Feel free to either watch the review below or read it, the old-fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.
I’ll confess that after the complete mess of AC Unity, I vowed I wouldn’t buy this game on release but I did… Am I pleased I broke that vow? Well, not really. Technically, the game is more solid than Unity, as it has a lot less bugs in it, but let’s be fair, so too would the world of insects. Unity didn’t just have a few bugs here and there: it was infested. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with Syndicate. I’ve come across the occasional bug, one which left me falling through the floor and into an expanse of green and one rather entertaining one where the characters failed to load in a cut scene and all I saw of them were floating weapons. If it were just a few days later, I would have taken it as Halloween joke, but no definitely a graphical glitch. To this point, I haven’t encountered any game breaking bugs.
The game is set in London, where I happen to live, and I do confess that they’ve captured a great likeness, as despite the period setting, it did all feel rather familiar even if not the same – there are limitations even with current generation consoles, so a certain amount of cropping was inevitable. I wasn’t here a hundred and fifty years ago, so I can’t really comment on the historical accuracy, but in a game, I don’t really think that it matters as long as it feels of the period, which for me it does.
I’ll give the game its due that it is beautifully and atmospherically modelled and each district does have a unique look to it, with the towering houses of Parliament in Westminster, contrasted by the heavy industrial look of neighbouring Lambeth. The game started off with brilliant blue sky and I did immediately think, ‘Well they’ve got everything right except the weather, but it did soon start raining.’ When the rain was pouring and large puddles had appeared on the ground, I did think ‘Yep, that’s the London I know’.
There’s also an interesting and fun line up of historical personages to aid and be aided by, in turns. Alexander Graham Bell takes the place of Leonardo Da Vinci as master inventor and fixer of broken contraptions. You can go ghost hunting for Charles Dickens and hunt down the source of illicit substances with Charles Darwin. The historical context is all taken in good fun, but isn’t pushed into the realm of disbelief. For me, though, while the side quests may be fun, the over arching storyline just isn’t strong enough to hold the game together, at least not in the first half. In the early game, I felt more like I was doing chores, working my way through someone’s to-do list, rather than actually being absorbed in a meaningful scenario.
Syndicate introduces us to not just one but two new assassins, the Frye twins. Their personalities are mirror opposites and I like that, as it leads to some interesting interactions between the two, and they do quite frequently split off and take their own individual paths, unsatisfied with the other’s planned course of action only to then join up again later. I quite like the dynamic and the game handles it quite well. During side quests and free roaming, you are able to swap between the two pretty much whenever you like. The main quests are generally separate for each so Evie can’t do Jacobs quests and vice versa.
Each of the twins have their own speciality. Evie is better at stealth and infiltration and Jacob is better at combat, but you can alter this, to a certain degree, by how you attribute each character’s ability points. EXP collected by one also counts for the other and so they gain skill points at the same time, but they each have access to their own abilities tree, so you can place their points independently of their twins. They can both use the same weapons, but certain weapons do complement certain styles of play and so tends to be more suitable for one than the other.
Where the franchise has struggled since its heyday with AC2, is the personality of the Assassins. I think few would disagree that Ezio was by far the most charismatic of the assassins, and inevitably he is the standard used to measure every successive assassin against. So do Evie and Jacob live up to their much-loved predecessor? Not quite in my books, but they are a marked improvement on recent assassins. They do actually have personalities for one, which obviously helps. I enjoy following the stories on Evie and Jacob, and unlike Arno, their personalities don’t seem to vanish after just the first couple of sequences. In my opinion they’re likable, if not lovable.
So the visuals are good, the bugs are mostly quashed and the main characters actually have personality: it’s all good right? Well… part good. In my opinion the game has become far too linear and too many side quest are counted as main quests and therefore, essential to complete in order to progress; that has slowed the game for me and did lead to me getting tired of it pretty quickly. I think the problem with the later AC games, is that we are mostly left doing the same thing we’ve been doing for about five or six games now and it’s getting tired. The franchise needs innovation but all it’s getting is tweaks. They take away your sword and give you a cane and call it revolutionary. No, it isn’t. You still hit people with it.
To me, Assassin’s Creed is a franchise which has lost its soul. Where game franchises like The Witcher and Metal Gear Solid have gone to great pains to reinvent themselves and push the industry to greater heights in terms of game play and interactive narrative, Assassin’s Creed is doing just enough to get by and it shows. Is AC Syndicate a bad game? No, it’s a solid game but with a lot of fantastic games out there how long is solid going to cut it for?
Amazing graphics and visuals.
Really good attention to detail. NPCs do everyday things, like shopping or playing the violin.
Controls have been slightly polished from previous games.
Gran theft carriage – You can steal carriages, which is fun.
No real change in game play from previous games.
Story isn’t strong enough to hold the game together.
The game is too linear and some of the main quests should have been optional.
It’s yet another Assassin’s Creed game, with little to distinguish it from previous games.