Eventual fixes or not, we’re hard-pressed to imagine Ubisoft launching a game more disastrously than 2014’s ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY. One year later, we have no choice but to give the triple-A French publisher their due and admit that not only did they learn so efficiently from their mistakes that ASSASSIN’S CREED:SYNDICATE is not remotely the fumbling, buggy catastrophe that greeted gamers who gambled on UNITY at launch, but SYNDICATE is actually good. Damn good. In fact, it gets down to the most basic of no-multiplayer-whatsoever basics and delivers arguably the finest ASSASSIN’S CREED outing since BROTHERHOOD.
To their credit, Ubisoft went on an all-out assault against everything that has stagnated the game, starting with putting players in control of not one, but two assassins adventuring across Victorian-era London, the brother-sister duo of Jacob and Evie Frye. As always, the setting is every inch as much this game’s centerpiece as its characters’ narratives. Without exaggeration, this sprawling recreation could be the franchise’s finest hour in terms of limitlessly explorable and accurate-to-the-last-brick resurrections of the city’s bygone architecture, landscape, and streets.
It’s yet another fine instance of Ubisoft overachieving on their homework, right down to clearly delineating the city’s historic socio-economic borders from the appropriately industrial and grimy East End to properly posh central London. That doesn’t mean that historical sticklers won’t have to worry about quelling their bodies’ most pedantic bones at some necessary narrative liberties taken to shape the likes of Charles Darwin, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens and others into perhaps far more engaging personalities than history dictates they probably were.
Looks, it’s tradition by now, as much so as pointless quibbling over the reasons for fudging the truth just so. In the end, the franchise abides largely by its longest-standing rule: depicted historical figures lived and died nearly exactly when and where the stories suggest, with some minor dramatic license. It’s the deepest and easiest well of lore to fall down, really.
As the story itself goes, the Fryes are the latest newly initiated assassins to follow in a slain father’s footsteps. In this case, they confront the oppressive Templar order’s hold upon London and the enigmatic Crawford Starrick’s greedy helming of the tyrannical siege alongside an appropriately sinister supporting cast of lieutenants and followers. Different priorities are different: Jacob wants nothing less than to watch the Templars crumble, whereas Evie drives the game’s traditional Pieces of Eden MacGuffin run, and both team with fellow assassin Henry Green to take back control over Whitechapel and a mobile-base train.
Of course, this being an ASSASSIN’S CREED sequel, side-missions aplenty complement the robust and intricate main story as a growing crew of allies aboard the train unveil more and more to do all across London to restore its former glory. You’ll synch vantage points. You’ll either kidnap or assassinate lower-level gang leaders to restore order to the city one borough at a time.
Along the way, it will all test the limits of the newly introduced rope-grapple’s immense joy factor in spiriting Jacob and Evie all over the city. SYNDICATE puts much more emphasis on deeper-than-ever RPG-style character upgrading alongside the GRAND THEFT AUTO-inspired jumps from one horse-drawn carriage to the next in the throes of low-speed chases weaving through the streets. Nothing in the game is entirely bug-free, but there’s virtually nothing game- or immersion-breaking to note short of some odd AI behavior here and there or some questionable skin textures.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ASSASSIN’S CREED sequel we’ve all been hoping Ubisoft had in them.