Another year brings another Assassin's Creed game, and this time, the series moves the action to Victorian London. Although Assassin's Creed Syndicate is the latest title in a long-running series, new players should be able to jump right in and see what has made this franchise one of gaming's most popular since its debut in 2007.
Whether you're an Assassin recruit looking to try something new, or a high-ranking Mentor eagerly awaiting the next part of the story, here's what you need to know before you dive into Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
What Is Assassin's Creed Syndicate?
Assassin's Creed Syndicate is an open-world action/adventure game developed and published by Ubisoft. The game centers on Jacob and Evie Frye, a pair of twins who journey to London in 1868 and join the Assassin Order in order to fight the encroaching corruption of industrialism. The game will launch on Oct. 23 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and Nov. 17 for PC, and will cost $60 on each platform.
What Is Assassin's Creed All About?
Since its debut in 2007, Assassin's Creed has (for the most part) been a deft blend of stealth, combat and exploration in gameplay, as well as meticulously detailed history and bizarre science fiction in story. The series describes the ongoing conflict between the Templars, a secret society of individuals dedicated to controlling mankind, and the Assassins, who oppose them by any means necessary. Each game advances both a historical narrative as well as a present-day one about a Templar-owned megacorporation forcing (or allowing) people to relive their ancestors' "genetic memories."
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The first game took place in the Holy Land in 1192, during the Crusades, and the franchise has generally been moving forward in time since then, covering noteworthy historical periods such as the Italian Renaissance, the Ottoman expansion, the Golden Age of Piracy, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. The series is best known for its vivid recreations of large-scale cities as they appeared in the past, and its storylines, which merge individual tales of revenge, love and intrigue with real historical events.
In each Assassin's Creed game, you'll often sneak from place to place, assassinating unsuspecting guards or high-profile political figures. If and when you flub the stealth aspect, you can engage your enemies in open combat with swords, knives, guns and a variety of other weapons. Between missions, you'll spend your time exploring cities, mounting lofty vantage points and finding side activities to increase your cash stores and purchase better equipment.
Where Does Assassin's Creed Syndicate Fit In?
Assassin's Creed Syndicate is the latest game in the series, both in terms of release order and time period. The game takes place in 1868, which is quite a few years after its Assassin's Creed Unity, its predecessor, which took place in 1793. The modern-day science-fiction storyline has also progressed since last year's entry, although Ubisoft has not yet revealed any specifics.
Series veterans will be pleased to know that Syndicate ties into the stories from Assassin's Creed III and IV, as those games, set in colonial America and the Caribbean, respectively, at different points in the 18th century, took place in territories under British control. Newcomers will likely be relieved to hear that the central story is very much stand-alone and requires no prior knowledge of the franchise to enjoy.
What's The Story So Far?
Assassin's Creed spans eight main games and about a dozen spinoffs, along with a plethora of tie-in films, comics and books. Keeping the story straight isn't always easy, even for diehard fans. However, if Syndicate is your first foray into the series (or if you skipped a few games, or need a refresher), the central thrust is fairly easy to follow.
In 2007, an unethical pharmaceutical company known as Abstergo kidnaps Desmond Miles, a New York City bartender, in order to harvest his "genetic memories." These allow Desmond to relive the memories of his ancestors as he pieces together an age-old conspiracy and a war between the Templars (who control Abstergo) and the Assassins (who eventually rescue him).
During his time with Abstergo and the Assassins, Desmond relives the memories of three individuals. Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad was a Syrian Assassin during the Third Crusade. Ezio Auditore da Firenze was an Italian Assassin during the Florentine Renaissance. Ratonhnhaké:ton (Connor Kenway) was an Iroquois Assassin during the American Revolution.
The three men came into contact with relics known as Pieces of Eden, which date back to a powerful prehistoric civilization that shaped humanity's evolution. (There's some standard Star Trek mumbo-jumbo about how these beings were worshipped as gods by the Greeks and Romans.) The Templars seek the Pieces of Eden in order to dominate mankind and shape it into an orderly society; the Assassins want to prevent that from happening, believing that messy freedom is preferable to tidy fascism.
Desmond sacrifices himself to keep the Pieces of Eden out of Templar hands, but Abstergo simply shifts gears after that, using everyday employees to experience genetic memories and hunt down more First Civilization artifacts. This brought them in contact with Edward Kenway, a ship captain from the Golden Age of Piracy, as well as Arno Victor Dorian, a nobleman from the French Revolution. Both stories shed more light on the ongoing war between Assassins and Templars.
As it stands now, the Assassins and Templars still vie for control in the present day, while the past may be the key to unlocking what they do next. The next important secret lies in London, 1868.
What's New in Assassin's Creed Syndicate?
In addition to a slightly revamped combat system and tons of new weapons (including brass knuckles and a sword cane), the biggest additions to Assassin's Creed Syndicate are vehicles, gang warfare and dual protagonists.
Horses and ships from previous titles are out; carriages and trains are in. Jacob and Evie can commandeer horse-drawn carriages and speed around the wide city streets, ram other vehicles like Roman chariots or even fight on top of them. Likewise, trains provide a quick way to traverse the city as well as a scenic backdrop for a James Bond-style fistfight aboard a moving platform.
Jacob and Evie will also build up a gang called the Rooks in order to combat Crawford Starrick, the (fictional) Victorian magnate who controls London's industry with an iron fist. You can improve your gang as you advance the story, calling upon them as backup fighters when needed.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate also marks the first time that two characters will share the protagonist spotlight. Players can switch between Jacob and Evie at will during exploration, while the plot missions feature each one in more-or-less equal measure. Jacob tends to favor physical confrontations, while Evie prefers stealth, although players can customize either twin in whatever direction they see fit.