The Assassins creed franchise has had its fair shares of up’s and downs. AC3, to many, was a lifeless, soulless husk that failed to capture the essence of the Ezio saga, while the technical issues of Unity left many feeling that the yearly iterations being pumped out by Ubisoft was a mistake. I freely admit, that I “was” one of the latter.
Rather than the cold hard ground that follows Unity’s failed Leap of Faith, Syndicate may well turn out to be the well placed hay cart.
With a setting that many have been crying out for since the series moved to Italy, and now with a female playable character which turned out to be a bit of a PR faux pas last year, Syndicate seems to be Ubisoft’s attempt to right past wrongs.
Actually sitting down and playing with the new characters, twins Jacob and Evie, shows first and foremost that the inclusion of Evie as a playable character is not just a superficial attempt to quell the masses. Each character plays according to their very different personalities. Jacob, brash and hot headed is a dervish in close combat while Evie, more reserved and contemplative is much more suited to long range and stealth approaches.
The inclusion of multiple simultaneous attackers is something that has been sorely cried out for as well since the game first released with the “gentlemanly conduct” one at a time combat being scrapped for a more visceral and exhilarating style of fighting, more akin to the Batman series, than to any of its predecessors.
Having been to London many times, it was a delight to recognise landmarks within the game and although limited in the demo, the scale of Victorian London is truly awe inspiring.
As I said at the start, I was one of those who believed yearly iterations were a bad idea, but if Ubisoft can get alternating teams to pull off games that look, play and remain true to the creed this well, Im willing to give them another chance.
Consider this well and truly back on my day 1 list.
I, like many of you, have been a massive Assassin’s Creed fan since the first one released in 2007 (really?), and each year I wait with baited breath to see what changes Ubisoft have made to my most beloved franchise.
If you are familiar with the series, you’ll know that Ubisoft like to switch things around, a lot. I’ve lost count how many times they’ve changed the way you can scale a building, or hide from a group of guards, however, this time they’re focusing on the combat and I, personally, like how it sounds…
In Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, you control two Assassins with very different play styles. The more brash of the two is Jacob, who favours charging in and going at it like a boxer on a cold carcass. Evie, on the other hand, is much more calculated, and will take her time to work out her next move. However, it all comes down to the same thing, how can we kill Templars?
Things have moved on in the Assassin’s Creed timeline, and in Victorian London the sight of a cutlass at Charing Cross Station will not please the locals. Weapons are far more concealed, and cleverly at that. Featuring cane swords, revolvers, kukuri knives, brass knuckles, and the trusty hidden blade (of course), it is up to decide how you use these tools.
Let’s start with the basics, and something we all love, hand-to-hand combat.
Jacob’s style is very much that of a boxer. Quick, nimble, and packing a punch, scraps feel like scraps, and feels better compared to Assassin’s Creed Unity’s swordplay. Jacob can go into a fight with a flurry of punches, dodge incoming attacks, and utilise his arsenal of weapons, at the tap of a few buttons.
“The team worked really hard on having a visceral, hand-to-hand, very close combat that demonstrates the brutality of the period. When you’re in a face-off with a rival gang, you want the player to feel like they’re really in control, that they’re really powerful within that kind of fight. It’s within those guidelines that we developed the fight system.” – Francois Pelland, Senior Producer.
As any self-respecting Assassin’s Creed fan knows, it’s not just the fight we enjoy, but the end of it as well, and in Syndicate, we will be seeing more of those brutal takedowns we’ve grown to love.
There is a new depth to fighting, and the reintroduction of the stun move, which will stop enemies in their tracks, allowing you more time to think and to take control of an otherwise unfair situation. The stun maneuver gives you an opening in the fight to safely turn away, and pick off other attackers, or to whittle their health down for those tasty new cinematic kills.
You will get to experience an array of finishing moves, depending on whether you’re against one opponent, or two or three. For example, if you’ve taken down the health of two Templars, who just didn’t get the message, you can trigger a multi-kill finish. If you’ve only the one to dispatch, you can expect to see snapped arms, throat stabs, heads mushed into the ground, and the hidden blade. Of course, this is just a few, so make sure to experiment with your fighting to see them all (like violent Pokemon).
Of course, these finishers are not restricted to just the Assassins… Beware of knives to the head, or being picked up by the throat and chopped in the ribs by a meat cleaver, by the Templars as well.
It’s also not just the Templars to worry about, but the newly formed Police will also be out for you and your Rooks, with clubs to the head, and seeing Jacob being arrested and imprisoned for their crimes.
In Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, you won’t just be fighting on the cobblestones of London Town. There are carriages, omnibuses, and hansom cabs everywhere to take the fight off of the street. Littered around the city, each type of vehicle has it’s own distinct feel, and are actually surprisingly useful in a fight.
Not content with running Templars over with your carriage, but you can expect a solid fight on the top of them as well. With all abilities and weapons available, you can dispatch your foe in the same quick, and violent, manner as that on the street, but in a much tighter environment. But, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing that Templar bastard fly off the roof to his demise…
“An Assassin is someone who can jump on anything, they can climb everything, and they can fight everywhere, because most carriages have a hard top, we thought it would be amazing to go from one hard top to another, just navigating. And if the player can do it, why not NPCs or enemies? If you’re driving, you can go on top of the vehicle, you can fight there, you can jump from one vehicle to another. It was a true innovation breakthrough for the team to make it work; to make it fluid, simple and very rewarding.” – Francois Pelland, Senior Producer.
If, however, you find that the fight is getting too much, you can make a swift, but temporary escape, by just jumping off… Of course, they will find you, but it can buy you some time before the next battle starts.
Also, a feature we have grown accustomed to, we can enlist local gangs to give us a helping hand, if the going gets a little too tough for us.
“One thing that’s pretty cool is that you can hire friendly gang members. They will join you in your cart, but if there’s too many, they’ll steal another cart and they will follow you. So if you do that, you can very easily think, ‘I’m hiring allied groups, and I can go attack that stronghold.’ And the resolution of how I capture that stronghold is going to be very different if I do it like that. It’s a powerful and creative tool that the player has to resolve conflicts and puzzles.” – Francois Pelland, Senior Producer.
Now, I think this all sounds pretty neat, but of course I’m leaving my judgement until October 23, when it releases on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. I’m most intrigued to see how they can improve upon the acrobatics of the game, and maybe, once and for all, ensure that we don’t try to run up a lamppost, when we’re trying to find refuge.
UK gaming site Kotaku yesterday revealed a leak of the next in the Assassin’s Creed series, due to hit consoles in the Autumn of 2015.
Reportedly set in Victorian London and currently code-named Victory, the game is being lead developed by Ubisoft’s Quebec studio, not Ubisoft Montreal who have been responsible for the past Assassins since 2007, and has been in development for the past few years.
In response to the article on the leak, Ubisoft released a statement to PC Gamer all but confirming the game’s setting and current codename.
So it looks like we’ll be free-running through the back alleys and smoky avenues of Victorian London in order to find and stealthily kill our quarry this time. The other main bit of news on this next Assassin’s Creed? It’s not currently planned for the older gen console. It’s Xbox One (and PS4), only.
Time to upgrade now then, if, like me, you’re still clinging on to the older console.
I don’t normally suggest you nipping over to other sites, but from the article and the photos Kotaku have, this is already looking stunning.