-year-review-women

Assassin's Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper DLC review

22nd December 2015, eurogamer.net

'Frye's delight.' 


Ubisoft's announcement that it would adapt the murders of Jack the Ripper into a rip-roaring epilogue for Assassin's Creed Syndicate rose some eyebrows. How would the developer handle the gruesome murders? Would you play as Jack during them? After Syndicate's solid main storyline and well-written cast of characters, it was a risky swansong to take on.
For other franchise fans, it was an extremely attractive prospect. Assassin's Creed devotees have been asking for Jack the Ripper since the series' earliest entries, and when Syndicate's main campaign was set in Victorian London some 20 years earlier, many saw it as a missed opportunity. Ubisoft has instead decided to save this unhappy tale for an add-on all of its own, billed as the highlight of Syndicate's season pass.
Jack the Ripper's story stretches over some 10 missions, although it is initially disappointing to see that there are no new districts added to LONDON'S MAP. As is to be expected, the missions are largely situated in Whitechapel, where the Ripper's murders took place: an already well-trod locale in the main game. Both this district and the City of London are populated with new activities, but the rest of London is locked off. The DLC's geography is almost identical, then, albeit with a new dusting of Victorian snow and Ubisoft collectibles, the latter unlocking more information on the Assassin's Creed storyline (such as what happened in the modern day after Syndicate's all-guns-blazing finale).
Thankfully, an early feeling of repetition is broken up by some later excursions outside of London: to a Cotswolds manor house, a Great Expectations-esque marsh in the Thames estuary, and a final, more familiar location where the story culminates. The missions which explore these fresh areas are the highlights, although there is much to enjoy throughout, as the story reintroduces an older Evie Frye as its protagonist - well voiced again by Victoria Atkin, in another throaty performance - alongside the increasingly desperate Inspector Frederick Abberline.
Over a century on, detailed descriptions of the Ripper's crimes are still shocking, although the game thankfully does not dredge up the investigation's photographic evidence. The events of his murder spree are for the most part handled with appropriate care, and the story benefits from Evie's more mature presence. Assassin's Creed has always been a series about stabbing historical figures in the throat and watching as your target gurgles up exposition through a gallon of claret, but these are also games about secret organisations, an ancient Precursor race and silly sci-fi MacGuffins. The real Jack the Ripper has now achieved a mythical status similar to some of the series' other fictionalised characters, but his brand of brutality is noticeably different from the usual pantomime villains of Assassin's Creed.

It's potentially jarring, but Ubisoft tempers this somewhat through Evie Frye, who remains one of the series' best protagonists. Better written and ultimately more human than her brother - and now middle-aged, but no less athletic - Ubisoft has you experience the Ripper's campaign of fear through her eyes, mature in years as well as in demeanour. One thing especially worthy of praise is how Evie and the expansion in general treat the subject of sex workers, who reappear in the Assassin's Creed series after a deliberate leave of absence.

Earlier Assassin's Creed games allowed you to hire "courtesans" or prostitutes to distract guards. It is a mechanic which resurfaces here, albeit in a story which treats sex workers in a far more mature manner. The story of Jack the Ripper could not be told without their inclusion, of course, but Ubisoft goes to some length to ensure their appearances in the game amount to more than simple victims. A raft of side missions highlight the inescapable dangers of sex work at the time, but do not involve Evie trying to convince those involved to stop their trade. Instead, these missions are about aiding those whom society has deemed "Fallen Women", and stopping exploitation where it occurs. One set of missions sees you parading abusive clients through crowds in order to shame them. Another sees you tracking down sex workers who have been kidnapped. There are still shades of women as objects to be rescued, but there is nothing but support for those involved, who almost always had no other option.
Mechanically, there's nothing in Jack the Ripper which reinvents the Assassin's Creed formula, although an additional set of tools allows you to scare enemies through the use of a hallucinogenic powder. There are "fear bombs" which spit it out amid sparks, spikes to impale enemies to the ground, and a new heavy takedown move where Evie shakes the hallucinogen around enemies like salt from a shaker. Enemies now have a fear meter with three levels. Fill this up and your foes will simply turn and flee. It's a pretty promising package, then - except for a few missions when the story becomes a rather different animal. (For anyone super sensitive to spoilers, it may be worth skipping the next paragraph, although the DLC begins with an example of what I'm about to describe).

Jack the Ripper is undoubtedly the antagonist of the add-on, but there are several occasions when you are forced away from Evie to play as the Ripper himself. These serve little purpose other than to show the similarities in the techniques he uses compared to Evie's or, sometimes, to briefly see a location prior or after to Evie's own visit. Playing as the Ripper does nothing for the story, nor to answer any of those raised eyebrows - especially when the first thing you are asked to do on loading the add-on is to walk Jack through a street to brutally and repeatedly stab an unsuspecting copper. Amazingly, Assassin's Creed still clings to its traditional 'you must not kill civilians' mentality, even when playing as Jack; you are told he did not kill random people to avoid messing up his plans.

