Assassin’s Creed Syndicate sees the triumphant return of the historical franchise that has long been Ubisoft’s flagship title, since debuting eight years ago. This time around the game is focused heavily on the Victorian era and is developed by Ubisoft Quebec. Syndicate sets out to tell the intimate tale of twins, Jacob and Evie Frye as the pair glide and battle their way through the sometimes grimy backdrop and scenery of 1868 London, amidst the Industrial Revolution in a quest to regain London from the hands of the Templars. Similar in style to the character select found in Grand Theft Auto V, Syndicate is the first main Assassin’s Creed title to feature a playable female protagonist since Liberation.
Although new games have been released pretty much every year since Altair kicked off the mayhem in 2007, the gameplay mechanics have constantly changed and evolved. With your assassin not even being able to swim in the beginning, instead drowning if he touched water to sailing your own ship and partaking in naval battles while conquering forts and skinning animals. The latest instalment is the result of what would happen if Batman, Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed all put their keys in a bowl and well, the rest is history.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC, Playstation 4
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: 23 October 2015
Price: £39.99 [Disclosure copy provided by Publisher]
As far as protagonists go, Syndicate boasts two very unique but equally entertaining characters to fall in love with, on one hand we have Jacob Frye, who may often be perceived as a bit of a hot head fighter who excels when it comes to close quarters combat or brawling and on the other hand we have his older sister Evie, albeit by all of four short minutes, Evie unlike her at times thuggish brother specialises in the art of stealth, opting to use her intelligence and natural charm and wit as opposed to her more combat driven younger sibling.
Every game needs to have loveable main character, someone players can get to know while gaining some insight into, that unique bond brings both player and game closer together. Syndicate has not one but two and although the two twins are very different in style, regularly clashing they are equally likeable in their own way. As Evie, you spend a lot of the game revisiting areas your kill first, ask questions later brother has been to, to clean up the mess he has made. It was definitely a joy to watch their relationship and find out what makes them both unique.
The game begins back in modern day, trying to track down another Piece of Eden before the Templar’s figure out where it is. The story ties together all the events of the previous games, only this time you don’t actually control the present day, just watch a few cutscenes. To find the Piece of Eden, you’ll have to relive the memories of the twin Assassins who are hunting down the Shroud and trying to take down the ruthless Templar, Crawford Starrick, who is also looking for it, with the help of Lucy Thorne.
Starrick plays the role of the villain well, both controlling and oppressing London to keep the Templar Order in Power. He’s definitely an antagonist you’ll love to hate and as you work your way through London, dismantling his network to reclaim the city, you’ll look forward to your confrontation with him. You definitely don’t want to mess with him when he’s having a bad day and with Evie and Jacob destroying everything he’s worked hard and murdered to obtain, he’s about to have a lot of them.
Exploring Victorian London was a simply breathtaking experience, with London being the place of my birth, exploring it’s past in game form definitely held my attention. Ubisoft Quebec have truly captured the essence of the era with every corner enriched in history. I felt like a tourist with a camera around my neck and a map in my hand, desperate to check out all the game had to offer. Just a quick note though, if you poke the Palace Guards standing outside the palace, they don’t stand still, they retaliate with brute force, maybe that wasn’t introduced till later. My historic tour of the city was quickly cut short time and time again, with the gang known as the Blighters, rudely threatening me every time I walked past or existed near them, causing me to swiftly embed a blade into their throats.
The streets and buildings that line the City are incredibly well constructed, with a overwhelming amount of design and detail having gone in to Syndicate in order to make every single aspect of the game and avenue of Victorian London shine brightly. The cobblestone streets and bridges that run over the river Thames are very fitting of that era with fishing and commercial shipping boats floating gracefully beneath them. Assassins Creed titles encourage players to scale tall structures to gain a better view of the surrounding landscape, with Syndicate, one quick climb can have you face to face with what London is all about – Big Ben, The Houses Of Parliament, it truly is a glorious and humble sight.
Orphans and beggars lined the street, talking, sweeping and watching in horror as I climbed up buildings and ran over people with my horse and carriage with the police chasing me down like something out of Grand Theft Auto. Nothing is True, everything is permitted? You’re damn right it is, and that includes pulling people off their carriages to use for “Assassin” business, or getting to the next pub to taste all the beer in the game.
When you’re done taking screenshots of the city, there are many activities to do to liberate London. You’ll meet allies along the way and each will have a quest or activity for you to complete, be it hijacking cargo, freeing children from a child labour factory, races, fighting, kidnapping important members of the Templar Order or simply taking them out. Doing each activity clears the map and completing all in a district will unlock a gang war which, when completed will free the entire district. You’ll be rewarded for your help with each level of loyalty gained with your allies with weapons and schematics. You’ll also control a gang called the Rooks which can be upgraded and be called to aid during battles.
You can choose to complete the activities with either Jacob or Evie by switching in the menu at any time during free roam, story missions however are set and will have the required assassin’s logo on the mini-map. Progressing in the story, completing activities or simply killing the bad guys will grant you XP, for every 1000 you’ll earn a skill point which can be used to gain skills from three different trees, Ecosystem, Combat and Stealth. Both the combat and stealth trees have assassin specific skills due to Evie being stealth based and Jacob, combat. The skills range from lockpicking, regenerating more health and being more powerful in combat.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate lets you fully customise your outfit with different colours, capes and outfits rewarded to you. You can also dress up as previous Assassin’s including Ezio, Edward and Shao Jun. There are a variety of weapons within the three types available, all designed to make you a better killer while looking good at the same time.
Like other games, the era’s that are chosen have a lot of well known, talented and influential people. Syndicate is no different with players being able to assist Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell and even Queen Victoria herself. I remember when I first got to help Leonardo Di Vinci in the earlier titles and how amazed I was at doing a quest for such a well known person in history, I felt exactly the same way while speaking to the characters in this one, Assassin’s Creed games may just teach you history better than your teachers ever could, well apart from all the assassin stuff.
The main Assassination missions now have three opportunities to help you get closer to your target or sneak into that well guarded building. Kidnapping or killing important people in the area will help you get closer to your goal and are highlighted on the map with the option to identify each one and learn what needs to be done. Not all need to be completed to get the kill but they do make the process easier. The optional 100% sync requirements also make a return and some will prove tricky especially if you’re not allowed to kill anyone or be seen.
Stealth combat is made a lot easier with throwing knives, they are completely silent and will not raise the alarm of nearby enemies. They’ll walk over to the body, mutter something about losing another good guy and then resume as normal, at which point you can line up another headshot and dispatch of them immediately, one by one they fall until there’s none left and the whole time you’re just sat in one place. Melee combat adds combos and is Batman esqe in style, especially the fight clubs, where Jacob strips to the waist to beat the crap out of enemies in waves.
Ubisoft have recovered beautifully from the unfortunate events of last years Unity and have delivered a game fitting of not only the Assassin’s Creed series, but of a wonderful City, steeped in history. Ubisoft Quebec have captured every aspect of what it was like to be a Londoner back in the 1800’s quite brilliantly while introducing a story that will captivate fans of the games hearts with two very loveable characters, of course for each their own reasons.
The developers have added new elements, not seen before in an Assassin’s Creed game, such as the ability to ride upon a Horse drawn carriage through the beautiful streets of London while also being able to use a grapple hook to navigate the terrain at leisure. The series continues to grow and evolve into a better all round game with memorable characters and stories throughout. I can’t wait to see where my next adventure through time takes me.