Much can be said of Ubisoft's decision to go with a sibling pair as protagonists in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. Was it in response to the response Unity got for its lack of female option? How will it actually play out in the main story - is it an even split between Jacob and Evie? Is Jacob the main character with Evie a playable sidekick reserved for side content? We're still not quite sure, but having played a Black Box mission with Evie at least we know how she differs in terms of gameplay from her brother.
The Black Box mission itself was pretty standard fare for the series, you're presented with a few different options on how to get close enough to the Templar that's been targeted for assassination. We opted for a fairly interesting option where we helped a guard take out a couple of templars posing as guards, and then allow ourselves to be escorted by him posing as a prisoner in order to get close to the target and engage in combat.
Having not played Unity yet (first waiting for patches, then simply not finding the time) there was a wrinkle to the controls to get used in addition to the new ziplines (really neat feature, though it takes a couple of minutes to get comfortable with it) as Syndicate builds on top of the free running system (with a dedicated button for ascension and descend) found in Unity. We're glad our first few minutes with Assassin's Creed: Syndicate wasn't caught on camera, let's leave it at that.
Evie has a chameleon ability that lets her "disappear" from sight in she keeps still for a few seconds. Very handy as it both allows for offensive flexibility, but perhaps more importantly it turns her into what could be described as a portable haystack. Break the line of sight, be still and you're safe. An interesting mechanic and one that will no doubt make stealth gameplay far less frustrating and enjoyable when you play with Evie.
The mission also allowed us some opportunity for knife play as we snuck up on one guard lured to a spot beneath a hanging crate and then we cut the rope with another throw. Smoke bombs and voltaic bombs (electricity) came in handy in the final confrontation of the mission and the combat felt very swift and fluid - a reflection of Evie's skill sets.
Evie Frye is shaping up to be a very enjoyable character from a gameplay perspective. We've yet to fully learn about her personal traits, but hopefully the dynamics between her and her more direct brawler-type brother Jacob will be something that sets Syndicate apart from previous chapters as with annual releases the need to mix things up both in terms of gameplay and narrative is ever present.
One area that readers are surely curious about is the state of the code we sampled. As always it's near on impossible to gage what the state of the full game is within the confines of a controlled demo like this. Nevertheless there was nothing to indicate any problems from what we experienced, so hopefully lessons have been learnt from Unity. It feels as if Syndicate pushes some areas and mechanics, while also doing away with some of things in Unity that did not fully deliver (like co-op). Fingers crossed it's enough to allow for a smooth launch come the end of October.
For a more general look at what Assassin's Creed: Syndicate offers, please check out our first impressions back when the game was officially announced.