Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

 

Don’t you just hate it when the history books only tell half the tale? I mean who knows what we weren’t told. Maybe Hitler was fighting aliens disguised as people from a certain race, maybe Ghangus Khan was trying to build an army to fight the mole people, maybe the gangsters of 18th century England were trying to stop a race of futuristic pre-cursor people from enslaving us by using our fear of an exploding sun. Chew on that for a moment.

Luckily there is an organization that still tells it like it is, and we can thank Ubisoft for their accurate account of history in their Assassin’s Creed series of video games. The latest of their incredibly factual entries being Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which was developed by Ubisoft Quebec and released in October of 2015 on Windows PCs, PlayStation 4 and Xbox one.

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When the Assassin presence in London reaches an all-time low, the borough leader, Henry Green, send an urgent distress message to his neighbouring region requesting additional troops to fight the Templar threat. While causing all sorts of trouble for the Templar order whilst under strict observation by their cautious superiors, the Frye twins learn of the state of affairs and that their order intends to sit by idly as all their past efforts go to waste. Knowing that he who controls London, controls the world (their words, not mine, I just agree) they set off to offer some unique aid, despite orders to the contrary.

When they arrive, a quarrel that will last the span of the narrative ensues. Eve, the stealthier and smarter sibling believes that they should focus on the pre-cursor artefacts and doing damage prevention, where as her brother Jacob believes the interest of the people of London come first. Jacob declares himself a gang leader that will stand up to the oppression of the lower class workers and oppressed citizens and so founds the Rooks, who he recruits through several different missions, ranging from freeing child workers, to winning races, until he can eventually challenge the borough boss in a turf war and take back London all lawless-like. Can they reach the top and dethrone the Templar leader Starrick?

The game plays much the same as previous instalments, particularly building upon Unity, even utilizing the same engine. The big difference is that it actually works this time without glitching to some deformed version of itself. You play as each of the two twins individually, both starting as a clean slate with a tendency towards certain play-styles. Eve is stealthier even though she can be quite formidable in a round of fisticuffs, and the unique skills that you can purchase for her when you reach the last upgrades available revolve around her being able to turn invisible or hiding her presence better, which supports this. Jacob is loud and proud and very brutal in a fist fight with skills that revolve around him better punching, kicking and stabbing his way out of a scuffle. The Rooks, as well as their mobile train hideout also has quite a bit of upgrades available, similar to upgrading your base in previous games. You can switch between the two characters at almost any time, using a conveniently placed option in the menu. Certain missions are only playable as one of the two characters for plot-related reasons but never does it feel unjustified when you do not have a choice. The world map is also extremely large, and opens up completely after the first act. I would not recommend exploring too soon though as each area has a recommended level and the difficulty does tend to dramatically spike when you enter an area too soon.

The game world is busy and beautiful with the streets bustling with life and the occasional corpse. Horse drawn carts petrol the streets where the player can hi-jack them if they so feel, street sellers still sell the occasional item, the poor litter the alleyways, children workers running late can be seen missioning onward everywhere, and here and there the illegal street fighting rings and their lively audience can be found for some fun. The day-night cycle also returns to render these scenes even more unique, with slightly less people and carts being out and about during the evening hours. Among the beautifully rendered characters you will find such faces as the likes of Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Queen Victoria, all interactively involved in the thickening plot during the industrial era.

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While I would love to sell this game as perfect due to my inner series fanboy, it has its fair share of troubles to annoy the player. The game feels too much like Unity, its predecessor, with too little change for it to feel unique, apart from actually working. The new gadgets feel like it belongs to the Batman Arkham Games rather than in an Assassins title, if I wanted to grapple like Batman, I would play Batman. The voice actors for the main cast are brilliant but the rest of the world feels rather fake when they attempt to be vocal. The plot feels like it has no point to make, it is an interesting adventure sure enough but it lacks the goal driven form the series once displayed. I also have a gripe with all the collectables, the many many many pointless collectables that make achieving a 100% completion quite painful.

When all is said and done, the game is another solid entry into the series, building just enough on Unity by actually being playable and providing another historical playground that feels very lively and inviting the players to explore its mysterious streets. The narrative is brilliant even if it lacks aim, the controls work well and the game looks great. Assassins Creed Syndicate gives us hope for the future of this historically aimed series and is well worth giving a go.

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