Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
You actually play as twins, a brother and sister. I like that element because both characters bring different strengths and weaknesses to the gameplay. They also have very different personalities. Jacob is the male twin and he's the brawler, comic relief, and the 19th century Romantic. His sister Evie is much more serious, the strategist, motivated, and more traditional with her views as an assassin. She's also the one who uses the epic cane sword, which I really appreciated. Both of them are fighting against the Knight Templars who are corrupting Victorian England. The player takes over various parts of England, including Whitechapel, Westminster, London, and other well known cities. Basically, you're building and leading a rebellion. I really enjoyed the open world environment. Syndicate has accessibility to lengthy streets, lots of buildings, horse drawn carriages, and even landmarks like Big Ben. The cities are full of people who are friends and foes alike. Jacob and Evie use their skills and gauntlets to leap with great ability across buildings and machinery. I thought the acrobatics were a lot of fun and an effective way to evade villains. As the gameplay continues, the main characters level up and build more skills. For example, you'll learn how to pick locks and open areas that were previously inaccessible. I also thought the storyline was interesting. It's probably not historically accurate, but at least Syndicate shows some of the conflict and misery that occurred during the Victorian period. In real life, there were quite a few problems in Victorian England, such as high unemployment, filthy living conditions for the working classes, poverty, child labor, prostitution, unsafe working environments, sky high crime rates, and other issues. Most of these problems are creatively addressed in the game. Is the scenery beautiful? Realistic is probably more accurate. The wealthier parts of Victorian England are quite pretty. Other areas look like run down slums and I found it relatively accurate. Steampunk fans rejoice! Syndicate takes many steampunk elements like steam power, clockwork mechanics, wacky gadgets, anachronisms, and factory mayhem. The gauntlets and cane swords also seemed to fit the steampunk motif.
What are the bad parts? I really can't complain about much, but there were some imperfections. It takes a really long time to level up and build new skills. You can also create new outfits that will help the game's progress. The player steals a lot of money along the way, but many items are really expensive. It takes a lot of patience to save enough money to build adequate weaponry, clothing, and supplies. Leveling up is a real grind. I like to push through the game levels and storyline, but that's not easy to accomplish. Many enemies are too strong until the main character levels up and becomes stronger. Therefore, it's necessary to undertake a lot of side missions and quests that will speed up the leveling up process. I feel like it burns up a lot of time and detracts from the main objective. This game might be disappointing if you primarily want to play in stealth mode. Certain areas and objectives require stealth approaches, but Syndicate largely emphasizes open combat. Sometimes, lengthy brawls with multiple enemies can attract unwanted attention from other villains. At that point, I felt mobbed by enemies and my only chance to survive meant fleeing like a coward.
Overall, I thought Assassin's Creed: Syndicate was a fantastic game. I would recommend to action gamers and steampunk enthusiasts. It's definitely one of my favorites. Have fun and I'll write another post next week.
Writing Steampunk: World Building
I'm continuing my blog series about writing steampunk fiction. One of the most important elements in steampunk is creative and retro futuristic world building. Usually, steampunk fiction includes environments that are larger than life. It uses industrial backdrops that are almost entirely powered by steam. World building can be one of the most challenging elements writers because it's daunting. Where can you possibly start? Never fear because it's not as difficult as you might imagine.
Don't overcomplicate the situation. Build your environment with one component at a time. Remember the most important parts of a steampunk environment. Think of it like a massive Industrial Revolution. You're going to see factories, rotating gears, steam powered vessels, iron machinery, clockwork mechanics, boiler rooms, and so on. I find it easier to build retro futuristic cities first and then add the smaller elements. What does a city need? How can you use steam power for the citizens of these cities? A city needs electricity or some source of energy. Perhaps you can use steam power as an alternative energy source. Cities need buildings and infrastructure. Think about your architecture. Many steampunk authors take influences from Victorian architecture and incorporate it into their cities. You'll also need transportation. It's very common to see horse drawn carriages and steam powered vehicles like trains. Your scenery needs to appear practical for the characters, even though it's rooted in fantasy. If you're going to include huge steam powered submarines, you need to find a purpose for them. It's easy to throw in too many trinkets and gadgets. You have the right to create all kinds of steampunk inventions, but make sure it makes sense for your storyline and characters.
Like I said before, steampunk is a highly visual genre. Fortunately, resources are easily available. The simplest beginning is to use Google or another search engine for steampunk designs or scenery. There are many drawings and graphics that illustrate massive steampunk environments. Even though every artist has a unique take on steampunk, you'll see a lot of common themes. Reading steampunk novels can be helpful because writers are usually very descriptive about their backgrounds. I also find steampunk movies and video games helpful for those who enjoy such hobbies. In cinema and gaming, you'll see huge open world environments that provide a plethora of elements that could be useful. Concerning films, I recommend The Golden Compass, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Victor Frankenstein, The Time Machine, and Van Helsing. For games, I prefer Dishonored, the BioShock series, and Thief. When it comes to steampunk media, you'll probably notice that some environments are bright and shiny with an utopian theme. Other steampunk environments are dark, gritty, and gloomy. Either type can work, but it depends on your plot and thematic material. More recently, some authors and media are adding post-apocalyptic elements to steampunk. For example, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker book series takes place during a zombie infestation in the United States.
My book series also has a post-apocalyptic element. It's actually the reason why I chose steampunk as my primary genre. I wanted an excuse for mankind to rebuild the United States in the wake of a post-apocalyptic event. A great Industrial Revolution seemed like a good choice. After I chose steampunk as my genre, I had to find creative ways to build a Victorian revival. Some people believe taking elements from the past is a great way to build a better future. Once I figured that part out, I crafted the way my cities looked. Then I added the little gadgets and gizmos. See how it works? It needs to be a macro structure first and then you can create the micro elements. Is there a particular invention you created, but you can't find a purpose yet? That okay. Make a side note for yourself. After you start writing the story, you'll eventually find a purpose for it.
This should help you guys get started. If you have questions, leave a comment. I would be happy to answer your questions and I'm sure other steampunk enthusiasts could help as well. Stay tuned for future blogs about writing steampunk fiction. Have a great weekend and I'll find more topics to talk about.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.