Ubisoft seeks to continue one of its top and longstanding franchises, Assasin’s Creed, with the latest sequel Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Assassin’s Creed Unity took players through the French Revolution, a landmark period in human history. However, the game suffered from a litany of problems and issues at launch. Not to mention, the game was not as well received as previous high watermarks in the franchise. Ubisoft now seeks to turn things around with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the latest next-gen console version in the franchise. During this year’s E3 2015, Ubisoft actually had a playable demo on hand for the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
While I was not a big fan of Assassin’s Creed Unity, one thing that does have me very excited about Syndicate is the new period setting of Victorian London in 1868. I always enjoy stories set in Victorian London and the Steampunk genre. Assassin’s Creed is the perfect game to fit into such an interesting setting. The game is set during the height of the Industrial Revolution, which should make for some interesting new Assassin equipment and gadgets.
I will give Ubisoft credit in one area. I found it very odd that there was absolutely no playable demo for Assassin’s Creed Unity at E3 2014. E3 is in June, and the game was set to launch only a few months later. Obviously, the game turned out to be very rushed; and I always find it suspicious if a developer does not have a playable demo on hand shortly before the game is supposed to launch. Even the GameStop Expo did not have a playable demo ready for Unity. So, it was somewhat comforting to a playable demo ready for Assasin’s Creed Syndicate at the Expo. Hopefully, the developers are working more diligently to have the game ready and polished in time for launch. I assume if the game is far along enough to have a ready playable demo at E3, Syndicate will not be as terribly rushed as Unity. That said, it is a tall order for Ubisoft to constantly try to turn around a new AAA Assassin’s Creed title every year. I believe the franchise is starting to become over-saturated, and Ubisoft should consider giving it a break. However, that is not my decision to make.
The demo allowed a few different types of sequences to sample in the game as the Assassin character Jacob Frye, the sibling of fellow Assassin Evie Frye. Evie, who is supposed to be the second playable in the game, was not available to play in the demo, so I did not get an idea how similar or different their play styles will turn out for the final game. There were a lot of complaints about the lack of female or playable Assassin characters in Assassin’s Creed Unity, which caused a whole PR debacle for Ubisoft. Bringing Evie as a secondary playable character, who is only marginally playable throughout the game, does not truly seem to address the diversity issue. Aside from that, in the past, Ubisoft has done well in providing diverse protagonists, specifically in games such as Far Cry 4; Assassin’s Creed III; Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation; Assassin’s Creed; and Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry. However, the conversation for female characters in the Assassin’s Creed franchise could have been handled better by Ubisoft.
In the first sequence, Jacob Frye is looking to encroach on one of the more vicious gang leaders in the underbelly of London, Bloody Nora. In the first section, there is a bit of exploration because Frye may use his stealth abilities to scope out one of Bloody Nora’s hideouts in order to dispatch its guards and then take the territory over for his own gang. The controls allow Frye to switch between a stealth/exploration mode and a more outward melee combat mode. These modes are differentiated by Frye switching from a top hat to his Assassin hood garb. One of the new elements that makes traversing the buildings of London a lot more fun is the addition of a nifty grappling hook gadget that Jacob can use to sail between buildings and over obstacles. Once Nora’s hideout is located, Jacob has to take out the guards. He can do this stealthily or he can basically announce his presence, but that will make things more difficult. Jacob has a variety of equipment at his disposal. He has drugged darts to mess with the heads of enemy thugs. After taking over Bloody Nora’s territory, this essentially sparks a gang war with Nora.
The next section involves the pursuit and capture of Nora. This leads to a horse drawn carriage chase. There is a bit of a learning curve with the driving controls, but the horse carriage chases were actually quite fun. However, there are other enemy carriages that try to keep Jacob Frye off of Bloody Nora’s trail. If Jacob fails to catch Nora, an all out gang battle will start, with Jacob’s gang versus Nora. This allows for a melee combat section. Melee combat in the demo was fairly responsive, and Jacob’s fighting style is a more gritty, hand-to-hand fighting style honed on the streets rather than a more elegant slash and parry fighting style with swords and rapiers. The new fighting style for Jacob fits right in with the overall period and setting of the game.
So far, I found the demo and what was available to be encouraging. What I was able to see of the open-world sandbox map for London looked quite impressive. It looks like it will be a fun city to explore. There were no impressions on the direction of where the contemporary storyline is going for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. That is an element that has gone off the rails in the recent installments, and the developers really need to either refocus efforts in that area or let it go completely.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is due out later this year. The game will be released first on PlayStation and Xbox One. A windows PC release will follow later on.