Let's be honest: Assassin's Creed Unity wasn't the most well-received entry in the franchise. Many thought that the game was a step backwards for the series, especially after Assassin's Creed IV. Unfortunately, it only got worse for Ubisoft, as the game's thematic changes were marred even further by a host of technical glitches and generally horrendous performance. Assassin's Creed games are usually some of the biggest releases of the year, but in 2014, Unity was one of the most broken games to hit store shelves.

Ubisoft knows this, and it's learning from the mistakes it made. Its clear that the developer isn't just turning its nose up at the previous game's bad reviews, but actively trying to address them. It's not about proving fans wrong, but taking what they said to heart and building a better game.

Whether or not this actually pays off in the long run has yet to be seen, but at the very least, Ubisoft is aware of and consciously trying to fix its mistakes.

The result? Assassin's Creed Syndicate, a game that builds on the foundations of Unity...and will hopefully put one of gaming's biggest franchises back on track.

The Story

The year is 1868, and the Industrial Revolution has changed the face of London. Kings and churches no longer rule the land - the power is now in the hands of the wealthy. A select few now control the fate of an entire nation, while an army of hungry and poor rot in the slums. As Jacob Frye, players are tasked with assembling an army of criminals and gangsters in order to take down the Templars of London, one body at a time.

It's a structure that Assassin's Creed is familiar with: there's a cast of colorful characters, both ally and villain, and the game's pseudo-historical take on the world returns yet again. It's the setting itself that proves most interesting: Assassin's Creed could almost be considered steampunk at this point, and few would actually challenge that. There's steam and metal and factories everywhere - a far cry from the dusty streets of French Revolution-era Paris.

The Environments

Of course, getting around the environments is paramount to any Assassin's Creed game, and traversal is where players will see the biggest changes. A grappling hook may be a bit fantastical, but it's fair trade when players can quickly zip up to the rooftops whenever they please. That's not to say that the franchise's parkour roots are gone (there is still a lot of running and jumping in the demo), but everything's faster, more streamlined - and hopefully, more fun.

There's also a new emphasis on vehicles: a stagecoach chase takes up a large portion of Ubisoft's demo, and the developer promises that trains will also play a huge role in the game's story. The footage that fans have seen isn't all that new, but with the promise of carriage-to-carriage combat and chases throughout and on top of a moving train, it's hard not to get excited.

The Gameplay

As for the franchise's core gameplay, most of the systems from Assassin's Creed Unity seem to be intact - though they've undergone some major changes. A new 'Stealth Mode' switches Jacob from his civilian outfit into a traditional assassin's robe, which then opens up new stealth options. Even with just a brief demo, it looks like Syndicate's stealth system is quite a bit smoother than Unity's - though, there are plenty of options when things inevitably break down.

Jacob is a fighter, and when armed with brass knuckles and a revolver, there are few fights he can't handle. While it's still in an early state, Syndicate's hand-to-hand combat looks notably smoother than any previous Assassin's Creed game, and the combat has an overall faster pace to it. While it doesn't look like Ubisoft is ditching the series' renewed focus on stealth (which was actually one of the highlights of Unity), the developer is clearly working on making some of the franchise's clunkier mechanics easier to use.

All in all, there seems to be a renewed focus on making the games as detailed as possible. Yes, Unity's version of France featured an extremely detailed environment, but much of it felt hollow. While there may not be gigantic crowds in Syndicate, the people of the city react much more believably when a man in a black, hooded robe starts creeping through the streets. NPCs dive out of the way of a moving carriage, citizens back away nervously from a fight - it all feels real, which is something that Unity wasn't quite as successful with.

Going by the demo that Ubisoft has shown, Assassin's Creed Syndicate could be the game that puts the franchise back on the right track. Ubisoft's been quick to acknowledge Unity's failings, and from what fans have seen, Syndicate looks like a much more focused experience - hopefully, that sentiment holds true when the game hits store shelves later this year.

If you're looking to watch the gameplay demo, you can see the entire video below:

Assassin's Creed Syndicate is due out on Oct. 23.


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