You Win But Actually You Lose

In Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Evie Frye is an Assassin chasing after the Shroud of Eden to prevent the Templar Lucy Thorne from using it to take over the world somehow. At the point in the story we’re talking about today, Sequence 5, Evie doesn’t know the Templars’ exact plan, just that they need a new piece of Eden after they accidentally blew up the Apple of Eden (I say “the” but at this point in the continuity there’s at least a couple floating around – this one can’t be the same one the Assassins and Templars were fighting over in the Ezio trilogy, because that was still around in 2012).

Evie solves some puzzles and tracks down some puzzle key thing in a hidden room in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and that’s when Lucy Thorne pops out of nowhere. You have a quick mini-boss fight, and then in a cut scene Lucy takes the puzzle key from around Evie’s neck where Evie had been wearing it like a necklace (for all of five minutes) and runs away. After reducing the bosses’ health to zero, you win, but actually, you lose. It’s at least framed as Lucy grabbing it on the way to being tossed out a window and then using her parkour skillz to escape, but if they needed Lucy to win at this point, why not cut the (fairly dull) boss fight and just have Lucy be there ahead of Evie?

What makes it particularly aggravating is the premise of the Assassin’s Creed series: The frame story is that you’re a modern day Assassin reliving the genetic memories of an ancient Assassin master, usually to learn where some Precursor artifact wound up 200 years ago in the hopes that it’s still there to be recovered today (this hope turns out to be accurate a shockingly high percentage of the time, particularly since the modern-day frame plot is often vestigial to the point where you can go ahead and give it an anti-climactic “yeah, the vault’s empty” ending and it would be fine, because the storyline we care about is the one with the pirates/French revolutionaries/Industrial Age gang wars/whatever). The memories are fuzzy, which is why you can run around locations freely instead of repeating exactly the dead Assassin’s movements step for step, and you can do side quests in any order, and so on. This is necessary enough for gameplay that it would have to be handwaved even if it didn’t make sense, but it does: Memory is imperfect, and the genetic memories you’re accessing haven’t properly stored what order events occurred in, so the Animus has to be able to handle the ambiguity. I mean, genetic memories don’t work that way at all, but once you’ve accepted that a DNA sample can remember specific events, the rest is pretty plausible both in comparison and generally.

What makes this aggravating is that there are bonus objectives for full synchronization: Things your ancestor specifically remembers doing and which will help synchronize you (giving you new abilities) with the memories if you do them as well. For example, in the fight with Lucy Thorne, apparently Evie Frye specifically remembers countering every one of Lucy Thorne’s attacks. Which is the only way Lucy can do any damage. So the canonical outcome of this fight is not that it was a desperate struggle between evenly matched foes that could’ve suddenly tilted towards either side at any second, and Lucy seized an opportunity to grab the key and escape. It’s that Evie was completely dominating and then Lucy got phenomenally lucky.

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