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Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate review

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Michael Boccher

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  • Overall Score: Must purchase title
  • Audio: Standard, nothing special, and nothing out of the ordinary. It maintains the important background noise necessary for the exploration of the game. Ambient audio. Direct audio is little but the same as other AC titles and adds rather than takes away from the gameplay
  • Graphics: Beautifully detailed buildings and environments with nighttime lighting effects
  • Gameplay: In-depth, quality, and interactive missions allow for a much more immersive feel than ever before in an AC Game. Some slight AI mess-ups, but minor and routine to the series

Game – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Release Date – October 23rd, 2015

Developer / Publisher – Ubisoft

Platforms- Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the first followup to last year’s Unity. Although having many launch bugs, they were eventually worked out and revealed a very good game. Of course, with all the press that issue received, it forced us to look for them in Syndicate more than it would normally. Fortunately, over the 20 or so hour campaign plus numerous side missions, I didn’t encounter a single bug in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Syndicate tells the story of Jacob and Evie Frye, two twins who are attempting to travel to London to take it back from Crawford Starrick. An evil man who has all of London from the police to the lowly gang members in his back pocket, Starrick control all nine boroughs of London and the criminal underground. The game begins with two tutorial missions, first with Jacob then with Evie, prior to arriving in London. The two could not be more different personality wise with Jacob the fighter and Evie more of a stealth first approach. In fact, the opening dialogue says it all when Evie says “I’ve studied plans of the laboratory, I know my way around” only to be followed up by Jacob pointing to his weapons saying “I’ve got all I need right here”.

As you progress, you will upgrade both your characters with XP, even the twin which you are not using at the time. This is definitely a necessity in Syndicate as majority of the story missions require Jacob to use over Evie. Since you can switch characters at any time you want unless you are in a mission, this helps remove the inbalance between the two characters. Every 1,000 XP you earn nets you a skill point which you can use to upgrade your individual skills in three different menus; Combat, Stealth and Ecosystem. Combat skills include the likes of health upgrades and more powerful attacks. Stealth skills contain the ability of lock picking upgrades,  Eagle Vision to see through walls as well as tell the direction enemies are facing plus many more. Lastly, the Ecosystem upgrades contain items such as faster carriages and other environmental aids. The amount of skill points you need for each corresponds to their level. So one point for level one, two for level two and so on. Once you use your skill point on the first upgrade, you will need to wait to get another 1,000XP for another. Once you reach it is where it’s decision time. You can choose to upgrade another level one skill or wait until you earn a second to upgrade to level two. Even if you progress for hours without changing characters as Jacob, Evie still earns the available points which you can use at any time simply by entering the menu, clicking the right analog stick in to switch characters. You will also be able to level each character differently, say focus Evie on combat and Jacob on stealth or vice versa. As many of the side missions and optional quests require different approaches, it allows for an easier switch between characters.

There are also Gang upgrades in AC Syndicate as well which are separated into three categories; Ringleader, Insider and Swindler. The Ringleader increases your Rooks (helpers you recruit) XP and training items used. Insider allows the cops to turn a blind eye and make bad guys scared of you and prohibit them from confronting you in certain situations. Swindler allows you to make money from your hideouts, train and various other events. These gang upgrades differ from skill upgrades as they require in game credits only and can be purchased at any level. These credits can be earned by completing missions, looting bodies and all your standard Assassin’s Creed goodness.

You are also able to buy certain weapons and upgrades at any time, but will not be able to use them if you are not the appropriate level. All items, whether it’s a sword, firearm etc, can be previewed in order to see the benefit or detriment of switching to it. I should note that the in game store was not up at the time we played due to early release and is the subject of the small day one patch. As a result, we did not get to see exactly how the crafting works or the various levels of in game credit purchases we could make at the time of writing.

Once in the mission of London, you see the true magnificence of just how lovely the world map is. London is divided into nine separate boroughs including the likes of the main city of London, the suburbs, the Thames River, etc. From the outset it’s evident that Syndicate is not your typical Assassin’s Creed title with the beauty of the city. Plumes of smoke emerge from chimneys, sunlight reflects off of the ground and at night time the shadows bounce in the light of the fires around the city. Although it’s not a destructible environment, and nor should it be, but it’s one of the more interactive ones we’ve seen since Black Flag and all its scenes both on land and water.

Ubisoft didn’t skimp on any history either when it comes to London. There are side missions where you need to help Charles Dickens himself expose fraudulent hypnotists and Charles Darwin get specail flowers for experiments. Of course, it wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed if these people and items weren’t guarded by templars who needed to be…….eliminated.

