It’s hard to believe Assassin’s Creed, the game that kick-started the long-running, hugely-popular series – was released way back in 2007. While it might still feel like a new entry into the mainstream gaming world, the series has now been established for almost a decade; the franchise’s rich world has led to numerous spin-offs, with comic books, YouTube movies, toys, novels, and a forthcoming film (starring Michael Fassbender) expanding on the games.
With a new instalment in the series – Syndicate – on its way, Ubisoft looks set to bring the Assassins to Victorian London (following such eras as the Crusades, the Renaissance, and the French Revolution). Can fans expect this to be a basic re-skin of Unity, or will this bring a breath of fresh air to the series?
Stepping into the Past
Victorian London is definitely a rich setting for a video game, particularly with the amount of environmental interaction the player gets to enjoy, thanks to the now-familiar parkour system. Set during the Industrial Revolution, Syndicate follows two new characters: Jacob Frye and his twin sister, Evie. These two arrive in London to find the Templars in charge, seizing power from the Church and the Monarch. With both Jacob and Evie following the Creed, they form the titular Syndicate and work to take the city back from their enemies by uniting its criminals into one force. Iconic figures from the era – Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, for example – will also appear in the game.
Evie is the first playable female lead in a main Assassin’s Creed game, and she looks set to be a rich character. In the open-world, free-roam areas of the game, players will be able to choose between either Jacob and Evie, exploring London as whoever they like; this is also said to apply to the majority of missions, too, though some will force you into a specific character.
Jacob will favour more of a rough-and-ready style of fighting in close combat, whereas Evie has stronger skills in stealth (she also appears to be the smarter of the two). It’ll be great to see how this sibling dynamic works within the game, and how noticeable the differences in their playing styles will actually be.
A Bigger, Deeper World
Ubisoft has said that London will provide a bigger world than Unity’s Paris – 30% bigger! This is clearly a significant improvement, and will give players a richer playground to enjoy. New travelling systems make getting around more interesting than before, with a new rope-launcher giving Jacob and Evie a way to rappel up buildings and create zip-lines from one structure to another – possibly like Batman’s grapnel gun in the Arkham series, or Rico’s wrist-launcher in the Just Cause games? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s definitely an exciting inclusion, lending the world a fresh verticality.
Carriages (a massively iconic presence on Victorian London’s streets) play a key role: players can pilot them, or simply catch a ride (any hijackings or erratic driving will attract police intention, so be careful); these will use realistic physics, rocking and bumping over the cobbled streets. Amazingly, players will be able to jump from one carriage to another, and even fight on top of them (sure to become a memorable feature). Trains will also provide a means of getting around, though little has actually been said of this so far.
London will feature six boroughs players can explore: Westminster, the City of London, Whitechapel, the Strand, Lambeth, and Southwark. Each area looks set to have its own look and feel, and will offer players plenty of fun outside of the main missions: every smaller activity Jacob and Evie can take part in all tie into the game’s main objective – taking the city back from the Templars. This will hopefully prevent other areas of the game feeling pointless or tacked-on.
For hardcore fans and newcomers alike, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate looks set to be one of the most interesting additions to the series yet when it hits later this year.