An exploration of the Ripper's psyche would not necessarily be a bad thing, but there is little to no motivation or reasoning given for his actions. The interludes where you clomp about in his boots and brutalise the right civilians - but not others - do not heighten the disgust felt when reading the very real descriptions of his murder scenes. It is just a distraction from the add-on's main story and main character, and all in all, something of a misstep.

These moments aside, Jack the Ripper is another well-rounded if slightly slender addition to the Assassin's Creed canon: good fun in its new locations, rather familiar otherwise, but dignified by its treatment of some difficult subject matter. It is most comparable to Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's Freedom Cry expansion, which also suffered from a few unpolished moments, but also explored themes other major games would not stray anywhere near.
The Evolution of Evie Frye in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
An interview with AC Syndicate's Melissa MacCoubrey.
by Emma Fissenden,  themarysue.com  November 30th 2015 
An interview with AC Syndicate's Melissa MacCoubrey.
by Emma Fissenden,  themarysue.com  November 30th 2015 
30th November 2015, themarysue.com
An interview with AC Syndicate's Melissa MacCoubrey by Emma Fissenden 

We talked to Melissa MacCoubrey (@Melqartiii), one of the writers of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, to get a better idea of the process Ubisoft went through in developing the much lauded character of Evie Frye, Master Assassin.


Emma Fissenden (TMS): Was Evie Frye developed concurrently with her brother Jacob or did her character, or at least the beginnings of her character, emerge after his? Was she a surprise discovery?


Melissa MacCoubrey: Both Evie and Jacob were under development throughout the process. From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to have both of these characters in the game but it was their relationship that we were figuring out. Not long after, we knew that they would be perfect as twin Master Assassins.


TMS: Evie is academically minded, serious about her studies and fiercely dedicated to both her father’s work and the Assassin Order. While the final version of Evie is also wonderfully passionate and expressive (though she might roll her eyes if she heard me say that), were there any struggles you guys had when bringing her to life considering this seriousness?


MacCoubrey: No, actually, finding Evie’s voice was quite a simple process. I think the challenge was more about finding how the pieces of the story fit together more than how Evie and Jacob would contribute. Once we nailed the relationship between the two siblings, we knew what her reactions would be and what her motivations were so her decisions throughout the story were easy to make. And then, of course, we were so fortunate to have Victoria Atkin’s touch, and all those wonderful expressions and giggle-inducing eye rolls that brought an extra dimension to Evie. It’s the combined effort that really brings a character to life.


TMS: And conversely, was there a concerted effort to avoid the pitfalls some other female characters in video games find themselves in when they appear to be intellectually superior to the other characters around them and are portrayed as emotionally inaccessible?


MacCoubrey: This team was really dedicated to making Evie an accessible character but also a character that could stand on her own two feet, and we worked really hard as a unit to help the team question their habits when approaching her design. I think there’s something too in the fact that the relationship we chose to pursue was a brother/sister duo. We designed the twins to coexist as a functioning unit, and a sibling relationship is an accessible feeling for a lot of people. I think this relationship did favours for both characters, it made them both people who were emotionally accessible. I think that Evie’s dedication to intellect was a good balance to Jacob’s constant jokes, even to the point of relief, and vice-versa.


TMS: Evie Frye is both a ruthless fighter and an expert at stealth. Can you talk about how her fighting style was developed? Were there any aspects of her stealth skills or her personality that affected her fighting style?


MacCoubrey: When we were designing Evie, we were always sure that she would be the one with the more dedication leaning towards the "classical Assassin" abilities. Her moves needed to be precise, intentional, and effective. Jacob’s punches can leave the opponent in the same state, but he’s messier, he likes a good fight, and kind of like a comedian knows they’re doing well when the audience laughs, Jacob knows he’s doing well when he can see his opponent struggle. So approaching Evie, she’s someone who gets right to the core of her mission. Fighting isn’t part of the fun, it’s part of the job. She performs her tasks with precision and secrecy and this is what we were going for in her fighting design.


TMS: There’s an amazing (SPOILERS AHEAD, DEAR READERS) moment when Evie and the Templar baddie Lucy Thorne have a fairly brutal fight over the key to the shroud, a piece of Eden both the Templars and Assassins vie for control over. Blood spatters as neither woman holds back during the fight, and it’s one of the moments I realized Syndicate aimed to do better by female characters in letting them be ruthless, in letting them kick the shit out of one another. Was this always the aim from the beginning, or did this approach to her combat evolve the more that Evie came to life?


