Does it hold up? A feature where I have a look at games from the past and see if they are still as fun and playable now as you remember or if they are simply rose tinted memories.
One thing to remember with the Assassin’s Creed series it that Ubisoft was a company that actively protected and promoted harassers and abusers through the years the games were made and has only just started cleaning house around the middle of the year. That cleaning is still ongoing so be sure to keep that in mind should you decide to buy a copy (I’d recommend purchasing 2nd hand)
Whipping the horse into a frenzy, Evie barrelled down Downing Street. She leapt to the roof of the carriage and dived off, rolling onto the street as the horse flew down the road. As she brushed herself off she watched as the carriage crashed through a guard before coming to a halt. The horse seemingly no worse off for the encounter. Pulling up her hood she climbed to the roof of the building. The plan to assassinate the Templar had been well thought out and the first stage executed perfectly. She scaled the rooftops easily, avoiding the detection of lookouts on top, nearing her target she paused… Then a breath later, she stuck. The man was no more. As she stood preparing for an escape the way she came, Jacob came running past with 5 Rook members. A gang of Blighters followed in pursuit, “SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLANS SISTER” Evie sighed. Why was her brother even in London again?
I always thought Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was released before Unity. For some reason Unity was this big media spectacle (and buggy mess on release) but Syndicate was treated with a lot less buzz and a lot less marketing hype. This could tie back into the marketing being convinced a female assassin wouldn’t sell the game but who knows. The order of Assassin’s Creed games gets a little confusing around the time Syndicate was released anyways. There were the three 2D Assasin’s Creed games released around the time and it was the last of the big Assassin’s Creed games before the teams took a break to work on the fantastic Assassin’s Creed Origins. As a result of this a lot of the gameplay in Syndicate feels like the beginnings of experimentation to something new while also feeling like everything the series had to offer up to this point.
It’s strange how every Assassin’s Creed game feels incredibly generic and also impossibly unique at the same time. Syndicate plays a lot like an attempt to refine what was already there and just test the waters with new ideas. A game that just gives you an excuse to explore a hyper-realised London of yonder. The same old running, stabbing, simplistic combat, exploring and more side quests than you can possibly imagine are at play here but the one thing Syndicate masters is the ability to ignore all of the faff. Sure, you’ll need to go through London wiping out the Blighter rival gangs in each location to have a chance at any story mission but these pocket missions are nice little arenas to dip into and level you up for the big fights. Those big fights will rely on tools a little more than expected but it’s the planning for an assassination dialled up in scale.
It’s of no surprise that visually Syndicate has aged fantastically well. The way the boats move up and down the Thames is a technical marvel and there were many cutscenes where the camera work was simply superb. Given the game has had multiple updates and patches over its life (even to PS4 Pro 4k levels) it is surprising how I was still finding bugs and glitches. Occasionally an NPC would need walking into just to get a quest moving again or an enemy would fly into the sky only to ragdoll the way down. These were infrequent enough to complete the story but it was an interesting reminder of how much was crammed into Syndicate and how complex all the systems at play are. It still can chug a little when the screen is absolutely packed but these aren’t during any scripted and it’s very minor on the PS4. For the most part it’s a real looker which is surprising given how grim most of it is.
London has a frankly ridiculous amount of things to be getting on with. The best thing to do in start out the game is to just pick an area of your level and clear out the Blighters. Regaining control of the town piece by piece by picking one around your level and working up. After this you’ll find yourself still with a map full of different types of collectables, side quests, activities and DLC to complete. The microtransaction grind isn’t too egregious in Syndicate unless you want to max out every upgrade and piece of gear, admittedly if you do then you’re in for a long grind but that requires a need to see and do everything. I found myself not only playing without any grind, I didn’t get bored having to wait for the background money to build. On a single playthrough it was an enjoyable experience and there was enough left over to advance the gang how I wanted. It all sort of nicely clicked together and allowed me to finish up the parts that I wanted.
Ambient sounds are really nice but this is expected from the series with no really memorable music pieces. The amount of dialogue is staggering but the quality can vary wildly, from impressive lines of whit to tired actors trying to squeeze out one more attempt at cockney slang. The biggest issue with the game really is Jacob himself. You switch between Evie and Jacob throughout but as Evie you’ll be hunting secrets and helping famous people of the age. As Jacob you’ll be being used by Templars then getting angry and killing them. Jacob also relies heavily on your gang and shooting whereas Evie relies more on throwing knives and stealth. If you max out her skills you can even turn invisible when crouched and unseen, it becomes a super fun Predator mode. Jacob just isn’t the hero Syndicate needs and although he’s largely redeemed by the end Evie is the star of the show.
Syndicate was also the last of the main games (to my knowledge) that dealt with the stupid ‘real world’ storyline of Desmond and friends. There is thankfully only short rendered clips between larger London stories but they really are fanservice and can thankfully be ignored. Unfortunately driving the carriages is incredibly janky still to this day. Somehow they constantly defying physics and can ram sideways while sliding around a corner like it’s a Tokyo Drift competition. The best thing about Syndicate is that these irritants are short lived. Everything takes on a more relaxed dynamic once you acclimatise to the Spider-Man style hook shot mechanic to climb buildings in an instant and zip between them. Syndicate at its core doesn’t want to be taken seriously or finish absolutely everything and that’s ok.
Where does that leave Assassin’s Creed Syndicate then? You’ve a game that actively wants you to clean up the city before you crack on with cleaning out the Templar. There are side quests that have you liberating child labourers but then get them to procure items to craft into murdering tools. There is a ‘Templar Assassin’ throughout the first 2 acts but they are thrown out and forgotten in the 3rd. The main villain is so sincere in his dialogue that it makes the nonsense Eden moments a fantastical spectacle. It’s janky in places and some missions can be incredibly frustrating but when you take the tools the game gives you and approach the frustration in a different way you can clear it easily. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is best approached as you would Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Dip in, run around, murder some gangsters and then sip a beer watching the trains go by.
Does it hold up? – Come on down to London Town – 7/10
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