Another year, another Assassin's Creed game. If you've been counting this whole time, Assassin's Creed Syndicate is the ninth game in eight years, not considering the various spinoffs and iterations that have come and gone.
I've struggled with the series over the years. I've never been accused of being someone who overly enjoys Assassin's Creed games, save for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag -- I really liked that one.
When I think of a typical Assassin's Creed game I tend to think of repetition and grinding through missions I don't want to play. I also have a big issue with the core of the game's narrative -- the idea that you're essentially Matrixing into the past and assuming the role of a historical assassin -- but that's my problem.
I've always felt that when a new Assassin's Creed game would come along my interest would be piqued, but the product would never able to deliver on that initial hype. I'd either burn out on the game too quickly or never gather enough momentum to find a steady groove.
Sure, I'm not what you'd call a fan, but I'm in the minority compared to the gaming public. People really love Assassin's Creed games and it's a staple Ubisoft franchise, even if efforts like last year's Assassin's Creed Unity nearly dragged the series to irreparable depths.
So you could imagine how surprised I was to discover how much I really liked Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
It's certainly not perfect and there's a handful of hiccups that had me shaking my head, but I found Syndicate to be a game I genuinely wanted to finish, thanks to its solid pacing, engaging characters, beautifully realized setting and new travel mechanics.
For me, Syndicate was able to rise above some of the stigmas I have about the franchise and instead appeal to me on its own. Once I made it passed a mostly rotten tutorial, I was hooked.
First off, the game captures the city and boroughs surrounding London in breathtaking fashion. The Victorian England presented in Syndicate is nothing short of exquisite. First thing I did the second the map opened up was climb Big Ben. I just had to. And it delivered. I love how the game is able to take advantage of the time it takes place in. You're essentially on the cusp of a technological revolution and it's exciting to have that storyline spliced into the game's narrative.
In Syndicate you'll play as a set of twins, the brother and sister tandem of Jacob and Evie Frye. Jacob is the more aggressive of the pair, while Evie excels in stealth situations. Even though they kill a lot of people (I'm talking hundreds), they're likeable enough. You can swap back and forth between them while not in a mission as they aim to take down British Templar bad guy Crawford Starrick and unhinge the slimy grip he has on London.
Switching characters sounds like fun on paper and it was great in games like Grand Theft Auto V. But in Syndicate you need to manage each of their skill trees independently, which starts to feel like busy work by level 4 or so. It's not a game breaker, but I constantly found myself checking to make sure they were near each other or equal in abilities. I didn't want them to feel uneven when switching between them. Jacob and Evie also get auto-selected for specific missions, and after a while I just wished the game decided the player throughout.
Leveling up in Syndicate plays a major logistical role in the game if you're going to try and play it the way it seems it was designed to be traversed. Each section of London is identified by a level number that details how difficult its objectives are.