In the past, the yearly release schedule of Assassin’s Creed has been called into question, yet Ubisoft march onward relentlessly. With the release of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, many once again asked the question – do we need another Assassin’s Creed game? More importantly, is this one any good? Let’s find out.
It certainly looks great. Syndicate takes place in Victorian London, with seven borough’s represented in microcosm in this, the ninth Assassin’s Creed adventure. As ever, each region is peppered with landmarks anyone who’s familiar with the city will recognise, but you might be surprised by the sheer number of iconic sites found here. From religious buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, to homes of power such as 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. From towering structures such as the Monument to the Great Fire of London and Nelson’s Column, to the open green spaces of St James and Green Park. From iconic buildings like the National Gallery and the Houses of Parliament, to the focal points of Piccaddilly Circus or Leicester Square, this is recognisably London, albeit a London of the past, recreated with breathtaking detail.
There’s a lot of people here too. It’s certainly not as densely populated as Paris was in last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity – no doubt in part due to the technical struggles that game suffered early on in it’s life – but the cast is truly stellar. Dickens and Darwin both make an appearance, as do Florence Nightingale and Alexander Graham Bell. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and Queen Victoria herself both feature at key points in the main story, and there’s even space for a young Arthur Conan Doyle.
All of these people are encountered by our protagonists, Jacob and Evie Frye. Nominally suited to combat and stealth respectively, there’s actually little to choose between the two – given both their skill trees have access to almost entirely the same upgrades – but they’re likeable enough, though possibly not quite up to the levels of an Ezio or a Kenway. The main thrust of the game sees Evie attempting to track down the Shroud of Eden, whilst Jacob spends more of his time getting into scrapes with various unsavory characters but, as ever with Creed games, this is just one small part of a much bigger whole.
The game is once again littered with side quests and optional missions, but Ubisoft have done a great job of making many of them feel integral to the broader narrative of reclaiming the city from rival gang, The Blighters. Liberate children from a workhouse, or track down a wanted criminal, for example, and that region of the city will become safer for its citizens. As a result of this, it’s possibly the most cohesive Creed we’ve seen in a long while. Moving in to take The Blighters’ place is your gang, The Rooks, and there’s a satisfying selection of upgrades available to you for them, from increasing their base strength should you need to call on them for backup in a scuffle, to increasing the revenue they can derive from the areas of the city that now fall under their stewardship.
And it’s a big city. Thankfully, there’s a number of ways to get around. You could hop on a boat on the Thames and take a casual river cruise to your destination, or ‘borrow’ a horse drawn carriage if you need to get somewhere quickly. Your third option is the railways – in fact, your base is on one of the trains – ever moving between the city’s many rail stations – Charing Cross, Victoria, Waterloo, St Pancras and several more are all painstakingly recreated here. Whilst each offer something unique, horse drawn carriage is almost always the best choice, and it seems a shame more could not have been done with the slightly underused rail and river options, given how prominent a mark they leave on the landscape.
But, to come back to our original question, do we actually NEED another Creed game? Well, of course not. But, if you’re not sick of playing them, this one certainly holds its own against the competition. It might not be vintage Creed in the way that II or IV were, but it’s not far off the mark, and certainly an improvement over last year’s Unity, or the slow-to-get-going III. In short, if you’re in the mood for another Creed game, this is a good one.