Re: Dead Kings -Assassin's Creed Franchise Review- Updated 3/4/15
Assassin's Creed Syndicate (2015)
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
It is 1868, and the Industrial Revolution is nearing its end. In the city of London, twin Assassins Jacob and Evie Frye arrive to find it controlled by the Templars. Though they both follow the Creed, the twins have vastly different views on how to return the Assassins to influence in London. The twins must utilize the criminal elements within the city to help bring about the downfall of the Templars as well as discover the location of the Shroud of Eden, a Piece of Eden that is rumored to be able to make its wielder immortal.
In the modern day, the Assassins are on the run. The second Great Purge is in full swing, and the Templars are closer than ever to hunting them down completely. They must use their skills and the Helix to gain important knowledge of the past in order to find the secret relic that the twins in the past sought after. But with every step they take they come closer and closer to their own destruction. Utilizing the engine pioneered by Unity, Assassinís Creed Syndicate brings Industrial Age London to life in an overall stunning way. Like Paris, London is quite beautiful and quite large, its greatest extent being about a mile and a half across. And unlike other games, London is represented in its entirety; though there are clearly defined borders, Ubisoft made it so that the city appears to continue on and on in any direction, only stopping you from exploring further as those areas are not relevant to the story. This gives the fantastic illusion of the city being appropriately sized and set up, perhaps making it the most accurate game yet in terms of world building. The city comprises a number of districts including Winchester, Lambeth, and even the Thames River itself. The Thames is fun, and a fantastic re-creation of how busy the river was; either of the protagonists can use the shipping or the river itself to cross the expanse rather than using the bridges, and there is plenty of boats to raid along the way. The detail in the buildings and the city itself is magnificent, and combined with the overall size of the world, really makes London feel as if it were a living city. Additionally, Ubisoft has improved on the map mechanic from Unity, making it look a fully representative 3D map with all the proper features and scale. Syndicate brings a number of new gameplay mechanics to the franchise, one of the most important of which is the rope launcher. Acquired from a slain Templar, the rope launcher allows either of the protagonists the ability to quickly climb tall buildings as well as form a sort of zip line across buildings or streets, allowing easy traversal of London. While it may feel like somewhat of a copout to have give climbing an easy alternative, the player will find the rope launcher necessary given the attention to detail with London. Ubisoft has ensured that the tall buildings and wide streets of Victorian London were present in the game, which means that it is incredibly difficult to climb such buildings as well as cross the streets from building to building without great effort. The rope launcher eliminates this problem and presents a fun way to move around London. The player can also use the rope launcher to create assassination opportunities in places where there would otherwise be none. Another new addition that also aids in movement across the city is the carriage system. For the first time in the series, the player can commandeer horse-drawn carriages to ride from point A to point B. These carriages are utilized by civilians, police, and gang members alike, so there are plenty of opportunities to hijack a variety of them as well as engage in high speed pursuits as well as use the carriage to damage enemy ones that get too close. The carriages are used in missions, side activities, and free roam alike, so the system is heavily used to complement the game. The system is fun and an interesting twist on the use of horses, which has not been used since Assassinís Creed III. The only problem that really emerges is the sometimes iffy controls as well as the fact that it is possible to run down and kill civilians with the carriages. This is of course a contradiction of the core of the creed, which is to not harm innocents, and since the Animus/Helix does not punish you for such things, it is possible to freely ride around the city and mow down crowds of civilians. Itís not a very stealthy nor creed-like addition, but it does not exactly hamper the fun of the mechanic.
