Like many others, I had hopes and reservations for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. So, I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room. Can Assassin’s Creed bounce back after Unity? Yes, it can. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate follows the Frye twins, Jacob and Evie, in an adventure that causes them to leave their hometown in order to strike at the Templar’s stranglehold on London. From the first stir of trouble they cause in London, they are recognized by their father’s colleague, Mr. Green. He explains the plight of the people of London, and their father’s work of trying to uncover the location of a Precursor Artifact in the city. With the help of Mr. Green, Evie’s continues her father’s work, while Jacob focuses his efforts helping the people of London stand against the Templars. Evie stealthily combs London for clues to solve puzzles around the city in search of the Shroud of Eden. Jacob’s story finds him making himself the de facto leader of The Rooks, a disenfranchised gang who’s rival, The Blighters, are the Templar’s muscle in the streets. While the twins follow their own unique storylines in order to achieve their own particular goals, players are free to switch between the siblings while exploring the city of London. With their first conquered district, the Frye’s gain a mobile base of operations and the technology for the much anticipated grapple gun. London is quite a large area to explore, and the mobility that these two additions make city traversal more manageable. The other two modes of transportation that can be exploited are various carriages that can be found or hijacked, and the Thames River that is constantly bustling with ferry traffic that runs through the heart of London.
While the scale of their undertaking seems daunting, there are many historical figures to help in their quest. Early on the Frye’s meet Alexander Graham Bell, who facilitates the grapple technology, and introduces them to additional gadgets. Charles Dickens has mysteries to solve around London. Karl Marx introduces the twins to the plight of the workers. Other notable characters are Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale. Streetwise characters offer opportunities for street racing, fight clubs, and heists which offer unique gear and valuable crafting material. Every activity is more fun when you employ nearby Rooks. Heists are particularly exciting, and can occur in the streets or on the Thames. The boat heists on the Thames are particularly challenging as you must first steal the manifest, then mark particular crates within a time limit to increase your reward. Gaining new skills, upgrading the twins and acquiring new gear are the keys to success in London. Perks are unlocked by performing particular acts throughout the city, most notably the “Crowd Events” from Unity, where the Frye’s are rewarded for helping the citizens of London. Progressing through the story unlocks a Helix Glitch to a third playable assassin, Lydia Frye. She has a separate story from the twins that may tease future Creed titles. The story missions are pretty straightforward Assassin’s Creed fare; infiltrate, assassinate, exfiltrate. What I appreciated was what happened during the post-assassination cutscene when either twin daubed the blood from their victim’s throat with a handkerchief. I haven’t seen that since Altair confirmed his kills with a blood-soaked feather. That is fan service.
What I like best of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is that it seemed to pull from the best of prior titles while discarding much of the fluff and tiresome activities that plagued previous titles. While already mentioning the Crowd Events, the free run decent was the best part of Unity, and it is present here. Lockpicking is simply a button prompt if you are skilled up enough, rather than a distracting minigame. Crafting and material acquisition are more simplified like Black Flag and Rouge, unlike Revelations and ACIII. During combat, there are now button combos utilizing straightforward attacks and gadgets which is brand new.
I did find myself visiting the Start menu more often than in previous games as this is where all character, gang, and gear upgrades are bought. Although this was appropriate given the scope of management required. The grappling hook is a new addition to the assassin arsenal. It allows for rapid ascent or decent about and between buildings. The grapple is also useful for the out of reach air assassination, or a rapid exit from combat. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate has incorporated the latest in gaming, for there are now microtransactions for Helix points which can be used to buy other cheats in the game like maps and in game currency. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, despite its two playable characters, is a single player experience with no online play. Two notable omissions from previous titles are the pub games, and the modern day playable areas have been replaced with short cutscenes.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate has combined the best of previous titles and cut the more overly complicated activities that usually pulled the player out of the experience. The use of actual places and historical figures that the series is known for gives an air for what the time period was like. Introducing two playable characters each with their own agendas helped to create a more sprawling storyline. The Rooks gave a new aspect of gameplay allowing Jacob and Evie to recruit members off the street to aid them on an activity, or just cause general mayhem for no reason at all. With the new additions and more streamlined story and gameplay, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate has the series headed in the right direction.
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Review for Xbox One
Review code provided by Ubisoft