Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate review

Jacob and Evie Frye are twins
Jacob and Evie Frye are twins

Overview

Since the first Assassin’s Creed episode was released, thousands of people around the world have been hooked on the secret war between the Assassin’s and the Knights Templar. Having an interest in the Templar history, it seems strange that Ubisoft selected them to be the antagonists and not the other way around. However, it makes for a wonderful scenario and each game does state that it’s a work of fiction.

The year is 1868 and the industrial revolution is powering Britain as the most powerful country in the world. In this alter-universe, the Templars and their henchmen – The Blighters – have taken control of London and it’s down to our new twin heroes Jacob and Evie Frye to stop them.

Viewpoints are still an integral part of the game
Viewpoints are still an integral part of the game

You may have seen some information about this game on Steampunk Journal in the past, such as:

Speculation about a steampunk Assassin’s Creed

News of the Jack the Ripper Add On

First look at the steampunk outfits from the Steampunk Pack

The game is similar to the others whereby you visit different areas and have to perform various tasks in order to take control of that area by running the Blighters and Templars out. Once you’ve cleared a borough, there’s the typical boss level where you have a gang fight with your people – called The Rooks. Aside from the main levels, there are many mini game areas for you to play and also lots of little things to look out for. For example, there are vintage beer bottles to help you with your business ventures and pressed flowers which Evie promised to look out for on behalf of her love interest Henry Green.

There are a few interesting points not related to gameplay in Syndicate. Notably the introduction of a female lead, albeit joint lead. Both of the characters have a unique personality with Evie exposing her moral side more clearly than Jacob who hides behind the typical Assassin outlook of killing people and making money. Evie wishes to search for a part of Eden while Jacob wants to free London of the Templar tyranny. Thankfully we get to play both sides of the story. Both are compassionate, but Jacob tends to hide his more behind a shroud of sarcasm and jokes.

Sadly, despite this advance in equality, much of the marketing trailers and photos for the game features just Jacob doing things. The Big Ben and Charing Cross collector packs come with a 30cm Jacob statuette, while there’s no bonus featuring Evie.

Jacob actually wears is goggles making steampunks shriek in fright!
Jacob actually wears his goggles making steampunks shriek in fright!

Throughout the story arc, Evie also begins a mild flirting with Henry Green, an assassin from the Indian brotherhood. An interracial relationship in late 19th century London would be pretty much unheard of given that 100 years later, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss and it created uproar, so it’s great to see that Ubisoft have gone with this. I also like that one of the people you perform tasks for is Ned Wynert; a transgender American entrepreneur. This is the first transgender character in AC and possibly any other video game. If I’m wrong, please comment in the comments section below. It’s these kinds of history altering stories that we can accept. The game makers also went a little bit political towards the end of the game. In one scene, you have to escort Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja, around London so that he can talk to Ministers about the British occupation of India.

There are other interesting characters to meet along the way such as Charles Dickens (who died in 1865 before this game is set), Karl Marx, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria.

A bonus level is set in World War 1 and features Jacob's granddaughter Lydia
A bonus level is set in World War 1 and features Jacob’s granddaughter Lydia

Dieselpunks may be pleased to know that there’s a type of bonus level once game play has reached a certain level. Making your way to the far right of the gaming area on the Thames, there’s a portal – which is likely a tear in the Helix – that propels you forward to World War 1. You take on the persona of one Lydia Frye who, it turns out, is Jacob’s granddaughter. It’s a small play area consisting of Tower Bridge. You have to help Winston Churchill, execute Templars and destroy attack planes with an anti-aircraft gun. Could this be a precursor to the next AC episode?

Back in 1868 and while playing the game, you’ll be financially rewarded for your endeavours as well as being awarded skill points for errands and fighting styles (I was awarded one for a keen headshot through a group of civilians). With the money, you can upgrade clothes, your Assassin’s gauntlet and your weaponry. With the Skill points you can increase your skill set with complicated combos, better sneaking, less damage taken, more damage given, etc. Evie has a Steampunk pack available for free download while Jacob’s costs around £3.99 and these can be used once you get to level 7 in order to take advantage of the new weapons. Evie’s outfit is blue and grey stripes, leather knee high boots, a large collar and large cathodes on the shoulder which crackle with electricity. The free pack only contains clothing. Buying the Jacob upgrade also releases the weapon upgrades such as The Rend Asunder pistol, Chronographic Piercer gauntlet and The Wallop Enhancifier, which are essentially knuckle dusters with extra punch, for want of a better word. The outfits look damn good and increase your voltaic bomb damage. The pistol is very efficient and can be upgraded to almost full power, as can the gauntlet and knuckle duster.

Conclusion

9_splendid_highly_recommendedThe game has come on in leaps and bounds since its inception. The play area is significantly larger with a lot going on in the background, from people warming themselves around fires to curious cats watching you as you sneak about. There’s a lot of threats from Blighters as you walk past, a lot of swearing and some great execution combos. There’s the typically amusing comments from passers by as you hide behind walls watching your quarry such as “That’s a rubbish hiding place”, “She’ll easily be seen there” and “Are you playing hide and seek, Mister?” The background characters are actually quite intelligent, from fellow Rooks wishing you good day to people shouting at you for looting a dead body.

Free running is much more fluid and you can run up and drop down by pressing alternate buttons on the pad. There’s still the occasion where I found myself climbing up a chimney stack and had to repeatedly press B to drop until it caught up and dropped me down.

The grapple is a new feature and was brought in to aid with rooftop navigation, making it easier to flit across streets without having to jump down and climb back up. It’s an invention given to you by Alexander Graham Bell.

Assassin’s Creed has been in for some criticism in past versions, but Syndicate is a true return to form. The amount of things you can do retains the element of interest to keep playing it even after the story has ended, while the new features make game play different to earlier AC games and push the envelope that little bit further. The gist of the game hasn’t really changed from the original and I think that Ubisoft have relied more on developing the long background story line set in present day as well as the addition of technology to make the game better to watch. It would be nice to see a break off from the formula – maybe one set solely in modern day playing as the characters we see in the excerpts.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a lovely game to play with excitement and intrigue. The addition of the steampunk pack and Jack the Ripper storyline adds interest for steampunks, even if you have to shell out a bit more to get the good stuff.

Information on Assassin’s Creed can be attained here: Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed website

 

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