Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – Review

This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is the latest installment in Ubisoft’s popular Assassin’s Creed franchise. The game takes place in 1860s London, England and your thrust into the shoes of twin assassins, Jacob Frye and Evie Frye whom have disobeyed orders from one of their Assassin higher-ups and go to London to tackle the Templar occupation there, alone and to recover the mysterious Shroud Of Eden. I won’t reveal much about the plot other than the main antagonist in this game nails the menacing, and evil look. More villains in games need curly mustaches. Hell, this may just be the best story in an Assassin’s Creed since Assassin’s Creed 2, and I feel like this is due to the focus on a single-player experience.

This is one of the first games in the series to allow us to control two assassin’s during the main story, and a special third assassin during a sort of miniature game inside the core game, but more on that later.

It’s pretty well known that people weren’t too happy with last years’ installment, Unity and many were skeptical about picking up Syndicate due to the plethora of issues in the predecessor. Luckily, I’m here to qualm your woes, and put out a bold statement that this is the best title in the franchise next to Black Flag, which was personally my favorite game.

First off, we have our two protagonists. Brother & sister duo, Jacob and Evie Frye. Jacob is more of the brutal, sort things out with violence type, and his sister Evie is more along the lines of being smart, stealthy, etc. The two of them have different play-styles which is a nice touch as well. If you’re more of a stealthy Assassin’s Creed player then rolling up as Evie will feel comfortable to you, where as if you’re a tough as nails, beat the shit out of people kind of person then Jacob will happily suit your needs.

Now, not to worry. Both Assassin’s can be trained to work in the other set of skills pretty easily. Jacob can be trained to be more stealthy, and Evie can be trained to be more brutal, however each Assassin will have specific traits/skills designed for them solely on their main skill tree. This is a pretty cool addition, and I’d like to see it make a return to the franchise in some capacity. Now, I don’t know if I’d like to see a dual-protagonist successor to Syndicate, but the skill tree aspects from this title could prove valuable to the future of the franchise.

But in terms of the characters themselves, I found myself playing as Evie most of the time. She just felt like a better written character, and not to mention she was kind of a bad-ass. Jacob on the other hand while being interesting just felt like another sort of typical “tough” male character in a video game. Sure, he’s got the snarky/sarcastic asshole vibe to him which makes him lovable, but that’s really all he’s got going for him. Evie feels more fleshed out, evolved, etc.

Coming to Syndicate with a new face is a twist on the upgrade/equipment system from past titles. In previous games the upgrades were tedious, and just annoying to progress through to get better equipment, specifically Unity. However, with Syndicate it’s a much easier process. You really just need to find schematics, most of which are found in gold chests, or acquired from completing story missions.

And, the best part? It’s not over the top pricey to unlock and buy new equipment like it was in Unity. Money is easier to come by in Syndicate, and I found myself unlocking new gear on a quite regular basis. Upgrading equipment is easy as pie too as you only need to press a single button once you’ve acquired the correct amount of money. Some schematics of course are quite expensive, but nothing goes past the 10,000 mark. The new equipment system is a welcomed addition, and it pleased me after what I dealt with in Unity. Good times all around.

Speaking of upgrades, the sort-of Brotherhood of Assassins mechanic comes back to Syndicate in the form of a gang that you control called “The Rooks”. Not much to explain here other than you can upgrade your gang to have better carriages (the main form of transport) gear, and the option to recruit more gang members to fight alongside you during brawls.

It’s pretty easy to recruit gang members too. Rook members are seen in green attire, and by pressing the right bumper you’ll recruit them alongside you until they either die, or are dismissed. You can send them to attack rival gang members from The Blighters (the main source of enemy you’ll encounter) or even the Police Force. This can provide you with a distraction to sneak past people, or perform an ambush and take down a group of enemies quickly.

It’s a great little mechanic, but once I started leveling up past Level 7 or so I didn’t find myself using this feature as much. I’m still doing all of the upgrades since there’s an achievement tied to it, but it does sort of feel like it’s only really helpful to lower level players, but it’s still fun to gather a group of cronies and tear up some folks.

