E3 2015 – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Hands-On Preview: Riding Coach

Assassin's Creed Syndicate screen

While at E3 2015, I got to go hands-on with the highly anticipated and most modern entry in the franchise, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Set during the Industrial Revolution in 1868, you play as Jacob and Evie Frye who are trying to take back London, which has fallen under Templar control. Sadly, the demo only showed off a small portion of what is available, and only let me play as Jacob, but it was just enough to let me get a feeling for some of the new features that this year’s entry to the franchise will bring. 

Starting off in the middle of the street, Jacob was already getting the attention of some near by NPCs, forcing me to turn around and move away before their suspicion turned into recognition. It seemed that from where I started off, Jacob had already done enough to draw some unwanted attention. From here, I moved to the closest check point which had a group of rivals holding a man hostage. Instead of approaching head first, I was told to look up and press L1 to fire out the new Rope Launcher, which would let me repel up a building.

Not a Super Hero

At first I was expecting an action similar to Batman‘s grappling gun, but instead, the launcher simply shot a rope for me to climb with only enough pull to get me all the way up in a a few bounds. This forced Jacob to have to actually repel away from the wall, creating a much more natural motion as he hastily ascended. From here, I was told that I could also fire the Rope Launcher across the street to zipline over. This action was also highlighted with a few supporting animations that really made the motion quick, but without ever turning our assassin into a comic book hero. As I zipped a line over, you could see Jacobs need to go hand over hand until there was just enough rope for him to get pulled over from one rooftop to another.

While I did enjoy the ability to quickly traverse up a building, I did start to feel — even over my short hands-on time — that these abilities are starting to negate the point of the game itself. To me, Assassin’s Creed has always been about free climbing, and the need to actually get yourself from one point to another, and with the inclusion of the Rope Launcher, I stopped bothering to think about lines to take and simply shot myself across. While it is still too early to raise too much concern, it’s going to be interesting to see all of it plays together well with the roots of the series, or completely over takes it.

Learn the Controls

Eventually, I was left standing above my target trying to locate any other potential threats, but ended up firing my pistol instead. The controls were changed. The shot alerted everyone in the area, and they assassinated the hostage. From there I hoped down and just engaged everyone to get a feel for the combat, and see if there is anything was vastly different from the previous game. Besides a few new animations and a new set of brutal finishers, most of the combat mechanics remain the same. As I got surrounded by enemies, I just moved from target to target, punching and countering as needed until I got stabbed one too many times and died. On my next attempt, I just opted in for dropping something into their fire pit to create mass confusion and finished the mission with a lot less trouble. 

After that, I was shown a new segment which had Jacob chasing down someone who would eventually hop into a horse carriage, forcing me to do the same. By simply running up to any carriage, I was able to secure usable transportation and maintain the chase. Driving a carriage around is far from an easy thing to do, especially at speed, given the dynamics of it being pulled by horses, but you are able to crash it into other carriages and even board them if you time it right. This does require you to stand on top of the carriage while it is in motion, but you can lightly steer by simply moving the analog.

Gangs of the Creed

The last segment that was shown off featured Jacob and his gang known as The Rooks in a street brawl with a rival gang. There wasn’t terribly much different about this segment, except for that it did run well considering the number of characters on screen all at the same time duking it out. Once we cleared out the street, the area now belonged to Jacob and Evie and increased the numbers of their band of thugs. While the cinematics behind the game were interesting, there really wasn’t enough explained about how these type of actions play into the main story, and what the benefit of capturing and expanding your gang is. 

Overall, while it is far too early to tell how Syndicate will grow or expand on the franchise beyond what was shown, the available hands-on preview did feel slightly underwhelming. Since the massive leaps made over the last few entries in the series, it is difficult to not expect something drastically new and interesting for the series once again. Thankfully the Industrial Revolution did have a number of monumental events and historically significant people during that period, not to mention the inclusion of trains and technology could lead to some interesting changes that we have yet to see. So, while I do need to see a bit more to be sold on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, there still is a great deal of potential behind it that we have to wait and see on as we get closer to its release on October 23rd.