Assassin’s Creed, this time in Victorian London.
There are certain game franchises that come back year after year. For sports games, racing or football and the like, it is understandable to a degree as the fans want all up to date information. For other games, the yearly release is just another way to make more money for the studios. There is nothing wrong with that, they are out to make money after all, but the games have to evolve with each annual release and move towards something that is better. Unfortunately, the Assassin’s Creed series is one of those games that doesn’t seem to be evolving or progressing. Sure, it has a fancy new setting, new lead characters and a few extra doodads thrown in to make it seem new. But the core game is exactly as it always has been, and it’s getting old now.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big Assassin’s Creed fan. Hell, I even enjoyed Unity last year, which seems to put me in the minority. And I have found plenty to enjoy in this year’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which does happen to be a markedly better game than Unity. But I really think it is time to take a break and come back with a new Assassin’s Creed game that really pushes the boundaries and can compete with some of the other fabulous games released this year.
Anyway, on with the job at hand.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate takes the player back to Victorian London. Of course, there are still some future fluff bits, but they are few and far between, leaving the player to enjoy what is the largest and, in my mind, the most impressive open world setting in an Assassin’s Creed game to date. Seriously, while the stale gameplay may frustrate some gamers, the pure joy of wandering this living, breathing city, climbing famous landmarks or exploring the Thames, almost makes up for it. The industrial revolution is in full flow and chimneys spouting acrid smoke dot the landscape, leaving many of the less affluent boroughs with a grimy feel that really sets the scene. It is an impressively replicated setting, and one that lends itself well to the Assassin’s Creed style of gameplay.
This time around we are given two assassins to play with. The twins Jacob and Evie Frye are both charismatic and much easier to like than certain previous Assassin’s Creed leads. The player will find themselves flipping between the two characters to control, with each feeling slightly different. Jacob is the brash twin that wants nothing more than to run in and crack some skulls, confident in his abilities and not prone to thinking things through. Evie on the other hand, is more considered, leaning towards stealth more than her brother, and also more interested in science and relics than her headstrong twin. Although the player can play each character as they like and, through progression, each character is capable of taking any role in the game, it is nice to have the variety offered by two playable characters.
But what is it that these exciting twin assassins have to do in the wonderful Victorian London setting? Well, as is always the case, there are Templars involved. The long and short is taking down a big boss Templar that happens to be running London. To accomplish this the player will find themselves taking on all manner of different missions while liberating boroughs and building up a street gang to take on the Templars’ own gang. Lesser Templars will have to be eliminated and children will need to be liberated along the way. Players will be zipping around the rooftops, made easier with the new rope launcher that does a great job but doesn’t quite have the versatility of Batman’s own version.
They will also be riding around the city in horse and carriages, which is something new for the series. Races, pursuits or just simple getting from A to B will see the player jumping onto a carriage and taking control, before leaping onto another speeding carriage or taking out a driver from a distance. The controls are pretty sloppy in a horse and carriage kind of way, but these new vehicles are quite good fun to play around with.
What are not so much fun are the missions where you have to apprehend a target and escort them to a given drop off point. They are frustrating and tedious, especially as you have to keep fighting bystanders while you are escorting your prisoner, allowing him to run off and need to be recaptured again. There are plenty of pointless or annoying missions in this content packed world, but these missions I could have quite easily done without.
Then there is the combat in Syndicate, which has become a lot more brawly. The result is that the quick, flashy takedowns of the previous games are much more hard to come by, with most combat involving trading many blows before the opponent finally goes down. This may have been to make the combat harder, but the result is simply that engagements are slower and more tedious.
Still, breaking up the tedium are the impressive cast of historical characters that the player will meet along the way, from Darwin to Dickens, many of which offer missions or need the help of the twins. I am not entirely sure I like the personalities that have been given to all of these characters, but they certainly make for good entertainment. As do the urban myths that the twins will find themselves investigating. As always, there is a nice variety of things to do in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, even if most of them end up with the same few gameplay mechanics being used over and over again.
By now, everyone should know what to expect from an Assassin’s Creed game, and Syndicate is exactly what you would expect. There are a few new gimmicks thrown in, and the setting and lead characters are superb. But repetitive missions and gameplay that has failed to change significantly in years leave Assassin’s Creed Syndicate feeling somewhat stale. While it may be one of the best Assassin’s Creed games in a while, with each year that passes the series is falling behind the competition. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is worth picking up for the fans, but is by no means an essential purchase.