I’ve spent quite a substantial amount of time in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate since I last wrote about it, and I’ve got a couple of sequences left to do.
Having nearly cleared-out nearly all of the districts in London, I’m getting kitted up and ready to hit the final sequences head-on as the Frye Twins.
Approximately 25 hours in, with loads of side bits done, I feel like I’ve seen the bulk of what the game has to offer. Truth be told, it’s a belter. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had so much fun in an Assassin’s Creed game, to be honest.
I know that I’ve got Origins and Odyssey to get to, and that they’re significantly different to the “original” series of games, but so far, this is the best of them all.
It isn’t without it’s gripes, and it definitely shows it’s age, but if this is how the series goes out, before evolving into a more action/RPG style, then I’m fine with it.
I’ll be honest, I initially sighed at the concept of “The Rooks” and Jacob Frye’s eagerness to “build a gang”.
Previous entries in the series have seen you build up and Assassin brotherhood. Not only have them at your beckon call for some really cool take-downs from afar, but sending them out on missions across the globe to gain resources and help people. I actually really enjoyed these elements when they were introduced.
Enter the new system, which is essentially building up the numbers of your gang and taking over London, one district at a time.
No more missions to send members on, no randomly summoning them to perform an assassination to someone on a rooftop across from me. Now it’s a recruitment drive, but with ever-increasing benefits in the city itself.
Clearing districts means I have more Rooks that are on the streets at all times. Ready to be recruited and have them following me around. You can send them off to get into fights, they can be sat waiting with a horse and carriage for you.
It actually feels like you’re taking over the city, and you see a very tangible impact as you progress.
Any Assassin’s Creed game sees you in an open world, usually a large city. Then you have to uncover it by using viewpoints, and completing side missions that become available after surveying areas below.
Same here. It isn’t particularly new, not is it particularly novel. It is however, fun.
The handful of missions types that you have to perform to unlock areas within a district are actually tasks I enjoy undertaking. A templar assassination, freeing child labourers and clearing out rival gang strongholds.
All fun, relatively quick-paced and action packed (or stealth-packed, if you’re me).
Arresting criminals and walking them to a carriage, before the inevitable horse and carriage chase, is my least favourite. This feels more like busy work than assassin work. Well-executed, though, and it can be quite satisfying.
Beyond that, you have your main missions, as always. This time with missions for both Evie and Jacob, allowing you to get playtime and character exposition with both.
The centrepieces here are the assassination missions, usually the culmination of a memory sequence. Self-contained missions, with a variety of ways to take down your target. It feels a little Hitman-esque and damn, I love it.
Otherwise, business as usual. Notable characters from the era (Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Bell etc), random objects scattered about to collect for those completionists.
At it’s core Syndicate is very much another Assassin’s Creed game. But more refined, it feels like it’s had the rough edges sanded off the core quest types, and removed things that aren’t fun. I’m having a great time, side-quests and all.
The physics, movement, combat and general “feel” of Syndicate, is very much that of Assassin’s Creed. Whilst this is a series I’ve loved, and it isn’t a bad thing to have more of the same. It definitely feels dated.
As I mentioned before, I love the animations of the characters when they’re running and climbing, assassinating etc. But combat is looking dated, especially when you compare it to the slick Batman Arkham games, and more recently, Spider-Man on PS4.
The variety in character models is a little…..erm……lacking, too. Gang members in particular, seem to come in only a handful of varieties, on all sides. Sure, you can tell what “class” they are, but it’s odd.
Whilst the game looks pretty good, it doesn’t feel particularly current-gen. Having said that, this game is a few years old now, and judging it against newer games is a little unfair. Still, it isn’t as pretty as say, The Witcher 3, so it could do better.
Some nice additions to the series have come in through the use of a grappling hook for quick ascension and zip-lining across large gaps (very cool). And the ability to upgrade your gang/city presence by purchasing new perks.
The grappling hook is a game-changer for the series, and I really like how the Frye’s hop upwards. Whilst it’s unrealistic, the weight and physicality of it make it look quite realistic.
Having an always-moving base of operations is pretty cool, too. Early on, you end up winning/claiming a steam train. It continuously chugs around the city, so you can catch it at all the train stations (or just quick travel to it).
Crafting is here, and so are character levels (1-10 anyway). There’s a hint of the odd RPG elements, and I know they aren’t strictly new to the series. It works, and seeing how the series has since evolved, I guess Syndicate was a foreshadowing some of this.
Whilst I can’t quite remember how many there were previously, it feels like melee weapon variety is limited here. You can have a blade, a cane/knife or knuckle dusters. Each comes with unique attacking animations, which is cool. I just seem to remember older games having greater variety.
Arguably, they fit in with the times. Not quite so many sword-wielding folk on the streets of Victorian London, I suppose? Perhaps the options are thematically accurate.
Graphically it may not excel, but the music and voice acting here is superb.
I can only assume that the music is of the Victorian era (based on films/TV), but I can say with certainty that it works wonderfully.
From solo violin pieces, to full orchestra. Each area district has what feels like its very own theme, and the music paces up with the action. Sometimes choral, sometimes full of bombast. The score to whats going on, on screen is lovely.
Beyond that, the sounds of the city are great! Boats, horses and carts, the public talking and shouting and commenting on how badly I’m hiding……
Syndicate, if anything else, sounds alive. To say that I’ve found myself just sat atop a building listening to what’s going on wouldn’t be a lie. What a great job they did here.
The performances of the lead actors are great, too. Sincerity and emotion, mixed in with the sibling dynamic that feel legitimate from Jacob and Evie.
Do yourself a favour, put some headphones on, and just wander around.
In terms of the narrative being told, there’s plenty to go at here.
Evie is the cool-headed “grown up” sibling, wanting to chase down a piece of Eden and stop the Templars having all this power. Whilst Jacob is the hot-headed chaos bringer.
They each get their own missions within each sequence, and there’s crossover (for instance, Evie returning printing plates to the Bank of England. A mission after Jacob assassinated someone there), which I like.
Meddling in the inner-workings of the city, interfering with industry and weakening the grip of the Templars on London.
Everything is well told, the script is great and as always, you get that little bit of exposition upon killing your assassination targets. Some wise words, or statements that perhaps change your perspective on events. All whilst they bleed out and you take a smear of their blood with your handkerchief……lovely.
Syndicate isn’t a whole new level of storytelling, but it takes the classic Assassin’s Creed approach and enhances it with decent dialogue, good acting and fun sidequests.
In the next few days, I should get the bulk of Syndicate finished. All viewpoints, all sectors and main story missions.
After that, there are a few achievements I’d like to get, nothing taxing, but an opportunity to focus on the non-essential bits and just have a mooch around London.
I’d expect to write-up a pretty short “final thoughts” piece on Syndicate next week and then look at taking on Origins (assuming I can find it for a good price digitally!).
I’ve had a great time here and I’m really excited to not only see it through, but see back-to-back how the series evolved with Origins.
There was no intention of getting stuck into Assassin’s Creed, but here I am! Enthused and ready to get stuck in and see things through.