I want to begin by apologizing that this review did not come out sooner than I would have liked. The reason for that being my general dislike for the franchise in the last few years. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate has been out for a week now and I was very hesitant to even purchase the game to begin with, but I must admit I was happy that I did. Those who endured the terrible launch of AC: Unity will be rewarded for their loyalty. For the first time since Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, I can safely say the game is what made the series enjoyable again.
The series picks up in London during the Industrial Revolution in 1868 and follows twins Jacob and Evie Frye. Yes, for the first time in the series, you can play as a female assassin in this entry. This is a nice addition as fans have been asking for a female lead for years. Anyway, the story revolves around the twins rebuilding the assassin presence in London so that they can battle the everlasting threat of the Templar order. So far it sounds like an A.C. game. I’ll dive into the story a little bit later but want to talk about the gameplay more than anything.
The series feels as though it found its way home after straying the last few years, and I say that in the sense that the creators didn’t feel the urge to fix that which isn’t broken. The character movement is fluid, the most fluid it has been since Ezio wore the robes during his saga. This is a breath of fresh air as I could not get over how bad the movement was in AC: Unity. I remember spending 3 days on one of the earlier missions in Unity because I was able to climb down the wall but could not climb back up the same one. That is not a problem here, and I am eternally grateful for that! Traversing the terrain is as simple as flicking a switch so to speak. You can climb buildings and jump roof top to roof top only to drop down and grab a horse carriage without feeling like it’s a chore.
The tools you use are not limited to just weapons but now can assist with gaining height advantages in a moments notice. The game introduces a grappling hook which is nothing new in the world of video games, but it is a welcome addition to the series. The grappling hook works similar to the way you may have experienced in the Arkham series but you can tell that it is not quite fleshed out yet. The grappling hook is convenient but it is limited in its use which was a bit of a headache for me at times, but this was very infrequent and did not ruin my interest in continuing the game. I would not be surprised if the next entry improves on this feature as it is already 80% reliable.
Combat has been improved, and it feels like again the creators looked at the Arkham series to inspire them. While the combat in AC 2 era games felt the best, the last few entries fell flat for me. Counters and dodges were always off on their timing which made the thought of combat almost unbearable. This isn’t so with Syndicate. At no time did I feel like I was overwhelmed by the enemies, and even when they were a higher level than my character, I was still able to hold my own because the button prompts were on point. The irony here is that I found myself playing with more of a stealth approach than previous entries, avoiding combat when I could. This may be because of my poor experiences with the previous entries or the fact that I still have Metal Gear Solid 5 fresh in my mind.
As for the story, I will not go into detail because I feel that if you were a fan of the earlier entries and were waiting for an installment to instill that same feeling you once had, then I cannot in any way spoil that feeling for you. I can tell you that the map is limited to London and while it feels big when traveling, I do not feel like it is the biggest the series has seen and that is great. The character will interact with historical figures that play a role in helping you achieve what you set out to do like previous entries, and you will get to climb all the landmarks you’d expect (first thing I did was set out for Big Ben). The game sets out to bring all the things you loved about the series without trying to Hollywood the shit out of it by making it bigger and more explosive. The game relies on story and character which is something I couldn’t be happier about.
One thing that is missing from the game (this might be because I cannot find it or just don’t care) is the multiplayer. Some people loved it, but I for one didn’t like the addition of multiplayer in a game that was story driven. It did not add anything substantial in previous entries and I would usually avoid it like the plague. There is no co-op either, and while that could be a bummer, you will barely even notice this is missing while playing the game.
Lastly, the game does something fun by making the player switch between both Jacob and Evie to progress the story. There are missions that both are involved, but just like GTA V introduced, there are character specific missions as well. The missions give the character multiple ways to execute them and thankfully if you do not get a perfect sync, you will not be penalized like previous entries. Each mission plays their part perfectly by effecting either both characters or the world around you. This makes every new mission more worthwhile as you try to fix previous events.
As for the twins… I like them, a lot. They remind me of Ezio in a lot of ways. Jacob is a jokester with a penchant for thinking he is unbeatable and tends to act before he thinks, very similar to a young Ezio when we first met him. Evie on the other hand is more of the Ezio we saw in Brotherhood and Revelations, she is more precise and knows that everything she does is going to have some sort of consequence. The characters embody these traits throughout the game and compliment each other in doing so. The game does a great job of making you feel like each character is your sibling. You will bicker, you will team up, you will feel general concern for one another.
Overall the game is what I had missed so much about the previous ones and tries to connect the series back to its roots. Every piece of the puzzle falls into place with ease and not once did I feel like I was just completing the game for the sake of not feeling like I wasted my money. I hope the creators will continue with this direction as the series was beginning to feel very stale and unnecessary for a bit there. If you were a fan of the series or looking for a good jumping point, this is your chance.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is published by Ubisoft and available on PS4 and Xbox One and will release on PC on 11/19/2015. The game retails for $59.99 at stores and for the digital copy.