Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
PC (Microsoft Windows), XBox One, Playstation 4
October 23, 2015 (Consoles)
November 19, 2015 (PC)
Playstation/XBox One - ₹ 3,499/-
PC - ₹ 1,799/-
NOT YOUR ANNUAL BLOKE!
Assassin’s Creed Unity took all the right initiatives but lacked the heart to forge the tale of a real Assassin. Add that romance bit and a Templar infatuation and you have all the ingredients but no firepower to solve an 18h century revolution. And by the way, did I miss citing the amount of times a ‘stealth’ game was turned into a mockery due to a bad bunch of Co-Op partners? Or even the glitchy parkour of a parkour based franchise? Enter the trumpeting sound of revolution, the stain of royal purple commanding politics and every bit of conspiracy that can derail a nation on the verge of conquering the rest of the world – and you have Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. A true return to the fun and sticky franchise that AC is. It seems that Assassin’s Creed the franchise is following a certain pattern in their annual release of games, which is: Create. Repent. Reroute. If Black Flag is the pioneer of how to create a living-breathing world in a game, Unity was a complete miss because the ambitions were set higher than the achievable rung. And here is Syndicate, that cuts down the major crap that stubbed your heart out with a totally desynchronized story/world progression and gave you just the amount of content that makes you satisfied, like after a good meal and crave for more. Even if Syndicate won’t shake up the Witcher 3’s and Metal Gear’s of the year, it will surely take the franchise back on the righteous railroad track. Enter Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds roaring the story of a British hunk, Jacob Frye and his ninja-like skilled sister, Evie. Because Liam is already History.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate doesn’t try hard at concocting a tale of two of the most rampant types of revolutionaries of the Elizabethan era – the Extremists and the Moderatists. Jacob Frye and Evie Frye ricochet the values of these schools of thought throughout the entire span of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. For the first time since Assassin’s Creed II, the developers actually went beyond just character personalization and crafted something that is also relevant to their age and modus operandi. Besides, the Fryes are a darn good duo of being a brother and sister. Born to an Assassin father who left his work undone, the two set off from the fringes of the City of Light to conquering the streets of London.
While Evie is interested in recovering a piece of Eden – the Shroud from the hands of the Templars, Jacob’s objective is clear: hunt down the Templars and fill up their office with his kind – the Rooks. Evie is the stealth-based assassin who will take you places by her sheer observation skills and sleek mode of work. While Jacob is blood boiling hot, doesn’t flinch from entering enemy infested territories and strikes terror through some of the cruelest bosses controlling the mobs. The tale of the Fryes often start with a heated debate, while one planning a quick sweep and the other contemplating on sending a loud message to the rivals, and ultimately each having its own take on the way the story proceeds. Adding character to the lineup are Henry Green, a compatriot assassin, and Maharajah Duleep Singh of Punjab. Spinning renditions on the casted timeline are the likes of Charles Darwin, Alex Bell, Charles Dickens and Karl Marx asking you to run riot for them, or stick to their whims. History comes aplenty, with cameos from Queen Elizabeth and Florence Nightingale.
The Templars are not that superimposing this time around, as there is a constant fight within the script between the Blighters (the street thugs of London, and their Leaders) and the ones actually taming the future – the Templars. The story of Syndicate is believable but it is the sandbox led experience that makes you stick to the game, it is a shame that the Templars were underused, we will come to that later.
Oh yes, Syndicate handles like butter, nearly all the times. There are additional commands that open up during the game, which initially got me scared, especially because Unity couldn’t even manage to hold tight the bare controls. Syndicate not only polished the environment and sandbox to make it far more appealing than the dried up world of Unity, but also introduced some cool twists to the existing Assassin’s Creed tale.
One of the coolest gadgets that get introduced in the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed is the rope launcher. Born out of Alexander Bell’s brain cells, the Rope Launcher comes as a handy device that makes building climbing and city traversing way more effective and faster than it was ever before in the series. Also, in times of enemies surrounding you, feel free to drop a smoke bomb and launching yourself on the tallest roof with this gadget, Batman style. You can also create your own tightrope and execute enemies with unique drop assassinations at places that are crowded – esp. the Victoria Station. The Rope Launcher also has a huge benefit of keeping you away from the maddening crowd, sometimes the glitchy maddening crowd, making Syndicate notches better than Unity, just in its visual rendition.
The Horse Coaches are a unique addition to the mayhem-less stealth involving core gameplay that the series always rode on. The coach fights and kidnap-events put action at the heart of a mission that was going well, maybe not as great. The horse coach sequences are tons of fun, with a choice to either traverse via the rooftops or take it to the streets, damaging mini markets and smashing enemy carts off the Thames Bridge. The vehicle play is sheer joy, and doesn’t try to force itself into the recognition radar – take a note Arkham Knight. There are Cart Hijack and Cart Defend missions to choose from, in case you are specifically looking at fast and furious street mayhem. And the cart turns better at corners, better than most cars in Ubi’s standalone racing game from last year. You can climb on top of your coach, while the horse is still following the nav tracker, and resume your fistfight with the onboarders.
Creed games always rode on collectible findings, and Syndicate goes heavy with its intricate detailing inside the world, whether it is about collecting pressed flowers, Helix glitches, letters from the period or a subsequent World War era, this game has all those immersive elements that make the timeline all the more relevant to the POV of an assassin. There is also a slight effort made to make collectible Helix points a tad more social, with an option to display free Helix points across the sandbox that your friends may have discovered during their playtime. And have I missed out on citing the brilliant beer tasting events spurred all across the world? Or the Fight Clubs, yes the real practice grounds for any Londoner assassin!
