Ubisoft has officially unveiled Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, this year’s installment of the long-running series about Templars, assassins, and the ability to scale old buildings without safety equipment. The game will release October 23 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and a little later on PC.
Assassin’s Creed games have come out every year since the series began in 2007. But considering that last year’s entry, Assassin’s Creed Unity, was somewhat disappointing, Ubisoft has a lot to prove with Syndicate. Does this series that helped define the last generation of consoles still have what players want in this generation?
Playing any Assassin’s Creed game gives you an exciting look at an important chunk of history. With Syndicate, the setting is 1868 London, the age of Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, and possibly a young Jack the Ripper. The Industrial Revolution is coming to a close, and the world is changing fast. Trains keep things moving, soot clouds the air, and carriages fill the streets.
The developers say that the version of London depicted here is the largest city ever to grace an Assassin’s Creed game. It will be 30% larger than Unity’s Paris and will contain seven distinct areas: London proper, Westminster, Strand, Southwark, Lambeth, Whitechapel, and the Thames.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate stars two playable characters, Jacob and Evie Frye. They’re twins who were raised by assassins to fight back against the gangs and Templars, corrupt organizations that keep money flowing into the pockets of the rich and away from the poor. Ubisoft released a gameplay video that shows Jacob sneaking into the heart of a gang’s territory to free his kidnapped friends and take down the gang leader.
As you wander through the open world of Victorian London, you’ll be able to switch between Jacob and Evie at will. And since this is an Assassin’s Creed game, you can expect to brush elbows with the famous people of the time period, including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.
Many past Assassin’s Creed games have relied mainly on walking and climbing to get around. Thanks to its semi-modern setting, Syndicate will feature trains and carriages you can use to transport yourself around the city.
Even when you’re on your feet, you’ll be more mobile than ever before. New to the series is a rope launcher that lets you pull yourself onto rooftops with the press of a button. You can also use it to create zip lines for faster travel from rooftop to rooftop.
The environment will play into combat in new ways, too. For instance, you might see a bundle of barrels suspended above a patrolling enemy. If you shoot the supporting rope at the right time, the barrels will fall and crush the foe.
As for the weapons at your disposal, you’ll have throwing knives for silent takedowns, a spring-loaded knife on your wrist, and even hallucinogenic darts that turn enemies against one another.
Making up for sins of the past
It all sounds good so far, but so did Assassin’s Creed Unity, which turned out to be an ambitious game that may have reached too far. Unity looked and sounded great prior to launch, but it debuted with a number of bugs and other shortcomings both large and small that led to tepid reviews.
In Ubisoft’s announcement of Syndicate, the developers acknowledged Unity’s issues. They said they did postmortems on the game to figure out where they went wrong and how they can use those lessons to improve Syndicate.
If Unity’s scope was the problem, Ubisoft has scaled back the new game in some areas. For instance, it will have no multiplayer mode at all. If Ubisoft plays its cards right, that will free up resources to focus on optimizing the game’s performance and squashing bugs in the code.
At the same time, the London depicted in Syndicate will be bigger than ever, so it’s wise to remain skeptical.
Will Assassin’s Creed Syndicate offer a fresh enough experience to keep the franchise rolling forward into the new generation of consoles? That remains to be seen. The game looks good so far, but it also looks a lot like the other games in the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I for one am hoping for some exciting changes to the core gameplay come October. We’ll just have to wait and see.