Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Reviewed on: PS4
Publisher: Megarom Interactive
Release Date: 23 October 2015
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has always been on the forefront of triple-A action adventures, but after last year’s release, fans of the series were left wondering if Assassin’s Creed Syndicate could make up for Unity’s terrible release. I am so happy to say that Syndicate is a massive apology to fans, no matter what happened last year. Think of Unity as that bad experience that we’ve now moved on from, rather than it keep us away from one of the best franchises in the industry.
Set in London during the Industrial Revolution, the Templars have taken full control over the City of London. Factories are filled with children slaving away, the streets are ridden with gangs and thugs, and every aspect of the industrial sector has some corrupt Templar behind it. That is where Jacob and Evie Fyre come in, born into the Brotherhood of the Assassins, they both want to rid the city of the Templar rule, and find the Piece of Eden that has been the talk of every Assassin’s Creed title to date.
For the first time in the series, you can now freely switch between Evie and Jacob when exploring the streets of London. Although they both have the same play style, their dialog and behaviour varies from one another. They also have their own set of skills that you can learn as you level up in the game. Keeping in mind that throughout the game they pretty much have the same set of skills, but only near the bottom of the skill tree do they actually benefit from having their own unique skills. These skills will only be unlocked once you reach level 7 or so, this makes playing as a certain character have no advantage over the other, unless you just prefer being Evie, which I did.
With this feature kind of pointless, the game makes up for it during main sequence missions. Each of these are specific to Evie or Jacob, and they focus strongly on the character’s goal in the game. Evie wants to find the Piece of Eden, while Jacob intends to bring down the Templars by taking out their main leaders behind each of the specific sectors. The story is great, London is full of things to do that don’t feel like Unity’s tedious side missions and redundant chest collecting. This time Ubisoft have opted in for a more detailed collection of side missions, which sees London divided into sectors and those sectors are controlled by a gang leader. Once you have taken out the leader’s control by eliminating their work force, corrupt importers, and saved all the child slaves from the factories, you will then go into a Gang War. The Gang War will then be won by defeating all the Templar thugs, and the gang leader. Once this has been completed you and your gang, The Rooks, will move into the taken territory, and it will no longer be occupied by enemies.
The more your grow The Rooks, the more powerful you will become while exploring London. You can recruit members of you gang with a press of a button and command them to fight enemies that will be patrolling the streets. Before you go into a factory to save children, you can command your gang members to head in and start taking out the security that hang around. This proves for a more tactical approach than calling a bunch of harlots to occupy a group of enemies while you make your move. Besides the usual sectors to take over, there are countless other things to do while exploring London. You can hijack shipping carriages, collect bottles and pressed flowers, and even pay Charles Dickson a visit and take on some quests he has for you.
This might all seem like quite a commitment given that London is massive and getting around could be a hassle, but thanks to the Rope Launcher, getting around has never been easier in an Assassin’s Creed title. Pressing the L1 button will instantly pull you up the side of a building when near its base, or will string rope across from one building to another. It is really something you need to experience to believe as the reach on the Rope Launcher is fantastic and there is always something in the distance to grab, making it a breeze to run across rooftops and explore the city. You can also fast travel to and from the best HQ in the series which is now on a train that travels around the city of London. This is your base of operations, where you will collect your income, start certain quests, manage you gang, and change your clothes. Keep in mind that all of this, besides collecting your income, can be done in the main menu too. For the first time in the series a horse and carriage is a mode of transport you can use. You can walk up to any of these and hijack its driver, and speed off into the distance, if you have a waypoint, it will show you in the mini map where to go.
Combat in the game has been re-done and it’s flashier and quicker than before. It does get a bit tedious at times, but it’s fun nonetheless. The combat relies on three major factors, your gear, your abilities, and your level. As you progress the game and do anything from collecting new pressed flowers, to killing enemies, you will gain XP that will go towards your character’s skill points. Earn enough skill points to unlock skills and you will reach a new level which will unlock new gear to equip. The gear ranges from capes and belts that will raise your throwing knives count, to revolvers, Kukris, brass knuckles, and sword canes. Each of these weapons have their own flow of combat as well as their own efficiency depending on your play style. You cannot equip more than one weapon, you have to decide on what type you will use and then try stick to it.
In combat you will attack with one button, block with another, and counter-attack with another. That is how basic it is, but it feels great as the combo moves and lethal kills really make you feel like a badass. On the other hand, the stealth abilities haven’t changed much and you still have your usual hallucinogenic darts, throwing knives and bombs that all make for usual Assassin’s Creed approach to stealth. If you are lucky, you can sting a rope above an enemy and take them out from above. This all gets better as you upgrade your equipment for both you and your gang, as they too have their own set of upgrades that will increase your stance in the city. Keep in mind that these upgrades need materials as well as money to unlock, both of which can be obtained by playing the game, or purchased in game with real money.
London itself feels like a feature on its own, it’s gorgeous and every landmark is on point. It feels alive and busy at al times and the Thames is something that really needs to be experienced for yourself. Sitting above the Elizabeth Tower looking at the smog in caused by all the factories on one side of the map, and then turning around taking in the view of the upper class houses, it looks and feels authentic.
On that note it is important to say that even though Assassin’s Creed Unity was extremely buggy, it still looked better compared to Syndicate. Syndicate is missing those gorgeous draw distances, sub-surface facial maps, and accurate water reflections that we got in Unity.
However Assassin’s Creed Unity treated you, it is important to forgive and forget what happened in the past and look into the future with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. It is great game with nearly zero bugs, and the lack of multiplayer means that the single player campaign is packed full of goodness. This is the greatest Assassin’s Creed since Assassin’s Creed II, and we all know how great that was.