To put it lightly, Assassin’s Creed fans did not have a great year last year. On top of the series feeling like it’s reaching saturation point, fans weren’t exactly thrilled with the choice between a retread of Black Flag (Sorry, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue) or the buggy forgettable trainwreck (Sorry not sorry, Assassin’s Creed: Unity).
We got the chance to spend some hands-on time with the series’ next effort Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and came away with the feeling that AC fans might just have something to be hopeful about.
If Black Flag was about the fulfilling that fantasy of being a pirate, Syndicate is about being a gangster in 18th century London. The section of the game I played saw me take control of Assassin Jacob Frye and it wasted no time before letting me get into the business of climbing tall buildings and leaping off them to take out enemies. The big addition to the series’ traversal mechanics this time around comes from the new grappling hook tool which (while kinda shamelessly lifted from the Arkham games) helps accelerate traversal and make it just all-around quicker to get where you want to go.
There were also some subtle changes in the feel of the combat compared to previous games. Though the game promises two playable characters with different fighting styles, I only had the chance to see how Jacob fared in this department. While sneaking around and assassinating targets felt more or less the same as it always has, direct combat encounters felt faster and more furious. In line with the setting, fights feel more like a scummy brawl than a stylish dance.
The environments in Syndicate seemed crisply detailed and while obviously it’s not final code – the demo did run quite well on a technical level. There’s also this cool industrial smog effect that sets the aesthetic of London apart from previous locales. This level of detail even extended into a brief chase sequence where I rode a horse-led carriage around the streets of London. While the animations and modelling in this sequence looked incredible, they didn’t feel particularly responsive or fun and it’s quite possible it could end up being one of the weaker additions Syndicate makes to the formula.
At this point, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate feels like it’s leaning towards quality over quantity in terms of what it’s bringing to the table – and that could end being a wise move for the series. Though it’s certain to pay for the sins of last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Syndicate definitely seems to be shaping up to be something fans of the series should be excited about.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate releases on October 23rd on PS4, Xbox One and PC.