It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for Ubisoft. They had delivered one of the most engaging, playable and downright entertaining installments of their flagship Assassin's Creed franchise, but its clunky, buggy French Revolution predecessor had turned many off the series.
Following the abundant flaws of Assassin's Creed: Unity there were no Great Expectations for Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. And, while the game may have picked up some good word of mouth from a Mutual Friend or two, it has had Hard Times earning the audience it deserves. Nevertheless, this nineteenth-century Twist on the Assassin's Creed formula had enough to prove that, in Ubisoft's Tale Of Two Cities, it is London and not Paris that is worth a revisit.
Yes, these awkward puns are just here because this is a AAA adventure game in which Charles Dickens is a prominent character. But then, isn't that in itself something worth celebrating?
Seriously, though, Syndicate seemed to fly a little under the radar at the time, but is perhaps the most underrated entry in the whole sprawling Assassin's Creed franchise. Punchy, energetic, with a strongly realised setting, time and place, and fun characters, it's a game that deserves a second look from anyone who missed it first time around. Here's ten reasons why.
10. Trimming The Fat
It might seem odd to be praising a game for the features that it doesn't have, but here we are.
A big reason for why Unity fell apart at the seams was because it tried to be all things for all people, to pack so much into the game and still hit the incredibly tight turnaround of Assassin's Creed's then-annual release schedule.
Syndicate sensibly chose instead to focus on making sure that it did the things that it did well, rather than do a lot of additional ones badly.
The decision to ditch all multiplayer elements feels like a particularly sensible one as this was never where Assassin's Creed shone anyway and the main thread of Syndicate loses nothing for not having the unremarkable co-op missions of Unity.
That multiplayer hasn't really been missed, and indeed allows for more development of a richer solo experience, is obvious in how it is yet to make a comeback in the later games of the series. In fact, it's also worth noting that Assassin's Creed: Valhalla is currently being talked up as "shorter" than its predecessors as a selling point against games becoming too flabby.
There are other elements, too, in which Syndicate displays a tauter focus than other parts of the series. The present-day frame story is trimmed back to a handful of cutscenes, which makes the game much more accessible as a jumping on point for people not already versed in the complex lore of Abstergo, Templars and precursor civilisations. And our heroes are already trained assassins ready for action without hours of prologue where you play them as children or as their father.