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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate review

The Industrial revolution has chugged into the world of Assassin’s Creed as the series takes to the Victorian streets of London. With iconic characters like Dickens and Darwin, and famous London landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, can Syndicate restore faith in the series that Unity lost?

ACS Dickens

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Assassin’s Creed, although I’m happy to admit that the series lost me slightly with III and IV. Being a UK resident, the charms of Syndicate’s Victorian London are a huge draw, but can the series deliver a story that ties the present day with the past?

Unfortunately the present day is a series of cutscenes that you watch via a CCTV drone. It makes for a disjointed experience, with Syndicate playing more like a period piece. To its credit, the present day does include a great cliffhanger; I just craved to be able to explore the present day as a ‘Desmond’ character or something similar to Black Flag’s missions. Instead you are a nameless initiate. The Templars are searching Victorian London for a piece of Eden – the Shroud – and the Assassins have turned to you to look over the memories of twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye.

London is under the control of the Templar Grand Master, Crawford Starrick, a man who controls London’s industry and the Blighters gang; nothing goes on without his knowledge. You set about breaking his grip by taking down his lieutenants and freeing the boroughs of the city, although you need only release three of them to progress the story. This direct approach is how Jacob thinks the twins should go about freeing London but Evie wants to go directly after the Shroud – this places a burden on their relationship, and like any good sibling rivalry, the pair argue as they try to assert themselves as the dominant twin.

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Evie’s more delicate approach to combat makes her ideal for stealth, and although you can level up both twins with the same skill tree, there are some stealthier skills that are only available to her. Jacob is more ‘hands on’ with fighting skills that are only open to him. While the two play similarly, Jacob handles differently in combat, highlighted during the final fight of the game when you switch back and forth between the two.

If you want to sneak through an area Evie is certainly your lady and during the open area of London you can choose to play as either twin. The campaign gives you no choice in which twin you play as and you can’t use them both to set up simultaneous assassinations or issue commands. Only the last sequence features both of them, and it works really well. It’s a shame then that there weren’t more of these scenarios throughout the game.

To realise Jacob’s vision for London and build a gang, you must assemble the Rooks by freeing London’s boroughs. Each area has several missions that when completed reduces the Blighters’ hold on the borough. Once you’ve completed all the borough missions there’s a gang war – a faceoff with the local gang and their leader, who you can assassinate during an earlier borough mission, doing so makes the final faceoff significantly easier.

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The borough missions are similar to those from previous Assassin’s Creed games except for the new kidnapping activity. Plan ahead and you should be able to grab your target, stuff them into a carriage and take them straight to the slammer with little interference from gang members or Bobbies on the beat. If you get busted or fail to restrain your target, things get a little out of hand making kidnapping an annoyance but that mainly comes down to poor planning.

Story missions don’t stray too far from the tried and tested missions of Assassin’s Creed either. It works for other series so why not for Assassin’s Creed? For me, this is what I wanted from Syndicate and with tweaks to the gameplay and the excellent London playground; Syndicate is a worthy title that washes away the average feeling of III and IV, and the bug marred Unity. Navigation is smooth, the cover system works beautifully and there’s now a threat indicator similar to that of the multiplayer of previous Assassins Creed titles. The whole package is far more polished than it has been before.

There’s plenty of opportunities to get around London, from public transport to the new rope launcher, which while not as nimble as Batman’s grapple gun, is perfect for spanning gaps or setting up air assassinations. I felt that this made taking down targets a little too easy and also took away the joy of rooftop Parkour.

ACS carriages

Carriages are great fun to get around in, and useful to hide from pursuers. You can even race them, smashing up other carriages or jumping on the roof of your own carriage to shoot or fight while your horses do their best to keep on running through the streets. It makes for some great ‘vehicular’ combat, as do the trains. You can also jump on one of the many boats and steamers that travel up and down the Thames. There’s no chance for any ‘sea battles’, but you can run from one side of the Thames to the other – Frogger eat your heart out!

London looks spectacular, and it’s great to see the combat has had an overhaul that makes it far more fluid than Unity, there may be little depth to the combos, but you can mix up punches with tool attacks and environmental kills – it’s brutal and satisfying if a little lite when compared with the Dark Knight. Target Assassinations have also been tweaked. Now you can choose how you tackle an objective, either directly or by going after side objectives that might present alternative opportunities to assassinating your foe.

ACS Big Ben

The city of London is begging to be explored and conquered. I tried to stick to just the campaign and managed to rack up 25 hours of gameplay but doing so has left vast parts of the game unexplored – from activities and borough missions to additional memories from historical characters, including some special missions from Queen Victoria which are only available after the climax of the campaign. There’s also a third playable character within the additional memories and a trip to World War I, so look out for that!

I absolutely loved my time with Syndicate; I haven’t had this much fun with an Assassin’s Creed title since Brotherhood. The story is playful and has fun with itself; it isn’t too drab in tone, which is strengthened by two extremely likeable characters that bounce off one another with sibling rivalry and a cheeky flair that makes them irresistible not to love.

