Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

ac syndicate

I’m finally ready to review Assassin’s Creed Syndicate! I say finally because I am finally at a point where I have finished the main story and achieved a completion percentage higher than I’ve ever had in any previous game in the franchise. As always, I like to start my reviews off by portraying the overall sentiment: Syndicate was a phenomenal game, and one of the best in this franchise.

Story, Setting, and Overall Presentation (No story spoilers)

I’m a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed story arch. You either love it or you hate it, and I think it drives these games forward and allows Unisoft to create relatively similar titles one after the other without them being too stale. Unlike Unity, which had absolutely no connection to the modern day world, Syndicate at least uses cutscenes between sequences to progress a story.

You’re once again the nameless “player” in the “game” working to uncover a secret from the past that will help the present-day Assassin’s uncover information about a relic. At the end of the game, these sequences finally tie back to the overall story we last saw back from Black Flag. I really liked the revelations in the end.

ac syndicate train base

The setting of London is fantastic, and Ubisoft’s presentation of the city and its boroughs has set the bar so dang high I can’t help but worry that the next game’s city-play will disappoint. London is undergoing its industrial revolution. Gangs, child labor, and socioeconomic disparities abound. This time and place, despite the horrific atrocities, make for an awesome setting that (hard for me to say) beats even the great pirates of the caribbean motif from Black Flag.

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London is divided into boroughs that each do a great job of telling the story of what’s happening in the city. Taking over the boroughs requires you to complete a variety of missions like killing a named templar, defeating a stronghold, kidnapping someone (cool new feature), or rescuing orphans. Side missions also play a huge role in defining the setting too. Marx, Dickens, Darwin, etc., all make appearances and have missions throughout the city.

Oh, and your base of operations is a friggin personal train that actually moves around the entire city. ’nuff said there!

Jacob and Evie Frye – Twin Assassins

You take on the roles of twins Jacob and Evie Frye who are both in the assassin order. Little is told of their back story, but we know that their father was a notable assassin in the region. Jacob and Evie have two very, very different takes on what it means to be an assassin, and how they live their lives. Jacob is all about action — even overtly. Using Jacob’s bull-headed approach you will take over the gangs of London and brute force your way through things; He feels very un-assassin-like. Evie is more of your classic assassin who prefers stealth and has her eye on the overall objective of finding the precursor artifact and staying true to the tenets of the Order.

I want to talk a moment about Evie as the first real female assassin we get to play in AC games. She’s AWESOME. The way she moves, fights, and presents herself is refreshing. Her spunk and contribution to the dialogue and just the feel of the game are probably some of the most memorable parts of the entire game.

Women in general are more present in Syndicate than previous games. There are women gang members, bosses, etc. Unlike Evie, these feel forced and awkward. Evie feels special for being a woman who defies the roles society would have placed upon her. The woman gang members and Templars, however, are way out of their element and ruin a bit of my suspension of disbelief. It’s also really awkward to be so rough with them. Made me cringe for a while. So in a way, I feel like adding woman all over the game actually detracted from the inclusion of Evie.

syndicate zipline

Combat, New Weapons, Gadgets and Features

The fighting styles used in Syndicate are excellent — way better than Unity. Syndicate uses a combo system about building up attacks and blocking; Reminds me of the Batman games in a way. Lethality and stun are stats added to weapons which make the combat feel unique across a variety of weapons. Best combat yet by far. So refreshing over Unity.

Canes, Knuckles, and Kukri are the weapons of choice for the Frye twins. I preferred the cane due to how awesome it was to club people around with it, then finish them by pulling the knife out of the top. Finishing moves were ridiculous with that thing! The knuckles were very brutal, and fitting to Jacob. I did use a Kukri for a while too but ultimately fell back on canes for both.

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Carriages introduce land vehicles and allow for quick ground transport. Once again, a phenomenal implementation. They feel like you’d expect, drive amazingly, and add to the setting. Hard not to love a good carriage chase when you get yours up to speed, jump up onto the roof, and leap over to another carriage. Shooting pistols from your carriage and hijacking other carriages… yeah, good memories.

The zip line grappling hook thingy… spoiled me rotten. I do not know if it’s possible to go back to just climbing buildings anymore. Traversing London by shooting zip lines from roof top to roof top, scaling big bend in a single bound, will make going back to finding a climbable ledge very difficult. This quality of life improvement is awesome.