The combat of Assassin’s Creed never reached this value. Adding fun to the combat are parries, perfect parry options, the Voltaic bombs that discharge energy in restricted radar, and the number of finisher animations that come with the weapons you use. There are also dual and at times multi-finishers that Jacob and Evie perform, each in a uniquely stylish and bloody devastating way. The franchise reintroduced environmental damage, as gang wars look stylish and not even a bit cumbersome, combatting 20 thugs in one go.
The one underrated thing about Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is its Progression Chart, with Evie and Jacob unlocking special moves based on their skill-set (high on combat Jacob vs high on stealth Evie) towards the end. There are also Gang Unlocks for your Rooks, that immediately puts them at par with some of the best suited Blighter big boys. These are not just any random upgrades meant to buff your characters, but locks horns with the progression of the story.
Like I said in the beginning, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate brims with delectable content right from the start. The world never runs out of gas, and has a certain Shadow of Mordor kind of stickiness to your intentions, sometimes stranding you in between choosing a high target main mission and liberating a part of London to give you a street advantage. There are only a couple of varieties to choose from:
The Child Liberation Missions: Wherein you go in undetected, switch off the alarm bell, and liberate the children working inside the warehouse by killing the gang leaders.
The Templar Assassinations: A contract that states whom to kill and how to kill inside a high security area, sometimes wanting you to get creative while assassinating contracts.
The Scotland Yard Target Retrieval Missions: A contract mission that pays you well if you can kidnap a target, get him on a coach and deliver him untouched.
The Fortress Takedowns: Gang Hideouts, sometimes holding hostages who can help you if you release them on time. Clear the hideouts and burn the conspiracy plans to unlock the area.
And finally, the Gang Wars: Each mission as stated above clears a part of London from the red Blighter threat. If you lower the threat in a region to 0%, you stand eligible to face off the Gang Leader and his/her followers. If you get to eliminate the gang leader in one of the previous encounters, the mission becomes way much simpler. With each Gang eliminated, their territory becomes a part of the Rooks region, which means you’ll find more Rooks on the streets and more money back in the business. Ubisoft has found yet another addictive feature to seep gamers into the game, irrespective of the depth of the story. The iconic map reveal synchronization puzzle of the franchise has taken a backseat as this new feature makes it Need For Speed meets cutting edge Creed.
Besides the Territory takeovers, there are Initiations led by the popular figures like Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria (unlocked after main story completion) that makes the breather a nice little detour from the regular missions.
One of the best bits of Syndicate is the Assassination Missions that take place at the end of every Memory. A certain Templar needs to be stopped from pursuing his or her desires and be killed in the most sandbox-like way; a concept developed in Unity but brought to life by Syndicate. During an assassination mission to stop a doctor from spreading false medical practices, I was led by the sandbox to make creative decisions during the assassination, that not only made the act simple, but stylish, a real piece of history. We want more of those sandbox led stealth chapters Ubisoft, more of the Bank Robbery Missions, the Westminster Infiltration and more.
Visual Effects and Sound:
When I first found out that Creed was taking place in London, I was a little optimistic. I love rain, and I love the dynamical change in weather and environment that rain can bring to a game, Red Dead Redemption being my favourite example on the subject. Syndicate manages to create an environmental switch each time it rains on the dingy, ferry-infested Thames line, while I indulge in a personal Frogger championship. The evening in London looks absolutely gorgeous, with citizens and horse carts lined up the sides of the road, like there’s a party every time in town. They have also nailed the individual running animations of Jacob and Evie, and my heart goes out to the combo animations, that add sleekness to the overall style statement of the franchise. The overall Motion Capturing has been done in its righteous best, Evie delivering each line with conviction, Jacob being the moron that he is. There are a couple of visual animations that have been repeated and doesn’t suit Syndicate’s flair so far, for example the long drawn talk that Evie or Jacob gives after gaining a territory with a Gang War, Rise of the Proletariat style.
The Sound Effects are always the best bits of Creed, with the Stealth mode opening up crystal clear conversations to eavesdrop on, some really good humour and banter between the characters and an overall solid Elizabethan period based soundtrack. Add Noel Gallagher to it and there’s more to what meets your ears.
It seems like Ubisoft learnt what’s right for the franchise, with a deservingly delightful pair, a crisp storyline, negation of online events, but failing where it fails the most, since Vaas Montenegro – villians. While Starrick, the Templar Overlord, has some magic moments within the game, neither his theatrics nor his Sir Gallahad like appearance can churn anything worthwhile to it, add that final boss battle that baffled me with a big ‘Why?’ If you haven’t returned to the franchise since Ezio or Edward Kenway, this is your year to be back on those rooftops, slicing up those throats with the hidden blade. If you generally hate the fact that Ubi is making an Assassin’s Creed game each year, without consulting the worth of Syndicate, here’s some piece of advice – ‘Requiescat in Pace’.
+ Crisp Story and Lovable Characters
+ Addictive Sandbox and Gang Wars
+ Assassination Missions and Overall Creative Freedom to Players
+ Near Bug Free Parkour Experience
+ Worthwhile Sidequests with Historic Characters
+ Dynamic Environment
+ Character Progression
- Not a worthy ending
- A few driving/Rook bugs
- Few crashes on the PS4
- Lack of a memorable anti-hero