Game Reviews

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review: Full Steam Ahead

After a few bad apples it’s understandable if fans of the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise are hesitant to make the leap of faith into “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” on launch day. The long-running franchise has seen its share of hits-and-misses over the last decade but the latest installment to the series is one of the more favorable offerings. The game cut-back on the side-content and online-modes this time around and instead, “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” offers a more concrete campaign for players to enjoy.

Last year’s “Unity” was at best a red-flag for the Ubisoft’s production team. The launch of the game was stuck in the mire with bugs, poor gameplay decisions and seemingly endless player complaints. I mention this because this is the first game since “Unity” to hit the market, meaning that it has to serve double-duty as a new installment and welcoming olive-branch to scorned fans.

The game cutout all co-op, there are no online multiplayer options and the mini-games have been removed to focus purely on single-player gameplay. It’s not a perfect installment, there are a few glitches and bugs here and there but “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” is a solid release at this point and one that is enjoyable and stable enough to explore.

The new title from Ubisoft has been completely rescaled, both in features and in gameplay. “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” was designed with a smaller sandbox, less online content and fewer characters to remember but all of those choices to cut down on the bloat made the gameplay much more enjoyable overall.

There’s still plenty to do in the game,  players will find themselves in 1868 London with a long-list of side-quests, assassinations, collectables and hidden secrets to uncover. Taking the role of protagonists in the game are Evie and Jacob Frye, twin Assassins that add some much needed depth to the franchise’s long-list of interchangeable leading-men.

Although the game takes place in London, it was hard not to draw parallels to Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” while stalking my way through the plot-lines. In the game players will assume the roles of both twins, depending on the mission at hand or from the player’s choosing. The twins are the leaders of a small street gang called The Rooks and they are plotting to overthrow the local crime boss in town. This kingpin is also a Templar and he goes by the name of Starrick. He’s a dangerous man with a stranglehold over all dealings in the bustling city and harbors and you will have to slither your way through his ranks in order to reach him.

The twins were my favorite characters in the game, working together that is, either one wouldn’t really hold up as well on his or her own without the other. This is true in gameplay as well as in character design. While you won’t find a broad character-arc within their story, they do have some witty dialogue moments and the voice actors bring a sense of charm and sincerity to both roles.

As I mentioned earlier, you can choose which of the Twins you would like control when exploring the city and taking down side-missions. The twins do have different abilities but there isn’t a drastic difference between the two.

I think many of the differences I felt while playing as the twins were in my head after getting to know them. One of the twins is much more cavalier than the other and when you have to dispatch a few armed guards without the use of stealth, I seemed to pick that Twin over the other. The same is true for the opposite, when I needed to be tactful and resourceful, the more cunning and calculating Twin in the story became my top-pick in that situation. They do have different traits but either twins can be stealthy and/or strong enough to take out a crowd of guards if the mission calls for it.

The game does allow you to make a few character development choices as you play, allowing you to run the game as a hybrid RPG, though significantly watered-down to fit the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise.

Just as they did in the previous installments, your daily activities and side-missions will shower you in gold, supplies and crafting materials. You will use these ill-gotten gains to bolster your arsenal and improve your crew. You need to gain EXP to gain skill points, once utilize enough skill-points you level-up and are able to obtain even better weapons, rigs and abilities.

You have a lot of wiggle-room in choosing what to do next. You can hunt for collectables, do side-missions, take back sections of the city to gain power and influence, or head-off into the main-story. The actual assassinations of “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” are well designed and reminded me of the original installments that were such a hit.

Open city combat still rests on the laurels of previous games, with the changes focusing more on optimization rather than innovation. You will still find that one guard that needs to be countered, while button-mashing attacks will have you quickly slashing and shooting your way through the lowly rabble.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate news 2015

This installment will also offer you a chance to play in the present but unfortunately it’s rather pointless. The franchise may have been better off if it never introduced the memory-jumping to begin with and instead just told the story of the Assassin’s through the ages, but it has been a constant since the very first game. I don’t think the ‘present’ timeline will wow any Assassin’s Creed fans but it does offer a sense of continuity from the previous games.

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed an Assassin’s Creed game as much as I have “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate”. While it may not be the radical progression that a few fans might have hoped for, it’s still a solid improvement over previous installments. It’s entertaining and stable, offering terrific set pieces and an exciting atmosphere for exploration and discovery. The new systems make traveling easier, character progression more rewarding and the set-design is one of the best in the franchise. The reminded me why I loved Assassin’s Creed, it’s cinematic moments are well crafted and the storyline was an exciting chapter in the overall plot of the games.

“Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” launches on PS4 and Xbox One on October 23, 2015 with pre-orders still available with free DLC. If you are looking for the PC release, that won’t hit STEAM until November 19, 2015.

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