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Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review

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Gameplay:

Prepare for some ranting here because there were several instances and mechanics I encountered that seemed to be lacking in polish and/or had poor or bad scripting. Before getting to that, I want to touch on something positive because I really do not want this review to be too negative.

Assassinating enemies remains a very powerful and useful tool. Get close enough without them knowing, and no matter who or what they are your hidden blade will kill them. With the proper patience and skill you can exploit the assassination mechanic to complete world missions at levels lower than intended. These world missions include kidnapping Templars, killing Templars, and freeing child laborers. Especially this last one can be done just by carefully progressing through the factory, assassinating enemies that could quickly kill you in a fight. If you can assassinate a targeted Templar, then you just have to worry about escaping, so assassinating guards can be a good idea, and that goes for kidnappings too. By the way, I typically played as Evie as she has some better stealth skills, but Jacob is still adept at stealth.

The gear system too is quite nice because you can purchase, craft, and equip gear from almost anywhere by pulling up the Escape menu. You will still need to loot things or visit shops for consumables like medicine and poison darts, but that is not so bad. Gang upgrades can also be purchased anytime and anywhere, and these can increase your investment income, the skills of the Rooks that will aid you in fights, and can even decrease the effectiveness of enemies. The skill system is a little funky because unlocking skills advances your level, but it does not tell you how many skills are needed to advance.

 

With two positives covered, time to get ranting!

The first I want to cover is the one I mentioned back in the Graphics section. Combat animations, like those for killing enemies, while satisfyingly violent, are also long. Too long really, since you cannot escape them. If your character decides it needs to kill an enemy by beating them to their knees then winding up to hit them in the head, you have to wait for them to finish, so targets can run away and you cannot do a thing about it. Fortunately, enemies will not be able to successfully attack you during these animations, but only if you are finishing an enemy off. If you are in any other animation, they can still attack you, and will.

Sometimes, if you play it right, you can actually get a multi-kill animation where you cinematically kill multiple enemies at once. To actually do this I found to be rather difficult because it requires changing targets in combat, leaving one near death. It took me a long time but eventually I figured out the movement buttons (WASD) can be used to change targets, but you can only tap them because these are still the movement buttons. The game will not automatically change your target if you counter an enemy's attack, leaving them open for your attacks. In a situation like this, you will just leap back to attacking your previous target, who might now be blocking. When an enemy blocks attacks you will not be able to damage them, but they are free to attack you when your attack cycle ends, and it is hard to counter these attacks.

You are limited to attcking or countering enemies as you have no block of your own. You also do not have a general dodge, so if you want to escape combat or just move the fight you have to hope you can find and run through an opening. Chances are that will not happen.

 

 

You do have the ability to dodge ranged attacks though, in theory at least. When an enemy is going to shoot at you, you can press the F key within a certain time window to dodge the attack. This does not always work  and it does not help that this is the same key for quick-using tools, like your own gun and bombs. There were times when instead of dodging, I threw a bomb before being shot.

Countering too does not always work, which is especially infuriating in the Fight Club events. In these you go multiple rounds without weapons or regenerating health, just your fists. Here countering is of the utmost importance, so its tendency to fail is a serious problem. There were times when I pressed the button to counter, and simply did not, and times I moved to counter, only to be hit anyway. Without a general dodge, countering is the only real defensive tactic you have, so it not being reliable is a serious problem.

Edit: Following my completing this review, Ubisoft released an update for Syndicate that "fixed issues with counter attacks," amongst many other changes. Naturally I decided to jump back into the game to see if counter attacks were more reliable. While I have no better repro steps other than 'counter until it does not work' and could not spend hours testing it, I did not experience any issues with the counter system. So at this point I am confident that countering is at least more reliable, if not completely reliable, and the issues I described above can likely be dismissed. Performance also seemed more stable either from this patch, the updated graphics drivers I also installed, or both.

 

Something new to the franchise is a rope gun, which allows you to quickly climb buildings and create zip lines between them. While it is helpful, it is also crude; really it is too crude for a modern game. You can only use it when standing on something, so if you are already climbing a building you cannot use it to travel to another building, or to ascend faster. It is also only auto-aimed, which can be very annoying. If you are running along a street and the prompt comes up to use the rope, the indicator is most likely just pointing up. The thing is that 'up' is probably up and back, so if you hit the button, instead of ascending the building in front of you, where you were running to, you will instead be launched up the building to your side or up the bridge behind you.

