Ubisoft releases its annual Assassin’s Creed game which by now should be works of perfection given the number of games in the series to get it right. With its open world stealth action heading to London in the late 19th century does Assassin’s Creed Syndicate mark the pinnacle of the series so far and more importantly is it worthy of your time and money? Take a look at our Assassin’s Creed Syndicate review for the full picture.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review:
Today we’re taking a look at Ubisoft’s latest yearly release of Assassin’s Creed with the London based Assassin’s Creed Syndicate which is set during the late 1800s and presents new protagonists and brother and sister act, Evie and Jacob Frye. In a nutshell, the game retains its now overly familiar elements from past glories and wraps them up against a more industrialized and dreary backdrop than ever before. Whilst the city of London has its architectural moments, the industrial revolution is home to mechanized madness and smog filled skylines. There’s no denying right off the bat that London is the most grimy, dark and moody setting of the series yet, but in stark contrast to this Ubisoft has opted to bring family friendly entertainment with the Frye siblings which is the first of many disappointments. On paper, the switching between male and female characters is a good one as players can have fun not only swapping skins but undertaking separate missions with their own story arch. However, whilst the characterization is fairly competent here – albeit a touch predictable – the end result rests in the realms of the same gameplay regardless of who is selected. Jacob is a competent fighter, and Evie excellent at stealth, but there’s little difference if you swap roles especially as both share the same set of skills which are unlocked as you earn XP. The biggest disappointment with the two characters is how they are presented. Rather than opt for a mature anti-hero approach fitting with the game’s blackened soot filled setting, the fair and bright actions of these two noble assassins makes for a light-hearted take on gang warfare across the city streets. Sure, there’s much killing without consequence or conscience but the admirable goals are never crossing any boundaries beyond typical gaming tropes.
As for the gameplay, Syndicate remains a fusion of overused cookie cutter elements from previous games where taking over the city of London is handled via several re-skinned mission types. You scale landmarks to open up areas of opportunity on the map, engage in capturing opposing gang strongholds, rescue child labourers, hunt down specific Templar targets and probably the worst addition to the series outside of dreaded tailing missions are Bounty Hunts which are inexcusably poor and have you capture and escort an enemy to a carriage and drive them to a safe point whilst being hounded by the enemy every step of the way. These side missions are repeated over and over with progressively harder opposition but in reality as players level up, the tasks remain the same thing and can be completed fairly quickly with territories eventually being under the player’s control.
Sadly the game offers no real rewards for cool and calculated play which is always there as an option but due to the awkward and often unfair stealth mechanics means players are better off just going toe-to-toe with the enemies until they are the only ones left standing. Stealth should be a big part of the game and when it does work feels satisfying and accomplished especially during the child rescue and gang stronghold missions which are arguably the best stealth parts of the entire game. However, in most instances it’s awkward and disjointed where opponents can spot you far too easily and even when you’re not in their line of sight. What also makes matters worse is being stealthy and having friendly AI cause a random ruckus and blow your cover. There’s much frustration to be had with Syndicate’s gameplay for stealth players.
The alternative is to be a bruiser but due to the game’s levelling system means combat looks brutally cool but ends up being boring and lifeless as you hammer away at opponents for an eternity before they drop. The flair and the dance of previous games is gone here in favour of a more drawn out and visually gratuitous system which only favours those who are appropriately levelled. Anyone looking for a challenge is simply going to be faced with elongated fights which become tiresome. During encounters the camera can also prove to be problematic making for awkward angles and panning too close to the characters where it’s hard to see where your next opponent is coming from.
London is filled with lots of inhabitants as you would expect, but getting around feels like a chore simply because there’s too much traffic on the roads making navigation an exercise in itself. The all new rope launcher is a great addition to the gameplay for ducking in and out of silent kills, yet as a tool to get around to avoid the hustle and bustle of the busy roads it’s painfully slow to get anywhere. The free running has been modified as well opting for unnecessary button controls for going up or down which often leave you stuck rather carrying on the momentum of movement. There’s simply too many angles here which means players will grab onto the wrong ledges or face the wrong way blowing ones cover against the eagle eyed AI, and when there’s a delay in action from button presses means it’s hard to feel like a free flowing entity gliding across the buildings. There are also issues with button prompts which cause problems if there are more than one in close proximity making for frustrating moments such as picking up a body when trying to sabotage an alarm for example.
In terms of visuals, credit has to be given to the artists and designers for recreating London during this period. It’s got all the right elements to make for probably the best back drop of the entire series (aside from the lovely tropical Islands and blue seas of Black Flag). It’s dark, gritty, filled with massive machinery and captures the flavour of city living in the 19th century very well. However, the game does have its fair share of glitches which are perhaps expected of an open world game. You’ll witness people popping into view quite suddenly or getting stuck, and on one occasion as Evie and Jacob make their conquest speech Jacob is flattened and left as a flashing crumpled heap on top of a carriage. Whilst it’s easy to laugh at these moments it does feel like a game of great ambition marred by a lack of polishing the finer details which gamers are going to notice. For the most part Syndicate does run buttery smooth where only when there’s a mass brawl does it dip below the locked 30 frames per second.
Audio is of a high standard as expected with pleasant music running through the experience which ramps up the tempo to accompany an increase in action. The voice acting is excellent for most of the characters – although making historic figures such as Charles Darwin and Dickens more quirky than anything seems a bit too playful. Evie and Jacob compliment each other well with a solid script throughout making their banter enjoyable to listen to.
Gamers can sink quite a number of hours into the game’s story element with plenty of side objectives to gun for in each mission and the option to replay missions again and again. There’s quite a bit of filler content here though with the main assassination missions being the best part of the experience but the least utilized which is a shame. Players are able to plan their approach during these moments and go for optional targets for sources of information and makes for a more engaging aspect of the game which is sadly lost in all the side content which has you performing the mundane or the open world expected. As usual there’s a ton of discovery by way of chests, collectibles and extra gear to upgrade which is tied to the level of the characters. Players have to work long and hard to unlock the better weapons as you would expect but sadly a lot of elements which improve the gameplay such as speedier carriages, better stealth mechanics and such like are locked behind levelling up which can take some time.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate combines a fantastically realized industrial city with familiar and perhaps over-worn gameplay which after so many years should be well perfected by now. Sadly it’s not and comes with too many gameplay niggles and annoyances which culminate into a run of the mill experience. This game was a chance for Ubisoft to address the balance and reach great heights like it did with Black Flag. Instead we’re left with a game which is often dull and tiresome basking in its own tropes which we’ve seen too many times now. Instead of offering a mature, dark and murderous adventure fitting of the period, Syndicate is just the same thing we’ve played before under a new guise. It’s not inherently bad as there are flashes of excellence buried amongst the mundane, but overall the game simply can only be described as good because it lacks any genuine wow moments. If you’re a hardcore fan of Assassin’s Creed games then Syndicate is worth picking up but if you’ve felt the series has somewhat stagnated then this is not going to change your opinion.