I'm going to give any spoiler-conscious readers who were foolish enough to click on that headline one chance to get away. Let me be as clear as possible: This article contains major spoilers for Assassin's Creed Syndicate and one of its biggest surprises. Please do not read further if you don't want that surprise ruined for you.
To help give some space for anyone who ended up here by accident and doesn't want to see spoilers, here's a picture of a dog in a purse in Assassin's Creed Syndicate:
Alright, then, for everyone who's still with us, on to the good stuff!
If you happened to play last year's Assassin's Creed Unity, you may remember a number of surprising setpieces where the character was suddenly thrust out of the French Revolution and into other time periods. These were memorable segments, but they were also very brief (not to mention plagued by the many other problems at the heart of Unity).
Syndicate has a similar idea, but taken to a much grander, more ambitious level. In my review, I mentioned "one particularly cool and lengthy segment I won't spoil that absolutely struck me as the kind of thing that Ubisoft would normally have tried to section out and sell as DLC." That segment takes place in World War 1-era London.
As you can watch for yourself in the video above, at a certain point in the game, I was randomly browsing the world map when I noticed an icon on the very edge of the river Thames. I'm honestly not sure when this showed up or what caused it. The game doesn't draw attention to it. It may just show up when you've reached a certain point in the story, or it may be tied to a collectible, although I certainly wasn't a completionist when it came to grabbing every shiny in Syndicate.
Whatever the case, it showed up in my game around halfway through, during Sequence Six. When I approached the strange symbol, I realized that it was a portal of some sort, and I was lured in by a strange voice that may be familiar to long-time fans of the series and its weird meta-plot.
When you accept the mission, the portal transports you to London in the middle of World War I, putting you under control of Lydia Frye — presumably a descendant of one of Syndicate's protagonists, the twin siblings Jacob and Evie Frye. Rather than a single brief sequence like the Unity history-hopping levels, Lydia's World War I sequence is a full (albeit smaller) open-world area, with its own collectibles and a fairly lengthy set of missions.
It's basically a miniature stand-alone Assassin's Creed game hidden inside of the full, giant Assassin's Creed game you're playing.
If that's not cool enough, the World War I sequence also has some stuff lore buffs will get excited for. As you clear missions and open-world activities as Lydia, you'll be able to view snippets of a monologue by possible series big bad Juno. She tells the story of the First Civilization and provides some very strong hints of where the overarching narrative of the Assassin's Creed series is moving from here.
Oh, also Lydia Frye straight up tells Winston Churchill that she wants the right to vote. That's pretty bad-ass.
This whole sequence is just a really awesome surprise, and it's kind of incredible that Ubisoft kept it almost entirely secret prior to release. I'd have half expected someone there to decide that it needed to be part of the marketing materials, just to show how big and ambitious the game is. Instead, it's something wild and unexpected that you could even totally miss if you're not paying close attention.
Kudos, Ubisoft. More of this, next time, please! For more on Assassin's Creed Syndicate, check out our tips to getting the most out of your time with the game.