Don’t Hate Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Just Because You Hated AC Unity
The knives were out for Assassin's Creed Unity, some justified and some not, leaving many with a bad impression of the game. Regardless, Assassin's Creed Syndicate is not only a new experience separate from Unity in several ways, but it's definitely a step up in many departments. If you didn't like Unity or are worried about its impact on Syndicate, don't let last year's game interfere with your enjoyment of Syndicate.
Here are some key areas where Syndicate improves on Unity's feature set and makes Syndicate worth checking out. For more on the game, take a look at Joe's review and be sure to check out his 10 spoiler-free tips for players.
The Fast Flash of a Blade
One of the deserved criticisms of AC Unity was that combat wasn't very fluid as you tried to strike multiple foes. This wasn't helped by Unity's propensity to drop frames and its revised approach to combat. Syndicate's contribution to the series' fights improves Unity's multiple issues.
Encounters are noticeably smoother than the last title, both in how they look and how it feels to execute your moves. The timing window for counters is communicated via a yellow indicator; sometimes the enemy you're countering is close or far away. Regardless, tapping the circle button (B on Xbox One) once to counter during the window does the job. This creates an easily understandable and reliable rhythm to fights. I concentrated on putting in my combo attack strings and threw in counter commands when I needed to (including pressing Triangle/Y to dodge projectiles). Things can get hairy and quite difficult when you're surrounded by a blood-thirsty gang, but you can trust Syndicate's combat to see you through.
Syndicate's altogether improved character movement, a big part of its fights, also aids general world traversal. Climbing into windows – an adventure in itself in Unity – is now easily executed by hitting L1 when prompted by an icon.
The City at Your Feet
Unity's online integration was a mess, and Syndicate avoids this completely by not only axing multiplayer, but also by doing away with a companion app or other connectivity. Apart from any unintended bugginess, the online components may have caused in Unity, it feels great in Syndicate to be free of any frustration with the map or what you see in the world. Thankfully, a chest is just a chest again, and if you see it, you can access it. Speaking of chests, the removal of the Nomad missions and chests gives players access to that feature's equipment rewards via normal side missions. A large map, an inviting city, and an urge to explore – this spirit is definitely back in full force for Syndicate.
Crafting New Meaning
The worlds of the Assassin's Creed franchise have never lacked for things to do, but Syndicate introduces a crafting wrinkle that gives new impetus to take on the game's many side missions. Crafting supplies are earned across four categories, and you must have the requisite items to create and unlock specific weapons and upgrade your gang (more on that below). Furthermore, crafting is also how you unlock important character upgrades such as being able to carry more medicine punches, bombs, knives, etc.
Giving players a reason to play the series' many side missions has always been a challenge, and the integration of crafting components gives players more of a reason to take many of them on. You are also encouraged to take on side missions since helping out allies will sometimes give you specific weapons or equipment beyond the normal XP and money.
Skills for Any Situation
I wasn't as annoyed by Unity's skill tree – where you had to spend points to learn even fundamental aspects of the Assassin craft – as some players were, but there's no doubt that Syndicate's version of the skill tree is simply better.
Like any good skill tree, Syndicate's gives you the freedom to pursue the avenues you see fit while unlocking some impressive and useful abilities along the way. It's broken into three sections: Combat, Stealth, and Ecosystem (which includes skills like becoming a faster driver, gang options, a bigger Eagle Vision cone, and more). There's simply more variety than in Unity, and this dovetails nicely with the Frye twins.
There are many instances in the game where it does not matter which Frye twin you're controlling. The game even encourages this by allowing you to switch freely between them when you're not in a story mission, but the skill tree is the one area where who you control actually matters.
You can effectively create two different character builds for the two characters, tailoring Jacob and Evie towards specific needs. For instance, I didn't spend points on lockpicking or other stealth-related skills for Jacob. However, that's not to say that I didn't buy combat skills with Evie. However you do it, be sure to investigate the six character-specific skills (three for each) to unlock their true potential.
Eventually you will earn plenty of skill points if you do enough of the side missions to unlock all the skills for both Fryes, but in the early and middle parts of the game, you won't have to waste points on branches of the skill tree you're not interested in.
The Fryes' adventures around London have also made them leaders of the Rooks gang – who have their own extensive skill tree. Apart from improving your gang (which costs money and craft items), you can also direct up to five members in the world. Although you can't command them to kill instantly like in AC: Brotherhood, they're handy in a scrape and remind me of the franchise's heyday.
Whereas the skill trees are about choice, Syndicate's 29 perks are passive upgrades unlocked according to how you play the game. For instance, if you perform 50 multi-counter kills you'll get an increase in your counter attack damage. These let you feel even more like a lethal assassin, something that Unity didn't always do.