Victory? You’re so 2014. Assassin's Creed Syndicate is the name you’re doffing your top hat to now. It’s set in Victorian London at the end of the Industrial Revolution and features twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye. Yes. Double trouble.
Jacob and Evie (find out more about our first female hero in a main Assassin's Creed game) are criminal assassins taking over London’s grimy underworld with their gang, The Rooks. It’s a changed era: the Assassins are all but dead and the Templars are in charge, perilously close to taking over the globe with the unrelenting power of the British Empire.
Syndicate’s Victorian promise is a modernised experience in an open world 30% bigger than Unity’s Paris. It’s a single player experience, so no co-op or multiplayer, and there are deeper changes afoot: Assassin’s Creed is traditionally built on three gameplay pillars: navigation, combat and stealth. Syndicate isn’t just upgrading these but adding an extra one built around this instalment's new vehicles.
Here’s what’s changing:
The rope launcher revolutionises free running
Victorian buildings were six and seven storeys tall which isn’t ideal if you fancy free running across the skyline. Step in the rope launcher. “The roads are larger, buildings are taller, we want to give players freedom [and] to use tools to create” says senior producer Francois Pelland. “It’s a rope launcher that you can also use as a zipline to assassinate guards. It’s a tool that will give players freedom to attack, to tackle a situation differently. Is it powerful? Absolutely. Is it going to be a game changer? Absolutely”.
Creative director Marc-Alexis Cote adds, “the choice to climb the old way is still there. But I really think it’s a game changer because of the way the city is structured... We’re seeing it in playtests. They’re parkouring through the city, crossing those wide gaps while maintaining momentum. You don’t have to wait at the end of the building to be able to traverse. The movement is so fast.”
Combat is dirtier and faster
Victorian London was a time of concealed weaponry - if you walked around with a sword at your hip or an axe on your back, you’d get some funny looks from the new British police force. Swords are out, knives are in. Jacob, for example, wields some seriously nasty knuckle dusters as well as a Nepalese knife called a Kukri. He's also got a cane that no one is talking about yet...
Ubi Quebec is focussing more on hand-to-hand fighting and direct attacks here, rather than countering enemies. It’s the modern age too, so Jacob is armed with a six shooter revolver featuring new aiming mechanics and some brutal executions.
Stealth is… stealthier
While Jacob is possibly the most dapper hero we’ve seen to date with his mutton chops and top hat, he’s still a Master Assassin and switches from his Victorian headwear to a hood for stealth - although you need the hat to blend in public as the hood makes people in the street suspicious. There’s an automatic cover system this time and new distractions like the ability to fling throwing knives into walls as a diversion. Environmental hazards are also a new feature, things like expertly throwing a knife at a rope holding barrels, which then plummet onto unsuspecting enemies below.
Finally, the whistle returns to lure targets, and there’s a disturbing new hallucinogenic dart which can affect single enemies or be shot into fire to send everyone in the area berserk. Stealthy...
Vehicles are a whole new game
A new pillar for the series are what the team are calling ‘systemic vehicles’ with the modern era meaning carriages, trains and boats forming a part of the city. “One of the things that we decided to do”, explains Marc-Alexis Cote, “is that we made all the vehicles physics based, and this can lead to crazy situations. We saw a cart flipping, a carriage flipping, with the player on top of it. Those carriages are moved by horses, so whether you have the reins or are on top, they'll just keep moving. You get launched off, and we're like 'wow, we never thought of that!' This is not something we had designed."
Assassin's Creed Syndicate is out on PS4 and Xbox One on the 23rd of October. Find out more about why we think Assassin's Creed Syndicate is GTA meets Bloodborne.