Version Tested: Xbox One
Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC (November 19th)
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Genre: Stealth Adventure
Where To Buy: Xbox Live, PSN Store, Steam, Local Retailer
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has had a lot of skepticism leading up to its release. The series has, to many, become stagnant and with the previous installment being riddled with bugs; this could have been the beginning of the end for the saga. Thankfully that is not the case. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has been created with the support of fan feedback. If you have seen Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films, this feels like the interactive version. Funny dialogue, bare knuckle fighting with a soundtrack that blends orchestral strings and industrial sounding percussion makes Assassins Creed Syndicate awesome. This entry is fun, captivating and a wonderful depiction of Victorian London.
The capital of England takes center stage and this is not simply the location of the game, but the foundation of everything that surrounds it. The characters, story, and missions are forged from this backdrop which makes the game feel complete and consolidated. Assassins Creed: Black Flag was a great experience because it was essentially a pirate game with assassin elements; this is a Victorian tale with assassin elements.
London looks beautifully grim with smoking chimneys and bad weather but at times the sunlight will break through to reveal the beauty of the landscape around you. It is the best depiction of London I have seen in a game. The 19th Century is the most contemporary setting so far in Assassins Creed and as there is an abundance of recorded history available; Ubisoft has been able to create a riveting recreation. You’ll see child workers being abused by their money hungry bosses and desperately poor folk pickpocketing their way through life. This era also allows for engaging and varied missions. Unethical human experimentations and the robbing of the Bank of England are just a couple of the events you’ll witness. As this is the Industrial Revolution, your base is a steam train which parades around the city in real time. You can hop off whenever you like and you’ll see it pass by as you embark on other activities. When you encounter The Thames, you’ll see a constant flow of trading ships clogging the river. When you don’t feel like taking the bridge, you can hop between the boats like a modern game of Frogger. All of these details bring the world to life in a way that I’ve never seen an Assassins Creed game before.
You play as the Frye twins Jacob and Evie and they are the best protagonists to date. Jacob is the reckless, wise-cracking brawler whereas his sister is the level-headed, more pragmatic sibling. They complement each other perfectly and playing as both is gratifying. They are already members of the Assassins Order so thankfully there is no need for an origin story here, you are instead on a grand mission of liberating London from Templar control. The two each have a different approach as to how they intend to accomplish this feat.
Both individuals have their own skill tree which develops as you amass experience points. Although there are unique abilities for each, for the most part, their skill set is the same. Evie has the ability to become invisible when she is not moving whereas Jacob has enhanced fighting skills. The premise of creating two separate assassins is an ambitious one but by the time you reach level 10 they are essentially identical, meaning their distinct identities become void.
The story here is light-hearted and amusing. This is in part because of the twins and also the world around you. The English are renowned for their unique sense of humor and Assassins Creed Syndicate recreates this well. As the story is essentially you liberating London, you’ll meet a lot of residents and they are all unique and intriguing. You’ll meet Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and Florence Nightingale to name just a few. All of which give you missions that relate to the overarching story as opposed to unrelated side quests seen in past games. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate manages to connect every element together and everything you do feels relevant and productive. Jacob and Evie assemble their own gang, The Rooks, at the start of the game and you’ll fight rival factions as you conquer territories. You’ll assassinate targets, emancipate children and arrest criminals. This all culminates in a huge gang war in the streets. The whole process is fun and pretty addictive. The activities can become repetitive and more variations would have been welcomed however the gameplay is so enjoyable that it never becomes a nuisance. The main story builds at a steady pace, but the ending is a bit stale. The final fight seems out of place within the established setting and the final battle as a whole is anticlimactic. However, my time with the Frye twins was rewarding and you can choose to embark on additional missions once the main game has concluded.
Returning Assassins Creed players will immediately feel accustomed to the gameplay. Combat and traversing will be embedded within your muscle memory but this year, the developers have introduced the grappling hook and carriages. The grappling hook is easily the best addition to the series in a long time. With London being vertically daunting, climbing is made easier with the hook. Simply standing at the bottom of a building and pressing a shoulder button will launch you into the air and you’ll be on top of the obstacle within seconds. You can use the grappling hook to cover ground too, but it is not as accurate as I would’ve liked. Sometimes you may want to cross a gap which you cannot jump across and you are simply not given the choice to use it. That being said when it works, it really gives you a new effective tool on the battlefield. You can fly between buildings with ease and eliminate enemy snipers before descending into the field. Combine this with the arsenal of weapons at your disposal and you feel like a true assassin.
Horse and carriages are everywhere in London, sometimes there are too many. The streets are wider than ever in an Assassins Creed game and getting around the world is now more efficient. Some of the paths through the city can be narrow though and riding them can be tricky. You can hijack a carriage, much like a GTA game, and commandeer it all across London. They control reasonably well and you can engage in combat whilst riding. You can either shoot enemies from the comfort of your seat or if you are feeling adventurous, you can leap upon the top of your carriage, jump onto the foe and execute him.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate deserves a lot of credit. Not only have the developers bounced back from the harsh criticism of the prequel, they’ve created the best game in years. They have removed the lackluster features which made the series feel dated and rejuvenated the saga with new and exciting ideas. Having lived in London for many years, I really feel that Ubisoft has done the city justice and I will be returning to complete everything that it has to offer. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has achieved something I never thought possible, it has rekindled my love for the series and I pray that they continue this forward thinking in the future.