MacCoubrey: With the fundamental ideas behind the creation of Evie, the ideas of having honest, capable women were reinforced throughout production. Historically, we had a lot of evidence to make it a reality in our game. If there was Evie, why couldn’t there be lady thugs? And of course there could be other female fighters as capable as her on the other side of the battleground. It was in Lucy Thorne’s early conception that the Lucy/Evie fight came to life, and it was given the love it needed by its dedicated writers and designers. All Templar versus Assassin conflicts were considered on an equal playing field, and the Lucy/Evie fight was just one of the many. That being said, I think the fact that Lucy let Evie let out some of that built up tension was a really important moment for the character. For Evie, Lucy is the first scribble outside of the lines of her colouring book, and that HAS to be infuriating. Why wouldn’t she, then, want to kick the shit out of Lucy? And don’t even dare to think that Lucy would go easy on her!


TMS: I love that Evie is the one who "gets the girl", or in this case, "gets the guy" out of the two twins. Jacob is carefree and he’s a bit of a charmer, and I think many, myself included, might expect the story to go in the more traditional direction of giving him a love interest. To have the female star of a AAA game be the focus of a romantic encounter and for that romance to be so sweet and uncomplicated is fairly non-traditional, and I wonder how or why this decision came about?


MacCoubrey: Poor baby Jacob. He has relationships too! They’re just… complicated.


TMS: Hah!


MacCoubrey: If I remember it correctly, we designed Henry to be the connection to the greater Empire but also to have someone knowledgeable about London and the people in it. Believe me when I say that there were attempts to make Henry this overly serious soldier type, but based on one of the first bios we wrote about him it just wasn’t working. He was destined to be this capable but very bookish Assassin and Evie, being the more understanding, approachable one of the two, meshed with his ideologies and behaviors well (it didn’t help that all the writers swooned over how handsome he was)! And also believe me when I say how natural it felt to write their growing relationship. It just worked. Jacob on the other hand… his approach to human interaction is so vastly different. It’s not bad, by any means, but he pushes people away before he can even think to bring them in. He doesn’t put the same kind of effort into interactions so therefore the traditional relationship doesn’t make sense for him.


TMS: Are there specific resources (that you can talk about) your team turned to when developing Evie’s character? Were there figures in Victorian London’s history that informed the way you approached her evolution?


MacCoubrey: Oh man! That’s a tough question and not because I don’t have specific references that we worked with but mostly because before the story conception even started I had compiled a two hundred and fifty page document on historical characters we could have used based on what years we chose. So we went into this concept looking at the coolest women in a thirty year time frame, from Ada Lovelace to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson to Octavia Hill to Millicent Fawcett (and tons more)! I believe the interests of the individual writers (I for example am a huge 19th century lit nerd) combined with the needs of the game and all the research we did on the era informed who Evie eventually became.

 Emma Fissenden is a writer of all TRADES. When she’s not pushing through her next rewrite, she’s playing too many games and working as the Editor in Chief at @noblegasqrtly. You can find her on Twitter @efissenden, or by checking out her series for TMS: Bad Gamer & Game Changer.

Source: http://www.themarysue.com/the-evolution-of-evie-frye/

Is Assassin's Creed Syndicate's Jack the Ripper DLC Worth Playing?

15th December 2015, gamespot.com

(Warning: contains graphic gameplay descriptions)

Assassin's Creed Syndicate's first piece of narrative-driven DLC is a curious thing. It takes the main game's skill tree and morphs it into a combat system based more on intimidation than physical prowess. It retains all the core mechanics of Syndicate--the rope launcher for easy traversal across London's rooftops, the familiar bounty hunts and laborer liberation missions, even one of the Fryes' powerful allies--but they are wrapped in a different package. The result is an odd, surprising mix, one that is engaging but not quite the best use of the Jack the Ripper story.

What follows are spoilers for the main story of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and it's difficult to explain Jack the Ripper without mentioning these elements. Stop reading if you haven't finished the main game!

It's 1888. Evie Frye returns to London after nearly a 20-year absence, having followed fellow assassin Henry Green to his homeland of India. There, Evie trained with the Indian assassins, learning non-lethal intimidation techniques meant to frighten enemies rather than kill them outright. Evie's brother Jacob summons her - now 40 years old - back to London for help in the Ripper murders, and Evie arrives to find him missing in action.

