Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was finally revealed yesterday in a bold PR move from Ubisoft. After the lukewarm reception of the bug-plagued Unity, developers Ubisoft Quebec needed to come out with all guns firing – but can they give the series the boost it needs or are the game playing public suffering from Creed fatigue?
I’m an Assassin’s Creed fan. With the exception of the last-gen only Rogue, I’ve played (and for the majority) enjoyed every entry in the Creed series – but even I felt fatigued by last years Unity. Usually, I’m a completionist; I’ll finish every quest, every side mission, every collectible but I found myself forcing my way towards the end of the game, focusing only on the main missions. Maybe it was the plethora of well-documented bugs that crippled the game or maybe it was, finally, too much Assassin’s Creed.
Weeks after Unity’s release and lukewarm reception; 2015’s Creed was leaked. An accidental leak or a clever move from Ubisoft to get gamers thinking forwards? I’ll leave that to you readers to decide but the new setting was one that fans of the series have been wanting for a long time – Victorian London. Initially going under the name Victory, interest was piqued but that was all we were getting. Until now.
While every new Creed game talks about changing the formula, Syndicate looks like it actually will. Developed by Ubisoft Quebec (the first time the series has been mainly developed outside of Montreal) over the last 3 years, the team has looked at the latest iterations in the franchise and made drastically needed updates. First of all, the new time setting drastically alters what Creed is about – people didn’t wander the streets of London with swords on their hips in these days (you’d get arrested, sonny-Jim) which means combat is taking on a more visceral, brutal, up-close-and-personal vibe; out are swords and in are brass knuckles, shivs and fists.
Victorian London was defined by the industrial revolution (amongst other things we’ll get to in a bit) and the advent of the combustion engine and transport – trains are playing a big part in Syndicate’s London (maybe allowing travel to the Northern industrial hubs of Birmingham and Manchester?) as are horse-drawn carriages around the city. With this in mind, and the game taking place in the late 19th century, London’s streets a wider and buildings are taller which means Creed’s integral parkour has to change. And it has.
Victorian London was an inventive time, and new assassin Jacob reflects this with his an Assassin’s Gauntlet – a retractable zipline straight from Batman’s utility belt to help you traverse the environment faster and with more accuracy than before; and to add a new tactile aspect to combat. The skyline of London was notoriously uneven in the late 19th century with new 6 or 7 story buildings surrounded by slums on one side and historical monuments such as the Clock Tower (housing Big Ben) and St Paul’s Cathedral, so Syndicate see’s the action and intrigue take place on street level more than ever. Perhaps realising that walking around the streets of New York and Paris in full assassin kit has been increasingly daft, Jacob will be disguised for the most part in a gentleman’s top-hat and tails until assassin business calls for a change in attire.
Speaking of Jacob, he’s not the only character you get to play as. For the first time in one of their main series entries, Syndicate lets you play as a female assassin, Jacob’s sister Evie. While you won’t be able to switch at will during the ,mission, it’s rumoured playing as Evie takes up 20% of these, in the open-world you can choose at will. What happened to females being more difficult to animate, eh? Pleasingly, Ubisoft Quebec seem to be learning from the missteps and hubris of recent times and the signs are promising.
Understandably, not much as been revealed about the storyline of Syndicate beyond the series hallmark of Assassin’s vs Templars. Syndicate see’s the Assassin’s guild all but finished after the events in the USA in Creed 3 and Paris’ Unity with the Templars being the power behind the mighty British Empire. In a situation many in England find similar to today, the gulf between the rich and poor is wider than ever which, historically, led to the creation of the first organised crime Syndicate’s – organisations ripe for assassin integration, hence the name of the game.
The setting in general has tonnes of potential for excitement and intrigue. The late 19th century was the birth of modern society – transport, infrastructure, commerce, science and politics all rapidly progressed during this time as did mass news production and tabloid press. In fact, the era of Jack The Ripper caused the first national press coverage in a way that is recognisable today with suspects discussed by the press at large, and the failings of the Whitechapel Police written at large for the pubic to devour and speculate. You’ll agree, it sounds like the perfect setting for an Assassin’s Creed of a new era. With personalities and minds such as Darwin, Dickens, Brunel and, of course, The Ripper the cast should provide ample intrigue and trademark Assassin’s Creed conspiracy madness.
Will it be enough to revitalize interest from gamers in the series? Creed always sells well, but the fatigue is clearly there. Ubisoft’s video reveal was a good step, and Quebec are saying that right things but, with many of Ubisoft’s games being increasingly plagued by issues these days, the jury is very much out. The setting is what people have wanted, hopefully Ubisoft will deliver the gameplay to match.
– Dave Green @davidpgreen83