Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

Published by Daniel Bennifer on October 22, 2015 12:01 pm
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Explore the criminal underworld of Victorian London and free the masses from corruption as Jacob and Evie Frye in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has quickly become staple within the industry. Beloved for its open-world environments, storytelling and combination of history and science-fiction. Since its debut almost eight years ago, we’ve fought the age-old battle between the Assassins and Templars during the Third Crusade, the Italian Renaissance, the American Revolution and French Revolution, and even the Golden Age of Piracy. Though, it is the setting of the latest entry into the series that might be the best yet.

The setting – specifically – is London, 1868. At the very height of the Industrial Revolution. An incredible age of invention that is pushing the city further into the future. Yet, lurking beneath the surface is an ugly truth. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening at an alarming pace. Exploitation and corruption wreak havoc on the lives of the masses.

It is here where we step into the lives of Jacob Frye and Evie Frye, twin Assassins raised under the Brotherhood to follow the Creed. A first for the franchise, players will have the opportunity to take control of two assassins, individually, as they fight back against the forces that seek to control the city and in the process, free it from tyranny.

Easier said than done. The Templars have complete control of London. Sitting at the top and ruling supreme is Crawford Starrick, the Grand Master of the British Rite of the Templar Order, who along with his henchman, run the city with an iron fist – and they don’t plan to hand it over. Throw in the fact that a Piece of Eden is located somewhere within the vicinity of London and you have a lot at stake.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PS4 and PC

The introduction of two assassins at once into the series creates an interesting new dynamic. They each have a different plan for how to tackle the situation at hand – despite having the same goal – as to how they can return the city to the people. This is bolstered by their very personality and comes into play throughout the course of the story itself. Jacob is hell-bent on eliminating the Templars, whilst Evie is focused on recovering the Shroud of Eden before they do – ensuring they cannot use it to further enslave humanity.

When it comes to the story, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate it has it all. There’s revenge, betrayal, bonding between brother and sister, and even some romance. As has become tradition, there’s also a memorable cast of characters, including the likes of Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin – among numerous others.

Despite this, it never feels like it truly reaches its full potential. This, is often due to pacing issues or missions that add little or no value to the development of the story. It’s a tad disappointing and can be off-putting at the start. Luckily, the pace picks up towards the latter half of the game. It’s where the most substance is to be found – and is worth pushing forward to experience.

The modern day setting also makes a return – who didn’t see that coming? However, in comparison to previous instalments, its rather insignificant. At least, in terms of how often it makes an appearance and in what capacity it does so. Instead of actively participating in missions set during this time period, it is told through a series of webcam-esque videos, that follow Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane, along with a few new faces.

This, will likely be a blessing to those who never cared for the science-fiction aspect, and instead want to get back to the historical action. Yet, the plot really thickens by the end – and might make you think twice about that.

An interesting addition – and one that Ubisoft has managed to keep under its hat throughout the development – is a third time period, which lets players take control of Lydia Frye, the granddaughter of Jacob Frye and grand-niece of Evie Frye. Set within a small area of London during World War I, it shows the sheer potential the series has as it approaches more modern periods.

The gameplay formula, whilst remaining true to the legacy of the Assassin’s Creed series, has been modified and expanded upon – though the core remains. The biggest and most significant change is simply the ability to swap freely between Evie and Jacob at any given time. Though, it would have been nice to be able to do so, without the need to access the menu. However, upon opting to swap to the alternate character, the change is made within mere moments.

 

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has it all. It's gritty and brutal. An absolute winner.”

The beauty of open-world Victorian London is utterly mesmerizing. Coupled with the gritty and brutal gameplay, it is an absolute winner.

They each come with their own unique gameplay style. Jacob’s tends to lean towards fierce and brutal combat, whilst Evie’s relies more on stealth. It’s a fantastic idea – to have different characters representing each gameplay approach. You’ll quickly pick a favourite based upon the style you prefer. However, you’ll have to swap back and forth between them on a regular basis. Certain missions – story and otherwise – can only be completed by a specific twin.

Both have a multitude of gear and skills that are exclusive to them, and can be unlocked based upon progress and the level of the character. To this end, experience earned through completing missions and combat is shared between both Jacob and Evie. This allows progress to be made much more swiftly – and upon reaching the max level, you’ll be almost unstoppable as either of them.