What follows is an ordeal that will test Evie's resolve, both as a woman and as an assassin. There's a moment late in the DLC where the horror of the Ripper's acts - the brutal mutilation and murder of prostitutes - crashes down around her. However, Evie is physically strong and very clever, and has proven time and again she is highly capable in protecting herself and others. Having Evie rather than Jacob investigate the murders of these helpless young women is a powerful narrative move; here is a woman horrified for her gender, seeking to avenge wrongs done to her sex. Throughout the story, it's hard not to imagine Evie can see herself in these young women's positions, fighting for her life against a ruthless man without mercy. Voice actress Victoria Atkin's exquisite performance as Evie carries into the DLC, and we can hear the pain in her voice as she inspects each murder scene.

On inspecting murder scenes: if you've played the Dreadful Crimes DLC - which was included as a pre-order bonus for Syndicate - you're already familiar with Jack the Ripper's format. Some main quest missions require Evie to investigate a crime scene, searching for clues in the environment using eagle vision and then piecing together what happened. But unlike Dreadful Crimes, it's not up to Evie to search out and confront the perpetrator. Instead, the solution is handed to you outright, with Evie manipulating the environment to decipher secret messages left by the Ripper. It's not as satisfying as Dreadful Crimes, but just as Syndicate is good about shaking up the traditional mission format, so is the main quest of Jack of the Ripper.

If you're interested in collecting bits and pieces of stories lying on the fringes of the Ripper tale, then you'll want to dig into the DLC's side missions. They are the same as they were in the main game: escort missions using carriages, bounty hunts, and liberation missions. This latter type focuses on prostitutes instead of children in factories, with Evie sneaking into brothels to scare off or kill the men holding these women hostage. But unlike the children liberation missions, these prostitution ring breakups come with a rather dramatic fail state: each time Evie is detected during these missions, a prostitute is killed. There's no undo button for this. Admittedly, it made me work harder to stick to the shadows, but the captors had no motivation to kill the prostitutes other than to keep Evie from liberating them. Those enslaving children in the main game didn't kill the children if I was detected, so having this side effect in the DLC felt unnecessary and made me feel a little gross.

Another mission type revolves around publicly shaming men who beat prostitutes. Evie must kidnap the men in question and parade him through the streets, shouting his bad deeds to the crowds. The HUD map even marks where the biggest crowds are, and a large blue "SHAME" meter adorns the top of the screen. It's heartening to see abusive characters get their due, even if it's just within the context of a video game side-mission. It's just funny and weighty enough to make you forget about the whole prostitute-killing thing.

But some of Jack the Ripper's side missions make little sense. One string of them involves Evie shutting down underground fight clubs. Our middle-aged Evie jumps into the ring to kill or frighten away waves of thugs. It seems out of place for Evie's character, especially now that she's not the same young, scrappy woman she is Syndicate's main game. There is now a certain grace in Evie's maturity, and it's evident in her speech, her movement, and her turn towards non-lethal combat.

A word on combat: it's largely the same as the main game, except instead of playing as Evie and Jacob, you play as Evie and Jack the Ripper in turns. Evie's weapons are all non-lethal unless you want them to be, but her and the Ripper share the same scare tactics. There's even a new, small skill tree for these new abilities. Using scare tactics allows you to make an enemy anxious, which increases their fighting potency. If you can scare them completely--a small face over their head will turn red - they will stop putting up a fight and sometimes run away from you, eliminating the need to kill them.

You also have small bombs that explode with a scream and a burst of fire but do no physical damage but can make enemies anxious or frighten them away entirely. There's also a spiked weapon that in Evie's hands can be used to pin enemies to the ground just long enough for her to frighten them into incapacitation. The Ripper, however, uses these to kill. It's a more dramatic dynamic than the Jacob/Evie, brawler/stealth duality, and I enjoyed being able to creep through areas like a boogeyman rather than a cold-blooded killer. These tactics work reliably, and a couple of well-placed bombs and spikes quickly clear crowded areas. I found myself prioritizing frightening away enemies before giving in to killing them.

I enjoyed my time with the Jack the Ripper DLC - I'm a sucker for creepy cult history stories and I loved watching a middle-aged female assassin take a town to task. However, playing as the Ripper unnerved me. It was chilling to be playing as the villain; the HUD ripples with Animus glitches and bursts of text that look like they've been hastily scratched out, making your time as the Ripper a visually interesting experience.

But as the Ripper, you're asked not to kill just his female victims, but a slew of others: men in your way, police officers investigating a crime scene, and - most horribly - an insane asylum full of mentally ill patients and their doctors. You can get through these areas without killing most of them, but there's no way to avoid killing altogether. I understand Assassin's Creed takes liberties with history when it tells its tales, but I felt sick to my stomach killing hallways full of patients. I spent most of my time painstakingly trying to scare them away to avoid killing them.

