What did Ubisoft decide to do after they exhausted the entirety of 1868 throughout Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate? They skipped twenty years and put the two main characters in mortal danger as they hunted for one of history’s most notorious killers – Jack the Ripper. After an awkward opening, during which you come to grips with some of the new features, this turns out to be a fairly solid piece of DLC, although oddly enough it almost completely reverses the pros and cons of the original game. Let’s take a spoiler free look into the Ripper’s DLC.
The story is fantastic as you take control of Evie and hunt down Jack the Ripper, although like everything story wise in Syndicate it felt a little rushed and the ending was wrapped up too conveniently. While fast pacing was an issue from Syndicate that hasn’t been resolved another one has been: the characters. I felt that Ubisoft could have benefited from creating one character that encompassed both Evie and Jacob’s personalities, but the DLC adds enough depth and backstory to make both characters interesting – in fact so interesting I wouldn’t mind spending another full Assassin’s Creed game with them, which is saying a lot considering that before the DLC I felt they were the series weakest characters. Then of course there’s Jack who is perhaps one of the series most interesting and twisted villains. As the plot unfolds you’ll discover more about his motives and past life, but I won’t go into them here for fear of spoiling the story.
Not a lot has changed gameplaywise, except you can now only take control of Evie while free roaming in a version of the map that is restricted to Whitechapel and the City of London. However, there is some once-off-areas which you get to visit throughout the DLC’s short campaign, such as a snowy manner outside of the city and abandoned war ships that have been converted into prisons. One of the things I personally praised in the base game was its high standard side activities, however that standard is, for the most part, thrown out the window in the Ripper’s DLC. The reason the activities worked so well in the first place was because the developers seemed to have a good understanding of the games core mechanics, but it seems more like a misunderstanding this time around. For example, the child liberation activities from the base game are replaced brothel attacks in which you save prostitutes from a gang. While the child liberation worked due to the vertical nature of the multi-floored factories and their open space, the brothel attacks fail because they try to implement the same mechanics into a three-story house, which results in you simply peeking around the corner of a stairs, throwing some knifes and moving on.
Perhaps the two biggest changes are that you get to play as Jack the Ripper during some missions and the implementation of fear based weapons. Playing as Jack doesn’t change things up a whole lot, he can parkour and rope launch himself around with the best of the assassins, but the HUD is completely different as objectives are no longer listed in bullet point form. Instead they float up on the screen either side of Jack in a ghostly font – saying things like ‘kill them all’ – as if they’re coming from within his own mind. Then there’s the fear weapons and mechanics, which consist of bombs, stakes, screams, and brutal takedowns (which were clearly inspired by Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor). The idea behind these weapons is to strike enough fear into enemies that they’ll panic and run away, for example you can use a stake to painfully pin an enemy to the ground so that their screams will cause others to flee. Both Evie and Jack can use these weapons, the only difference being hers are non-lethal while his can kill, for example she pins enemies to the ground, with stakes, via their arms, but he drives the stakes right through their stomachs.
To sum up, Syndicate was let down by poor characters and a ridiculously paced plot, but it was lifted up by fun gameplay as well as missions and activities that were well founded in the games core-mechanics. The Jack the Ripper DLC both suffers and thrives from the opposite issues, the story is interesting and the characters are more fascinating than ever, but the new gameplay features can come off as a little bit clunky and the game’s core-mechanics have been badly translated into poor replicas of the base games’ activities. If you’re looking for a good, but short, story then this DLC should satisfy your appetite, but if you want more of Syndicate’s fast action and fun gameplay then I think you should avert your course and steer clear of Jack.