Game Review – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Assassin’s Creed has been around for almost a decade now and in that time we’ve seen some of the best and worst of what open world games have to offer.
Last year’s entry, Unity, pulled it all back to basics with a pulsing revolutionary Paris framing some top-shelf assassin action. Despite its deep technical flaws, it felt like the series might be back on track. This year, for the ninth time around in Syndicate, the blades come out in Victorian London. As much as we’ve been craving this as a setting it’s getting harder and harder to pull on the cloak. Here we take control of Jacob and Evie Frye, a pair of assassin twins on the come-up who take to London to make a name for themselves and hopefully also a difference.
Even with its drab palette, Syndicate’s London, like Unity’s Paris before it, is nothing short of jaw dropping. Taking perch on a spire to survey London below shows an industrialised metropolis buzzing with markets, stage coaches and residents. A working Thames teeming with coal powered steam barges. A skyline peppered with recognisable London locales obscured by the heavy haze of exploding industry.
Much of the Templar/Assassin conflict here revolves around the welfare of labourers both adult and child alike, and the friction caused between a middle class rising from serfdom against a heavily established feudal leadership. Jacob represents the more immediate urge to take it to the Templars, fists and all. With him you’ll spearhead the uprising of the Rooks gang as you liberate London’s boroughs one by one from Templar control. Evie is more level headed and has her eyes on the big picture aiming to track down and retrieve the powerful Pieces of Eden from the Templars.
An attempt to differentiate the two characters is obfuscated by the missions heavily favouring Jacob’s storyline, and boosting each character’s skill tree results in little more than cosmetic differences in action. It’s a real shame because this was a chance to really set Syndicate apart from the series with two distinct characters to not only develop but to choose from in practical terms. New gadgets like the Batman-esque hookshot are cool, but they kind of blunt the effect of parkouring around like a legend which is what the series is built on.
Sadly, bugs range from the hilariously superficial like floating pedestrians and carriages with invisible horses, to totally game-breaking like the controller fully ceasing to respond mid-fight or being utterly unable to engage key enemies in combat despite being face to face. They make for a super-frustrating addition to incredibly long load times.
Assassin’s Creed is such a great series, but it’s starting to look like more misses than hits. The huge shame here is that Syndicate’s London is a gorgeous and towering achievement of world building. But repetitive tasks and constant glitching both suck the magic out of it. With any luck Ubisoft with chill out on the yearly schedule and let the next game become something great, until then Syndicate is yet another Assassin’s title whose potential is more impressive than the result.