The 2014 launch of Assassin’s Creed: Unity was met with backlash from gamers and critics alike, who were quick to criticise the title’s numerous bugs, frame rate issues and game-crashing glitches. Whilst Ubisoft attempted to put things right with an apology and numerous patches, fans of the series had alright set their sights on the series’ next instalment, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.
Set in London during the Industrial Revolution, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate follows twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye. The siblings have come to the Big Smoke in the hope of interrupting the reign of Crawford Starrick – a Templar industrialist who controls the gangs running the streets of London. Meanwhile, running parallel to 1868 storyline, is the present day plot in which the Assassins Initiate are tasked with reliving the memories of assassins.
For the first time in the history of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Syndicate allows players to freely switch between its two main protagonists: Jacob and Evie. The former is your standard rogue that returning players will instantly familiarise with, whilst Evie particularly favours the stealth approach.
The twin assassins each have their own story strand, with Jacob’s primary goal being to eliminate the Templars by building up a gang, known as the Rooks, whereas Evie is in search of the Piece of Eden – a technically advanced device. Despite their differences, there’s a really enjoyable chemistry between the protagonists, with a friendly sibling rivalry making them extremely relatable.
Both Jacob and Evie have their own skill trees, with players able to upgrade each assassin’s health, strength and finishing moves, among other abilities. The system, which works by spending skill points obtained through earning XP within quests and free roam, has been well implemented, providing players with the extra assistance they require to overcome some of the game’s tougher opponents.
Throughout Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, players will meet a host of notable figures, including novelist Charles Dickens, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, nurse Florence Nightingale and biologist Charles Darwin. Each one sets off a series of missions, ranging from bounty hunts and child liberation from the terrible conditions of Victorian factories to liberating Blighter strongholds and hijacking cargo. There’s a great mission variety to ensure Syndicate doesn’t feel repetitive.
Unsurprisingly, the assassinations prove to be the most exhilarating missions, catering for different play styles with multiple ways in which to assassinate the target. For example, in one instance, players are required to assassinate a doctor, which can be achieved by lying on a stretcher and being wheeled into the auditorium in which the target is teaching. Other methods include utilising Evie to sneak into one of the entry points or opting for Jacob to infiltrate the building with his all-guns (or should that be all-knives?) blazing approach.
Combat has also received an update and is now more fluid than ever before. The assassin arsenal includes a range of weapons including hidden blades, swords and knuckle dusters, although combat predominantly remains a case of countering enemy attacks and breaking through their defence. Whilst it may not have the smoothness of the Batman Arkham series, the execution moves are equally satisfying as they are brutal.
Nevertheless, Ubisoft’s biggest achievement with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is bringing 1860s London to life. Each of the six boroughs (Westminster, Strand, City of London, Whitechapel, Southwark and Lambeth) is brimming with smoke rising from factories, the hustle and bustle of passengers at the train stations and boats sailing up and down the River Thames. Not only does it make for a beautiful setting, but it’s also highly authentic of the era.
Getting around London is an easy task thanks to the implementation of a rope launcher, which allows Jacob and Evie to traverse and scale iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London like a Victorian Spider-Man. Syndicate also sees the introduction of vehicles, including horse-driven carriages and trains. The horse-driven carriages provide the basis for some exhilarating street chases, whilst the trains are unreliable (no change there then).
One of the major issues with Assassin Creed Unity was the sheer amount of bugs and glitches that plagued the title, although it seems the development team have learned from the series’ past mistakes. That’s not to say that bugs and glitches aren’t present in this latest instalment, although those evident are only minor annoyances within the overall experience and are not to the game-breaking level as before.
Syndicate is the first Assassin’s Creed title in recent years to omit multiplayer game modes, presumably to have an increased focus on developing and polishing the single player. Nevertheless, there is still heaps of replayability within the single player because of the sheer wealth and variety of missions and collectibles (such as helix glitches and chests) on offer. Reaching 100% completion is by no means an easy feat, but it’s certainly rewarding.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is the much-needed boost the franchise needed. This latest instalment revels in the Victorian setting with a combination of excellent storytelling and enjoyable gameplay. The former is largely down to the well-structured plot and the sharp dialogue, whilst scaling buildings is now smoother than ever before thanks to the implementation of the grappling hook. This is the best Assassin’s Creed title since Brotherhood.