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Review: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

A new year, a new Assassin’s Creed. That’s the way it’s going for a couple of years now and the franchise was never this big. Ubisoft invest a lot of their budget into Assassin’s Creed and makes sure the quality doesn’t get lost. Last year marked a disappointment. Assassin’s Creed: Unity wasn’t that next generation Assassin’s Creed everybody hoped for. This year, Syndicate takes us to a Victorian London and shows us how a true Assassin’s Creed game should look like.

Two new assassins

A new game also means we’ll control a new assassin. Syndicate introduces two new assassins to the franchise. Jacob and Evie Frye are the notorious assassin twins, known for their brutality and stealth precision. These two characters are without a doubt the best new assassins since Ezio. Unlike Arno (Unity), you’ll immediately feel a certain connection to our new heroes. Although they are twins, their characters differ a lot. Jacob is a brutal fighter that would rather fight than talk. He’s the more action-orientated character and is best use to take down a large group of enemies.

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His sister, Evie however, takes things way more seriously. Where Jacob is a dreamer, Evie is a realist. She wants to retrieve the Pieces of Eden from Templar’s hands before it’s too late. She won’t let anything come between her and the mission. Evie is a very calculated assassin and is best used for stealth missions. Thanks to her great skills she can even become invisible during stealth mode. Use her to infiltrate forbidden locations.

The best part about the two assassins is that you’re not forced to play with Jacob or Evie if you don’t want to. The game let’s you decide which assassin you control. You can constantly switch between your characters by using the menu. This is the first Assassin’s Creed game to feature two different playable characters at once and it works. Those who feel a better connection to Jacob will use him more and vice versa. Both assassins share experience points, skills and level so playing with one will level the other as well. That’s the benefit of being twins I guess?

The most modern Assassin’s Creed yet 

The great new characters form a great improvement already but the biggest improvement is the city. London is the first city that really manages to feel alive. Since we’re playing during the Industrial Revolution, Syndicate is the most modern Assassin’s Creed yet. This has some effects on the gameplay. Thanks to the technology, you’ll be able to travel trough the city faster than ever before.

 

Back to the classic formula

 

You can use your new rope launcher to climb buildings faster for example or you can steal a carriage to get to your location faster. These horse-drawn carriages can be found on the big roads in the city and you can easily steal them with a push of the button. It transforms Syndicate to a Victorian Grand Theft Auto from time to time but it actually works. Be careful for the horses however since they can get killed by your enemies. While controlling a carriage you can push enemies from the roads or kill their horses to stop them in time. A lot of action on the roads but I’m sure PETA won’t really like it.

The dark side of the revolution

So what are assassins doing in London? Well, the Industrial Revolution also has a dark side. Child labor was one of the biggest problems of that era. The assassins are used to free these innocent children from the Templar controlled factories. It’s a heavy theme and the overall experience is a lot more realistic and dark than we’re used of Assassin’s Creed. That’s possibly because those terrors happened not that long ago.

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Besides setting free children, the main mission is to retrieve lost Pieces of Eden and regain control over London again. London is controlled by Templars and those who control London, control the world. It’s your job to take down the Templars by taking over district by district. Fans of the Hunger Games might see some Mockingjay references in this story for sure.

Take back London, form a gang

Taking back London forms the theme of Syndicate and is done by completing story missions or by taking over certain territories. Taking over territories is fun since it offers a lot of variation. Some can be captured by defeating every gang member in the area while others will force you to kidnap the leader and escort him to the local forces. The last part of taking over territories is a huge gang fight in the middle of the streets. Remember Gangs of New York? Those sections really feel like the virtual version of that movie. Once you’ve taken over the territory you can recruit the gang members to help you on your quest. They can take down enemies for you or form handy distractions. The gang mechanism goes deep and feels like an improvement to what Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood brought us. The gangs and territories play a crucial role in the story. Without the help of certain gangs, you won’t be able to reach key locations. The revolution starts on the street; Jacob is the founder of the notorious ‘The Rooks’ gang, a gang that will control London at the end.

No multiplayer

Everything about the story feels more epic than ever before. The very start of the game reminded us of Uncharted and Tomb Raider. It looks like Ubisoft really invested in delivering thrilling cut scenes. The entire game has a certain Hollywood-flare to it, making it one of the most epic stories told in the Assassin’s Creed universe.

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The missions in the present also add to this epic feeling. The present isn’t focused on boring Abstergo labs. You see modern assassins in the gorgeous London of the future. The assassins of the present try to stop the Templars using modern technology. Unlike previous Assassin’s Creed games, seeing the present actually feels good.

So what’s the reason for this improved story? We’re sure it has something to do with the lack of a multiplayer. Ubisoft wanted to focus on the campaign and decided to drop the multiplayer experience. This is a smart move in our opinion. Syndicate feels more like an Assassin’s Creed going back to its roots rather than an Assassin’s Creed trying to be something it’s not. The lack of multiplayer might offend some players but in the end, it was for the better good. Ubisoft can also bring back multiplayer in a DLC pack or stand-alone expansion after all.

The classic bugs

Although the story feels more complete and action-packed, we couldn’t help but notice some classic Assassin’s Creed bugs. The biggest problem is the AI of the enemies; these often stand still while you assassinate a target next to them. After the impressive AI of Metal Gear Solid V, it’s a bit of a letdown the Assassin’s Creed AI still tends to lack intelligence. Aside of that, the guards still appear to walk trough walls from time to time or die in very strange positions.

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The same goes for the controls. Free running has improved a lot and so has the combat but it doesn’t work all of the time. The biggest problem with free running is that you’ll sometimes climb walls you didn’t want to climb. It also happened we died because our character glitches off the edge. Those are familiar problems for the franchise and although they don’t break the game, it’s a shame to have them in such a realistic world. One thing’s for sure however, there are far less bugs in Syndicate than there were in Unity.

Conclusion:

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a far better Assassin’s Creed experience and shows us what a good story and great characters can mean for the gameplay. Jacob and Evie are two completely different characters but both have their own charm. The story feels bigger and more epic in every way, we enjoyed playing it until the end. The combat and free running feels better but don’t mind the little bugs you’ll face. The engine isn’t perfect yet but the franchise is definitely getting back on tracks. Ubisoft sacrificed the multiplayer for a better story and they really succeeded. Syndicate goes back to the franchise’s roots by delivering a great solo adventure.

8.5/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.