It’s autumn time and with the falling leaves comes the yearly release of Assassin’s Creed. In AC Syndicate, you’ll play as twin Assassins, Evie and Jacob Frye, tackling the troubles of Industrial Revolution England by, what else, stabbing them in the neck. While Syndicate does come out ahead of last years oft maligned AC Unity, does this new sentry offer enough to satisfy longtime fans and bring in new ones? Find out below.
Opening with tutorial missions set in the English country side, you are quickly thrust into the mix as both Jacob and Evie are already fully fledged Assassins. After learning of the Templar’s control over London and their search for a new piece of Eden, the twins hop a train and strike out on their own. You play as both Jacob and Evie and can switch between them at any time outside of missions. Jacob missions revolve around building up a gang of hooligans and causing havoc to disrupt the control over the city held by Crawford, the Templar leader in London. Meanwhile, Evie is focused on not letting the powerful Eden artifacts fall into the wrong hands.
And if you understood very little of that last sentence, that’s Syndicate’s biggest issue in a nut shell. For those not already embroiled in the battle across history between Templars and Assassins, Syndicate does very little to fill in newcomers. The present day parts of the game are still present but there is no context as to why, the general assumption being that the big mystery leading up to the release of the first game as been well and truly spoiled for the masses and theres no real need to go into it.
Of course, if you’re not going into this game for the story, but instead, are looking for an open world romp around the Victorian Era, there is nothing out there like it. AC Syndicate looks gorgeous, bringing this famous city to life complete with all the poverty, smoke spewing chimneys, trains, and clockwork gadgets. Many of the technical issues that plagued Unity are gone and the character models all look nice, even if some characters come off a little more cartoonish. The city feels crowded, and you will always come across rival gang members spoiling for a fight, patrolmen, street kids willing to lend a hand and friendly gang member, loitering around and waiting for you to order them into brawls.
The game also offers plenty of side quest out side of the main, go-here-spy-on-them-kill-him/her gameplay that the series has become accustomed to. You can liberate child workers from factories, rob trains for extra cash, help famous people like Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens solve mysteries, and take over territory, one tiny piece at a time.
The territory part is another big element that can draw players in. Upon your arrival, Jacob and Evie quickly dispatch of the local gang leader, claiming that piece of property for themselves. One look at the map shows just how much territory there is to wrestle away from the Templar aligned Blighters gang. Although outside of a decreased presence of rival gang members wanting to kill you for merely walking down the street, I didn’t notice a huge incentive to take control of these areas. Then again, I wasn’t on the street very often.
Syndicate brings back the controls present in Unity. Entering a crouched sneak state happens with the push of a button, while holding the right trigger makes either assassin free run in the famous parkour style. Engaging either X/A or O/B causes you to climb up or climb down quickly. It’s still as clunky as ever at times, with your character trying to climb sideways when you want to go up, or not jumping down where you want them too. Ever since the beginning, Assassin’s Creed as had a unique control scheme that works, but just barley, and will often times kill you on accident. But with no better alternative, it seems Ubisoft is sticking with the tried, but not always true, for now.
That being the case, there are still new ways to get around. Since this is a time of inventive experiments, the Frye’s are now equipped with a grappling line, allowing you to quickly ascend to roof tops or zipline from building to building, greatly reducing the headache inducing instance of trying to get from point A to point B only to find that the gap between building is just a little too far for your super assassin to jump.
If you do manage to get your feet on the ground there’s another new surprise, Grand Theft Carriage. Basically every horse drawn cart is yours for the taking. And they are tanks. While the carriages do take damage over time, you can run over street lamps and people, and ram other cart with gleeful joy, and almost no consequences. If you want to get somewhere far and quick, but don’t don’t have a fast travel waypoint, its a handy option.
Between all that sneaking and carriage driving, inevitably, you will got spotted and have to engage in combat. While adding in some basic combos, a defensive break, and attacking with your ranged weapon as a quick shot are all nice, if your anything like me, you’ll find yourself resorting to the rhythm of attack, attack, attack, wait for the glow above an enemies head, and counter attack. It’s basically the default setting in most character action games now, and should seem familiar to most players. This isn’t a bad thing mind you. I always had control over the characters attacks, and unless there was a poor camera angle, I had plenty of time to counter other aggressors. But it also bring very little new to the experience. And that works here, because in Assassin’s Creed, stealth is usually the best choice anyway.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate offers the best experience in the series since Black Flag. It is a finely put together game with nice graphics, solid gameplay, and an engaging story. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll find very little to complain about, outside of normal AC quirks. However, if this is your first Assassin’s Creed game, the story will leave you confused and possibly unengaged because of it. I would suggest going into it with a mind for open world exploration and assassinations across a very cool setting.