What the hell Ubisoft? I thought after all the shit you went through with Unity you would have learned your lesson. I’m not even really sure what happened here, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is like some bizarre experiment to see how close they could make it to AC Unity and get away with it. The parts that were shit are the same except they removed all multi-player which just feels like a real easy cop-out to me. Then everything good has been tweaked just onto the edge of terrible with anything new being interesting but annoying to use if not simply confusing. The entire Assassin’s Creed series seems on the edge of collapse at this point with Black Flag being the only rally point left and I’ll be damned if Ubisoft and super fans alike aren’t gripping on to that for dear life. When looking at the how close to the present the game is now along with certain plot points I think it is a fair bet to say we are finally winding down. At this point though I’m not so broken up about that though; at least Batman knew when to bow out gracefully instead of sequelling its balls off to Assassin’s Creeds extent.
There really isn’t much of a story in this game; you play as twin assassins who argue like twins do. The man goes off to conquer London with extreme prejudice while the woman cleans up after him and does the smart work looking for the current artifact. Way to avoid that feminism controversy again huh? Instead of no female, or a sideline female, we finally get to be a female assassin… who turns into a geeky control freak with a crush on the only other not historic figure in the game. Way to trade one pit fall for another. The use of historical characters is rather interesting though since I tended to recognize more of them than usual and made some missions more exciting. My favorite part wasn’t even part of the main game but an almost hidden part afterword’s that took place in WW1. While brief it was far more interesting than I thought it would be to play as an assassin in a time where guns are more plentiful.
I get the feeling they wanted to design this game to be more open world than previously but it just doesn’t work. I may be incorrect but the map feels a lot smaller than usual or it may be more correct to say there is less in it this time. The problem with Assassin’s Creed 3 was that the map was huge but there wasn’t much in it. Unity had the opposite problem where the map was large and filled with a lot of landmarks and buildings to see and climb on but it all starts to blur together after a while. Syndicate is in the middle of both problems, there are either open spaces without much going on or giant city centers that all look identical. Besides a few landmarks I could hardly tell the difference between any of the areas.
I didn’t even know how to start the story before I had conquered nearly 2/3’s of the map. Then it became a bizarre rush to kill anyone connected to the main villain and none of them really do anything about it. I never even figured out why he was so evil besides the fact he was a Templar. At best it seemed he was a dirty business man who wanted to control everything for himself; something we have a dime a dozen for today. I don’t even understand the non-assassin part of the story anymore. Ever since the original assassin died for our sins it has just been one random Templar or Old One stringing along the plot for absolutely no reason after another. It really doesn’t serve any point but its own anymore and it needs to stop or get back on track. The game and story also set the two main characters up as having their own unique talents but they both were almost exactly the same with little to nothing that sets them apart.
Gameplay and mechanics are much the same as always, a very batman style mechanic but slower. In order to become even more batman-like they even added a grappling launcher this time. I do give them credit for the line launcher because it does add a great new mechanic that actually adds a new dynamic to the game… even if it has been done before. It isn’t perfect and getting close enough to a building to use it is slow but it is still slightly faster than climbing. Horse carriages are another interesting new feature but it feels like playing GTA with no consequences in the slowest possible way. I also have to question the actual ability of the coaches and the horses. If I run a horse head first into another horse and take no damage that seems weird; unless horses are made out of rubber or something. Much like the no kill policy and the Batmobile I don’t buy that I’m not causing people harm when I drive up on the sidewalk to ram someone; at least GTA is honest in its homicidal tendencies. I did feel a little bad when I flipped a carriage by shooting the horse but it was still amusing. Carriages are by far the fastest way to get around the city so there is that I suppose.
The problem is that they tweaked all the other controls so much it actually slowed the game down even more. Like the slowest parkour ever running up and down objects it a bit annoying this time around. In the past there has always been the problem where the character would need to jump over a wall but would get confused and start climbing up the side of a building instead. Syndicate tries to fix this by instead of just running towards an object and going for it you have to press a different button to go up or down. Maybe it’s just me but after so many AC games I found it rather difficult to readjust such a core mechanic. Combat has also changed slightly and not for the better. With the new leveling system it is near impossible to fight enemy’s more than one level higher and impossible in groups as I learned the hard way. Fights have gone from fluent storms of blades to ‘wait for someone to attack and just counter’. After enemies learn how to block and attack in groups it is much faster to just wait for them to attack you and then just continue from there. While it is possible to adjust to these changes it is questionable why they needed to be made in the first place.
The game looks much the same as the previous AC titles on the PS4 just in a mid-1800’s time frame. So a lot of the same I guess with good visuals and awkward looking characters. After the problem with bugs and everything on Unity you would think Ubisoft would have tried their hardest to make this one perfect but no. While not nearly as bad as Unity there is problems here; random NPC’s walking and talking in scenes, a couple of cut scenes with the characters completely absent (of course I wasn’t recording at that part), bizarre clipping and NPC physics and a letter I was constantly reminded about but could never seem to figure out how to obtain. Many problems in Unity seemed to stem from the multiplayer function; so instead of actually fixing that they just removed it all together. To be clear, I don’t want the team play multiplayer from Unity because that was a terrible mix of lag time and douche bag trolls. No I want to see a return to the good multiplayer like in Brotherhood, where I could go an entire round of making others rage quit with my near perfect strategies. It’s a little irritating that Ubisoft took the easy way on this one actually, it feels like paying the same amount for some with even less content than its predecessors… a favorite play right out of the EA hand book.
So is AC Syndicate good? Not really, to be fair it isn’t the worst but it is far from the best and the entire franchise has gone from a slow decline to a monster avalanche in very short time. I would have to bet that the series is finally rapping up the closer we get to the present. The problem is that there is no real significant event or period available for Ubisoft to use anymore that someone alive wouldn’t still remember; if they go back in time though then there is no point to the building up they have spent the last few games doing. At this point I am so committed to the series just in order to finally see some kind of conclusion Ubisoft doesn’t have to worry about losing me but I am starting to wish there was a way out. That and as a person who enjoys history I do like meeting important historical figures even if the context to completely made up. Although I have to wonder… was England made completely of white people in the mid-1800’s; because I didn’t see a single non-white person in the entire game.