With each and every installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise players are treated to new, extravagant locales to get lost in during their pursuit of the Templars. Fancy cities full of royal guards and just about everyone roaming about with embroidered weaponry out in the open. These games took place in specific times where that wasn’t out of the ordinary. You can have a musket slung over your shoulder and a cutlass hanging off your hip, it was the normal thing to do.
Whether it was during the Crusade or while exploring Italy, and even in the Americas during the Revolutionary War, assassins roamed freely and brandished their tools of the trade. Never did the cities of the games place restrictions on players in how they presented themselves to the world. They were armed killers and they wore it on their sleeves. It was exciting, yes, but it became all too familiar. It was time for a change, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s London brings just that.
At first, it is just a beautiful location. London having just been re-birthed through the Industrial Revolution is unlike any other city players have visited during their adventures. The London created here is more than just a place where the developers could cram tons of NPCs into. It is a living city that has seen a sharp push into the modern age. Everyone is in a rush and the carriages, trains, and steamboats get them to where they need to go. A fog of pollution tints the sky in beautiful hues of yellows, greens, and pinks. The market district bustles as everyone rushes to capitalize on sales, the industrial section is full of hard work being done as the city is slowly, but surely, being expanded into the modern city it is today.
Random crimes ranging from thievery to outright murder occur in back alleys and sometimes even in crowded streets by criminals of a more daring ilk. Law enforcement is a very real thing in Syndicate’s London and while some are clearly paid off by the evil forces behind this growing city, others will quickly answer the call for justice. This doesn’t mean that they’re just programmed to target Jacob and Evie Frye, which always seemed to be the case in entries prior to Syndicate. They will not allow any crime, be it by random civilian, gang member, or even Templar.
For the first time, the city feels like it was built to be just that, a city. Not some place for you to run around and participate in murderous endeavors in, but a place you visit and exist within. This actually does something wonderful to how the game is played and how our new assassins interact with the world.
Seeing as how the city feels more real, that means you won’t be so easily forgiven for the outlandish acts of violence and rude behavior you may have gotten away with in the past. You cannot simply push down crowds of people or “accidentally” brandish your weapon. The crowd will react (which they’ve always done) but this time, someone will do something about it. You can often use this to your advantage. Recruit a few of your Rooks and send them in to attack a group of unassuming rival gang members to draw the police towards them, freeing you up to do as you please.
Of course, you still have to follow the laws when just moving about. Weapons are concealed within your coat and your attire must be spiffy lest you look like some vagrant. Fights in back alleyways must be quickly fled so that the police don’t catch on to your activities, and please do follow the laws of the road.
Your mode of transportation is altered, too. In the past, cities were built to resemble their real-world counterparts but also drastically altered so you could enjoy all of the parkour your heart desired. Syndicate’s London is opened up. Wide streets allow for multiple carriages to move about, huge smokestacks keep the smoke out of your face, construction sites are filled with debris, and wide open plazas allow for beautiful scenery where you can just sit back and watch the citizens go about their daily lives. For an assassin, this usually equals a nightmare when it comes to getting around quickly. No amount of training in the world could get someone to jump across some of the wider streets in the game.
The design of the city brought about the necessity of the Rope Launcher. Think Batman’s grapple gun but with a bit more range, yet less utility. The city once again forced a change, a restriction, that was met with absolute grace. It is the star of the show and everything bends into it in a way that lifts Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s London above all previous cities. The city of London allows you into its limits and tasks you with accomplishing your goals by its rules. It is a thriving force that is on the cusp of becoming something even greater and it bends for no one.
It’s amazing how much effort the development team put into the city where players will experience the action. Molding a world that is believable and adjusting the ways of the assassins to fit that new mold. It manages to feel imposing in the best ways, leaving players to enjoy an entirely new type of freedom. London may very well just be the best damn city Assassin’s Creed has ever seen as it ushers the brotherhood of the past into the modern age.