There’s no denying that Victorian London is a popular video game locale. In fact, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is just the latest of multiple titles set in the period that were released in this year alone. It’s fitting that Syndicate explores such well-worn territory, as many of its gameplay mechanics are borrowed from other games or previous entries in Ubisoft’s flagship series. But while it’s hard to shake the feeling of having seen it all before—of having played it before—the lack of innovation in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is easily forgiven when you’re having so much fun.
Somewhere outside of Britain’s capital city in 1868, twin Assassins-in-training Evie and Jacob Frye are bored with the tasks they’ve been given. The children of a well-known Assassin, the Fryes want to take on bigger and better things than the town of Crawley has to offer them. Against the orders of their advisor, the pair hop a train to London and meet up with one of the last Assassins in the area to begin their journey. The goal, of course, is to eradicate the Templars—no easy feat when they’re led by the intimidating Crawford Starrick, one of the most powerful and influential men in the city. Starrick is the perfect blend of soft-spoken and scary; he clearly pulls the strings on anyone worth knowing in London, and can bang out a killer piano tune and ruthlessly shoot an associate in the same breath.
The fact that there are two protagonists is the biggest difference between Syndicate and previous games in the series. Evie is level-headed, focused on stealth, and determined to follow in her father’s footsteps, while Jacob is more impulsive, rarely listens to directions, and never thinks about the consequences of his actions (or how Evie will have to clean up those messes). Being able to switch between characters at will (outside of proscribed story missions) is a breath of fresh air for the annual franchise, and Evie in particular stands out as one of the series’ most likeable characters.