City Living: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s London

Almost every time I watch a trailer for an Assassin’s Creed game, I think the same thing: I want to go to this place but I do not want to spend my visit climbing up the walls, collecting feathers, and bumping into people (and bumping people off). My repetitive cry of “great city, tedious experience” has itself become tedious. But here I go again because Ubisoft have released a new trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate [official site] and when the marketing department considered the target audience they wanted to reach, they were looking at a picture of me. It’s a beaut and I’m going to pretend it’s a trailer for a tourism simulator. Or Dishonored 2.

Imagine a world in which this is a video for an immersive sim based on Penny Dreadful. Imagine being able to exist in this place as a person with agency rather than the next in a long line of puppets tangled in the strings of a nonsense clash of conspiracies. I find the minute-by-minute experience of playing the Assassin’s Creed games aggressively dull, Black Flag aside, but I love that these slices of historical fiction exist. And by that, I mean the cities themselves, which are as remarkable as the crumbling Babylonian courtyard set of Intolerance (itself resurrected digitally in LA Noire, dontcha know).

I don’t expect to be won over by Syndicate but I fully intend to spend a day or two seeing the sights. That is unless the pre-release videos manage to scratch my itch before the game’s even out.


  1. BobbyDylan says:

    Seeing the sights of London (the city I call home) is the only appeal of this game to me. I’m sick of the AC city formula, I got Unity for free with my Grafix card and I’ve never played it.
    Ubisuck, please make black flag 2, and go full sid mier with it. I’ll buy that.

    • king0zymandias says:

      I don’t get all the praise for Black Flag, to me it seemed just as insipid and shallow as every other Assasin’s Creed game. Yes there was ship combat, but the the whole thing was a joke. Your ship was for all intents and purposes indestructible, since it was possible to repair at any time, the combat was very simple and had no depth or challenge, upgrading the ship was all about incremental stat increase, the sea was littered with so many ships that it was impossible to go 10 feet without getting into another fight, and you were encouraged to get into fights casually one after the other, since it was almost impossible to lose. The boarding part was also equally trivial as it relied on the impossible to lose combat mechanics of the Assasin’s Creed series, as long as you know how to counter you can kill an army without breaking a sweat.

      And the game outside of the ship combat was populated with the same list of activities that make up any Ubisoft game, climb towers, collect shit, clean the map. Ugh.

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        phuzz says:

        I enjoyed it, but I’ve not played any of the others. Mind you, the plot was not that easy to follow, and there seemed to be a completely separate 1st person game shoehorned in there for no reason. Oh, and bloody Kenway seemed to enjoy standing up in front of enemies during stealth bits.
        Also I do tend to get into a bit of map cleaning from time to time, I find it relaxing for some reason. (Sometimes it pisses me off immensely though).

    • Barchester says:

      Rogue was basically Black Flag 2.

      I’m with king0zymandias on not getting the praise for Black Flag. Big empty map, lots of same-y islands, repetitious naval battles and more daft and inconsequential story set in a part of the world I don’t really care that much about.

    • TK-093 says:

      Black Flag was great, but in all of the AC games so far (I’ve not played Unity yet) the combat has always been way to simple. You can be surrounded by 20 guys and they just attack one at a time.

      It needs combat like Shadows of Mordor.

      • basilisk says:

        Unity partially fixes that; you can get attacked by multiple opponents at once and the combat system is not nearly as trivial as it used to be in AC3+. It is indeed vaguely reminiscent of the Arkham/Mordor system, but due to all the tech issues of the game, it feels very unresponsive and muddy, so it’s not that great. Still, definitely a step in the right direction, and easily the best combat in an AC game yet. (The fighting in the AC1–2 games was also rubbish, just of a different kind.)

  2. basilisk says:

    Oh my. That really looks fantastic. For all of Unity’s problems (and there were many), its recreation of Paris was a stunning achievement, and this looks like it might raise the bar even further.

    But yes, even as a huge fan of the series I have to admit that it’s been chasing its own tail for way too long now and sorely needs to rethink its priorities. On the other hand, no one else is pouring so much money and effort into recreating history, and for this alone I will always have a fondness and a good deal of respect for AC.

  3. FurryLippedSquid says:

    The Big Ben edition?

    They do know that’s the Tower of Westminster, right?

  4. John O says:

    I like that little titanic moment on that ship. London looks pretty, although having recently been there it seems so digital compared to what I liked. AC… I saw that trailer with the talking and the animated polygon faces, and I saw enough of the earlier games cut scenes to know that it is not a world I want to spend much time in.

  5. Blackcompany says:

    Dishonored. The game provides a pretty solid example of a game about Assassins in a sprawling city-scape. Ubi really needs to step back and take a look at the Dishonored and the older Thief games. Take some inspiration from games that do Stealth right.

    And then incorporate some stealth – real stealth – into AC games. This series jumped the shark a long while back, and it really does need a new start.

  6. Ethaor says:

    Yeah.. AC Paris also looked great in their last game’s trailers. Then the game got released and achieved a well deserved mediocre 2/10 meta score.

    But Ubisoft said they’ve learned quite a bit from that and changed a lot of things to prevent past issues and the fact they say that every year shouldn’t be taken into consideration.

  7. Penguin_Factory says:

    Every time I see footage of Evie in this game I wish I could play the whole thing as her instead of Top-hat Jackass. It’s like Ubisoft had a competition to design the world’s most obnoxious character and said “we’ll put someone awesome in as well to really drive it home.”

