Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PC [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Montpellier
Genre(s): Third person action adventure
Release Date: October 23, 2015
ESRB Rating: M – Mature
Yes, Black Flag has been unseated. I will just let it sink in, if you will pardon that potential pun.
In a year with stiff competition from the likes of games like Metal Gear Phantom Pain, Witcher 3, and sentimentally biased Fallout 4 it says a lot that I’m sorely tempted to give this my 2015 Game of the Year crown as is.
That should say a lot upfront to set the tone for the rest of this review for how impressed I am with this game.
I wouldn’t have expected to write this in an already improbable year where you have not one, but two industry benchmark redefining games in both Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Phantom Pain but here it is: Even amongst those two games this is one of the best looking video games I’ve ever seen and in some ways is even graphically superior to those two games. That’s saying a lot but there it is.
I am speaking of having all the eye candy maxed out, of course, of which AC Syndicate has all the graphic option standards in its menus that PC gamers look for. This is a heavy year for upgraditis titles and this is definitely one of them.
There are a lot of downright photo-realistic looking areas with a stunning attention to detail in this game. I never fast travel in this game because I simply want to take in all the sights and sounds of this virtual tour of Victorian London. That’s how impressive this is. I have seen people on YouTube remark about recognizing real places they go to in real life and “that’s where my apartment is!” just like I saw back when Unity came out for France.
The footage on the Internet is compelling in some cases but seeing this game for yourself maxed out running at 60 fps is truly something to behold.
Incredible sound design that matches the state of the art visuals. You’re in Victorian London late 1860s. If we go much further than this it’s going to require a holodeck out of Star Trek. Everything from people, animals, weather, clacking of hoofs, ambient noises…you name it…it’s real and the audio dynamics are superb. As good as it can be done for my money.
Austin Wintory provides appropriate music for the era that incorporates some nice use of warm instrumentation, orchestra, and a handful of brief salutes to previous games’ themes. I wasn’t terribly familiar with Wintory before this game although I realize I had heard some of his music before in other games but he is most certainly on my radar now after this effort. The music impressed me enough that I purchased the soundtrack for it.
Voice acting is solid across the boards right on down to the random NPCs on the streets. It sounds authentic and absolutely adds to the immersion. The voice actors by and large sound like they had fun and it shows.
Twin sibling Assassins hit Victorian London to help unrest a major Templar dominance in a yarn of political intrigue, conspiracies, occasional humor, and a good balance of never taking itself too seriously. Brother and sister Jacob and Evie are both a bit roguish and extremely charming and likable arguably as strong of central characters as this series has seen since Ezio.
I think they are fantastic, fully realized characters right down to their sibling banter on through. The game does a great job balancing out serious situations in the main story with varying degrees of humorous or light-hearted shenanigans and intrigue of varying degrees in the wide variety of side quests.
The side quests range from encounters with people like Darwin, Dickens, Graham Bell, and other famous contemporaries as you all help each other to various tasks that you do to build up yourselves and your gang ranging from pit fighting, stealing carriages full of loot, horse carriage racing, and numerous other varied activities.
This game is loaded with different things to do at any given time so if you get bored doing something there is always something different to switch over to.
Victorian London is begging to be explored and I rarely fast travel in this game because I just have to soak it all in and keep exploring.
I’m glad starting with Unity the “overarching surround” story was minimized a bit because I personally think it’s a bunch of nonsense for the most part. It still is. Unity was a soft reboot and I’m glad for that. I really wish they would abandon it altogether somehow and just give us game set in various time periods where it’s Assassins vs Templars with the backdrop that goes with it. We really don’t need the rest of it. Just my two cents.
Ultimately yes, the “Ubisoft formula” is still well in play here but it has been modified and refined enough that I really think most people would be hard pressed to complain.
The grappling hook is splendid and downright sublime addition to the core gameplay. It’s something new and fresh and adds a new dynamic all on its own. It’s not a “God/cheat device” either. It’s simply another means to an end and often times a very convenient one. I am satisfied that it’s a balanced addition. I can imagine a number of ways this could have been overkill and ruined the overall balance of the game.
I often find myself just coasting around on a the line taking in the sights. Sometimes you need to be up high, but otherwise you can be down on the streets on foot or with another fun addition: horse-drawn carriages.
