Despite a chequered history, Assassin’s Creed remains one of the most successful franchises in videogaming. From the slow-paced stealth missions of the first installment’s in the Holy Land, to the overwhelming litany of side quests in Revelations, from the highs of the Italian and Caribbean adventures, to the lacklustre handheld and mobile gaming episodes, from the back to basics Chronicles to the exhausting opening chapters of Assassin’s Creed III’s North American adventures, the series is a variable source of frustration, and joy, to many gamers.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate continues the franchise’s stint in Europe after Unity’s French setting, placing us in Victorian London, at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, in what will be the largest map in the series to date. As you would expect, London means smoky London alleyways, and transport in the form of horse drawn carriages and steam trains. Southwark, Whitechapel, Lambeth, Westminster, the Strand and the City of London itself will all be represented here, along with notable figures of the day such as Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.
The game has seized the initiative from Grand Theft Auto V, in that it will allow you to instantly swap from one protagonist to another. The protagonists in question are Crawley-based brawler Jacob Frye and his twin sister Evie. Yes, a female protagonist in an Assassin’s Creed game. Sure, both Chronicles China and the PS Vita’s Liberation saw women take the lead, but this is the first time the series will be offering gamers a female assassin to take on the ever-present Templars, in a title that forms part of the main series proper. In terms of the difference in skills between the two, Jacob is expected to be more of a fisticuffs kind of guy, whilst Evie will excel in her stealth, though how heavily weighted these differences between the two will be, remains to be seen.
This latest instalment of Assassin’s Creed sees the characters making use of a number of new items including a Rope Launcher, which will allow you to reach higher levels faster than ever. It will also allow you whizz from roof to roof via a zip-line, something the developers were keen to point out will be vital in Victorian London’s wider streets. Hand to hand combat is present, as ever, and Ubisoft’s Quebec team have sought to fasten the pace wherever possible to create a more immediate and intense experience.
It’s the first time at the helm for Ubisoft Quebec, but it’s not their first time with Assassin’s Creed. They’ve been involved in supporting roles for the previous six games, but have also been responsible more recently for some of the game’s DLC. Both The Tyranny of King Washington for Assassin’s Creed III, and Freedom Cry for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag hail from the studio that’s now taking the reins of a flagship title. Whilst both DLC packs explored engaging diversions from the main titles, the reception for both was only mildly positive. It remains to be seen whether being handed full creative control of the main game will be the incentive they need to ensure Syndicate becomes recognised as one of the good Creed games.
From what we’ve seen, it’s hard to say yet whether they’ll be successful or not. It certainly looks great, and we’d be lying if we said the prospect of finally getting our hands on a London-based Creed title didn’t have us salivating with excitement! In recent years, Assassin’s Creed titles have been the focus of criticism for perceived rushed launches in order to meet the relentless annual release schedule. Whilst sometimes it may be the case that they have been attacked more than other titles with similar problems, it’s certainly fair to say that the series has had its share of launch window issues. Let’s hope that this year, with a new team at the helm, the series can put the Great back into Britain, albeit 150 years ago!