The rope being auto-aimed only also means that if you want to fire the rope somewhere particular, you will have to play with the auto-aim to get it there. If you are chasing a target or being chased, this is really not what you want to deal with.

Also, think about the potential if you could aim the rope at carriages or enemies. That would be an interesting way to enter a fight, being pulled in on a rope connected to your hidden blade. But alas, that is not a possibility here.

 

What is not new to this title is a modification to the free running system, where the player gets to specify if they want to run up or down, and I still hate this new system. I do not know how many times it stopped me because I was pressing the buttons to free run up, but the only option was to free run down. Seriously? I want to free run in that direction, so why do I have to change between up and down when one is apparently not an option? To make it even more annoying, I encountered several railings that would stop you if you wanted to free run up, because on the other side you can only go down. With other railings that allowed both, free-running down meant you would vault over it and to the wall below, while running up just has you perch on top of it.

After so many games in the franchise, the free running system got pretty good at doing what I wanted it to do, and this change has just broken that. If only that system would just kick in when up or down is not specified, or when the specified direction is not an option, because chances are you still want to keep moving the direction you are pointing with WASD. I can understand that with the many buildings to climb, it is desirable to have a system to indicate up and down, but most of your movement is still horizontal, so the preference should be to continue that movement over directing vertical movement. Climbing was weird on several occasions as I could see the next hand hold needed to keep going up, but I had to move left or right before my character would actually reach for what was directly in front of them.

As a tip, you cannot jump onto the back of trains or where the cars are connected, even though there are nice platforms there. You have to run up the side of the cars if you want to board them. This makes little sense to me, but you have to go with it.

Also, if a target you are trying to kidnap manages to grab a carriage, just reset the mission. You will never catch up on foot and the carriages I could have stolen were facing the wrong direction, and in the time to turn around the target would escape.

When I said earlier that there were instances of poor or bad scripting, I mean there were scenarios I encountered or accidentally created that simply should not have been allowed to happen. One example is a mission that will get the game stuck on a black screen if you fail to reach a checkpoint before a conversation finishes. Obviously the mission should continue after the conversation, allowing you to reach the checkpoint, or the checkpoint should be unnecessary if the conversation finishes first. Instead you have to manipulate the situation to delay the conversation from starting, because you cannot actually make it to the checkpoint if the conversation starts as early as it can.

 

Another example is an enemy you have to chase down and fight, but do not want to kill. The thing is, you are an Assassin, so you do not do the whole 'leave them alive' thing well. It should have been scripted that when the enemy reaches a certain health point, it triggers the proper event and makes the enemy immortal, so you can attack away. I still have no idea how I managed to not kill that enemy.

Yet another example I captured in one of the two videos, but I encountered several times. In the video, an enemy has become immortal to all attacks, and I am not able to enter the combat mode. The immortality was unique to that instance, but there were several other times when I left combat mode, which means I could not attack or interact with enemies, despite them being directly in front of me. There was even a time when I lost the ability to attack because I ended a mission at the same time the police decided I was hostile. This hostility prevented the mission from properly ending, so I had to run the entire, annoying mission yet again, and I could not simply kill the police or escape so the mission could end correctly.

There were also several instances when things failed missions without warning. That mission I just mentioned is one example because the target I had to kidnap could not be knocked out. Knocking out targets makes things a little easier (at least on the ears) but if you do that here, you fail. (Also on one attempt the police shot into the carriage, killing the target and forcing me to reset. I did not even know characters within carriages could be hurt!) In another mission it was not until I alerted guards, failing the mission, that I was told that I needed to kidnap another guard to provide an 'escort' past these guards. In both of these cases, the information should have been provided before I failed, so that I would not actually fail.

While these issues are all frustrating, they are not game breaking. You do get used to them and adapt so they are not that big of a deal, but I still feel that many of these should not be happening to begin with. Except for these issues peppered in, the gameplay is good and as you would expect from this franchise.

 

I spent 33 hours completing the story and all but four missions. Those four missions are given by Queen Victoria and are only available after the story's end, adding some fifty minutes for me, bringing the total to 33 hours and 50 minutes. I am at 86% completion because there are still many small quests to do, like races, collectibles, and completing missions with all of their optional objectives.




  1. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Introduction
  2. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Graphics
  3. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Story
  4. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Gameplay
  5. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review - Conclusion
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