Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

ac_syndicate

Release date: 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2015

After the disastrous launch of last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, it would be forgiven to go into the 2015 sequel, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, with some hesitation. Set in the 1860, in the middle of Victorian London during the Industrial Revolution, players take control of twins Jacob and Evie Frye as they attempt to uncover the Templar conspiracy taking hold of the city. The game features a faster paced combat system, and new ways to traversal the very vertical city.

+ new protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye are immensely likable characters. They play similarly to Batman and Catwoman (in regards to Batman: Arkham City), where Jacob is superior in combat, hitting harder and taking more to go down, but Evie is the stealth expert, and will go unseen far easier than her brother. Some missions are only playable as Jacob, some only as Evie, and a handful as either (whoever you are playing as at the time), which means you’ll need to make sure both are decked out in proper gear
+ much like Unity at its best, the game looks absolutely fantastic, including a new day-night cycle and weather effects. The combat animations are brutal, and there are some nice subtle facial moments between the twins, such as a double take or a sisterly glare
+ the gameplay has taken a far more Batman: Arkham approach, to combat, stealth and even traversal. The Frye Twins can now zip around the city using a rope launcher, not unlike Batman’s grappling hook, and the combat is far more fast-paced, focusing on combos and dodging, rather than the more methodical counter-kill combat of the past. Very thankfully, the Hitman-esque assassinations return, providing different ways to hide, approach the target and get the kill
+ the Twins’ voice acting, as well as that of primary antagonist Crawford Starrick are each fantastic. The random voices heard on the streets have the acceptable cockney twang to them, and the jargon and banter used is perfect
+ the side activities are hit and miss: Templar Hunts and Gang strongholds are good fun, and can be tackled either stealthily or aggressively, depending on the mood. The Fight Club is enjoyable, somewhat like the challenge rooms from the Arkham games

– there are many reused animations from Unity or earlier, such as the double assassination, and opening chests was disappointing. The Frye Twins are different (statures, combat preferences etc), from each other and Arno (Unity), Edward (Black Flag) and Shay (Rogue), and so seeing the same animations for each of them struck me a laziness rather than some sort of ‘world building’ technique every Assassin has
– the horse-and-cart driving did nothing for me, and I found it to be bother, intrusive and far too clunky. It was far easier to either zip-line, or just fast travel, and the few segments where the driving was mandatory rated as my least favourite
– it has become something of an expectation, but the story is nothing particularly amazing. Admittedly, the lack of a story is part of the story, if that makes sense, because the Twins just want to head to London to do what they can. So the lack of story makes sense, but the game still has a real lack of story
– the side activities are hit and miss: Bounty Hunts are frustrating, horse-and-cart races are boring and collectibles are too many to be a real ‘treasure hunt’, but far too few to be able to get them by just exploring

> I got lots of different vibes from both Dishonored and Fable 2, due to the setting and era. Also somewhat amusing considering that Dishonored 2 will feature both Corvo and Emily in the same ‘switch between the two’ gameplay
> The actor who played Jacob is the same who was Benjamin Hornigold in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag; now that I’ve told you, you won’t be able to stop seeing it. Sorry

Should you play this game: It is somewhat of a shame that this game had to be preceeded by Unity, because Syndicate does far more good than bad. The gameplay is different, for the better, the characters are likeable and the world is living and fleshed out. I enjoyed this game, perhaps the most since I played Brotherhood for the first time, and if you are wary of the game after Unity, don’t be – the game is good, and you’ll enjoy it.

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