Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PS4) review
Following the bug ridden and poorly received Assassin’s Creed Unity, it could only be presumed that the following game in the franchise, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, should be better, and while Syndicate is thankfully not filled with bugs and graphical issues, the lack of these issues does however highlight the franchise’s poor gameplay.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate gameplay continues to feel stagnant as the franchises simplistic combat system remains and continues to feel as simple as ever with countering, breaking defences and dodging bullets all being a simple button push away. There were very few occasions in the game where I didn’t feel overpowered and those feelings occurred when I took to one of the game’s new pieces of gameplay, the horse-drawn carriages. Controlling the carriages felt horrible and I loathed the missions that required me to use them as I found myself trying not to crash into every single man, woman, child and object. The franchises lock picking mechanic has gone through some changes, and by changes I mean gutted and replace by a learnable skill.
While there are many elements of the gameplay I do not like, there is perhaps one aspect that I truly enjoy and that is the changes to wall climbing. The change comes in the form of a hook shot that allows you to climb up building in an instant and create new ways to cross London’s large streets. I am a massive fan of the inclusion of the device, and when I first started using it my first thought was that I am a Victorian Spiderman.
That is enough about Syndicate’s gameplay. Let’s talk about the plot and characters. Well as stated earlier Assassin’s Creed Syndicate takes place in London in 1868 in a period known as the Victorian era. The game allows you to play as two characters, the twin assassin’s Jacob and Evie Frye. The ability to play and switch between the twins is important to the game as each character has their own style with Jacob being the type to recklessly jump into a situation, and Evie being the type who likes to stick to the shadows and use stealth to reach her goal. While both characters play differently you aren’t restricted to these traits as their character’s skill trees are both the same, but with certain skills only being available to one of the twins. While you have the ability to switch between the twins on the fly you are forced into playing a particular twin when performing story missions.
Speaking of story, what are we doing in Syndicate? Well like all Assassin’s Creed games it is a fight between Assassins and Templars over a piece of Eden. Both sides are scouring London for this prize, with the Templars having the upper hand as the current Templar Grand Master, Crawford Starrick, controls the city through his business empire that has infiltrated every part of the city, his control spread past business as he also controls the city’s largest gang known as the Blighters, who help keep prying eyes away from any of his crooked activities.
With Starrick controlling the city, there is only one way for the twins to succeed and that is slowly take away Starrick’s power street by street and business by business. To do this, the twins have a gang of their own, The Rooks and with this gang in hand the twin Assassins goal is to loosen Starrick’s grip on London and find the Piece of Eden before the Templars.
While the story does have some good moments such as how some Templars use lies and subterfuge to achieve their goals, for me the best aspect of the story are the twins. They are the best because they act like how a brother and sister should, they fight, they disagree, but in the end they look out for one another and if one makes a mistake the other tries to help correct it. For example at one point in the game Jacob almost causes the collapse of the British economy following a reckless move, but in the end the collapse is averted thanks to Evie who manages to fix the damage Jacob caused.
While I am focusing on the twins, I think it would be remised if I didn’t mention Starrick. Starrick is a behind the scenes villain who you mostly see in cutscenes as he lets his henchmen do all the dirty work, he is also seen to be a quick to anger as he shoots people just for simply interrupting his train of thought.
Moving away from the plot and main characters, what are assassination missions in Syndicate like? Well in one word I would say fun. Every time I am sent on an assassination mission I relish the opportunity as I found myself constantly wondering how I should approach my target although the game does offer you suggestions with “optional opportunities”, these are side objectives that can make reaching your target easier. Some options include kidnapping a high-ranking person in the area and getting him/her to escort you to the target or stealing important information on the target.
Assassination missions are also interesting in the way you can choose how to kill your enemy, unlike in Unity you don’t have to run up and stab them, no in Syndicate you can use your full array of tools to your advantage. For example in one assassination mission I decided to use a hallucinogenic dart on a guard beside my target, the guard become enraged and killed the target for me. I found it rather odd as I expected the game to deem it a failure that I didn’t strike the final blow myself, but in the end I was glad the game gave me the option to be creative with my killing.
Now we’ve talked about the main plot of the game and assassinating, what are the side missions and controlling your own gang-like? The game’s side missions’ center on taking control of various areas of the city by completing four types of side missions: Bounty hunt, gang stronghold, child liberation and Templar hunt. Bounty hunt consists of finding a criminal in an area and attempting to kidnap him and take him to jail, gang stronghold consists of entering an area and beating all the Blighters in it, child liberation focuses on freeing children from child labour in dangerous factories, and Templar Hunt focuses on searching for a notable Templar and eliminating him/her. When you complete all the side missions in one borough of London you take part in a Gang War where you must defeat the boroughs leader to claim the area.
The idea of using gangs to wrestle control of the city away from the Templars is a novel approach, but I do like how the missions to free the boroughs play out, as it is logical as gangs fighting to claim territory makes sense, and while it makes sense there is an additional reason and that is each mission raises your level with the mission’s corresponding associate, which in turn means unlocking new gear, money and levelling up, and while combat is easy these three things are important.
The most important is levelling up, and since you can switch between two characters you essentially have two characters to level up because as I stated earlier each character has their own skill tree. Gear is essential to increasing your odds of survival, and well money makes the game go round as you need an ample supply of it (along with materials) to upgrade your gang, upgrade items, craft items and more.
As this is a historical game, what historical figure do you run into, and what is the city of London like? Well in terms of historical figures you run into Alexander Graham Bell (who makes gadgets for you to play with), Charles Dickens, Charles Dawkins and more, and, of course, all of them are on your side.
As for the city, well London looks amazing. It looks and sounds like 19th century London with industry mixed in with those who run the country. It is an interesting mix to see especially when you realize that most of the industrial sections are on one side of the Thames while the rich, politicians and other elites live on the other. This in turn helps increase the immersion as you get to clearly see what type of city London is, a city that knows where its industry is and what it does, but it doesn’t want it to be mixed in with the elite.
If you were a fan of Unity’s co-op multiplayer and Black Flag’s competitive multiplayer then you are in for some bad news as there are no multiplayer modes in Syndicate be it co-op or competitive based. While I am glad that co-op is gone, I am surprised they didn’t have it in the game considering the game has two main character, the franchise’s competitive multiplayer was, for the most part, enjoyable as a lot of the modes such as hunting and killing players that can look like an NPC to be incredibly fun.
There is one major aspect of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate I do not like and that is the fact the game has in-game microtransactions. These microtransactions allow you to use real money to buy in-game money, XP boosts and crafting resources. Now while you could argue that since the game is a single player experience the buying of items with real money doesn’t affect anyone, I personally find it distasteful that a full priced release feels the need to nickel and dime its users.
Now, before reaching my conclusion, let’s take a look at the graphics and audio. Graphically the game looks stunning especially when you realize there are next to no loading screens, although there is some slight graphical popping. In terms of audio, there were no major issues, the audio levels were mixed well with no one piece of audio trying to drown out the others.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is an improvement over its previous game with a well fleshed out city and playable characters, but the game suffers from a boring and simplistic combat system.
|+ Interesting playable characters||– Combat feels too simple|
|+ Gang warfare to liberate parts of London is an interesting idea||– Lack of co-op or competitive multiplayer|
|+ London is a beautiful and vibrant city||– Microtransactions|
|+ Assassination missions feel like a great reward|
|Ubisoft Quebec||Ubisoft||Action-Adventure||18+||PS4, XBOne, PC||October 23, 2015|
For more information on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate or to find out where to buy it, visit assassinscreed.com
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.