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Assassin's Creed Syndicate review: A series gem, but the formula feels overly familiar

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 26, 2015
And the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

Worst of all are the various “Do this thing to liberate this district” missions—which, again, fall into the “Kill This Guy”/”Kill All These Guys” grind but without even a thin guise of story to make you care. And with something like forty districts to liberate, you'll have your fill of all these activities long before you've scrubbed Templar Red off London's map.

The song remains the same

Assassin's Creed has started to feel almost like a semi-interactive art showcase, a massive tech demo for photorealistic recreations of various periods in history. I don't say this with any malice. On the contrary, Syndicate is a stunning achievement of historical tourism. The sprawling green lawns of Westminster, the crowded and occasionally crooked apartments of Whitechapel, the muddy banks of the Thames—all are rendered with a level of detail I find incredible.

There is nothing to do though. Assassin's Creed Syndicate is an exquisite model railway, running around its toy track to the hum of whirring gears and clockwork.

What's, I guess, sad to me is that at one point Assassin's Creed truly was novel. I still remember the excitement around the first game in the series, way back in ye ol' 2007. Despite the lackluster and repetitive mission structure, there was much to be admired—the (impressive at the time) parkour, the grim story, the reactive crowds, the size of the world and the way it blended historic fact and legend. But the longer Assassin's Creed goes without a major overhaul of its core design principles, the more it feels like a weird holdover from another era—say, 2010 when Brotherhood came out.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

Even after Unity's tweaks the parkour feels stilted, and in Syndicate the introduction of a grappling hook that lets you bound to the top of a building with the press of a button renders your character's climbing skills almost comically useless.

The stories are predictable, and the modern-day aspect now resides in a hellish limbo—still present enough to annoy those who don't care, but minimized to the point it feels inconsequential. Syndicate takes this to an extreme, forcing all of its present-day exposition into tedious cutscenes.

And the crowds, which Ubisoft pushed hard in Unity, are apparently a victim of that game's bug-ridden delivery. Syndicate's London feels stagnant and empty by comparison, with not a single crowd that can match what we saw in Unity last year. At one point in the story, characters in Syndicate tell you “all of London is rioting.” If so, it was a very quiet sort of riot—the type where nothing gets broken and people say “Good day” to each other in the streets. Contrast that with Unity's depiction of Paris burning.

 

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