VIDEO A final new mechanic to movement is the the introduction of trains and river boats to the franchise. Jacob and Evie capture a train early in the game and convert it into a mobile hide out, and there are trains that move throughout the city. These trains can be ridden on and in some cases robbed for experience and money. Related to this is the boats that sail up and down the Thames. These boats can be ridden on and raided as well, and their movement allows for a fun sort of crossing. The experience with the these two new systems is a bit mixed. The Thames itself is quite fun overall, and a nice feature in the game. However, though it is an interesting addition, I donít find the trains to be all that useful as it is quicker to simply move throughout the city on carriage or with the rope launcher. Overall though, both offer an interesting flavor to the game, and contribute to the overall atmosphere of Victorian London; without them, something would certainly be missing. The missions and the story have, in some ways, been greatly improved over Unity. Both Jacob and Evie have their own missions as well as their own story in the quest to liberate London from the Templars, contrasting their different aims. Jacob wishes to focus primarily on eliminating Templar influence to aid the poor working classes that are being oppressed by them, while Evieís aims are to stop the Templars from acquiring a Piece of Eden that is hidden somewhere in the city. While these are diverging goals for certain, they both exemplify the creed of the Assassins, and as the story goes on, their quests merge into one unified goal. The story is good, to be sure, however it does have its own problems. For one, while both Evie and Jacobís quests are important, there is a clear inequality in the actual number of missions each has. Evieís story only contains roughly one-fourth of the number of overall main missions. Jacobís story takes clear center stage in a game that features two separate but supposedly equal protagonists, and this is a problem. It is clear that Ubisoft, under pressure from the backlash of no female protagonists in Unity despite the co-op mission structure, tacked on Evieís missions to sort of appease outcry. This makes it feel like Evieís story was an afterthought; while she must have been included from the very beginning, her own missions probably originally belonged to Jacob and tweaked for his aims. Itís a shame, as her missions and goals are quite interesting, and would have been better if they had been more fleshed out. Another issue that comes from having two protagonists is the somewhat disjointed nature of the story. There is no clear chain of events within the game, as within each sequence one can play Jacobís or Evieís missions in any order unless they are directly related to previous missions. Combined with the already haphazard switching back and forth, the story is somewhat convoluted and hard to follow. It also is a rather bland and generic story, if my summary of it at the beginning of the review is any indication. The modern day is also kind of uninspired as well, at least until the very end, and requires little to no interaction by the player yet again. I find myself needing to play the game again or at least certain sequences in order to grasp a better understanding of the overall story, and that should not be the case. The story remains much more interesting than Arnoís in revolutionary Paris, but these problems cannot really be overlooked. However, for the first time since the very beginning of the franchise (not counting Rogue), the protagonists begin the game as established members of the Assassin Brotherhood. While perhaps an odd thing to praise, it eliminates much of what has comprised previous stories; the need to join the Brotherhood, and in most cases, the need for some sort of revenge. Ezio, Connor, and Arno all join the Assassins because of some sort of revenge, with Shay and Edward being the odd exceptions. This is, in my opinion, a step forward to reduce the repetitiveness of previous games.
The side missions and activities are also very well fleshed out in this game. There is plenty to do for both Jacob and Evie, and each of their mission chains allow for side missions. Oddly enough these activities and missions can be done by either twin, which one would think would violate the rules of the animus and the memories of individuals. Either way, the system works. It is often through these side activities that the player meets some famous historical figures such as Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, whose mission chains can be quite fun as well as more fully fleshing out the twins ideologies and their goals. The side activities consist mostly of liberating the city of London, which means gang fighting between The Rooks and the gang associated with the Templars. These activities are certainly fun, but they can also be somewhat repetitive after a time. Nonetheless they are good additions to the game and also increase the variety offered by the overall campaign.
VIDEO Outside of the Helix/Animus, the modern story has thankfully been improved on compared to Unity as well. While there was no clear story in that game, Syndicateís modern day has a clear, albeit non-interactive, story. The modern day is in some ways a continuation of both Unity and Rogue, further tying the latter into the main canon of the game. The inclusion of Rebecca and Shaun from previous games was a definite highlight, and the story is driven forward in a meaningful way in my opinion. I am aware that many people disliked the modern day story as well as the twist at the end, but I believe that the modern day is still necessary for the game as well as the franchise. I for one enjoyed the end of it, as it shows that the past is still linked to the present and that both are relevant for the overall story. However, there is still some work that needs to be done, particularly to make it more interactive as the last game that we actually interacted in the modern day was Rogue.
Combat has received an overhaul in Syndicate. Eschewing the multiple different weapon and armor types of Unity, Syndicate instead focuses on a core group of weapons and armor/outfits. As the game takes place in a different era, the weapons themselves are wholly different from previous games. Instead of large weapons such as swords and axes, Jacob and Evie have access to multiple types of kukris, sword canes, and brass knuckles. Each weapon type has more powerful variants that can be unlocked with game progression, and each weapon deliver differing methods of death. For the most part, combat feels fairly repetitive when it comes to whittling down enemy health, but that feeling disappears when it comes to death animations, which now include multi-kills that can go up to four enemies killed in one swift animation. This is achieved by lowering enemy health to a ďnear deathĒ status, and when multiple enemies near the protagonists are in this state the resulting multi-kills can occur. Combat is a bit easier than Unity was, however it is still more difficult than previous games, which is a good balance in my opinion. It is easy to become overwhelmed early in the game, though, as the combat takes some getting used to. VIDEO In addition to combat you also have the ability to level your characters throughout the game. Spanning from 1-10, these levels are necessary in order to equip different weapons as well as give Evie and Jacob upgrades to their skills. These skills can be both shared as well as unique to individuals, and they are valuable in upgrading as they help greatly throughout the campaign. Both the skills and the upgrades are especially necessary as the enemies have their own levels in this game, and it is entirely possible to die to a high level, single thug if your skills/levels are not good enough. You can also use a similar feature to upgrade your gang, The Rooks, so that they may better aid you throughout the game. I feel both of these features are welcome additions, and further add to the role playing nature of the game as you do have to make choices on where to spend your points and money. While you will eventually get all the upgrades it still makes early choices important in how you will play the campaign.
