The Assassin’s Creed series has had its ups and downs over the years, but in recent years it has fallen on more hard times than usual. This came to a head when last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity came out in a particularly buggy state and received mostly mediocre reviews. Ubisoft fixed the glaring issues with patches, but by then it was too late.
Burning the good will of fans is a risky business because it takes a lot of hard work to earn it back. That’s the challenge Ubisoft faces this year with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, a game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC that launches October 23. Can Syndicate shake off the sins of the franchise’s past? Can it bring the gameplay into line with more recent titles that have improved upon what makes Assassin’s Creed games special?
So far things look more promising than they have in years. Here are five reasons why.
There are no two ways about it: The historical worlds of Assassin’s Creed have been largely dominated by men. With Syndicate, players can finally step into the shoes of a female protagonist.
The game stars a pair of siblings named Jacob and Evie Frye. For most of the game, you’ll be able to swap between them at will as they try to wrest control of London from the power-hungry Templars. Who you choose to control will affect the gameplay as well. Jacob is best equipped to dive directly into combat, delivering attack after attack to groups of enemies. Evie, on the other hand, is more adept at sneaking around and performing her kills from the shadows.
Speaking of killing enemies, the common complaint about the combat in Assassin’s Creed games is that it’s too simplistic and clunky. With Syndicate, the developers have addressed this issue in a few ways. Now there’s a much better flow to the fisticuffs than before. Instead of drawing your combat to a halt to pull out a gun and fire it, the game weaves these actions together in smooth, quick animations that don’t interrupt the flow of the fight.
You can even perform ranged counters, where you’ll use weapons and items like smoke bombs to stop a distant gunman from shooting you before he has a chance to pull the trigger. Whether these and other tweaks will be enough to make the combat feel more dynamic remains to be seen, but they sound promising.
Previous installments tended to take place in the distant past, so vehicles didn’t really enter into the equation. But since Syndicate is set in Victorian London, vehicles are being integrated in a number of smart ways. You can ride in carriages, race them, and use them to shove other carriages off the road. You can jump on top of them, leap between them, and even engage in fistfights on their roofs.
The same goes for the trains in the game, which operate on timely schedules. You never know when you’ll find yourself fighting a gang of enemies on top of a train, or even detaching the cars to lose someone who’s chasing you. With so many ways to interact with new vehicles, it should add a whole slew of new gameplay opportunities the series has been lacking.
Many previous Assassin’s Creed games have featured multiplayer modes that let players sneak around and stealthily kill one another or work together to complete co-op missions. That’s all well and good, but when a series has as many issues as this one has had, it’s probably best if the developer limits the game’s scope.
That’s what Ubisoft is doing with Syndicate. Instead of portioning a group of developers to work on a multiplayer mode, the game makers’ attention will be laser-focused on the campaign. With luck, the developers won’t be spread too thin this time, and the resulting game will be less buggy and more innovative than previous installments.
Assassin’s Creed pioneered the “parkour” style of gameplay that lets your character scale just about any building simply by running toward it. Unfortunately, the free-flowing movement doesn’t always work as well as it should. Players get caught on things and struggle to navigate around or through open windows.
Meanwhile, open-world Batman games like Arkham Knight made navigating a city even easier by letting the hero essentially fly to the top of skyscrapers using a motorized grappling hook. The makers of Syndicate have taken heed and introduced a rope launcher tool that does the same thing. In other words, navigating the city on foot promises to be much more convenient here than in any previous Assassin’s Creed game.
Taken together, these changes sound like they address a good number of the complaints players have lodged against the series in recent years. We’ll know for sure if they’re successful when the game comes out on October 23.