As London is divided into nine separate boroughs, each of those boroughs has their own parts further broken down. While attempting to seize control of London from Crawford Starrick and return it to its citizens, you will need to take over each borough one by one. Of course, at the beginning, all of the boroughs are completely red, the classic sign in Assassin’s Creed that you can’t hide anywhere. You’ll need to be extra stealthy or simply jump from rooftop to rooftop in order to avoid detection while going from mission to mission. Once you complete the main story mission in each borough’s sub section by killing the main gangleader, the area will turn clear and allow you more freedom to maneuver about. By taking over the gang stronghold at the end of each borough, you will need to kill the main leader in that area. And in doing so, the complete borough will now be clear and control returned to the Rooks – Jacob and Evie’s gang name of recruited assassins

The synchronization viewpoints are of course ever present and require you to synch up in order to reveal the locations of chests, Hex Glitches, shops, vintage beer bottles, and other side quest related items. You can recruit Rooks along the way in order to assist you in taking out larger number of guards while you progress. They also help you walk through larger crowds undetected. Some missions allow you to either kill or kidnap wanted targets as well. To kidnap them, simply walk up undetected behind them and hit B or circle on PlayStation. You’ll have to walk them through the crowd, but being with them allows you to do so undetected. As you’ll go they’ll try and escape but tapping the A button restrains them again. If you like, there’s a skill upgrade for 3 points where they no longer try and escape. Get the target back to a carriage and drive to the drop off point to complete the mission. At the shop you can buy treasure maps for individual areas allowing you to uncover various items throughout London. This is pretty much similar to Black Flag’s buried treasure aspect on islands.

For those who like to climb to the tops of everywhere as an Assassin, you’ll have plenty of it in Syndicate. Massive towers and buildings take a bit to climb, but it’s minimized thanks to a new grapple gun. This allows you to shoot across streets to avoid hitting the ground or jump up to building tops much quicker than climbing. It has a racheting component too so you won’t just shoot right to the top. It’s a welcome addition to the franchise and allows you to compete and explore at a whole different level than before.

The environment in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is beautifully detailed. Many games with multiple, large buildings and cities skimp on the minor details in order to save some more visible gameplay and graphical quality. Syndicate didn’t do that and it’s a better game for it. The tallest buildings on the roof have minor niches cut out of the rock. Ubisoft didn’t have to do this. After all, who care about a small cut out of a rock on top of some random building in London if you never have to see it, right? Well, Ubisoft did. London is recreated marvelously and all of the buildings have a more 3D feel to them opposed to that look where all the windows and doors just look painted on them.  Plus, I know it may sound minor, but there is something magical about the way the moonlight and shadows from fires, etc bounce off of everything at nighttime in London.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed without the AI. These game aren’t known for their M.E.N.S.A. style A.I. and they shouldn’t be either. Most of the time, as in most AC games, the AI will forget about you if you run around a building corner or hide in a haystack even if they see you turn the corner or jump in said haystack. A simple whistle can lure them over and killing a guard from behind won’t draw the attention of his guard partner standing five feet in front of him. Is it unrealistic? Yeah of course. But so is climbing a 500 foot building free hand in a manner of about 10 seconds but I don’t hear anyone complaining about that, right? Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, like all other AC titles, is about the story and the journey behind it. Ubisoft has delivered Jacob and Evie Frye. Two completely different personality twins whose philosophies carry over to the way you play the game bring a new feel to the game. It’s not easy to bring a new mindset in games like Assassin’s Creed as the overall concept remains the same: Assassin hunts templar, assassin finds templar, assassin kills templar. With keeping to this mantra, Ubisoft limits themselves to how they are able to expand on the backstory and sidequests, but the Frye twins have a perfect ebb and flow which works great with the overall genre.

If at any point you get that manifest destiny feeling and want to go exploring, London offers plenty of options for you with its multiple side quests and collectibles to locate. The campaign alone will run you around 20 hours, but with full collectibles, you can look to about 30 hours plus in order to complete it all. With the elimination of multiplayer this time around and focus on the story only, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate delivers the best game in the franchise to date. It’s a lot of fun and utilizes not just assassins and templars but police, vehicles, loading docks, etc. If that wasn’t enough, you are even able to use children at your disposal. Not for bad though, don’t worry they don’t let children kill anyone. But with many children in London being used as underage workers, some are more than happy to assist you with information if you complete certain tasks for them. Incorporating all of these aspects of city life to assist you in your assassinating (say that five times fast) makes Assassin’s Creed Syndicate the most well-rounded AC game to date.

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