While Assassin's Creed Syndicate (opens in new tab) protagonist Evie Frye has spent weeks in the shadow of her charismatic brother Jacob, there's been a consistent trickle of information painting her as the wiser and stealthier of the two twins. At Ubisoft's 2015 Gamescom demo, the first time we've really seen Evie in action, she puts on the same airs: she carefully plans each step, focuses on projectiles, and is so stealthy she can (figuratively? literally?) turn invisible if she holds still long enough. Unlike her in-your-face brother, Evie is all about the being sly.
...Unless you don't want her to be. If you'd rather go in full-force, Evie can do that too, running straight into packs of guards or inciting a mob to take out her target for her. While that allows players who don't like the stealth approach to enjoy the story missions focused solely on her, it also creates an interesting problem: why have two characters at all, when the traits that make them distinct get watered down?
Make no mistake, the team behind Syndicate does want the twins to be unique. "They have very different personalities, they have a very different narrative story, and they also have different play styles." says Associate Producer Andrée-Anne Boisvert. "Jacob is gonna be a little more straightforward [while] Evie is focused and calculated, and she executes all her plans and her targets with extreme precision." This carries over into the story, where Jacob and Evie have very different ideas about how to best reach their goal: "They want to take back London from the Templars. Jacob wants to do so by building himself an army from the street, whereas Evie is a more traditional Assassin and wants to follow the Creed a little more closely. So she wants to get her hand on a Piece of Eden [an object of immense magical power] before the Templars do."
However, Evie's distinct style fades when the demo starts, and it's revealed she isn't exclusively stealthy. Pulling from one of Unity's main additions to the series, the mission starts with a quick pan-over of London's famous White Tower, showing a few optional tasks she can complete to more easily reach her target. While two of these tasks are stealth-based (pretend to be kidnapped with the assistance of an allied guard, or steal a set of keys to get inside), one involves releasing a jailed constable, which starts a brawl amongst the guards similar to the one Jacob incites in the E3 demo. This is a compromise meant to even out a spot where player preferences and protagonists with very specific skill sets clash. "Players engage with Assassin's Creed in certain ways," says Boisvert. "Some of them are just like, 'Okay I have this area, I'm just going to dive right in.' But some of them are more meticulous."
As you're required to play as one protagonist or the other in certain story missions, letting Evie climb through a window or start a riot with equal ease keeps you from feeling pressured toward playing the game in a way you don't like. While that's a nice idea in theory, it unfortunately muddles the unique perspectives the two-protag approach is meant to show off. When a big part of the protagonists' personalities comes from their fighting styles, it's hard to deny that giving you the option to make one act like the other removes some of those distinct qualities.
The game's main way of combating that problem is by giving both siblings special skills that emphasize their unique style. In Evie's case, the Knife Master ability lets her throw knives from a great distance, and the Chameleon ability turns her invisible if she holds still for a few seconds. Thanks to those skills, charging into a fight while playing Evie becomes less appealing, because it inherently makes the game harder; the same can be said for Jacob, who can't as easily stealth his way out of a situation and is at his best when he's breaking noses.
Plus, the parts of missions tailored toward each twin's dominate skill are smartly realized on their own. Just like the hostage situation in the E3 demo rewards Jacob with a bigger gang for every person he saves, more guards in Evie's sections create a rewarding challenge when you manage to sneak past them. In contrast, the options that don't match each twin's skills seem crowbarred in.
It remains to be seen how Syndicate will walk the line between letting players stick to their comfort zones and highlighting Evie and Jacob's unique traits. For her part, Boisvert hopes that players will give both direct and stealthy strategies a try: "I really want them [players] to try to play it as Jacob and Evie. What we're really proud about...is how different they are, and how you can actually choose to play as one or the other in this big world."