In the end, the Ripper's tale and his identity aren't much of a revelation. The DLC lets you know early on the best suspect, and from there it's just waiting for Evie to open her eyes and figure out what you already know. However, running through a terrorized London was an eerie, entertaining experience, though perhaps a little short. But if you loved Assassin's Creed Syndicate, I strongly recommend giving the Jack the Ripper DLC a go. It's a lovely ode to the story of Jacob and Evie, and gives the game's strongest character more time in the spotlight.


Assassin’s Creed Syndicate's Female Assassin Evie Frye Receives Critical Acclaim

27th October 2015, develop-online.net

British actress Victoria Atkin brings the character to life through her acting, motion capture, and voice over. ADDED BONUS: Atkin sings on the score by Austin Wintory.

(Hollywood, CA) – October 27, 2015 –The ninth installment of the widely popular Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was released to critical acclaim on Friday. The new stars of the game are Evie and Jacob Frye, who employ deadly weapons and cunning to fight the oppression of a corrupt ruling class in the underworld of Victorian-era London.

Recently named “International Star to Watch” by Variety (http://bit.ly/1KG5C9G), British actress Victoria Atkin stars at Evie, playing the first female assassin for Syndicate and one of the first female leading protagonists for any video game. GameSpot says of her character “Evie will be the one you take with you on bounty hunting and liberation missions.” In addition to voice over and acting, Atkin trained in martial arts and parquor to perfect the motion capture needed for the role. She also contributed to the soundtrack, singing on Austin Wintory’s eclectic 19th century-inspired score. Reviews for the game have specifically recognized the voice acting with GameCrate stating,“The voice acting is splendid as Paul Amos and Victoria Atkin put on a show as Jacob and Evie Frye, respectively.”

Only in her twenties, Victoria Atkin has already achieved recognition for her diverse talents. Her first novel London Love, which deals with the hardships of balancing a relationship in the grueling entertainment industry was recently published through Evatopia press. The audiobook will be released later this year. Upon her graduation from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Alumni include Sir Laurence Olivier and Vanessa Redgrave), Atkin landed a pivotal role on the long-running British TV series Hollyoaks. She played Britain’s first transgender teen character Jasmine/Jason Costello. She is currently shooting the film Haunted, in addition to several guest appearances on film/TV shows.

Source: http://www.develop-online.net/press-releases/assassin-rsquo-s-creed-syndicate-s-female-assassin-evie-frye-receives-critical-acclaim/0213039

Op-Ed: Evie Frye is the most important thing to happen to Assassin’s Creed in years

26th October 2015, psgamer.co.uk

Evie, who has a twin brother called Jacob, is the greatest asset Ubisoft have to retrieve lost Assassin’s Creed fans.

Upon booting up Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, there was a somewhat exciting feeling that rushed over me. Having listened to well, everyone regarding Unity and avoiding it like a ex-prisoner who broke parole avoids Javert, I was ready for my fix of jumping recklessly into stacks of leaves and miraculously surviving all over again. I had missed the thrill and the joy of a new Assassin’s Creed, something I hadn’t felt since I first booted up the joyous Black Flag way back when I had my heroic Xbox 360.

The incessant positivity I had found Syndicate drowning in was put to my own personal rigour when I played Syndicate for the first in September at EGX in Birmingham. Granted, I only had around ten minutes with the game but in that time I had played through a level and though I didn’t have time to make it through to the end, I knew in my heart that this brand new story set in the glorious Victorian days of London town was going to reignite my interest in the flagging franchise. Not a single thing seemed out of place. Eagle vision was still working as well as it always had, the game looked astonishing on their flatscreen preview televisions and tearing it up and down walls and using the brand new line launcher to get around felt freeing and exciting. There was one thing though that peaked my curiosity more than anything. That was Evie.

In the small section I played, you take control of a female assassin known as Evie Frye, twin sister of male protagonist Jacob, brought to life by a wonderful performance from Victoria Atkin. Evie felt light, nimble, fresh. She had the same abilities as any other Assassin we’ve played as, something though made her a lot more accessible. Like a cross between Lara Croft and Catwoman. Her movements felt precise and I felt like I could move her around a lot more swiftly (something which since playing the game at home I feel like it was all in my head as Jacob and Evie more or less move the same). Evie as a character was curious. Would a dual team Assassin’s game work? Can it really be pulled off? How much game time will I get with Evie in comparison to her male counterpart? All my fears were put to rest once I finally purchased Assassin’s Creed syndicate to play it for myself.

