Given the colossal failure that preceded it – the universally panned, and widely unfinished Assassins Creed: Unity – AC: Syndicate had a lot of pressure on it to not be a borderline, unplayable mess, and to restore the franchise to the lofty world of 4 star reviews that it was in it’s glory days.
Luckily, AC: Syndicate is more than up for the challenge, delivering a game that is better fleshed out, more streamlined and logical and noticeably less buggy than it’s predecessor. It’s by no means the perfect AC game (that award, in my mind, still stays with the masterpiece that was Black Flag) but it’s an excellent romp nevertheless.
Syndicate sees you playing as not one, but two assassins from the eponymous group of shadowy killers – the Frye Twins, Evie and Jacob. You switch between these two characters at will, and although they fundamentally run using the exact same control scheme and sets of abiltiies, we’re told that Jacob is better for combat and Evie is more inclined for stealth. I’ve seen little in the way of explaining this, but hey. Sure.
This fits in nicely with the twins personalities and goals – Evie is set on finding the one of the mysterious Pieces of Eden that have littered the timeline of the game, and she goes about this in a very organised and meticulous way.
Jacob, on the other hand, is closer to the standard mould for an Assassin in this franchise – aloof, jovial and humorous. His goal is to wrestle control of London away from the villainous megalomaniac Starrick, and he intends to do so by assembling a gang of citizens called The Rooks. Often this goals don’t completely line up, so you’ll find yourself bouncing between missions playing as either twin, trying to get to the bottom of their particular mystery at any given time.
The game takes little time to establish the plot – the long and short of it is that the twins are working for the Assassin’s Brotherhood somewhere outside of London, and get tired of waiting for a chance to take down the bad guys controlling the city. Against the advice of their leader, they sneak off to do just that. The writing of these characters is perhaps the weakest element of the game – especially Jacob, who’s attempt at being a jovial, cockney scamp come across as forced, cheesy and borderline obnoxious.
The gameplay mechanics in this iteration of AC are more of the same – a pretty much exact handover from AC Unity.
There’s nothing wrong with this, mind you. 99 times out of 100 these control schemes work really well, and on the rare off chance they fail, it’s usually human error. The addition of the ‘free run up’ and ‘free run down’ settings can be a bit tiresome at times. I can see why these were added, but I also can’t recall a time before they were introduced where I ever felt I needed to specify what direction I wanted to travel in.
There’s a great new addition of the rope launcher; a wrist mounted grappling hook that Evie and Jacob use to get around London a bit faster, shooting up buildings and making ziplines to travel back and forth between high and low points. This is a great addition and really speeds up the free roaming aspect of the game, and allows for a bit more control when attacking certain challenges.
Syndicate looks pretty damn good too. Perhaps not as good as Unity, oddly enough, but this is potentially because Paris is a much prettier city than grubby old London. But the moody tones of a city by gaslight, mixed with the smoke plumes of barges running up the Thames (a particular highlight) and the sounds of horses clopping along the cobblestones all work together stupendously.
With a lot to do around the edges of the main story missions, and a fair simpler, less cluttered currency system, AC Syndicate is a real joy to play and leaps and bounds ahead of the last AC outing.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, spurned by previous titles, this is a good place to leap back in. If you’re a newbie, this is one you’ll really enjoy.