Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is the ninth major installment in the saga of Templars versus Assassins that began almost nine years ago in 2007.
Interestingly enough this is merely the second major game in the series ‘not’ developed by Ubisoft Montreal but by their Quebec chapter. Syndicate at the outset follows a more or less similar formula as the previous iterations in the series.
It features a third-person open world as well as the centuries’ old struggle between the two rival factions of the Assassins and the Templars to possess mysterious artifacts of alien origin named pieces of Eden, left behind by an incredibly technologically advanced race that predated history.
This time around we have not ‘One’ but ‘Two’ main Assassin protagonists to the dismay of the Templars.
Jacob and Evie Frye carry the torch lit for the first time by Altair Ibn-e La-Ahad during the times of Crusades, and now they are in the most modern era ever depicted in the series that is Victorian England.
Assassin’s Creed games have always been good at masterfully presenting densely populated cities beautifully and the Victorian London in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is no exception.
Ubisoft disclosed the map size of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate to be 30% larger than that of Assassin’s Creed Unity. Since Unity boasted a map size of 2.5km squared, that would make Syndicate’s Victorian London to be 3.33km squared, which is no mean feat at all.
London City in the game truly seems to have been popped out of a Dickensian novel. It is an amazing rendition of a sprawling urban landmass pockmarked by scores of chimneys gurgling out thick steady clouds of black smoke, streets bustling with Victorian gentlemen and ladies going about their business, street urchins, gangs dominating slums, vendors and coach drivers and street performers.
Not to mention, the era authentic musical score by Austin Wintory, the Grammy-Nominated composer behind the beautiful and unique masterpiece ‘Journey’, with its emphasis on Violins and Cellos that is an absolute delight to hear.
The Frye twins have distinctly dissimilar personalities. Evie’s often calm, methodical and analytical demeanor stands in sharp contrast to her brother Jacob’s personality, who is a firebrand, yet this brash swaggering snarky hot head oddly compliments his sister very well.
The story of the game is tailored well in order to accommodate the difference in personalities and play styles of the Frye twins. A powerful Templar lord holds absolute control over London city and commands a virtual army of thugs and gang leaders.
The only way to him is to systematically erode his power base by liberating London city piece by piece from the influence of his minions.
On the other hand, finding and possessing a piece of Eden is a vitally important mission for any Assassin, and rumor has it that there is one hidden somewhere in the London city. Thus come handy our two young assassins.
Jacob is a born brawler and fits his role of a tank let loose on unsuspecting (or often quite suspecting) gangsters of London perfectly. It is always recommended to invest skill points in the corresponding skill tree rather than Stealth, which is Evie’s forte.
Evie excels at situations, which require subtlety and forethought, such as kidnapping a bounty target or infiltrating a factory in order to free child laborers or in fact, any such situation where brute force would certainly complicate matters.
One specially praiseworthy feature of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is its interesting side quests.
Victorian London was a hotbed of literary giants and inventors extraordinaire and we cross path, or rather rub shoulders with such legends of history as Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell to name a few.
All of whom are obviously treated with mild contempt by Jacob. Nevertheless, each of those historical figures is sources of series of quite interesting and diverse side-quests assigned to the twins.
Combat of the game, as we already reported earlier, seems quite brutal and visceral. Both the twins use their Cane Swords, and Knuckle Bracers and intimidating Kukri blades to chop through the hordes of enemies.
The melee combat keeps tack of our combos and rewards us accordingly; however, as you progress through the game, it does get very repetitive and ultimately hardly anything more than button mashing.
The arsenal of the two assassins is by no means limited to blades. Fire arms, Throwing knives, Hallucinogenic darts etc are also included in their repertoire. Navigating through the massive London City was never easier it seems.
Horse Carriages can be found in abundance around every corner and with the push of a button our heroes could…ahem…commandeer them to their pressing needs.
What are a few destroyed lamp posts, a couple of dozen dented coaches and a few crippled citizens with PTSD in the name of saving the world?
Though if the mood strikes the player, we are at liberty to ditch Grand Theft Auto: Victorian Edition in favor of becoming a slightly less rich and more murderous version of Batman, using our brand-new spanking grapple…gun…rope…launcher…thingie, thanks to Graham Bell, who is sort of a Victorian ‘Q’ to our Assassin James Bonds.
Rope Launcher can indeed be a god sent.
Especially when a single press of L1 on PS4 propels us, at times, hundreds of feet in the air towards a balcony or on a rooftop that otherwise would have taken 4-5 minutes of monkeying around the ledges, handholds and buttresses. However, don’t forget I used ‘can be!
Even though the parkour mechanics in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate seems to have improved noticeably, rope launcher often frustrated me.
When it worked fine it worked gloriously, and traversing the London City cityscape horizontally evoked more of a Spiderman feel in me than Batman, but more often than not, especially when you were either chasing someone or being chased, saw the L1 prompt ahead and pressed it…7 out of 10 times the character did a 180 and zipped up the rooftop “behind” it…This happened just too damn many times to ignore.
Micro-transactions are very much here. Those in dire need of Helix Credits and little amount of patience are welcome to purchase Large Helix Credits Pack for 30 dollars and Extra Large for a paltry sum of 50 dollars.
This time around almost all the changes that Ubisoft brought to Assassin’s Creed formula were quite welcoming. First time for a female main protagonist to be in a major Assassin’s Creed installment; the rope launcher; ever moving Assassins hub in the shape of a Train!
Horse Carriage driving, racing, fighting that is always fun…not to mention that the game has absolutely no multiplayer component and therefore, focused solely upon the single player campaign.
The two most disappointing elements for me in the game were its visuals and the ending.
The game runs on 900p/30 fps on PS4 (and on Xbox One for that matter) and it isn’t as if it looks ugly or anything. It is just that games I had recently played on PS4 such as MGS :The Phantom Pain, Witcher 3, Until Dawn, Mad Max sort of spoiled me.
Not going into any details personally, I found the ending to be very anti-climactic and rather disappointing, but as the age-old adage goes: It is the journey and not the destination that is important.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is undoubtedly a fun filled journey with nary a dull moment. Hop on. You won’t be disappointed.