Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Preview - E3 2015
We enter the world of gang warfare in London
The trajectory of the Assassin's Creed franchise had been a roller coaster ride over the last few years. While Assassin's Creed III was greeted with mixed results, Black Flag seemed to right the ship (no pun intended) and rejuvenate the series. But any goodwill garnered by Ubisoft's pirate epic was spent on the mess which was Assassin's Creed Unity. The technical issues that plagued the last current-gen installment were bad enough that a humbled Ubisoft admitted before their E3 audience that mistakes were made and the future would be different.
Humble rhetoric is all well and good, but when I showed up to see Assassin's Creed Syndicate - the new title set in Victorian England - I was curious to see if what was shown followed through on Ubisoft’s promise.
Ubisoft Quebec stated that the title “Syndicate” came from the various factions which formed throughout the industrial revolution in London, designed to support mutual interests, but really it’s just a nice way to discuss gang warfare. That is who our heroes are in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, a couple of gang leaders trying to make their way to the top of the crazy revolution that has gripped the city. Syndicate features two twin siblings as protagonists, Jacob and Evie Frye. While Jacob is the brash and suave character (like Ezio or Edward Kenway) Evie channels the more serious tone of Altair and Connor Kenway.
During my time with the game I played as Jacob. It was explained to me that the game had been progressed to a point where Jacob and Evie had captured all of the territory in a section of London except for one final piece. I had to complete the final mission and then I would have control over the entire area for my gang.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate feels quite vertical, much like last year’s Unity. While the series has never been great at making this rooftop traversal easy, Syndicate equips Jacob with a grappling hook to make scaling buildings less of a annoyance. It’s not quite like the Arkham games which allow you to swing about, but you can use the grapple to create a line between rooftops and pull yourself up the sides of buildings. This means no more running through a maze of rooftops looking for a place to cross or ending up on the streets desperately looking for a way to the highest points of the city. With this grapple mechanic, you are always only seconds away from scaling buildings and leaping over streets.
After I acquaint myself a bit with these new toys, I start making my way toward the last mission I have to complete to clear out this territory. Once I am in the marked area, I am told that I have to kill the few remaining foot soldiers in the area and then it will be mine.
Jacob is equipped with a hallucinogenic powder that can be used to turn enemies against each other. After luring a couple enemies to brazier in the middle of the alley, I equip an arrow packed with this powder and fire it, covering the alley in a purple mist. After a few minutes, the desired effect is achieved and two of the foot soldiers are attacking each other. After one has killed the other, I drop down to finish the job.
One of my own gang members is being beat up by three foot soldiers in the next alley. After getting back to the rooftops, I shoot a cable between the buildings and move to the center of the line. I hang above the foot soldiers, then drop down on them, taking out two. Before the third one can attack me, a member of my gang draws his pistol and shoots him.
There’s only two more remaining, so I use my hallucinogenic arrows again, and take out the remaining soldiers, much like the first two. With the foot soldiers vanquished I soon find myself face to face with the rival boss. I have to kill her before she can escape.
I run after her, but she gets away on a horse and carriage. I hijack the carriage of another driver and resume the chase. It’s the first time that Assassin’s Creed has had “driving mechanics” and they didn’t feel great. I was constantly weaving all over the street, swerving back and forth, struggling to get control over the horses.
As if I wasn’t struggling enough, the gang leader calls two escorts to try and ram me off the road. I tried to use my pistol to take out the incoming carriage drivers, but couldn’t get it to shoot. Soon I was rammed into a building with no way to progress, but I had a plan. I attempted to jump from one carriage to the next, kill the driver and take their carriage. The only problem was my character was having trouble jumping onto the carriage in question. With an enemy behind him on the street, my controls weren’t sure if they should be in attack or traverse mode. Whether I tried to fight or tried to mount the carriage I just leapt around like a crazy person, till one of the escorts put me out of my misery.
My second attempt went much better. While I still wasn’t able to shoot the escort carriages, I was able to dodge them and stay after my target. Soon the gang leader stopped running and was joined by her troops in force. Suddenly, my gang members were behind me as well and we were charging into battle.
My objective in this gang war was to kill ten rival gang members and I did so easily. While my men engaged the soldiers, I would sneak up behind them and bury a blade in their back. It wasn’t exactly honorable, but Jacob didn’t seem like man concerned with honor. Once I had killed my ten soldiers, the battle was over and my men celebrated. We had carved out our own section of London.
During my time with Syndicate, I felt like there were some nice improvements to the mechanics of Assassin’s Creed. I thought the grapple tool helped solve many of the issues the games often have with their vertical cities and made the traversal less restricted. I wasn’t a huge fan of the driving sequence, but hopefully that can be fine tuned as the game’s development comes to a close. Either way it’ll be interesting to see Ubisoft Quebec’s first entry in the series on which they are the lead studio.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available October 23rd on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It will also launch on PC some time in Fall 2015.