by: RILEY GOLDEN/Staff Writer
Every year, the “Assassin’s Creed” series struggles with putting just the right amount of Assassin-Templar lore into the game.
But it seems like “Syndicate” hit the mark. London in 1868 was a bustling, heavily industrialized city, at the heart of an unprecedented empire. It feels like a different type of place to those familiar with the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise. It’s not an exact match to London, but it is close. The map is rather large for one city, but in comparison to “Black Flag,” the map is almost small. On the whole, though, it feels like London, especially when you find yourself climbing to the top of Big Ben or walking the streets in your top hat.
The story of “Syndicate” revolves around its twin playable characters, Evie and Jacob Frye. The former is a devout Assassin, intent on stopping the Templars by tracking down the remaining pieces of Eden. Her brother, Jacob, however, is a fast-acting brute who disagrees with the Assassin’s legacy and wishes to help his city in more immediate ways, such as assassinating every Templar in his way. They’re both extremely likeable protagonists, and the interaction between the two is covered with a lively sibling rivalry that honestly gets on my nerves. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a sister that I disagree with a lot, but the majority of the banter between the twins sounds just like two siblings bickering with each other. And it gets annoying.
You can freely switch between Jacob and Evie at most points, with side missions and open-world activities open to both. Campaign missions, however, are different, with Jacob taking the lead in the majority of the core assassinations. I’m OK with this decision, because I personally do not like being forced into playing as Evie. Jacob is bigger, and I just feel more at home when in control of him. And, honestly, “Syndicate” is a much better experience for identifying closer with the goals of Jacob.
Though I didn’t love playing as Evie, I was disappointed with how similar her and Jacob are to play. They each possess three high-level abilities designed around their supposed strengths of stealth and combat. Evie can effectively become invisible when standing still, while Jacob has more deadly combos. But the rest of the abilities are identical.
At first, I was only upgrading Jacob because I did not want to play as Evie. But since you are forced into playing Evie sometimes, that’s not a viable approach. In one mission, I was playing as Evie and it would’ve been really useful to unlock a specific door to make a quick escape. But because I had only unlocked advanced lockpicking for Jacob, who was unavailable, I had to take a longer, more hazardous route out of the building.
The side missions all feel like you’re chipping away at the enemy, taking parts of the city under your control and unlocking gang upgrades. Although these are simply purchased through a dry menu, they convey the notion that you run a city and a gang very well. The campaign missions achieve something similar, with each target occupying a slightly different sphere of influence, including the worlds of science, politics, and finance.
“Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” brings life back to the series that was lost in “Assassin’s Creed Unity.” One of my only complaints is the lack of customization you have over Jacob and Evie, compared to what you could do with Arno in “Unity.” Other than that, the addition of the grappling hook makes getting across London’s massive streets and extremely tall buildings a blast. And I hope it stays in the series, since as Ubisoft likes to remove abilities and weapons from one game to another. I give “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” 4 out of 5 stars.