Sure there’s one or two bugs that any open world game suffers from. Overuse of the same enemy models does make fighting rather bland over the entirety of the game, but this aside, Syndicate is something that Assassin’s Creed fans will adore. I’d wager that even if you felt burned by the previous few entries of the series, then you would find it hard to resist the charms of London and the Frye twins.

Thanks to Ubisoft UK for their support

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate IGN launch party

Seeing as everyone has gone Back To The Future crazy recently, on Tuesday October 20, I took a trip back in time to Victorian London with thanks to Ubisoft and the IGN Premiere launch event, for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. And what a show they put on…

As you enter the secret location in London Bridge you are handed £20 worth of Victorian money to spend and then greeted by a cockney Victorian showman describing what awaits. Just watch out for the infamous Rooks gang!

Walking down the Victorian street with the lucky few hundred other people who managed to get an invite, we were greeted by firepits, and a flower girl handing out dying bunches of flowers while flirting with everyone. I obviously headed straight to the pub…

 

The atmosphere in the pub was highly charged with anticipation about what the rest of the night would bring. Plenty of people had turned up in their Assassin’s ware, there were a couple of ‘Victorian cockneys’ playing on the piano and having a good old sing-along. All very London, all very Victorian. I had a pint of lager but also on offer was cider and Assassin’s punch, I had quite a lot of that later on and it was lovely, unfortunately my head didn’t think so the following morning!

I then wandered outside and came across a wrestling contest between two men armed with sticks, another chap in a top hat was going through the gathered crowd and taking bets on who would win. I gave him £1 of my Victorian money and watched on. I picked the wrong wrestler. Oh well, what more can I find to do?

Throwing knives? Go on then. This proved very popular as you got to throw knives and axes at a wooden board, it was very tricky to get the action right so the blade would stick in to the wood. Great fun though. I then turned around to see a Tarot Card reader, there was always someone sat there so I didn’t get to know what my future held.

Another stall, and a very long queue, across from the knife throwing was where you picked up your Assassin’s Creed leather key ring. The queue was long as you could also get your initials stamped on to a metal plate on the leather. Very cool keepsake.

For those that needed food as well as drink there was a Victorian market to feed the hungry masses. Lots of choices and plenty of characters were on hand to serve you and give you a cheeky smile and funny quip. Jacket potatoes, hot chestnuts, broth, bread and cheese and a stall selling gin & tonic.

Then on to the reason why we were here – to get hands-on with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. A large room with 30 or so screens were available and you got to play the game for about 25 minutes a time. As the night wore on it became more and more easy to find an available spot as lots of other people took advantage of the free drink on offer.

At approximately 8pm, IGN started to broadcast live from the event. Cameramen, lighting and sound guys, producers and interviewers wandered around the area talking to people and giving the online community a taste of what was on offer. There was also the opportunity to watch a never-before-seen gameplay demo with live commentary from the game director, Scott Phillips, and a live Q&A in the pub area.

After all this it was back to throwing knives, drinking punch and playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate before we unfortunately had to leave at 10pm.

The event proved very successful and everyone really enjoyed themselves. I’m hopeful that IGN will continue to put on these themed nights for future game launches.

Fly by Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Thames and Lambeth boroughs

Ubisoft UK have shown off two fly by trailers of the Thames and Lambeth boroughs of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Excited? You should be… as I have mentioned on our podcast, after the mess of Unity, Ubisoft can’t afford to make the same mistakes and I have high hopes that Syndicate will be the best Assassin’s Creed to date – the setting alone has been something many fans have been asking for… well, mainly the UK fans that is!

Grab some free threads for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Ubisoft are setting quite the trend by offering free extras. Ok so this latest piece of free content isn’t as grand as the free map DLC for Rainbow Six Siege, but it’s free so you shouldn’t grumble!

Coming November 17, there will be two free outfits to download for the lead characters Jacob and Evie.

Our character design team had a lot of fun creating these more fantastical outfits, and we’re happy to share them with everyone completely free,” says Creative Director Marc-Alexis Cote. “We want to thank all of our fans for your passion and support and we can’t wait for you to get your hands on the game on October 23.

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Get historic with this new Assassin’s Creed Syndicate trailer

It’s not the first time that Ubisoft have written in famous historic people to the Assassin’s Creed series, and in this latest Syndicate trailer we are introduced to Alexander Graham Bell, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria. Naturally there’s also some gameplay footage so take your peepers over to the new trailer below.

Jack the Ripper preys on Assassin Creed Syndicate DLC

Jack the Ripper is headed to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate as DLC and will be available to download individually or as part of Syndicate’s Season Pass, which is yet to be priced.

Set 20 years after the main campaign, you take up the hunt for the Ripper alongside Scotland Yard’s finest – scouring Whitechapel for clues in an attempt to get one step ahead of the serial killer and catch him before he strikes again.

But who will you playing as? It must be an Assassin but details of their identity remains a mystery, that kind of information is considered to be a spoiler! In the meantime check out the trailer:

E3 Ubisoft Conference – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Join Jacob Frye in Victorian London where he chases down his targets and fights it out on carriages and trains. Horse and carriage will follow the roads independently allowing you to fight while traveling, Enemies will also be able to knock you off and destroy your carriage, using Jacob’s hidden blade and new cane sword allows him to make short work of his adversaries – welcome… to London!