Also, your gang will come to your aid once you clear out an area of Templar Activity in the form of a Gang War. Basically, you just need to dispatch a small wave of enemies and you’ll eventually have conquered said area. These Gang Wars can be much easier if you kill the Gang Leader for that district, which you’ll be given the option to after a set amount of Templar activities are completed in the area. However, the Leader can escape and will make the Gang War for that area more difficult when encountered.

Clear out a Borough in-game, and you’ll have access to a Gang War.

The combat feels more fluid as well in Syndicate, as does the movement and parkour system. For me, it felt a little janky and clumsy in most iterations of the game, but diving into Syndicate I noticed it seemed to feel a lot smoother. For once during my time spent with an Assassin’s Creed game, I went out of my way to get into fights, and adapted a less stealthy approach most of the time. The combat and parkour just felt that great.

There’s also a quicker method of moving about now using the Rope Launcher/Zipline attachment. You basically just aim at a surface, and hit the button and you’ll launch towards the area. I love the Zipline, and you can even perform assassinations from it. I found myself relying heavily on this tool during assassination missions for some quick get-aways. I was skeptical about it, but in the end it won me over big time.

Another neat addition is a sort of little tweak to the sneaking system. Instead of having your hood pulled up all of the time during the game, your character will only ever pull their head up if sneaking around. It’s a neat little addition, and lets you see your characters pretty face. And let’s be honest, the twins are some pretty looking people.

Evie is great at sneaking about.

Syndicate also has a ton of replay-ability tossed into it. Once you’ve finished the main story, you’ll have endless activities to keep you occupied. There’s a plethora of great historic figures who you can help out with missions, such as Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Queen Victoria, the list goes on. There’s a healthy amount of collectibles, and activities scattered around the game too.

You can race carriages, compete in Fight Clubs (which are fun as hell), rob trains, rob boats, etc. There’s a lot to do in Syndicate if you need a break from the story, or if you’ve finished the story and want to know what else you can dig up in London.

There’s also a neat little gem hidden inside the game in the form of a miniature Assassin’s Creed story/game that takes place during World War 1. Once you’ve gotten to Sequence 5, you’ll have the option to find a tear in the simulation which transports you to WW1 in the form of the third Assassin you can control in the game. This little side-game lasts around 1-2 hours and has its own little story nestled away, and some collectibles to find in this simulation. A definite pleasant surprise, and another interesting female assassin to play as. Good on you Ubisoft.

Lydia Frye in the World War 1 sequence.

Is Syndicate a perfect game? Of course not. It has it’s faults, but they’re visibly minor. The only major fault I came across during my time was a game-breaking glitch during a Charles Darwin mission called Defamation where you need to steal some newspapers. If the target you chase after dies you’ll get caught in an unending desynchronization loop, even after you shut down your console. I was on Sequence 8 when this happened, and didn’t want to have to start over. Luckily, I found a nice workaround fix to this, and could continue my progress.

I advise people avoid that mission until it’s patched by Ubisoft, which is a shame for completionists like myself. The only other minor issues I had with the game where that some of the bonus objectives during story missions seemed kind of ridiculous and impossible. Sure, they’re meant to add a degree of difficulty but when they hinder from having fun with the game, it’s not a good thing. The carriage driving isn’t that great either as they sort of handle like bricks, but they are carriages so I imagine there’s a sense of realism there.

In the end, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a triumphant return to glory for the series, and in my opinion the second best game in the franchise next to Black Flag. It’s a gorgeous, unique, and quite honestly one of the most fun games I’ve played this year. Albeit, it does have a few minor issues but if you can see around those, and get around those you’ll no doubt have a blast with this iteration of the Creed.

We have a solid female lead character, and the writing is one of the best in the series. The focus on single-player only was the best bet for Ubisoft, and it shows. Nobody is going to miss the multiplayer from these games.

Assassins Creed: Syndicate is a must buy.


Justin Ross

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