Assassin's Creed in the latest in a long line of open world sandbox games, how does this live up to its predecessors? I'm going to break this review down into sections, so it is easier for you to read the specific points you want to, we will have: The Open World, The Characters, The Combat, The Graphics and Performance, The Quality and Quantity of Content, then we will round out with The Verdict. So if you want a short synopsis of whether the game is good or not, check out the very last section. I would also like to say that there are no campaign spoilers in this review, however some of the concepts discussed and pictures below talk about some of the mechanics in the game.
The Open World
So first we will look at the open world that serves as our playground, and Victorian London is the backdrop to our adventures. This isn't what could be classed as an enormous map at our disposal, nor are the six available boroughs truly unique, with there being little noticeable difference between them. However the immersion of the map is very possibly the best in the series. When strolling, climbing or speeding my way through London, I feel like the whole City is industrial, like I can almost smell the pollution, feel the poverty or catch the trains.
Traversal through the City has been sped up due to carriages, trains and the new grapple hook, though sadly despite what I said in my initial impressions, that the free running had changed little from previous games. The more time I have spent with the game, the more I have come to the conclusion that your character goes where you don't want them too, or gets stuck on ledges, with a greater frequency than previous games. In my opinion this is something that critics and gamers alike have been complaining about for years, and not only has it not got better, now it feels to be getting worse! Many a time has my character frozen while climbing up a building, seemingly refusing to climb and further, until I let go of the analogue stick, press back up on the stick, and off the character goes. I am also sure this is not the game freezing as the rest of the world continues to carry on progressing in the back ground. My last comment on the open world, is that the architecture is very similar throughout the game world, I would have liked to seen greater diversity between the housing and warehouses, alas there is little change.
Despite the previous section being a mixed bag of good and bad points, the characters in Syndicate are really, really good. Now with two protagonists in place of one, Evie and Jacob Frye take up the mantle left from previous games and they run with it. There is a clear, close relationship between the twins, and sometimes there is love and agreements, while other times there is irritation, however no matter the banter between the two of them, it is always a pleasure to see both of them on screen together. There is a reasonably good supporting cast as well, with the highlight being Alexander Graham Bell, he takes the traditional character, as with previous games, of the inventor for the twins. There are other famous faces sprinkled through out the game, but for the sake of a spoiler free review, I shall leave them unmentioned. Both Evie and Jacob have seperate skill trees, which must have skill points put into each one, though sadly both skill trees are identical, and already I have filled 75% of both their trees. While none of the perks totally change the way you will play as a character, they do finesse their individual play styles. There is also a sperate skill tree(which I won't name for spoilers but it is apparent once you gain access to it), which unlocks perks for both characters. There is one in particular which is a necessity, it is called Notoriety, and will make your visit in London, much more pleasant.
The combat of Assassin's Creed has always been a factor of the game which has been good, but not amazing, this view of combat hasn't changed in Syndicate. Now there is a combo meter in the bottom left corner, and truly highlights how long combat can take. For example, there is a trophy for getting a 40x combo, I earned this on day 1, just from fighting a singular(though higher level than me) enemy, to put that another way, I had to press Square over 40 times, just to take down one enemy! I can't quite put my finger on what has changed, but I think it could be summed up as easily as the enemies have far too much health. I would like to say that you will come across enemies with that much health on very rare occasions, however it is not rare to see a foe that will increase your combo by 8-10 times. I feel like the combo meter has highlighted how much of the combat comes down to mashing buttons. Most of your time will be spend with your finger on the square button, with the semi-frequent press of circle to counter, X to break the foes defence, and occasionally triangle to dodge a bullet. Also customisation of combat(as with nearly all customisatoion) has left the franchise with Syndicate, unlike previous games, you can't buy unique weapons that make you have to play differently in battle, now there is a notable difference between Evie and Jacob, but little way to change the weapons of the individuals. For example Jacob will only be able to use knuckle dusters or daggers, while Evie can use her dagger cane or a dagger. Gone are the options to have swords, or halberds(the long axes), and I feel like this has lessened the variety of combat further!
The Graphics and Performance
The graphical prowess of this game is undeniable everywhere you go, there are amazing particle effects flowing from the rooftop chimneys, stunning shadows that can be seen in great detail from great distances, awesome character animations(most of the time), the list goes on. This is a truly beautiful game that rewards plaudits just for how it looks alone! The performance of the game doesn't let it down either, with a rock solid 30fps, which to my eye has never slowed down, I'm sure it has wavered a little, but I've never noticed it with my eye! All in all, this section is a huge success for Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and I can't wait to see what else Ubisoft can create on the Anvil engine!
The Quality and Quantity of Content
This is a tricky topic for Syndicate, on the one hand if you look at your map after even a few hours in the open world, you will see at least parts of it(you are lead to more areas as you progress) are absolutely littered with icons of things to do and see. However under closer inspection you will see that Ubisoft has stepped up their collectables game this year, with many of the icons being such. To some degree these are useful, with pressed flowers unlocking new colours for your characters, and music boxes which are said to unlock a mysterious crypt once all 30 are collected. I personally get the feeling that there are a few side quests that they have hidden behind the collection of many collectables, which I personally don't like. You can't go round a corner in Syndicate without running into another collectable, I find this "filling" quite annoying, as it makes the map look much more alive than it in actual fact is! In terms of the story missions, so far I haven't come across anything to break the bank, for the most part they are good, well designed missions. For the most part our old, most hated missions which usually involve following someone from afar, have stayed out of Syndicate, though I have come across one in a side mission. There seem to be a good number of side missions, and they form into more of a chain than in previous games. So your map won't be flooded with side quests, rather a small number of quests that are like mini campaigns. I like this move a lot as it feels like you are progressing even in the side content.
In terms of wandering around the world, there are a nice number of mini missions all over the place, these usually involve you weakening the Templars hold on that area, and can be taken on either with stealth in mind, or a guns blazing approach. If I had one criticism of the main campaign, is that it feel like the task of removing the Templars from London is a massive job, not in the nice way of "ohh look at all these activities to complete", more in the sense of "right let's go and kill this local leader, just like the previous half dozen".
I summary, there is plenty of content to keep you busy, most of it is to a good standard, though nothing tears the rule book to shreds, then there are some missions that feel like they are copy and pasted across the City to give you more things to have to do. So if you want to play the Campaign, you will have a good time, if you stray of the beaten track into the world, you may find yourself questioning if you have done this before, many times.
Okay guys, we have reached the precipice of this review! So in summary Assassin's Creed Syndicate is a very good game, but one which if it had received as little as 6 months more polish and refining, could have been a game to go down in history. As it is, Assassin's Creed Syndicate is a game you should pick up straight away, if you have played previous Assassin's games, and have liked them. If not, there isn't enough new here to warrant you picking it up. Which brings me to my numerical score of:
Thank you very much for reading,
Friends of The Games Critic:
My name is Ed, I write everything here, covering all kinds of games, but I only play them on the PS4!