The latest hooded, rooftop-prowling Assassin’s Creed takes place in 19th century London during the tailgate of the industrial revolution.
Being set in a city which was the forerunner of mankind’s evolution into mechanised economic renovation, expect all of the grime and cruelty your hateful history teacher lectured you all about.
Child labourers being beaten by bloated managers, cavernous factories and crowded working-class suburbs are all common sight in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
London is also, however, extremely beautiful. With golden spots such as Hyde Park, the Royal Palace and the River Thames, a gloriously flooding contrast between gritty squalor and imperial glory becomes your sandbox.
This time the evil Illuminati-like Templars (we still haven’t managed to topple after a thousand Assassin’s Creeds) have seized on this booming progress, capitalizing on poor little urchins and unfair labour practices.
I must confess; I actually don’t even know just what the hell is going on story-wise anymore in this series.
Assassins Creed is a franchise I drop into every few games or so, just to see how it has progressed, but the story always seems confusing and roundabout to me.
At some stage in the series, I was chatting to some Annunaki star people, there are some glowing orbs that give its holders untold power that everyone is scrambling after, and history is members of the future’s playground thanks to some pseudo-science fantasy
Ignoring the plot for a moment, Ubisoft always make such grandly accurate environments, paying loving homage to whatever era they are simulating. London circa 1868 just looks too real, with its billowing factories and majestic landmarks still present today.
You’ll spend a good amount of time up high just admiring the scenery, and the intrepid tourist will seek out as many of the iconic buildings and streets as possible.
This time you play as two rascals known as Evie and Jacob Frye, assassin twins hell-bent on taking London back from the Templars, one borough at a time.
Together, you will become heroes for the salt of the earth, a dreaded knife in the back of heartless, industrious tyranny.
Each twin comes with their own fighting style. Initially, Evie prefers knocking bowler hats off mutton-chopped heads with her cane, while Jacob relies on his brutish brawling skills, punching the cranberry sauce out of enemies.
You can of course mix and match methods of brutality, with a myriad of abilities and equipment at your disposal.
Both have the hidden blade and can flash death before an enemy’s eyes before he or she can say ‘Cor Blimey!’
Both twenty-somethings make Jack the Ripper look like Jack the Real Estate Agent. The twins will keep you satisfied with a wide variety of very painful-looking yet entertaining killing animations typical to this series.
The Templars have subordinated a widespread gang known as ‘The Blighters’, the muscle they use to quell any opposition from bleating workers and would be rebellions. These brutes will be constantly patrolling the streets and buildings in swathes.
In response, Jacob and Evie start their own gang to match The Blighters called ‘The Rooks’, which somehow instantly becomes highly populated with miscreants. Members can be recruited like in GTA: San Andreas to back you up in skirmishes reminiscent of Gangs of New York.
This feature definitely mixes up the gameplay, which by 2015 is now becoming rather mundane.
Just standing still and watching your soldiers bruising the other team is delightful enough.
Speaking of Grand Theft Auto, I laughed hard at the fact that Syndicate is in many ways a 19th century GTA. You can actually hijack horse-drawn carriages and perform a drive-by with your primitive pistol.
Even more hilarious is ramming your horse head-first into other carriages, its mighty cranium demolishing them and sending its occupants flailing in all directions.
After all, London is a big place; parkour just isn’t going to cut it as your sole means of transport anymore.
Comical archaic road-rage aside, the combat and free running feel pretty much the same as every other Assassin’s Creed before.
I’ve been playing these games since I was about sixteen, and each one honestly feels like the same hood, different hunk.
The thing that keeps me funding this franchise after all these years is just how great the killing and climbing looks and feels.
Nonchalantly shanking someone in a passing fashion with your hidden blade so fast they stumble in shock for a few seconds before keeling over is a wicked approach I never tire of.
Stalking someone from the rooftops like a seriously pissed off pigeon before plummeting several stories onto their spine is my dream method of taking out someone.
Being a bit of a history nut, I love nothing more than exploring every intricate map Ubisoft has created, immersing myself into the architecture and culture of times gone by.
An expansive skill tree has been set up which can be shamefully climbed in no time through the power of microtransactions. If you don’t have the time to grind, or have the funds to skip jumping through hoops, you can buy experience point boosters.
You can also buy crafting schematics, treasure maps, and in-game currency.
It’s as if Illuminati-Templars now run the gaming industry, providing shortcuts to success to rich Swedish children.
Purchasable cheats aside, the skill tree does not take the exhausting effort you’d think the implementation of costly XP boosts would push you towards. The time-friendly player will have plenty of exciting new moves in no time.
Both Jacob and Evie have their own skill tree, but XP is shared. Earning a skill point allows a purchase in both their sets of augmentations.
The skills involve standards such as learning to jab two baddies at the same time (which should be called Double Penetration) on the ground or after leaping off from a roof, but Evie and Jacob come with their own tailor-made sets of abilities.
Each twin has three branches to navigate under their own respective tree. For example, Evie can learn how to become invisible whilst standing still (TEEMO!) and Jacob can earn significant beefiness to health and defense.
Free running has become unnecessarily tweaked. You now have to hold down the X button to climb and hold down O to descend, meaning you have much less thumb access to panning the camera with the right analog stick.
I don’t know if developers thought they were being innovative here, putting a spin on age-old controls, but this is a cumbersome change that seriously hampers gameplay and forces me to do funny things with my hands to be able to jump about and look around at the same time.
Another thing that annoys me about the free running is how the character will often bounce in the wrong direction commanded, a lot of the movement suffering from quite a lot of jerkiness.
While much of the architecture seen in Assassin’s Creeds set in older periods is a lot simpler, the mechanical nature of many settings now requires a more calculated approach as machinery and modernised metallic structures are harder to climb than more historical creations.
A crafting system has been implemented, and by looting the multitude of chests scattered across London you can gather materials necessary to craft a plethora of weapons and items.
Fun new toys have been introduced to the game, such as the Rope Launcher – Assassin’s Creed’s version of a grappling hook – something I adore to have in any open world game.
While you can fast travel, the hideous loading times means the Rope Launcher is a preferable alternative to speedily navigating London.
Love it or hate it, Assassin’s Creed is here to stay, and it is now more powerful than ever.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is undoubtedly a very impressive game on the surface, but enjoying the meat of it all depends on whether you can stomach anymore of its exhaustively tried and tested rigmarole.