Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Assassins Creed Syndicate Review



I have been a fan of the Assassins Creed franchise since the very first one on the last generation released at the end of 2007. So many people were hyped for this new IP coming from Ubisoft when it was first announced aa it looked unique, offered something new and had amazing graphics for its time.

When it was finally released in 2007 it had a little bit of a mixed reception. I personally loved it but there were a few flaws and also repetition. While the actual assassination missions were amazing and very fun to get down perfectly, it was the lead up to these missions that held the game back a little bit.

To unlock the assassination opportunity you had to save citizens in the city, eavesdrop on conversations, pick pocket etc. After a while it got boring having to do this every time before a mission (there were 9 in total). It would have been ok if it only took a little time to do this, but most of the time it took 30 mins to an hour to do all the tasks in order to unlock the best parts of the game.

Once you did start an assassination mission it changed up the game a bit and let you choose how to approach killing your target. I always wanted to do the stealth approach, killing my target without anyone knowing and getting out of the area scot-free. You could decide to go on a rampage though and just kill everyone in your way to get to your target, but I like the satisfaction you get for pulling off the perfect assassination.


Apart from the missions, I also loved doing parkour around the city, finding the tallest building and jumping off of it. I do feel like the parkour was way more fun and rewarding in the older games than the new ones as it took more skill to be fast and to get around the city smoothly.

In the newer games the parkour is different. You just hold a couple of buttons and you will go quickly to the top of a building or to the ground making it easier but it takes no skill, no more was there the thrill of jumping to another building, seeing if you could make it. Now if you can’t make it, the character just won’t jump anymore. I guess they did this as you would make a few jumps here and there that would kill you but I liked that excitement of getting around the city especially when getting chased. It put your skill to the test and allowed you to see if you could get away from the guards.

They did fix the flaws of the first game in the sequel, but after a while they did take some of the challenge away from the game to make it easier for newcomers in the series. For a few of the games they even took away a lot of the stealth elements making it more of a combat game rather than being sneaky, but I am happy that with Unity they did start to bring it back in a new way, giving you different ways to stealthily hunt your targets.


The story of the original Assassins creed also had a twist that you weren’t actually in olden times, you were a descendent called Desmond that was in a device called the Animus which allowed you to play the memories of your ancestor. Your ancestor is an assassin fighting an order called the Templars who are trying to find pieces of Eden, an ancient device from the ancient rulers that can control humankind and change the fate of the world. This premise was mostly the same in every game, advancing it slowly after each game but kept the mystery there, making you want to come back after each yearly release to see what happens next in the present day story with Desmond.

Eight years on, I am still a fan, and have played every single release (even the ones on the handhelds and phones),  I couldn’t wait to play the newest release, especially that this time it was set in London, England. Being from England, it was nice to see London come to life in a game as that doesn’t happen very often.

So here is my review of Assassins Creed Syndicate.

Story

The story of Assassins Creed Syndicate takes place in London England in 1868 during the industrial revolution. You follow twins Jacob and Evie, two assassins trying to take back London from the Templars who are trying to find the hidden piece of Eden.

After Ezio's story finished in Assassins Creed Revelations, we haven’t had many strong likeable lead characters for the franchise apart from Edward Kenway from Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, but I’m happy to say that Jacob and Evie are a strong duo, complimenting each others personalities. Jacob is a cheeky witty Brit, who rushes in without thinking and never backs down from a fight. Evie is a smart woman who thinks before she acts and takes more a stealthy approach to the situation. Both characters bump off of each other really well, like they are real siblings, and it is nice being able to play as both sexes in an Assassins Creed game. With just a click of a button you can choose your preferred choice.


I found the enemies also had a good personality this time, rather than being one dimensional, compelling you to find out more about them and making it more rewarding once you took each of them down.

If you liked the movie Gangs Of New York then I think you will find this story rather enjoyable as it feels like that, except it is set in London rather than New York.

Some people were disappointed in the ending but I was happy with how it ended apart from the final boss fight. It had good closure to the characters and left it open to carry on the present day story which has been lacking in the last few games since Desmond died a few games back. I won’t tell you what happens in the last cutscene during present day but it does open up that story again adding mystery, making you ponder what direction they are going in. Will we ever actually play a present day Assassins Creed game and find out what the Templars are really doing these days?

I would love to go into what I feel like is happening during the ending, but that be spoiling it for you now. I guess we also will see a little more next year when the next Assassins Creed game comes out, hopefully being set in Japan which everyone is dying for Ubisoft to do.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Assassins Creed Syndicate is roughly the same as the previous entries. You have a large open world (in this case it’s London), you have many different activities you can partake around the map, not including the main missions which range from climbing a tall building that lets you survey the area and find points of interest and unlock fast travel spots around the map. You can kill Templars, kill all the targets in the area, help the children, take back an area from the Templars, chase down a certain target etc. These are nice to break up the missions here and there but I wouldn’t recommend to do them all at once as it gets boring doing the same things over and over again.

