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What does the Destructoid UK Team think of Assassin's Creed Syndicate?

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We Brits have opinions on stuff

At the tail end of last week, UK editor Laura Dale and news team member Joe Parlock both whisked themselves away to the EGX games convention in Birmingham to play a bunch of unreleased video games. Top of their lists? Assassin's Creed Syndicate.

Joe went into the game with a rich, extensive knowledge of the series, looking to compile a detailed report on how this entry stood up.

Laura just wanted to hear a video game character shout "Cor blimey gov'ner" and perhaps drink a cup of tea.

While Joe and Laura both had different takes on the game, they both shared a very British viewpoint on this London-based game. Now, let's see what they both made of it.

Joe Parlock - Somewhat Disappointed

I’ve been a huge fan of Assassin’s Creed ever since the first game came out, and I’ve made sure to play every one of the major releases in the series. From Assassin’s Creed through to Unity and Rogue, I’ve played every one of them, and for the most part have enjoyed all of them to varying degrees.

Like everyone else ever, I had major problems with Unity: it was buggy, I wasn’t a fan of the weird time-jumping sections, and I thought the game’s combat was ridiculously stacked in the ranged guards’ favour. Unity is one of my least favourite games in the series, but it still had positives. It removed the ship-combat that Assassin’s Creed III had introduced, and felt in a lot of ways more like a historical Watch Dogs or even Splinter Cell than a Creed game.

Assassin’s Creed has a habit of every other game being fantastic and improving massively on the one that came before. Assassin’s Creed II took the slightly repetitive and basic gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, put it in a new setting, and gave the missions so much more variety, while Black Flag improved on III’s ship mechanics. 

That’s why going into the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate demo at EGX 2015, I was expecting a refinement of what Unity introduced. I was hoping for better combat and fewer bugs, while still retaining that fantastically detailed and crafted world. I was wanting from Unity. Unfortunately, Syndicate is not the refinement I was hoping it would be.

The demo I played at EGX put me in the shoes of Evie Frye, the sneakier of the game’s two leads, as she tried to infiltrate a building to kill her target. The area was crawling with Royal Guards, as well as my target’s own personal bodyguards. One of Evie’s tricks, and a new addition to the series, is the new “stealth” button. At the press of a button, Evie will pull her hood up, letting her turn practically invisible as long as she remains still.

When it first started, Assassin’s Creed was all about social stealth. Blending into crowds, making sure you’re not too conspicuous in front of guards, making friends and allies in the environment to help you win, that sort of thing. The stealth button really felt like too much of a simplification to me considering the rooftop gardens and huge crowds that mask your approach being such a staple of the series before now.

To get in and do the stabby, I was shown a whole load of different approaches: I could use an Assassin disguised as a guard to pretend to arrest me and walk me straight to the target, or I could go and save the captain of the real guards, who would then let me recruit them for my own purposes.

So I sneaked my way around to the chief constable, making sure to avoid any Royal Guards along the way. A great new addition in Syndicate is the line launcher, which lets you scale buildings much faster than you’ve ever been able to before. It felt a lot like the lifts and rope pulleys scattered around previous games, but usable whenever I wanted it to. It really added a lot to the movement system, which was already one of my favourite changes made in Unity.  

Once I’d saved the constable, I was able to ignore the Royal Guard. They were on my side now, and I could recruit them to walk with me straight to the target. I made sure not to cause too much commotion before making it to her, as I knew I might need my new pals to help deal with her own guards. And that’s when it all got a bit broken.

The demo I got to try at EGX is an old one. It’s buggy and the performance isn’t great. Normally for demos at shows like EGX, you accept that the builds aren’t representative of the final product and will have problems that are ironed out come the game’s full release. However, considering the state Unity released in, I think it’s relevant to talk about just how buggy my experience with Syndicate was just over a month before it launches.

I managed to make my way to the target on my own, taking out the target’s own guards without too much hassle. Once I was in range of my quarry, I summoned my new Royal Guard friends and triggered what I was expecting to be a huge fight between the factions, during which I could slip through and kill my target. I’d done it before in other Assassin’s Creed games; ever since the first one you’ve been able to hire brawlers to cause distractions for you.

As it was, nothing happened. Every single person in that room stood still for a short time, and then a load of them dropped dead. The animations hadn’t played, but the damage was suddenly applied to compensate. All my hard work of saving the constable and making my way to the target had been for absolutely bloody nothing because of a bug, and that was when it hit me that what I saw of Syndicate was the same as anything I’d seen in Unity.

The line launcher was a cool new addition, but everything else was the same or worse. The combat was the same, the setting felt nowhere near as detailed as Unity’s Paris (and is also very visually similar to Paris, which only added to the feeling of seeing this all before), and the new stealth system felt like such a step-back for the series.

I’m sure I’ll play Syndicate eventually. Victorian London is my dream setting for the series (behind 1960s Mods vs. Rockers, that is), but I’m not expecting it to be the next Black Flag by any stretch. I ultimately walked away from the demo disappointed that it seemed like Ubisoft haven’t fully understood what made Unity as lackluster as it was.

Laura Dale - Mostly Positive

My thoughts on Assassin's Creed Syndicate were far more surface-level than Joe's, mainly due to my far more casual past experience with the series. The first Assassin's Creed game I played to completion was Assassin's Creed III when the Wii U launched, followed by incomplete playthroughs of most of the other entries in the series. I enjoy the core gameplay loop enough, but I don't need to dedicate the time to complete one of these games every year.

For me, if I'm going to play another Assassin's Creed to completion, I'm going to need to be drawn in by something unique. I've been somewhat hoping that the setting and female playable protagonist in Syndicate would be the change up I needed to get back in to the series.

From my time with the game at EGX, I'm fairly confident that I will actually play this Assassin's Creed to completion.

First up, it's important to note that I did not bump in to any of the bugs that Joe faced in his demo of the game. While this doesn't invalidate any of his criticisms, I left the demo feeling far more confident in the game's level of overall polish and presentation. 

For me, the appeal here was all down to setting, tone and character. The cobbled streets of London meshed well with the historical image of the town that a few decades of history lessons in England had instilled in me of the town. From the dingy streets that would have felt at home in Sweeny Todd to the guards at the Tower of London, everything felt tonally where it should be.

This felt like an Assassin's Creed setting I actually had some historical context for, and that really added to my connection to the game world.

Really, it was the smaller details that drew me in most. Actually seeing a Great British Pounds Sterling icon (£) pop up in game when I collected in game currency was such a novelty that I could not help but smile.

When it came to the EGX build of the game, we were given control of the series new female protagonist Evie. While the character was clearly built for stealth gameplay, to the point that their ability to go unseen bordered on narratively ludicrous, I ended up having the most fun ignoring this stealth focus and running in metaphorically guns blazing.

Getting to run through the gardens of the Tower of London as a badass looking lady, smacking royal guards around the head with a cane and expertly zipping away to a roof before backup could find me felt simply divine.

I know simply changing the gender of the playable protagonist shouldn't make a huge difference to my feelings on the game, but it really did. Getting to be a badass lady assassin is something really blooming cool.

While I suspect Joe's breakdown on the mechanical aspects of Syndicate will be of a lot of use to longtime fans, as someone who lightly dabbles with the series the most important thing to me was the change in feel.

As a British lady who grew up primarily aware of English, London-centric history, getting to explore that version of London as a badass cane-wielding woman really served to reignite my interest in a series that by all accounts I should enjoy more than I seem to.

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Laura Kate Dale
Laura Kate DaleFormer Queen of England   gamer profile

Laura's gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, ... more + disclosures


 


 


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