So what makes her so interesting? That you can switch between the two at any time – outside of the missions, you’re locked to playing as a certain twin for particular missions – makes you notice the difference in the missions they are assigned. Out of the two, Evie feels more like the Assassin we’re used to in the franchise. Her missions are primarily stealth, sneaking around London without being detected, cutting down fools who are dumb enough to get in her way. She’s the one who takes the business of being an Assassin a little more seriously than Jacob. Evie plays her cards closer to the order and legacy of her father, being fascinated by the artifacts collected by a certain enemy that used to belong to a certain Pirate Assassin. Her interest in the history of the Creed connects her to the earlier stories, whilst Jacob is far more gun-ho in his approach and is all about taking down the Templars that run amok in 19th Century London building up his own army, known as the Rooks.

Then there’s the fact that Evie is well, an absolute badass. It’s pretty clear she wears the trousers in this brother and sister crime-fighting duo. Whilst Jacob is running around causing all kids of hell Evie will kick ass his into place, reminding him of the mission at hand, which is always hilarious. They fight for the same cause but do it in very different ways, which makes the duo work and utilise their individual skills well. Evie’s skills are fully stealth, allowing her to even disappear whilst in sneak mode, which is delightfully handy. To aid her in her sneaky sneaky skills is the fact she can carry more throwing knives than Jacob, with her individual upgrades connected to stealth over power. She’s the Assassin’s you want on your side sneaking through Westminster Abbey picking locks and climbing Big Ben – which, FYI, gave me a serious case of vertigo the first time I ascended the famous bell. I felt like I was doing it -.

The differences between the two are more noticeable the more you further you get in the game, and benefits it as a whole having two characters you can use. If you want the genuine Assassin’s Creed experience though, you’re going to want Evie under your control.

The next point is just how likeable Evie is – and Jacob, to an extent. Evie is sweet but serious when necessary. She can liberate the poor by brutally murdering Blighters and Templars one minute, then chase down a thief and help pick up the papers someone has dropped by bumping into her the next. She’s certainly got the older head on her shoulders, despite being the same age as Jacob (because they’re TWINS), she’s bossy and deriding all the way under the mission to fulfill the oath she took when she became a part of the order. She’s overtly friendly, helpful to anyone who needs it and believes in ghosts – which is just awesome. Evie is flirty (look out for the tensions building between herself and Alexander Graham Bell. Ding dong) and is fully aware of her fantastic abilities. The instant chemistry between Evie and Jacob is vastly evident, with the banter between them being very relatable to someone who has siblings they’re stuck with but love anyway. Evie has the brains and the brawn whilst Jacob just has the brawn. Their conversations can range from angry to hysterical in equal measure and it’s a joy to watch, seemingly because it just reminds me of my relationship with my sisters. Evie would be a great sister, even if she could kill me in a split millisecond without me even noticing before it’s too late and I’ve already been looted and thrown in the Thames.

What’s so striking about this version of Assassin’s Creed is that, it’s almost as if the developers started all over again. It felt almost as if this is the first Assassin’s game I’ve played. After the public horror show that was Unity, Ubisoft had panic stations going like wildfire and almost immediately announced Syndicate right over the horrific Unity launch (which was then known as Assassin’s Creed Victory). We knew it was going to be set in London and that was almost an instantaneous improvement on what the fans were currently having to put up with through Unity. The possibilities were mind-boggling.

What we weren’t expecting was to fall for the new characters so quickly. Evie Frye should become iconic. There’s no doubt in my mind she is the most fascinating character to come from the series since Ezio Auditore. Her attitudes and bad-assery should make her a role model, well, except for all the stabby-stab-stab.

I salute you Evie Frye. I can’t wait to see where this story goes next.


Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review: The best in years for the series

24th October 2015, securityforpc.com

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is—wait for it—an Assassin’s Creed game, with all that that implies.

It’s a really good Assassin’s Creed game, mind you, my favorite since Assassin’s Creed II took us to Renaissance Italy way back in 2009. We’re in Victorian London this time, in 1868. As with most games in the series, Syndicate shifts between the present and the past to follow the convoluted and conspiratorial struggle between the Assassins and the Templars, who are fighting over … something, that’s for sure. You climb famous and not-famous buildings, use your magic Eagle Vision to identify targets in a crowd, and kill them.

In keeping with series tradition, the historical setting mixes painstakingly accurate architectural renderings of things like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey with entertainingly campy and counterfactual cameos from figures like Darwin and Dickens. One series of side quests is dubbed, simply, “Karl Marx’s Memories.” There’s an Edwin Drood joke. A late-game mission is titled “Driving Mrs. Disraeli.”

Honoring another Assassin’s Creed convention, those missions are wildly uneven, with exhilarating set pieces like a clamber across London’s Tower Bridge juxtaposed with unimaginative pixel-hunting, during segments in which the player is asked to do little more than make sure the avatar hits its marks.