    • Stone_Crow says:

      From the studio that brought you Aiden Pearce, my first experience of wanted to lose a computer game because the guy I am playing is such a dick.

      • Eleven says:

        Oh god, Aiden Pearce. How much contempt does Ubisoft have for its audience that they thought players would identify with a lead character like that?

      • Barchester says:

        Oof, Aiden Pearce. With his emotionless Batman voice. WatchunderscoreDogs also really cememted my hate for Ubi’s faux open worlds.

  8. Kefren says:

    I’ve never played an AC game (I don’t like third-person games in general, it makes me feel like I’m squinting at toys) but I do think they’re missing a trick. If they recreate these worlds in apparent detail, why not then also re-use the setting for short, budget spin-offs? An adventure, a first-person thief-type game and so on? Not maps full of icons but totally different styles of game, so that people who wouldn’t buy AC might then go and buy the budget game using all the assets but done differently. Like Adam, I’d enjoy just exploring. A short but fun Thief game made up of a few missions, which played like Thief 1 and 2 would be great. Or even just an exploring game, but with different types of music to alter the mood based on what you’re doing. When I first got an Xbox I played one of the Midtown Madness games and basically just spent my time driving around Paris with my own music playing. Different songs and different times of day gave it a completely different feeling and emotion. I spent hours just doing that, it was amazing (even though the underlying game was cruddy). I’d probably buy almost any game-type in these settings as long as it was a first-person perspective, which always immerses me. In fact, I’m playing Witcher 3 at the moment, and regularly think how much it might feel like STALKER if it was first person perspective when I’m exploring woods and ruined villages at night – I’d probably enjoy it 2-3 times more.

    • basilisk says:

      Yes, I’ve been thinking that as well. It feels horribly wasteful to build a whole city just for one game with no mod support whatsoever.

    • DasBlob says:

      I thought the same thing reading this article. Developers spend huge amounts of time and money on buildung worlds like these. And with good reason, because they do much to sell those games. But, once they got enough money out of their primary games, could they not lease these worlds to smaller developers, who can reuse them for making secondary games? Could be different genres, just like you said.
      First time I read someone suggesting that was in 2009, I think, when that racing game Fuel very much underused it’s recordbreakingly huge world. I read many comments suggesting building a Mad Max game on top of that existing world. Never happened back then, and I think Fuel was not easily modded.
      Opening games up for modding is, of course, another way to generate more sales from an existing word, just see Arma. But that is not a road I imagine Ubisoft would take.

      • Kefren says:

        I thought the same when playing Fuel! Lovely-looking world, but I wanted it to involve survival, not racing. (Ditto Rage). I used to avoid the black trucks, and imagine they were full of marauders who would come after me.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Would be interesting to see the cities used in other games for sure (also true for LA Noire), perhaps a Telltale-like adventure of decision-making, a mystery game, perhaps an RPG… The trouble is that these worlds are always built very specifically with the intended game in mind so you would still have to do a lot of custom work to make it fit another game… and if you were re-using one of the older cities you’d probably have to redo everything (except the research) to make it current.

      Modding would be great but my guess is this will never happen because that is basically their whole business model. If fans were making new cities – which Valve’s Steam Workshop has demonstrated fans would probably be pretty good at – Ubisoft would need to shift focus to new types of gameplay instead of art and story. I don’t see this happening any time soon.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        [edit: I do rather like a lot of the core elements of the series, the exploration, the atmosphere, and some of the various iterations they’ve done in the sequels (the sailing was great), but they really need to shake things up… or maybe try something entirely new in the same spirit, only with a completely different core fantasy (ie nothing to do with assassins or conspiracies)]

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Are you gonna buy GTA V, now that it has a first-person mod? I don’t know if any of the Witcher games will ever get something like that, but I personally don’t care. Different perspectives gives, uh, different perspectives on a game world, each has its merits and flaws.

      • Kefren says:

        I was tempted, but then I saw you needed an account on a 3rd party site. My first preference is GOG, then I will use Steam if I have to, but not for games that require accounts on other systems (e.g. Origin, Uplay etc). And, to be honest, I’ve played most of the GTA games (1, 3, Vice City, 4) but only really enjoyed GTA 1.

  9. Barchester says:

    More of the same game we’ve been playing for seven years now, but I’ll be damned if I’m not getting this one. Paris was glorious and this looks brilliant as well.

    I made a conscious decision to only buy AC games from now on based on the setting, and London is high on my list. It’s a shame the gameplay and story of this series is shoddy as hell.

  10. gbrading says:

    I agree with Adam. One day I look forward to just exploring the Victorian London of AC: Syndicate, just as I look forward to one day seeing Revolutionary Paris in AC: Unity (when the sale price is super, super low). But actually play the game in which the city is set? Zero interest.

  11. albamuth says:

    I rather wish this was the trailer for a package of royalty-free game assets. That’s what Ubisoft should be getting paid for. It’s a shame all these beautiful settings and character models are locked away and wasted when they would be better utilized in the hands of tens of thousands of indie developers.

  12. shrieki says:

    looks breathtakingly awesome. but i wish it wasnt an assassins creed game too….

    i want this to be a lovecraft-inspired action rpg. i want a cthulhu game that looks like this. yes lol

  13. ribby says:

    Imagine playing as Spring-Heeled Jack and having the powers to jump 30-feet into the air. I reckon that’d liven things up nicely :)