Fun shenanigans can be had on carriage when you are chasing, being chased, racing and you can jump from one carriage to another at full speed, hijack, and keep on going. You can jump on the roof of a carriage you are driving and start dispatching enemies and them calmly jump back down and retake control without missing a beat. The entire carriage concept and the way it’s executed loosely borrows from the Just Cause playbook although this respects the laws of physics more.
Exploring is as rewarding as I’ve ever seen in an Assassin’s Creed game and the map is just loaded with secrets and goodies. I’m in no hurry because I’m busy just taking in this incredible virtual realization of Victorian Era London. It’s real and painstaking attention to detail is evident just as it was for France in the previous entry, Unity.
I am happy to see all the missing gameplay details from Unity restored to this game including being able to whistle and bait enemies to where you want them. I liked Unity a lot and I really don’t get some of the hate I’ve seen around once the game was patched but this absolutely delivers on any of the missing promise that may have been offered in Unity. I guarantee you if Unity had come out in the same form and fashion this game has everything would have been different.
The gameplay is solid, fast, fluid, and just downright fun to play. Combat is satisfying and stealth is also satisfying and encouraged. It’s still Assassin’s Creed lumps and all but vastly improved and refined over time. If you don’t believe me play this for a while and then fire up part 2 or 3 and I’ll let it speak for itself.
Once the twins hit London they waste a little time establishing themselves and their eventual gang and this is where I felt the game went into RPG territory which I was happy to see. I’m all for RPG elements in just about anything I play if they are implemented well because it means more depth and more options.
You can build up the twins, acquire and upgrade gear, acquire and expand abilities and skills, and also do the same for your eventual gang that grows as you accomplish numerous varied feats throughout the game world. It’s satisfying and offers that much more incentive to keep on playing.
Once you have a done sufficient amount of activity in your favor, the gang leader for the opposing side challenges you and your gang to a fight and once you kill the gang leader you win the territory.
There are so many nice touches to this game. The combat inches ever so slightly closer to the industry loved Batman Arkham style but not quite. It’s still distinct as Assassin’s Creed and with higher abilities you can still be a very powerful one person army if your timing and technique is down pat with high weapons and abilities but it’s nowhere near as absurd as it used to be in earlier games.
I have resigned myself to microtransactions as a trend showing up in Ubisoft games and an even more deplorable form in an otherwise amazing title like Metal Gear Phantom Pain for recent examples. I don’t like it as a trend overall but I can’t go to war over it as long as the microtransactions don’t involve critical gameplay elements that I can’t earn legitimately in-game.
If someone is really going to spend $5 for some Helix points in this game then that’s your problem. I think the microtransactions reek of some serious pragmatic cynicism but I know they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t successful so make of that what you will.
These are the kinds of video games that continue to show up Hollywood in spades and where I feel my entertainment dollar is well spent even at full price. It’s not even close.
Unlike Unity, this game launched in vastly superior shape. Unity was an anomaly. Normally the PC version of an AC game comes 3-4 weeks after the console version and all goes well. The one time they didn’t do that it was as disaster. Make of that what you will.
Unfortunately SLI And Crossfire issues just seem to be par for the course and I’m glad I’ve stuck with a single GPU solution.
This is the best Assassin’s Creed game yet and it’s come forward all the way to next, or really, current generation.
Back when it came out I and many other people considered Black Flag a watershed for the series and rightfully. Simply put: This is the next watershed and if they can continue to crank out games like this at this level of quality the I hope they making these games for as long as they sell because I’ll never get tired of something like this. I’ll welcome a game like this every year with wide open arms.
If you have burned out on this series you may want to check this one out. This is the one that may bring you back.
In most years that didn’t have improbably high competition in the form of benchmark setters like Witcher 3 and MGS Phantom Pain? This would be my hands down Game of the Year and probably many others’ as well. It says a lot that I’m still seriously considering this game in the light of those.
As it stands I’m forced to cheat and either call a three-way tie or break it down as Game of (Insert genre here) because these three games set new standards in their respective genres. Then there is the sentimental bias of Fallout 4 that is going to consideration from a lot of people as well.
It’s a nice problem to have such a hard time deciding what the Game of the Year is and that says a lot about 2015.