Well boys and girls, it’s that time of year again when Ubisoft send new Assassins out into the world. Assassins Creed Syndicate is the latest instalment in the series and straight off the bat I have to say that it does not disappoint. I won’t dwell on Unity as I think I covered everything in my first impressions last year and I’m incredibly excited by the new game! The 19th Century. It seems crazy that it wasn’t all that long go in the grand scheme of things and it is a period in history which is well documented so I was very keen for Ubisoft and their researchers to get this one right. The Industrial Revolution. Darwin. Dickens. Marx. Franklin. High expectations from fans. Set in London, assassin twins Jacob and Evie Frye head to the big smoke to rid the Templar influence on the capital. So let’s begin….
First off, let’s talk about our protagonists. Jacob and Evie. They are great. Jacob is all about the fighting and having a little fun while picking on his sibling who is very focused on removing the Templars from London and retrieving a Piece of Eden. It’s a very good dynamic and it does mean that the story missions for both have different goals. I did wonder how it would work going between the two characters as initially I expected to just be Jacob most of the time with occasional Evie based missions but you can actually switch between the two which is really good fun. I must admit, as much as I like Jacob I have found myself playing Evie a lot more as she has the stealth which came in handy when clearing some of the high level boroughs. The one concern I did have was the levelling up as you earn XP and use your skill points to put into what you need. I thought you would have to do this on an individual basis which would have meant if you spend most of the time playing as one character, the other would be way behind but this was not the case and any skill points earned also carry over to the sibling which is really helpful! The cut scenes between the twins are usually a bit of a giggle and I really like these characters. Oh and if you’re one of these people who thinks ‘finally, a female assassin for us to play’…. you’re an idiot. Avaline was the lead characters in Liberation and more recently Shao Jun in Chronicles: China whose outfits are available for Evie to wear from the Ubisoft Club. Evie is not the first playable female assassin but she is awesome which cannot be denied and is technically not the only female assassin in the new game… but I’m not going to say anything more about that.
Other things the twins share are gear and weapons which you can change and upgrade depending on how you want them to look. Nothing is particularly character specific but if you upgrade one character it’s a good idea to look at doing the other or you might find yourself taking more damage or taking a long time to take down an enemy. Now the weapons are something which look to be the only thing which actually transfers across both characters so if you prefer the knuckledusters on Jacob but the cane on Evie, you will need to change this over. As cool as the other weapons are, I love the cane sword. It’s awesome and some of the cinematic kills are brutally brilliant especially if there are 3 enemies. I will admit, I haven’t really tried the others out because, CANE SWORD, but might have a play around while doing some of the side quests. Something I must encourage is picking up the Steampunk Outfits if you can, mainly because the gun is amazing. Not only is it stunning but if you upgrade it, it is insanely good so I recommend this for both characters.
So what about the rest of the game? Well, once you descend upon London, you can start clearing the boroughs and setting up your gang, the Rooks and get involved in the story. These boroughs are cleared by liberating children working in factories, kidnapping or taking out Templar targets, infiltrating gang strongholds before killing the borough Templar leader and having yourself a very brief gang war. Some of these have additional challenges for bonus XP but all in all these can be done over the course of playing the story, or depending on your level/gear you could spend a good chunk of time clearing as much as possible. There is a lot going on in this game as there are lots of mini side quests for you to do to gain rep with certain characters as well as chests, Helix glitches and other collectibles to seek out. If you picked up a special edition, you’ll have the Dickens and Darwin Conspiracies to get stuck into which are quite fun and a nice break from the story… in fact, I got very distracted by everything else I’ve been slacking with the whole doing the actual story bit. Something else to keep an eye and ear out for are music boxes as you’ll need these later on. Check your menu for the Secrets of London to locate the boxes and then head to the Vault on your map to unlock it. I haven’t found them all yet so am looking forward to finding out what’s inside! You also have a mobile hideout in the form of a train which is pretty fun but it’s worth dropping in every now and again to pick up your income and check in on your progress.
As with all past Assassins Creed games, the graphics have always been pretty good for the time the games were developed but Syndicate has taken it further. I must admit, it is stunning. Climbing up Big Ben and looking out over the Thames to the smog of the docks before turning to see the bright, richer side of the city. It might be because we live near London and so see these places regularly but it is fantastic. The researchers have definitely done their homework to get the AI together to create the right ambiance and really help get a feel for the time period. You can parkour all over the place catching a glimpse of life from above or hijack a horse and cart to get to your destination but either way everything about this game is pretty glorious when it comes to the setting. Even the boats on the Thames passing each other so you can hop across to get to the other side are great fun! Combat has been tweaked slightly with a new counter action and as I said earlier, the finishing moves are pretty brutal I actually seek out fights so I can mess some people up! But other than that, the combat is pretty smooth and solid with only the very occasional glitch and the first strike perk is awesome so be sure to check it out.
The other thing worth mentioning is the gang perks as these can help with your Rook presence in the city among other things. I do sometimes recruit a couple of Rooks to come help cause some trouble but do find that they can actually be a problem. In some of the stronghold missions, you need to free and protect your Rooks but if you let one of them go then they tend to run into battle which is super if you’re trying to stay undetected. But to help in a tight spot, it’s worth looking into spending a few quid on these perks to give you the upper hand on the streets but just be aware that they can be pricey and also use up materials you pick up from chests so you need to plan a little to ensure you can upgrade everything you need to. I haven’t noticed too many glitches although at one point Evie was talking to a ghost…. as in the other character wasn’t there but I think that was because I entered the ‘mission’ as Jacob rather than Evie. I also am a little unsure about horses laying dead in the road after a carriage altercation and as part of a mission I had to blow a cart up, but couldn’t get rid of the horses so ended up killing them!
I haven’t completed the game yet but at the time of writing this, I was at 63% overall which is pretty good considering I have been ill and working since the game was released. I have really enjoyed Syndicate and so far the story is very good although I am concerned that the ending may just happen and not have that wow factor. This worry mainly stems from the last few games (other than Black Flag) where the overall ending isn’t actually that amazing and can be seen a mile off. The fact that you don’t really leave the animus other than occasional cinematics showing you some crazy goings on outside of the simulation is actually a plus and you may be pleased to hear that there is a Rift side quest that you can delve into. I won’t talk about it on here but I gave it a go and absolutely loved it! In fact there are lots of little things I haven’t mentioned during this review but I’m a great believer in not having everything spoiled prior to playing a game. If you skipped Unity then I would recommend Syndicate as it is a vast improvement and will hopefully restore your faith in the series. So yes, it is another Assassins Creed game in a more recent period in history but it is highly enjoyable and I’m really looking forward to the Jack the Ripper DLC which I really hope will top it all off! Enjoy fellow assassins!