By Joe Strange
It’s that time of year again; we’ve got more information on the next Assassins’ Creed game. Ever since 2009’s Assassins’ Creed 2 we’ve had a new mainstay Assassins’ Creed game every year; some have been great, some… not so much.
It’s a fairly large point of contention in gaming; annual instalments of huge game series like Assassins’ Creed and Call of Duty. It was once the complaint that sports games like Fifa and Madden released the same game every year with only minor tweaks, and when that trend came over to narrative heavy games it all got a bit real.
Some franchises have suffered for it, with Assassins’ Creed being a notable example; Assassins’ Creed Brotherhood, despite being a smaller game (one city compared to AC2’s variety of settings), was a great extension to a well established system and character arc; it was more of the same, which, while satiating the fans need, did make them ask for more of the sort of advancement we saw between the first instalment and the second. With Revelations the series took a turn into the boring but at least they tried new things avenue. Assassins’ Creed 3 was a mess; boring main character, a combat system that was clunky and a narrative that was so dull that I think I slept through most of it while playing.
For me, Connor’s ‘adventure’ was the last straw. I was done.
That was until I heard the reception of Black Flag‘s humour, wit, fun and charm; it was like playing AC2 again; a likable but flawed main character, a great setting, new mechanics, polish. The series was on the up again.
Then last year, disaster struck.
Sorry, no, I read that wrong; Unity struck.
Full of bugs, glitches, gremlins and just, plain broken features, Unity was an unfinished piece of work that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day when it did; it was a real advocate against annual releases.
So what’s the deal with this next one? What makes Syndicate different? What does it bring to the table that will maybe, possibly, turn this tail spinning franchise around?
Well, me from two second ago, I’m glad you asked, here it goes.
1) It’s a new studio and team
Out of the gate, Syndicate is being developed by Ubisoft Quebec, and not Ubisoft Montreal like the previous entries in the series, while we’re not sure how exactly this will go down it’s good to know that one of the leads from this new challenger worked on one of the good Assassins’ Creed games that was based in a single city (Brotherhood, so you know)
New teams often mean new ideas, and new ideas, hopefully means a more inventive and exciting time for everyone, I mean this one’s got a rope launcher that means you can Batman to the rooftops then zipwire on the fly; that’s pretty neat.
2) It’s bigger than Unity‘s Paris.
30% at an estimate, according to Ubisoft. One of the reasons that Brotherhood worked was that Rome was a large, but fairly varied city, you had country side and the crowds of Vatican City, or at least, as crowded as last gen could get. This time we’ve been told that a lot of time and effort has gone into making this version of London, not only busy, but believable, with crowds of people keeping to the pavements and carriages going hither and dither. The city that you’re trying to control should feel alive and worth controlling, not just some barely occupied shell; it’s bloody London after all.
Baring in mind, we were also told this about Unity, but who knows, maybe this one will be finished. Which leads me to…
3) No Multiplayer
Yesss. One of the (many) issues with Unity was the shaky and unstable mulitplayer mode; Co-op was promised but in reality it was restrictive and bland, and that was if you could find a game to join.
While everyone has had a little bit of fun with Assassins’ Creed’s competitive multiplayer in the past, it’s a system that hasn’t seen a lot of change for the better since its introduction back in Brotherhood, and the lack of a multiplayer mode isn’t a huge loss, since at its core, Assassins’ Creed is a single player experience; it’s a narrative lead game, and having idiots dry humping your character when you’re trying to listen to important plot takes away from that somewhat.
The focus on multiplayer has also, reportedly, meant that the team can focus on the single player, meaning that not only could this be a finished game come October, but it might even be polished!
4) New (hopefully good) main characters
Oh, Assassins’ Creed, if ever ‘hit and miss’ was an apt phrase, it would be for your protagonists; Ezio was such an incredibly welcome change to Altair’s stoicism and sense of duty; he was fun, cocky, but had a burden to bare, and his character progressed really well over his arc, Connor, the little shit, was just so dull. His dad was a much better character to play as; more personality, more spark, it’s a shame he’s a massive dick, but eh, what can you expect, he’s a templar.
Then we met with Black Flag‘s Edward Kenway, and we thought ‘yeah this is more like it’ – much more reminiscent of Ezio’s charm and charisma, but more of a selfish edge (he was a pirate after all). And as for… what his name? Arno? Did he have a personality?
With Syndicate, not only are we getting a quick tempered young Englishman as a playable character, but we’re getting his twin, Evie, who’s really only been described as a stealthy master assassin, with promise of her character being explored at E3.
Having two main characters that weave the plot together through their interactions and relationships will be so refreshing to see, especially as you’ll be able to switch between them during free roam and use their specialised skill sets during particular missions in the campaign.
So there’s four reasons why I think that Syndicate might be the saving grace that the Assassins’ Creed series needs. I probably missed some, like the fact you can hijack carriages or that throwing knives are back (Yesss), but I’m really hoping that this game is good. But maybe that’s because I’m English and a bad game set in England might hurt my pride. Or something.
What do you think of the look of Syndicate? Or the AC series in general? Leave a comment below and maybe, just maybe, Ubisoft will read it and will make the game much better for all of us.