The action itself is predominately focused on close-quarters combat, of which is bloodier and more brutal than it has ever been before. The takedowns and finishing moves performed by both members of the deadly duo are stunning to behold.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PS4 and PCAs with prior instalments into the series, the action can at times be rather easy. Though, as the game progresses, and higher level opponents come into play – or you skip ahead a few boroughs – it will become slightly more difficult. This comes with the introduction of new enemy archetypes, which include Soldier, Brute, Watcher, Enforce, Lookout and Protector. Though, for most, these won’t present a significant challenge. Rarely will more than one enemy attack at any given time. I’d still like to see some difficulty options introduced in a few release.

Those who find themselves in need of a helping hand during a difficult mission can call on the help of the Rooks, the gang formed by Jacob, to combat the Blighters, the Templar-gang led by Maxwell Roth. Up to five allies can be called on, and will follow around the player, able to fight on his or her behalf. Similar to courtesans and mercenaries in previous titles, they can also be used to create a diversion. By taking over the boroughs of London, the presence of your gang will expand and eventually dominate all of London. Gang-specific upgrades are also available, of which will increase the level of your allies and introduce a number of new archetypes for recruitment.

There are a number of new methods of traversing the environment itself in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, as well. The open-world is bigger than ever before and London’s streets cater to masses of horse-drawn carriages, of which can be commandeered at any given moment, allowing one to get around quickly. The inclusion of this form of transportation means that the streets are wider than previous titles, leading to some rather large gaps between buildings.

The latest addition to the assassin arsenal: the rope launcher, eliminates this problem. It’s essentially a grappling hook, that allows the creation of ziplines from building to building – from a variety of different angles and positions. It can also be used as a method of ascending buildings and is far quicker than climbing. Furthermore, it can be used as a means of escape when you’re in a bind. All in all, it is quite possibly one of the most significant improvements to the franchise to date – we absolutely love it.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Despite the problems with the launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity last year, the game was arguably beautiful in action. The first instalment on the next-generation Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it had a lot to live up to. In my opinion, it succeeded with flying colours. So, I had rather high expectations for Syndicate in the visual department. Is it an improvement? Simply put, yes.

The biggest and most noticeable change, from my perspective, is the overall scale of the world itself. Victorian London is enormous – especially vertically. There is a massive amount of depth. This, is partly because the buildings – especially the most important, such as Big Ben and Bucking Palace – are reproduced at an almost 1:1 scale. It’s quite something, especially when climbing or performing a Leap of Faith from atop one of these architectural wonders. It’s a triumphant in open-world gaming.

You’ll constantly be pleasantly surprised by the beauty and grandeur of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. This is not only true for the open-world environment of Victorian London, but for the characters and everything within it.

As is customary, the primary characters which see the most screen time are given the most attention in this department. It’s always difficult to create a believable female protagonist – they’re still rarely seen in the industry today – but the development team have done an incredible job with Evie. Her brother, Jacob, is similarly top-notch all around. The models, textures and animations for both are fantastic and even the lip-synching is, for the most part, in tune. The icing on the cake, is the voice performance from and Paul Amos (Jacob) and Victoria Atkin (Evie), who truly bring them to life.

Outside of the twin protagonists, the rest of the cast – well, those that are considered prominent characters – are also worthy of a mention, including that of Henry Green and Frederick Abberline. However, two of the best performances come from the villains Crawford Starrick and Maxwell Roth. Though, they don’t truly come into their own, until the latter half of the game. But when they do, you’ll want more of it.

The overall experience is completed by an absolutely stunning soundtrack from Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory. It perfectly complements the overall atmosphere of Victorian London and takes it to new heights.

In closing, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has come a long way in the past eight years. The latest instalment, Syndicate is an outstanding addition to the overarching saga. Furthering the ever-waging battle between the Assassins and the Templars, whilst continuing the modern-day story. It is both beautiful and brutal, set within a gritty and realistic open-world that will provide countless hours of enjoyment.

Are you ready to take control of London and free the masses? Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is out on October 23 for Xbox one and PlayStation 4. It will release on PC in November.

 

The Verdict

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visual

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design

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gameplay

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story

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audio

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overall

9.0

9.0

9.5

9.0

9.0

9.0

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