One final thing that is worth discussing is the fact that unlike the previous games Ubisoft has focused entirely on the single player campaign. For the first time since Assassinís Creed II, there is no multiplayer. As someone who enjoys the single player campaigns nearly exclusively in an era where developers are focusing too much on multiplayer (in my opinion), this was a refreshing change. However, there is one clear area that the game lacks; the ability to play as both the twins in co-op style. It would have been fun, and would have been similar to how they did it in Unity, but for whatever reason Ubisoft decided not to include it. This might be further indication that Evieís part of the story was shoe-horned in from the criticism hurled at Unity for the lack of the ability to play as a female. Either way, it is disappointing and would have felt far more natural to include than the co-op campaign in Unity. In addition, and as already mentioned, the story has many flaws, though it is still a huge improvement over Unity in nearly every way. But there is still some progress that needs to be made to bring it back to the greatness that was present in the first few games, especially since we are definitely nearing the end of the story from the modern perspective.
It would be worth mentioning that there are a couple more negatives worthy of discussion. Despite the beauty of the game, it is still clear that some of the graphics have been downgraded from Unity, and the absence of large numbers of people in Industrial Age London is quite noticeable. Obviously this was done to increase the performance of the game compared to the issues present in Unity, but it is still a slight disappointment that it came to that. There were also some slightly glitchy mechanics that did occur throughout the game, indicating that it was not quite as polished as gamers would prefer. It especially happened during combat fairly often, which contributed greatly to early frustrations with the combat system. The glitches in the game thankfully never reached the degree that Unity had, yet still occurred enough that it warranted being mentioned. Other than that and the earlier mentioned issues, the game does not have that many issues. Overall, I would highly recommend Assassinís Creed Syndicate to any fans of the franchise as well as to people in general. It is in every way an improvement over Unity, and honestly is a vastly superior game to its predecessor. Its scale isnít as big, but that only benefits it with a more focused story, greater performance, and an overall better experience than Unity provided to its fans. It still isnít perfect, as it has many flaws, and the franchise has yet to recapture the magic of the earlier games. But this is a step in the right direction, and I hope to see further improvements in the future. Any fan of this series as well as those curious about Victorian London should definitely play this game.
Personal note: I want to take a minute here to do something I never do and talk about my personal life. Part of the reason I love Assassin's Creed so much is because of my love of history, a love that is not unique to the people on this site. I owe that love entirely to my father, who fostered my interest in the subject from a pretty early age. He further encouraged it with numerous trips to places of historical significance and also made sure I always stuck to my goal of becoming a history teacher, something that I accomplished this year.
This game was the last gift I received from my dad before he died last fall, as it was an early birthday present. I was in fact playing it when I got the phone call stating that he passed away at the hospital from complications relating to the cancer discovered that summer. For whatever reason, this game helped prevent me from losing my mind that day and the days that came afterward, and will always be special to me because of that and because of how much fun it was.
I'd like to dedicate this review to my dad. I know that, despite his views on video games, he would have loved to see such historical eras come to life for me and other fans to enjoy.
Hello everyone, it's been a long time. Luckily this was posted a few months ago for the Gamer's Gazette. There should also be a review for the Jack the Ripper DLC coming soon enough.
Currently I am rewriting my three Ezio-era game reviews as I have been playing the Ezio Collection. In addition to this, I am FINALLY doing the reviews for the DLC for these games as well (Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities, The Da Vinci Disappearance, and The Lost Archive). I have played them before but never felt like doing the review for those, so in addition to new(ish) reviews for the three Ezio games, expect reviews for the DLC too in the coming weeks as time permits.
So seven new reviews coming after this.
Thank you for your support all these years. Can't believe it has been four years since I started reviewing these games.
Under the patronage of Omnipotent-Q , Patron of and IlluminatiRex Meelis13
A social rights activist lobbies to get a ramp installed because people in wheelchairs can't use the stairs.
A social justice warrior gets the stairs removed because it's "offensive" to people who can't use it, and declare war against anyone who disapproves.