The voice work is similarly mixed. The lead actors are strong. I was especially charmed by Victoria Atkin as Evie Frye, the twin sister to fellow assassin Jacob Frye and one of the game’s two main playable characters. Crawford Starrick, the villainous Templar industrialist and mobster whom the Frye twins want to bring down, looks a lot like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, but Kris Holden-Ried’s menacing performance is admirably restrained. A few of the game’s minor characters, on the other hand, sound more like something you might run across during a night of high-caliber community theater, or that you might overhear while glimpsing a meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism during an amble across a campus quad.

This is a mixed bag, interactively and narratively. So what makes this game worth playing?

The cornerstone of any open-world game is traversal, and the London of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is a joy to move around in. Layered atop the usual clambering and running and leaping and stabbing is a new tool called a rope line, an anachronistic grappling hook that Batman seemingly left behind after a time-traveling mishap. Evie and Jacob do not move as fast as I would like when they slide along it, nor are they always quick to find an available ledge when they point it skyward. But the rope line was my travel method of choice in Victorian London, even though it was slower than the horse-drawn carriages that can be hijacked on the streets without much consequence.

You’ll never want to climb in Assassin’s Creed like this:

When you can climb like this instead:

The game has a light, almost comic, tone, underscored by the playful fiddles in Austin Wintory’s score. The plot—involving ancient civilizations, magical shrouds, cutscenes from the present day about the actions of Abstergo and characters from the Desmond/Ezio era—seems like it would be basically incomprehensible to players who aren’t steeped in Assassin’s Creed lore. But it doesn’t matter: The moment-to-moment motivations of the Frye twins are clear enough.

The twins themselves are fine companions for the dozens of hours it takes to play through this game, maybe the most likeable assassins yet. Jacob Frye is the rakish (maybe a little Nathan Drakish) one who’s slightly better in a fight, while Evie is both a little more earnest and marginally stronger in stealth.

For a while, this two-character structure works almost as well as the similar division in Grand Theft Auto V, with the game assigning different facets of Assassin’s Creed play to the two protagonists. Evie is the curio hunter who searches for powerful artifacts, while Jacob is happier doing some straightforward killing. (It’s almost a sibling rivalry as workplace rom-com: She wants a Piece of Eden! He wants to start a gang!) I tried to use the RPG tree in the game to emphasize Evie’s stealthiness and Jacob’s strength. You’re forced to use each character often enough in situations that run contrary to their best attributes, however, so near the end you end up leveling them to be virtually indistinguishable—until, even later, Evie alone can purchase an extremely powerful stealth ability that makes her nearly invisible when stationary.

Beyond the non-interactive present-day flash-forwards, there is a reasonably large section of Syndicate that is hidden on the map and takes place during an entirely different timeline. It’s optional. When you see the entry portal appear on the map, don’t miss it (although it’s not urgent—it won’t go anywhere). I would say more, but the surprise is part of the delight. I may have already said too much.

After Metal Gear Solid V, which makes failure in stealth an opportunity for improvisation between player and game, the less-frequent-but-still-too-frequent insta-fail moments in Assassin’s Creed feel more tired and frustrating than ever. Even with improvements like the rope line, I wish this game were more systemic, less reliant on printed on-screen instructions in lieu of trusting the player to come up with solutions for the challenges it presents.

Then again, Big Boss can’t climb to the top of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and leap off.

Each “memory sequence” (a bit of genetically encoded history that the player is reliving through a virtual machine called the—oh, never mind) climaxes with an assassination that does afford the player some room for creativity. The boring way to play these—which the game allows for—is to barge in and kill everyone in a straight-up fight, which pretty much lets you get away with mashing square (or X on an Xbox controller) to win.

The more rewarding method—the way the game wants you to play—is to explore each space to find people who can assist you. Maybe you kidnap one to get past some guards, or steal someone’s keys, or talk to someone who will tell you where to hide for what the game calls a “unique kill” (a cutscene that plays after you Press Square to Assassinate, but it’s usually better than that sounds). Your options are still prescribed, chosen from a very limited menu that the game presents. It’s not Dishonored, but it’s closer than this series usually gets.

Unity, the most recent Assassin’s Creed game before Syndicate, was riddled with bugs. I experienced very few during my time with Syndicate, nothing too unusual for a large, open-world game with a release-day patch. Also: Sophisticated critics aren’t supposed to gripe about loading screens, but watch enough 45-second loading screens after failing a few insta-kill missions in quick order, and you’ll start to wonder why not.

