Last November, Ubisoft released the most polarizing entry in its annual historically themed action-adventure series. Assassin’s Creed Unity seemed ready to elevate the franchise to new heights thanks in part to Ubisoft Montreal’s involvement and being heavily promoted as a next-gen only title. Unfortunately for gamers and critics alike, this sequel turned into a complete disaster marred by technical issues, a misguided storyline, and severe graphical deficiencies from start to finish.
Fast-forward to May of this year and the worldwide reveal of the ninth major installment in the series. With an Industrial Revolution setting and the ability to switch between two playable twin protagonists, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is shaping up to be the most ambitious and exciting outing yet. Is this fact alone enough to make us all forget about how disappointing Unity was? Here are my thoughts on why the end product may or may not be successful in the long run.
For starters, many of the positives about Syndicate are stemming from what Ubisoft Quebec is doing right now to change the overall experience. The introduction of an improved combat system, the ability to hijack vehicles, use a grappling hook to scale buildings faster, and engage in brutal gang wars are all landmark achievements that simply can’t be overlooked. Ubisoft also decided to remove both multiplayer and co-op features from this game, thus allowing the developers to focus solely on the single-player campaign. Multiplayer is often not needed to define how great a game truly is and I’m personally glad that they decided to avoid it altogether this time around.
As an added bonus to everything I mentioned above, the decision to include a female assassin as one of the main protagonists in the game was a smart move that will pay dividends later. Unity was heavily criticized for both its lack of female assassins in co-op and one Ubisoft employee’s ridiculous comment about it requiring too much work to add them to the game. Evie Frye already looks like the perfect solution to that problem and certainly has the potential to be a standout character for the franchise when all is said and done.
With so many positives stated about Syndicate’s potential to outshine Unity , there are at least two major concerns that may stop fans from picking it up. The first issue lies in the fact that Ubisoft continues to milk this franchise for all it’s worth and many people are growing tired of the series as a whole. While I can personally understand the company’s desire to create a game every year, the truth of the matter is that releasing a new title every two years or so would give fans a chance to miss the series and support it even more aggressively once it comes back. Rockstar Games knows this practice well and it’s the main reason why Grand Theft Auto isn’t on an annual release schedule like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed currently are. Perhaps eventually Ubisoft will consider this approach, but I highly doubt they will if the games keep selling well.
The other negative that may impact Syndicate is simply that Unity ’s launch was handled poorly and this left a really bad taste in everyone’s mouth. As Microsoft learned firsthand with the dismal runup to the Xbox One launch, first impressions mean everything and once consumer trust and loyalty are lost it takes a lot of hard work to earn it all back. In the case of Unity , the game was hastily built on a new engine and therefore failed to perform well on consoles. The hope is that Syndicate escapes this fate, but it will be hard to know for sure until the game finally hits stores.
With all that said, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is looking fantastic so far and my hope is that they get it right this time. Mistakes happen often in this industry and therefore developers and publishers should be allowed to right their wrongs. If, however, Syndicate falters and suffers the same fate as Unity , then I fully believe Ubisoft will deserve the criticism and should take a much-needed break from the series. Maybe then they would have a chance to refresh the franchise and give us all something cool to look forward to down the road.