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Review: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the sixth main game in the Assassin’s Creed series. It is also, finally, the first of the main games to have a female lead. Evie Frye shares center stage with her twin brother Jacob in this Victorian London romp through our brutal, capitalist history. With some very delightful murders.

Release Date: October 23 
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Official Website

remeshed Review

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate lets you swap between twin Assassins Jacob and Evie Frye throughout the open world exploration sequences, and in side missions. During the essential plot missions, you’ll have to play as one or the other.

I didn’t expect to love the twins as much as I did. The trailers for this game looked grim, so I was expecting some stern-faced Assassins as well. Sike, Jacob and Evie are funny. The banter and sibling rivalry between them gives the characters life and history.

Jacob is the “stab first, ask questions later” twin, and prefers more aggressive tactics. Once he arrives in London he quickly starts a gang called the Rooks because hey, he’s always wanted a gang and if he can use them to kick the Templars out of London he damn well will.

Evie is more level-headed, and favors stealth tactics, reconnaissance, and thinking about the bigger picture. Her quest is to find the Piece of Eden that the London Templars are after, and keep it for the Assassins. Bookish friend and ally Henry Green supports her goal, and the flirtation between them is adorable to watch.

Syndicate doesn’t avoid the trope of the hot-headed, aggressive male character versus the detached, intelligent female character. That’s who the twins are on paper, but in the game they bring buckets of charm, and a genuine (if competitive) sibling relationship, one that is deeply influenced by their father. I really felt that under the bickering, there’s a lot of love between the siblings. That on its own was refreshing.

The plot is standard Assassin’s Creed fare: the Templars of London are looking for an ancient artifact, called the Shroud of Eden. The Grand Master Crawford Starrick controls most of London’s industry, and has Templars placed in positions of leadership in medicine, transportation, and other important areas.

Starrick, the big bad himself, is a volatile, evil, mustachioed delight.

Throughout the game you chip away at his empire by completing missions that will bring London under your control. The city is divided into districts, and the disctricts are sliced up further into areas that you must reclaim piecemeal through a few kinds of missions. In Child Liberation missions, you rescue child laborers from factories. In Templar Hunts, you assassinate a notable Templar. Bounty Hunts have you kidnapping key members of rival gang The Blighters. Finally, there are Gang Strongholds and Gang Wars, each of which firmly entrench your gang as a controlling influence in the district.

I loved this approach to exploring London. The whole city is open to you from the beginning of the game, but each district has a difficulty level, which means you will spend a good amount of time carving away at the Templar influence in each area. As a completionist, I loved looking at the map and see my progress clearly displayed.

The balance between side and story missions felt great. There is plenty to do in London outside of the gold-marked main sequences. The side missions will trigger automatically if you get close enough to them, but you’re never locked into finishing one if you don’t want to. The ultimate effect is that there’s always something to do, but it never feels like too much.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate takes what Assassin’s Creed Unity built, and improves it. The AnvilNext 2.0 game engine debuted with Assassin’s Creed Unity, and it had its fair share of problems. With Syndicate, Ubisoft’s team has ironed out the egregious kinks and delivered a solid game nearly all the way through.

One of the biggest changes I noticed was that the characters feel “floatier” than in Unity. Instances of me getting stuck on the environment were far fewer, and free-running up and down was generally smooth. Even better, the new rope launcher changes everything about how you navigate London. The city isn’t as dense as Paris, and people have apparently stopped stringing up so many nice thick ropes between buildings. But with the rope launcher you can easily shoot a line across the wide streets and climb across.

Syndicate isn’t without navigation difficulties, and they’ll be familiar to anyone who has played an Assassin’s Creed game before. Later in the game, free-running becomes increasingly unpredictable, and sometimes the characters wouldn’t respond in the way I expected.

This didn’t impact my enjoyment of the game, and there were no sequences that were completely broken. But if consistent controls all the way through are something that you prioritize, you might be disappointed. Likewise, the carriages that you can now drive sometimes pose a challenge. This is the first time an Assassin’s Creed game has had vehicles. While the vehicular combat is awesome-jumping from carriage to carriage in sword fights with your enemies has never been so easy-I sometimes got stuck on things while driving in tight spaces. I was able to jiggle my way free each time so I never had to restart a mission because of this.

And driving a carriage is yet another way to get from point A to point B in record time. They’re just plain fun to drive, and if you can get the angle just right it’s hilarious and awesome to ram your enemy’s carriage and watch it flip over and explode. How does that even happen? Do I care? It’s great.

For me, the always-entertaining character interactions and the twins’ criss-crossing stories kept me elated throughout the game. I love the Assassin’s Creed series with all its quirks, and Syndicate really delivers what I wanted: interesting characters, a story chock-full of historical figures and references, and a magnificent tightening of all the disparate parts that make the game feel whole.

Reviews From Around The Web

GameSpot.com, Alexa Ray Corriea - 9/10

“Their story is a powerful one, about duty and family, and the ease with which they communicate and the believability of their relationship showcases the draw of Syndicate’s narrative. Add to this a supporting cast filled with diverse, equally believable characters, and Syndicate feels a little bit like being at a party with all of your friends.”

FeministFrequency.com, Anita Sarkeesian

“Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running open-world franchise, and although the gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from an Assassin’s Creed game, Syndicate distinguishes itself from its predecessors. It stands apart not because of improved mechanics or visual design but because its developers have made noticeable attempts to portray a more inclusive cast of characters.”

ArsTechnica.com, Sarah Leboeuf

“The 19th-century segments of Syndicate are so compelling, in fact, that it’s always a shame to be dragged out of the past to view the modern-day Abstergo story moments. Unlike in past games, there’s no hands-on action in these sections. Instead, the player is treated (and I use that word loosely) to a drone’s eye view of today’s Assassins, who are using the Fryes’ history to locate the very Piece of Eden that Evie is so intent on finding. There’s no real reason for this uninteresting storyline to even be in the game, and being taken out of the action for these scenes is always a drag. Maybe the developers feel obligated to keep that sci-fi backbone in the series, but Syndicate certainly doesn’t make a case for why it’s still necessary.”

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin’s Gaming With the Moms podcast. You can always count on Simone to make it weird.
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Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. You can always count on Simone to make it weird.

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