I’ll stop complaining. I’ve spent about 30 hours in London with Jacob and Evie, and I’m eager for more. I like playing Frogger on the Thames, leaping from moving boat to moving boat. I like listening for the tinkling of music boxes that contain discs that will eventually unlock the vault beneath the city. I like stopping at a pub to nab a collectible beer bottle; picking up a book to find the newest pressed flower; doing a little prize fighting or carriage racing for easy cash; and just cleaning up the gang war on the streets—dropping from a rope line for a double kill and then creeping past corners to liberate Dickensian child laborers in a factory.

But not the bounty hunts, Ubisoft. I hated those. Please take them out.

source: http://securityforpc.com/?p=3005


Why Evie Frye is the most important part of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate

28th October 2015, mweb.co.za

I’m not quite ready to review Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate but there’s been a consistent, obvious theme I think deserves praise: Its treatment of its female lead, Evie Frye. I’m aware that, as a man, I might have missed ways the game might actually do an awful job - but, for now, I’d like to highlight why I think the game succeeds.

This open world game focuses on twin assassin protagonists, Jacob and Evie, who can be swapped at almost any time - in a fake historical London. There are specific missions requiring the one or other, because of their individual personalities and goals (Evie is smarter, so she’s more likely to help a genius inventor fix his toys than the fistful of rogue that is Jacob). But, for most of the game, you can play entirely as Evie (or Jacob).

And the mostly neutral position the game takes - it doesn’t matter who does side-quests, collects items and so on - makes a massive impact.

Take one example.

In all the promos for the game, we saw underground fight clubs where large, topless, sweaty men bashed each other. Fight Clubs are activities you can take part in to get money and XP. In trailers, we saw only Jacob here and I genuinely expected the game to restrict Fight Club activities to Jacob. But that’s simply not true. Evie can fight too.

The game doesn’t restrict the twins and doesn’t gate the activities by virtue of the protagonists’ gender. Ubisoft devs even designed a functional fighting outfit for Evie, as you can see.

Like the other outfits for Evie in the game, functionality is priority: there’s no jarring oversexualised tight or revealing clothing on her figure. (Sexualised characters are not a problem: their ubiquity is and the focus on only sexualising female characters is boring, if not unnecessarily hilarious.)

But there’s more. Here’s Evie taking out four large men, single-handedly.

Notice that the announcer praises her directly: it’s not a neutral praise, but specifically references her as “My lady”.

During the game itself, when enemies yell at Evie, they don’t belittle her character’s gender. They simply shout neutral insults such as “empty head” or, at worst, “girl” - but even enemies call her just “woman”. This might not mean a lot to some, but I’ve had so many friends who found this to be so important. As they told me, they don’t need a game to emulate the catcalls and harassment and gendered insults they receive daily in real life. Ubisoft decided, in this violent, gang-ridden London to make it such that these brutal killers are better at talking to women than many real life men who spot a woman in the street.

Indeed, the gangs themselves feature women gangsters - who are often in leading positions as snipers and, even, gang-leaders. Men obey their orders and respond to women as they would any other person. Even among enemies, women are not belittled because of their gender; they're treated first as people, whether in terms of enemies or friends.

Again: this means big, brutish men who murder on sight are respectful of women. And when these same men see Evie, they target her for being an Assassin and make no mention of her gender, beyond labels like “girl” or “woman”.

Playing it as Evie, it was unremarkable that she was a woman - but she is still a remarkable woman. Yet, the fact her gender was unremarkable is what makes the game remarkable. This carries through for other characters too: A trans man, Ned Wynert, is never once interrogated about his gender and is simply referred to as Ned - by both Evie and Jacob.

Jacob, too, who at first looks like the most obvious silly bro lead, treats Evie with respect. At worst, he banters playfully with her, mocking her for her nerd interests. Evie responds in kind, however, with a sharp tongue. Jacob also asserts his love and respect for Evie and often is willing to follow her lead, because he knows she’s smarter. All this is done without belittling Jacob either: he’s not an oaf or unwise, but merely brash and ready to fight.

Ubisoft decided to treat Evie like a person - indeed, the game itself refers to her as the better assassin. But it's remarkable that in a AAA title her gender is unremarkable. Everything from activities to outfits, to how even her enemies refer to her, shows massive progress in making a group so often excluded feel included. Games doing that tend to make me feel included too, because I don’t have to play rolling my eyes at sexist allusions or taunts or an atmosphere where women are targeted for their gender. I see that in reality, happening to so many people including those I love: we don’t need it in games.

I haven’t even mentioned Evie as a character: her fighting skills, intelligence, wit, quick laugh, humour and taste in men (very, very good taste). Yes: she's a lead character in a AAA murder game who laughs and smiles and makes others laugh. She’s also kind and gentle, but brutal and deadly. All this makes Evie Frye my favourite video game character.

And I’m so glad this is where we are.


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