After a number of different iterations of the same sort of thing on constant repeat, there comes a time when as a gamer, a reviewer or as a human, you just need to say “okay, that’s enough”. I think that was one of my first and initial responses when first asked to head to a preview event for the latest Assassin’s Creed, the London-based, Victorian-bound Syndicate.
I’ve never been a fan of recurring sequels and for those that may know me or know of me in the South African gaming industry as a former editor, Assassin’s Creed was a game that always just hit the ‘Average’ mark for me.
Heading on in to the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in London, I was instantly hit with what I felt was an awesome way to be introduced to a game like Assassin’s Creed, given the timeline that the game is focused on. The power station was old (as one would expect), but rather high with large doors and dirty face brick walls. The power station sits, unused and unassuming just off a busy street in Wapping, central London. It is there that I was greeted by a friendly and familiar face and almost instantly jumped into the world of Syndicate. A short presentation later – giving all in attendance a background on the game and what the development team hopes to achieve with the title – we sat down at massive TVs with PlayStation 4s alongside them.
In the presentation brief, we were given a number of important details about the two sections we were allowed to play. We were given access to Sequences 3 and 7, one of them set in Westminster and the other in Whitechapel. Both were exceptionally well put together and featured a number of sections that people who live in, or have visited the city before, may actually piece together from the game. The game is set in 1868 during the Industrial Revolution in London and features the story of twins Jacob and Evie Frye. At the end of this revolution, the twins are tasked to take back London from control of the Templars by taking on the city’s criminal underworld.
In the first few minutes, the first thing I noticed was how fluid the game has now become. Let’s be honest though, fluidity was never really an issue in Assassin’s Creed games unless you were scaling a building – but all of that seems to have been minimized. There were a number of frame rate issues on the PS4 but I’m not sure whether or not we should peg that on it being un-optimised, preview code or something else entirely.
Sequence 3 in Whitechapel was far and above my favourite. You kick it off by doing a few missions to take back London and without giving away any spoilers, the storyline is immediately engaging. This for me is truly a first for the franchise. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the intertwining, convoluted storylines within Assassin’s Creed, but there’s something here that I think will find favour among veterans and newcomers alike.
As far as the gameplay goes, Syndicate has the feeling of familiarity but also introduces a bunch of new things. Players will go around recruiting NPCs to join the struggle during the free roam sections of the game, which isn’t entirely new but adds a nice dynamic to the combat. As you progress through the missions and the game, you will be awarded points to upgrade your skill trees, which then allow you to play the characters the way you want to play them.
In addition to the regular grinding for skills in the skill tree, both characters will level up at the same time so it doesn’t matter who you prefer to play with, you will always be able to have a fully functional character no matter what part of the game you are in. Syndicate introduces a GTA V-style drop-in function with character switching, where you can pop in and out with each character to take missions on as you choose.
Jacob, the free-styling brawler, who seems hell bent on world domination and wanting to introduce the Rooks, is more of a rough and tumble kind of guy who likes to tell casual jokes, inflict his particular brand of sarcasm on everyone and generally punch up whenever he can. Evie, his twin sister, is the more strategic of the two, who prefers to think before she acts and is left to generally clean up the mess left by her tempestuous sibling. Both of the characters have a rich depth of personality (something the franchise desperately needed) and they work well together; plus the dialogue flows, deep and rich, between them.
Fighting is always a talking point in any new AC game because it’s gone from a “block, block, counter” style with early games, to a more sophisticated flow of battle. With the introduction of more able firearms, the fighting has changed once again. You will be able to stun, bash and attack in melee while occasionally throwing in a pistol round here and there to take down enemies. The AI seems a lot better than previous games as they tend to attack you simultaneously now and time their attacks so that you are forced out of your comfort zone.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is an iteration in a franchise I was ready to ignore, but has instead forced me to pay attention to it; Syndicate has made me do a double-take on what it offers. Removing the multiplayer has helped the development team to focus on the core gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, and Syndicate takes it to a deeper and more refined level. Instead of simply functioning as a variation on a tired theme, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate makes the franchise feel fresh again and my brief time with the game has eradicated this curmudgeon’s franchise fatigue.
Last Updated: September 24, 2015