Assassin’s Creed is the gaming world’s whipping boy for the case against annualized releases. While Call of Duty pulls this trick as well, the sheer scale of an Assassin’s Creed game means that the stress fractures brought on by a quick turn-around are more readily apparent.
Last year’s Unity could be seen as the tipping point in the series. With a buggy launch and a poor reception, despite its decent co-op mode, Unity left the series balancing more closely to irrelevance than ever. Ubisoft needed to right the ship with the follow-up title, and thankfully Syndicate was the shot in the arm Assassin’s Creed needed.
Taking place in 1800s London, Syndicate follows the Frye twins, Jacob and Evie, on their quest to stop Templar industrialist and hipster hair style progenitor Crawford Starrick and his gang of thugs. In a twist on the AC formula, Syndicate allows you to play as multiple characters and you can switch between the Fryes in the menu.
While each twin has their own missions and story line, and the game leans more heavily in Jacob’s favor in this regard, you can tackle side missions with whichever sibling you choose. My choice of Frye throughout the game when I had the option was Evie, who is the more calculating and stealthy of the two (Jacob prefers the direct, more punchy approach). Besides being a more nuanced character, it was also enjoyable to guide Evie through the Fight Club missions and watch her mop the floor with pugilists twice her size.
As Syndicate is a near 1:1 recreation of London at the time and has taller buildings than any game before it, the story throws the new grapple launcher at you fairly quickly, care of historical guest star Alexander Graham Bell (who also gives you electric grenades because why not). With this new tool you can ascend tall structures in a few leaps, or use it to get across gaps. While you may roll your eyes at yet more gadget bloat, by the time you finish the game you’ll wonder how you’ve ever managed to get through an AC game without a trusty grapple.
Despite the freshness of the new protagonists and the usefulness of the grapple, if you don’t enjoy the Assassin’s Creed stable of missions then you won’t find much to love with Syndicate. There are a couple new distractions such as carriage racing or hijacking and there are much less follow and eavesdrop missions this time around, thankfully. There are also a lot of collectibles, and while you can purchase maps to find them more easily, a couple of the collectible maps are locked behind the Helix paywall.
If you’ve liked the games of the past but felt a bit burned out after Unity, give Syndicate a try. Even though it treads very familiar ground, it adds just enough newness to make the trip worthwhile. Oh, and do make sure to check out the Thames after sequence 5 to find an interesting surprise.
Has anyone else played Syndicate? What did you think? Was it enough to breath life back into Assassin’s Creed, or are you hoping for that rumored break the series is taking in 2016?