Assassin’s Creed Syndicate takes place in 1868 London, England during the twilight of the Industrial Revolution. You play as twin protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye, who have travelled to London only to discover the wretched condition it finds itself. Having been raised to follow the Creed and to see the near decimation of the Assassin’s Brotherhood with Templars overrun in their place, they take it upon themselves to reclaim the city by unifying the criminal underworld.
Syndicate does a wonderful job with its main characters, Jacob and Evie. The story is told through the use of these two vastly different characters with distinct personalities, capabilities, and personal motivations. Jacob Frye relies on a brutish straightforward approach to combat, specializing in blunt force physical combat, while his sister Evie is more of a sleuth – displaying a measured, tactical approach.
This is not only a notable change in the way you engage in combat but also in how the story and characters play out compared to other games in the series. The characters were well fleshed out with sufficient exposition to make me interested in them and their experiences, even away from the action. There was also great chemistry that made for engaging interactions.
Just as it has been done in previous games, the story repurposes historical figures and plants them into the story. Alexander Graham Bell was incorporated similarly to the way Leonardo Da Vinci was in Assassin’s Creed II. He was made into not only an amusing and intriguing character in the story but also someone practical that constructed and patched your gear. Something as simple as a fictional portrayal of real person is fun to see, and it pulls you deeper into the story.
The Industrial Revolution influences both the dynamic of the environment and the tools at your disposal. London is a much more dense and detailed environment to explore. Syndicate takes advantage of the bustling industrial, Victorian era city to develop a richer and more unique world compared to previous iterations in the franchise.
There are long distances to travel with lengthy, wide roadways, and bridges that connect sections of the city together. It is similar to the expansive feeling in Assassin’s Creed III’s frontier wilderness or Black Flag’s tropical jungles, but without the feeling of artificial enormity. The best way to traverse this landscape and gracefully manoeuvre the world’s obstacles is to use these two new additions to Syndicate: the carriage and the rope launcher.
Assassin’s Creed Unity had the largest map in the series’ history, and Syndicate surpasses it in size by 30%. With maps increasing in size from game to game, your character’s mobility needs to change accordingly, and that’s why the carriage was introduced. The carriage is not only a staple of the era and a speedy way to get around, but it fosters some exciting bouts of fisticuffs atop the carriage roof.
The Rope Launcher opens the possibilities of what you can do in approaching kills and especially in general movement. This tool completely changes the parkour gameplay, allowing for quick use and smooth transitions to maintain continuous, fluid movement. You can use it like a mechanized grappling hook to launch yourself to the tops buildings, and conquer vast gaps with a zip-line utility. It is never a bad thing to include another tool that can give you more creative freedom and more versatility in your movement.
The combat in Syndicate feels much better than it has in the past. It mostly foregoes its slow hesitant pacing and replaces it with a tremendously fast, fluid, and deadly alternative. Instead of pacing back and forth sizing up your enemy, you’re immediately throwing a barrage of swift slices and brazen bashes, while seamlessly ducking and dodging. You are operating at a faster speed and there is greater responsiveness in the altercations – more than ever before.
Every Assassin’s Creed game provides you with ample weaponry specifically from that time period that refreshes the combat style. Syndicate offers you some modest but effective weapons that are purchased or crafted, and accessed at certain character levels with the proper schematics. The long list of upgrades were spaced out enough during the game to have a pleasing progression that gave you time to enjoy what you had before discarding it for something better.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is one of the best in the series, and a big improvement over the last few games. Jacob and Evie Frye were well crafted and meaningful characters that will not only intrigue you with their acrobatic and physical feats, but with their personalities and behaviour away from combat.
The story itself was satisfactory, offering some gems, but was mostly a typical Assassin’s Creed tale. The setting however is what allowed Syndicate to shine. The environment and the tools to conquer it, made the parkour more versatile and fast paced. All of this combined with the fast, fluid combat and intricate finishing moves, made sure Syndicate surpassed all of my cynical expectations.
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