There is a cool side mission that I won't get into too much (spoilers!). It is located on the east side of Thames and is definitely worth checking out once it unlocks.


Getting around the city is a lot easier now with 2 new additions to the franchise. First off is the grappling hook that lets you zip from floor to the top of a roof very quickly and allows you to zip from building tops to another in quick succession. No longer is the gap too big of a jump, as you will be made to climb down to the ground then run over to the other building to then climb up again. It is a nice addition to keep the game flowing but also makes the parkour and escaping system way too easy, no longer do you need skill to escape if caught, just zip up and wait until hidden again. Gameplay wise, it  keeps the pace going in a quick speed, but takes away the challenge of fighting enemies and being good at parkour to escape the enemies.

They also keep the same parkour system from Unity allowing you to climb up or down quickly from buildings making it simple but taking away the fun and skill. I used to like climbing the buildings in the first few assassins creed games. I understand why they did this, which was to appeal to more of an audience but it also takes away from the fans of the original games and the challenge.

Another new addition to getting around the huge world map is the introduction of horse carriages which make it easy and much faster to get to where you need to go. They handle fine and let you climb on the roofs and even fight. I was a little worried when they were first introduced to the game mechanics but it has been refined well and I cannot fault anything with the way they handle.



The combat has improved greatly with this iteration of the franchise being more like the Batman game series, allowing you to counter, dodge, stun and block. It even warns you when you're about to be shot, giving you a split second to press the prompt button to dodge it. The combat is fluid, easy to control and looks brutal every time you take down an enemy. If you are being overrun with too many enemies, you can even zip away to recover. You also can recruit some of your gang to help you out in the fight if they are around in the area. You have a few different options how to take down your foes from your fists, a knife, gun and a cane which has a hidden knife and sword in it (my favourite, especially the killing animations).

With more experience you earn more unlocks, ranging from new weapons, outfits and abilities like taking more hits or double assassinations.

The main missions are the usual Assassins Creed we are used to by now. Either take down a target in whatever way you feel best, tail someone until they reach a destination, deliver stuff around the map etc. The game still holds up and never drags on. Each missions varies it’s play style allowing you to never get tired from doing the same main missions. The last boss fight of the game though is sadly put together poorly, making you just dodge some stuff and do the same fighting you do with the normal enemies over and over again like eight times. It feels like it was rushed to get the game out before Christmas, but other than that I enjoyed the main missions of the story.


Also another downside to Assassins Creed Syndicate is that they have cut the multiplayer completely making the lasting appeal a lot less. Once you have seen everything in single player that's it, unless you want to play again.

I do feel like the Assassins Creed franchise has to start doing something a little different as the series is starting to become the same every year. I loved Assassins Creed Black Flag as the sailing moments added a whole new element to the game as well as the ship combat. I will still buy each new addition every year but I just wish they branched out to include new gameplay styles and take a risk as Black Flag proved it can be successful.

Graphics and Sound Design

The streets of London look amazing and very realistic. They have been created perfectly, letting you see all the famous land marks around London. I have gone into London many times in my life, so it was cool to see them all recreated in a game and being able to see them up close and climbable. It is also nice to see what London was like back in 1868 with Tower Bridge not even being built by that time.

Also a lot of work has gone into the sound design of London. You'll hear people around you with British accents, the sound design brings the city to life making you feel like you are Victorian actually in London. It also has some lovely classical music playing whilst running around the city accompanied with violins and piano.



There has been a bit of a dip in graphics from Unity but I think that due to performance issue in Unity they were more concerned about getting it to run well. The city still looks beautiful for a huge open world which takes a long time to get around, especially on foot.

Every place is also very tightly packed with loads to see, bringing the world alive with an air of authenticity. If you have never been to London then this is the perfect game to do it. You can spend ages just wandering around and looking at all the landmarks.

Lasting Appeal


The main missions of Assassins Creed Syndicate will last you about 12-16 hours but if want to see everything and to unlock everything on themap, getting all the weapons and outfits, it can last double that. This is not even counting free exploration. They have cut the multiplayer from this iteration but that might not concern some people.

Final Verdict

A solid entry to the Assassins Creed franchise and an improvement over last years Unity, but it still doesn’t take the franchise into a new direction. I did really like the game but now it’s starting to become the same sort of game every year. They need to introduce some new stuff like they did with Black Flag which truly helped it to stand out in the series.

If you are a fan of the series, then this is worth checking out, but if you were hoping for something new to bring you back into the series, then this probably isn't the one for you.


Syndicate has a lovely city to explore, good combat and fun main missions, it just plays a little too safe to the core Assassins Creed mechanic.

If you have never played an Assassins Creed game then my top 5 that I recommend playing are: Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Black Flag, Assassins Creed II , Syndicate and Assassins Creed I.

Score: 8.5/10 

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