Opinion - Cutting The Multiplayer Could Be Great For Assassin's Creed Syndicate

by Brian Shea on May 13, 2015 at 12:30 PM

Yesterday’s reveal of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate gave us several details to digest. From new traversal and transportation options to more interesting gang-building activities, Syndicate is looking to add new mechanics that work into the story and Victorian London setting in interesting ways. Perhaps the most overlooked detail from yesterday’s announcement, however, is that this year’s release will not feature any multiplayer components.

This development is a departure from every main entry since Brotherhood, when Ubisoft introduced multiplayer into the series. We’ll miss both the competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes and the unique experiences they brought to the overall formula, but ultimately, their absence could lead to very good things for the upcoming Syndicate.

Since its launch, Unity has become notorious for its technical issues – to the point where the game’s season pass was canceled to allow the team to patch the problems. Though many of those technical issues have since been fixed, the reputation of its disastrous launch has made it so that nearly any conversation about Unity inevitably includes some remark about those problems.

Syndicate’s focus on a singular mode will hopefully allow the developers more time to develop and polish the main experience and bring it back into more of what most people expect when they enter an Assassin’s Creed story. When a game has multiple modes with different UI, art, character models, and gameplay, it broadens what each team must accomplish for the final game. With Syndicate only featuring a single-player experience, it frees these teams up to concentrate on that portion of the game – a particularly important point when considering that this is Ubisoft Quebec’s first time leading an Assassin’s Creed title.

Allowing Ubisoft Quebec to narrow the scope to only single-player will hopefully give it the chance to truly get the basics of the Assassin’s Creed series down and deliver a polished and unique experience that helps shake the stigma of Unity’s rough launch. Nine studios are working on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and presenting a polished product with a development team of this scale is particularly challenging. It’s a massive undertaking, but one that is more attainable when the feature set is less broad.

When it comes down to it, the Assassin’s Creed series needs an experience that uses past entries as a foundation and nothing more. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was the perfect example of a game using the groundwork of previous Assassin’s Creed titles to produce something unique and refreshing. The result was a game that brought many who had fallen out of love with the series back in. But were they really back in with the Assassin’s Creed series, or were they just in for the pirate-game spinoff that Black Flag ended up feeling like?

Syndicate appears to be more in line with the original Assassin’s Creed experience than Black Flag was, but there are acute differences in the premise of this story and interesting new mechanics such as the zipline traversal and the new vehicles that hopefully make it just different enough to reintroduce those who were lost by Unity. Assassin’s Creed 2 – the last main entry to not feature a multiplayer component of some sort – is often cited as one of the most focused and engaging single-player campaigns in the franchise’s history. If the Syndicate team is able to focus on refining its storytelling, the upcoming game could be the one that brings players back into the main fold of the Assassin’s Creed formula rather than solely back for one distinct entry – something Black Flag was largely unable to accomplish.

With no multiplayer to worry about, and the creative director on the project talking about returning to the roots of the series, this entry could give us an Assassin’s Creed game that can be embraced by those who loved the series in the early years but have since felt burnt out or left behind. Assassin’s Creed has been stumbling lately, and going back to basics is the first step to righting the ship.