Syndicate also introduces crafting, outfits with stats, gear with stats (belt, cloak, etc), and does the best job of making it feel like I have choices for how I want to customize my character. There are also skill trees which lend themselves to tailoring how you play, though you can easily max those by the end of the game.

Overall

I’m struggling to find something wrong with Syndicate. A few hiccups here and there in performance on the PS4. A few missions did glitch out that I had to reset. The overuse of female antagonists maybe? I do wish that we had more connection to the modern-day Assassins like we had in Black Flag and Rogue.Overall nothing bad enough to detract from a nearly perfect experience. Syndicate is a must-buy for fans of Assassins’ Creed, and a true contendor for my 2015 Game of the Year. You’ll also find Syndicate in our Holiday 2015 Buyer’s Guide for Gamers.

  • I’m a bit surprised by this review.
    While I agree with many points, I also really don’t see what is so great about the combat system.

    Yes, the 3 different weapons have different animations, and that is quite cool, but other than that there is nothing to the combat system. I found it easier than it has ever been before (which is saying something), and after having seen the animations, the dullest so far. (ACB for variety(with the massively different enemies and being able to use all their dropped weapons) or AC3 for challenge are my best systems so far. The entirety of the combat relies on countering by pressing E(for which you have loads of time), followed by attacking 3 times, rinse and repeat once or twice. There is also one stun move, which is redundant, but can be used to speed up the combat some.

    There are 3 stats, of which 2 do the same thing, and 1 is irrelevant. Damage just does more damage, lethality means the finishing animation happens faster (so 0 lethality would have it happen on the killing blow, 10 lethality would mean 10% health left). For all intents and purposes, those stats are the same. Stun just lets the enemy be stunned very slightly longer, which does nothing. I’ve never had easier combat than this.

    Also the crafting is an illusion and grants no choices whatsoever. Evie has a cloak, jacob a belt, which both serve as the same stat stick. All other gear is shared, and it is a straight up strength increase. The only difference in options is cosmetic, unless you want to use the best item, which has no alternatives and is the same for everyone.
    Only the outfit has an actual choice (+10% to one weapon type, more consumables or slower detection)

    In the end there are 2 choices: Which weapon type to pick for the animations, and which of the outfits to pick. Neither of those choices makes a noticeable difference to difficulty or playstyle, so you might as well pick cosmetic.

    I love the story, the characters, the banter and dynamic of the twins. The setting was nice and recognizing things was sweet. But combat and gear wise it was one of the worst AC’s for me.

  • @Caldazar: While there is little depth to the options available once you get far enough to realize you can get it all, the depth of simply having the choices far outweighs other AC games. While the crafting of AC3 may have been more complex, the options of crafting meant even less than the options do in Syndicate. I never had to, nor did I care to, craft in other AC games. It felt fun in Syndicate to me because it was straight forward and more meaningful.

    Combat was easy. Yes. That makes it way more fun than the FRUSTRATING combat of Unity. Rogue’s combat was cool too, but I love the combo system of Syndicate.

    I felt like the knuckles and the kukri were way different from the staff. The staff’s stuns made fighting large groups of guys so much easier that I didn’t have to use a health potion ever.

    Different strokes for different folks, but this is a direction I largely prefer over where Unity was taking things.

  • I didn’t like unity, nor the crafting of ac3. I did like the combat in ac3 more than in syndicate.
    I really don’t see how the cane sword stuns made any difference, even in large group combat. Press E when the prompt comes, don’t take damage. And it was as trivially easy with any of the weapon types.

    The only reason I can see for it being more meaningful is your mind attributing a value to the 3 different words, even though in effect there is no difference at all. If that illusion made the game more fun, kudos to Ubisoft, but it still seems very hollow to me.

  • The combat in AC3 was among my least favorite; Better than Unity, but nowhere near Rogue or Black Flag for me. I think you may be oversimplifying the stats a bit.

    Damage – Obvious one.

    Lethality – Reduces the minimum health needed before executing a finisher. Animation speed has nothing to do with it. It simply means you can put someone in a “near-death” state faster, thus taking them out of combat faster.

    Stun – The amount of time a series of successful hits will stun an enemy. Very noticeable for me which is why I prefer this weapon. Pop off a few good hits and the enemies are dazed giving you time to switch targets and/or block that incoming attack.

    Combat isn’t like some of the previous games where you can hold the block button and then hold attack. While there is a degree of ease (increased by the skill) in blocking, I prefer it be an experience that feels fluid rather than convoluted.

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