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Our Hopes & Fears For Assassin's Creed Syndicate

by Matthew Kato on Oct 12, 2015 at 12:31 PM

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I'm a fan of the Assassin's Creed series, and with AC Syndicate on the horizon (out October 23) I'm excited to once again dive into the boots of another Assassin fighting against the Templars. There are elements of the game, such as its setting and female playable character, Evie, that I think will be positive for the game and the franchise, but which also have the possibility for a letdown. I won't know for sure until I get my hands on the game, but here are my thoughts on some features of the title that could go either way.

It's great that we get to play as a female character once again in the series, and Evie (Jacob's twin sister) is a key part of taking back control of London from the hands of Crawford Starrick and his underlings.

Players can switch between Evie and Jacob Frye between missions, and each will have their own skill trees and fighting styles. Evie is stealthier, while Jacob is focused more on brawn.

Despite this, players control Jacob for the majority of the story missions (reportedly as much as 75 percent). If this is so, will it seem incongruous to spend a lot of time upgrading Evie only to have her take a backseat during story missions? If I play as her between missions, will it really feel like it's her story during cutsenes and within the plot?

As far as combat goes, we've seen the videos of Evie being plenty brutal and capable in battle, so I'm curious how much differentiation there will be between her and Jacob. Evie has unique abilities such as being invisible while standing still and the ability to carry more throwing knives, but given the game's stated aim to let players approach situations anyway they see fit (check out the video below), we hope that playing as Jacob and Evie actually feels different.

Some AC fans were happy when Ubisoft announced that it was not including multiplayer or a companion app so it could concentrate on single-player. This decision was in part due to the problems that AC: Unity had with its online functionality at the launch of that game.

We all hope that this means Syndicate will be more stable and less frustrating, but I for one have enjoyed the series' multiplayer modes in the past. The team-based modes were fun and made sense within the game's world, where detecting enemy players among the crowd fit within the series' universe and set it apart from most competitive multiplayer modes.

AC: Unity had co-op gameplay that worked once the kinks were ironed out after launch, and given the gang-centric plot of Syndicate – not to mention that twin siblings are at the center of its story – it's unfortunate that co-op is not included.

The AC franchise has intentionally created a byzantine web of Assassin/Templar intrigue spanning the ages. Add to that the yearly releases and the fact that some of the game's modern-day storylines have fallen flat, and fans can be forgiven for losing interest in the complete timeline of the struggle.

However, not being invested in the full storyline and frankly whether it all makes sense or not can be a relief rather than a burden. Each game and its accompanying setting/time period can serve as an isolated adventure. I'm not into pirates so I didn't play Black Flag, and I do not feel I've suffered because of it. I believe that even if you've missed previous AC games, you'll be able to pick this one up and enjoy its specific setting and the gameplay advancements that have been made along the way, such as easier traversal of the world through ziplines and carriages, and more fluid combat.

While the series' recent stabs at the modern-day setting have not been good, to explore them as little as they were in Unity is a wasted opportunity. After all, the historic struggle between the Assassins and Templars in the past, present, and how it pertains to the mankind's future is a key component to the series overarching story. Ubisoft needs to reinvest in this portion of the series, figure out where it's going, and do it right for future games.

I'm interested in the Victorian England setting and the juxtaposition between capitalism and rapidly advancing technology and the exploited working class. Yet, I'm already cringing at what may be a game full of broad Cockney accents, street-urchin stereotypes, and the shoehorning of historical figures like Charles Dickens, Jack the Ripper, and Charles Darwin. That being said, at least this is an Assassin's Creed game in England with English accents – unlike the English accents inexplicably found in France during Unity.