Since Assassin’s Creed debuted back in 2007, combat has largely been based off of sword fighting, while traversal has been primarily based around dynamic parkour. From the brief hands-on time I had with the game a few weeks back at E3, I was struck by how dissimilar Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s combat feels from previous iterations, and how entertaining traversal has become.
Evolution and change are all part of what make an ongoing series great, no matter the medium; however, when core pillars of a game like Assassin’s Creed seem to be de-emphasized or even cut out, that becomes a problem. Combat in Syndicate seems to be based entirely around fisticuffs, rather than the traditional sword-based combat, which has been a staple for the franchise since it began.
From a brief playthrough with the game, it’s hard to tell how combat will ultimately develop, but based on what I saw, I was not overly impressed with the game’s combat. There seems to be a total lack of fluidity to the flow of combat, which hasn’t really been much of a problem in previous games.
If you want to chain together multiple enemy kills, you’ll need to get a slew of enemies’ health down to a sliver and then you can chain some takedowns together. Even for someone who is a veteran of Assassin’s Creed, this was quite difficult to accomplish and it really made me feel like the fluidity of combat and chaining kills together have all but vanished.
Ubisoft still has plenty more to show in regards to both Jacob and Evie Frye’s combat abilities, however, it is clear that sword combat will not be a primary feature in Syndicate. What has always been great about the Assassin’s Creed series is how it makes the player feel like a badass, and while that feeling is sort of still there, it’s tied up with a feeling of indifference.
It’s one thing to give players another option for combat, but it’s another to say, “sword-combat is all but out, and you have to rely mostly on gunplay and fisticuffs.” That is the definition of taking away player choice, which is contrary to the ideal of freedom we’ve had in every Assassin’s Creed game before.
It doesn’t matter if the game is trying to be “realistic” with the time frame of the game: “you can’t just walk down a street with a sword on your hip and no one batting an eye.” That has always been something that could’ve been said as a reason for taking away the sword in previous games; it was just ignored. Using a copout excuse in order to diminish sword combat is a disservice to gamers and fans of the franchise. We’ll see how the final, polished version of the game feels later this year.
Traversal is another element that is changing how gamers will play Assassin’s Creed. Driving horse carriages around the bustling streets of Victorian London is a blast and will be a feature fans will enjoy. The new rope launcher will also provide easy traversal from the ground to the top of buildings, or across a wide gap separating two structures.
Driving horse carriages around the city will provide people with a nice variety of new experiences, both from a combat and traversal perspective. Fighting on top of a carriage or train adds a new dynamic to the combat system and is something I think gamers will enjoy.
Crashing through light poles, enemy carriages and other parts of the city all makes for a very enjoyable ride, though this is a skill many will have to take time to master. The GTA-like mechanic where you can highjack a horse carriage is as entertaining as the one Rockstar Games has perfected over the years.
The rope launcher will have a limit to how high you can shoot it, but that doesn’t seem like it’ll be a restriction players will encounter often. I love the addition of the rope launcher because it truly does provide another element of choice in the game’s traversal. It’s easier to get around town and I think it will encourage players to traverse on foot as much as driving horse carriages will encourage them to drive.
The gadget also recalls the zip lines people were able to ride on in Assassin’s Creed Revelations, with an outstanding ability to detach and take out a target below at any point during the zip. This opens up some more dynamic gameplay opportunities and ways for players to be creative with their assassinations.
Being able to drive carriages and rope launching up to the tops of buildings via the rope launcher are perfect examples of added features that will embellish the traversal experience, providing players with more options and choice. I see myself utilizing the rope launcher more than the carriages, though driving is quite fun.
I look forward to diving further into the game to see what full context ultimately looks like from both a combat and traversal standpoint. Sure, it’s another Assassin’s Creed game, but with the changes that have been made both to combat and traversal, this feels like no other Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played before. Whether or not that is a good thing, we’ll know by Oct. 23.