We’ve been pleasantly surprised by Assassin’s Creed Syndicate ‘round these parts. In the ever-unfolding tapestry that is the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Syndicate is one of the good ones.

Stephen, Chris and I have been playing the game a lot over the last week, and between us we’ve assembled some tips to help y’all get the most out of the game. Grab your rope-launchers and throwing knives and let’s get going.

Sync to the Ubisoft club.

Weird first tip, right? In typical Ubisoft fashion, Syndicate will urge you to sync your game with your Uplay account. While it’s always annoying to go outside the game and sync to an external service, it’s worth it—there are a few good perks and pieces of gear that you can get for but a few Uplay points, or Upoints, or whatever the heck they’re called.

Read the database and keep up with Evie’s notebook.

There’s a database in your menus that keeps you clued in to what’s happening in the story. Evie’s notebook (located in the progression log” is similar, and offers some neat insights into her character. Also read the modern day entries, especially if you’re curious about things like how the animus/helix stuff now works. That said, you don’t have to read this stuff...

Don’t worry too much about established lore.

...though if you want to enjoy how the game connects to the old ones, read up on Edward Kenway (protagonist of ACIV) as well as his son, Haytham, who plays a supporting role in AC Rogue and is a major part of ACIII. Father and son play formative off-screen roles in the assassin vs Templar conflict immediately preceding Syndicate. One more note:

Be careful with your progress tracker.

Do not go to the “miscellaneous” tab in your Progress Tracker. It contains a big spoiler. All the other tabs are fine.

The map is good this time around.

Syndicate probably has the best map of any Assassin’s Creed game, in that it is actually non-awful. So... use it! Because it’s possible to actually see where everything is, it becomes much easier to rely on the map to help you find collectables that are strewn around.

Open chests when you see them.

As you explore, you’ll often see chests on your minimap. These chests aren’t like the weird external-app-tied chests of AC Unity—you can actually open all of the chests in Syndicate. And you should, because chests contain a fair chunk of money and some useful crafting materials.

Focus on one weapon for each sibling.

It’d be cheapest to focus on upgrading a single weapon for both Evie and Jacob to share, but really, I’d advise picking a separate weapon for each of them. The game subtly nudges you to equip Evie with a cane sword and Jacob with a kukri, which works fine. Brass knuckles are great too, though. Pick two and stick with ‘em, at least until you have enough money that upgrading isn’t an issue.

Choose the right skills to upgrade.

Jacob and Evie have two different specializations—Jacob is better for combat, and Evie is better for stealth. There are, however, a few skills that you should get for both characters. Those include: Stealth I, since even Jacob has to sneak around, Eagle Vision II, which is one of the most useful skills in the game, Scavenger I, which gets you more crafting materials out of chests, Health Boost I, and Lockpicking I. Loot Takedown will make your life easier, and it can also be a good idea to get Intimidation, which will make kidnapping missions much easier.

Dodging is easy, so play defensively.

Combat in Syndicate isn’t very challenging, but it’s still possible to get sloppy and be overwhelmed. You can dodge any time a yellow bar flashes over an enemy, so you should always interrupt whatever combo you’re doing and dodge. For the best way to get good at combat…

Learn the bullet-dodge.

Sometimes an enemy will pull iron and start drawing a bead on you. You’ll see a button prompt over your character’s head indicating that you can dodge the shot. You should always dodge, because bullets—surprise!—do a lot of damage.

Pair up wounded enemies for some killer finishers.

Syndicate’s developers have apparently been taking notes from the people who make Mortal Kombat—they’ve gone above and beyond when it comes to creative finishing moves. Both Jacob and Evie have a whole host of wicked finishing moves, most of which can be executed by aligning two enemies in “near death” state. You’ll know an enemy is near death because they’ll kind of just stand there with only a sliver of health. Get a few of those next to each other, attack, and it’ll almost always trigger a group finishing move.

Do some fight clubs early on.

The fight clubs in Syndicate task you with beating several waves of opponents in hand-to-hand combat. If you want to complete the challenge, however, you’ll have to make it through all of the waves without losing all your health... and you don’t heal in between rounds. Fight clubs are good practice for defensive fighting, and are also a lot of fun to do as Evie. It’s never not fun to watch her beat the shit out of guys twice her size.

Don’t worry too much about a mission’s suggested level.

Syndicate suggests you be at a certain level for each of its many quests and sidequests. Don’t worry too much about your level, particularly for any assassination/Templar Hunt missions. The level mostly dictates how tough enemies are in combat, and if you play to approach things stealthy (as you should), level won’t make a huge difference.

Throwing knives are your friend.

Throwing knives are the most useful weapon in Syndicate. They can make it loads easier to pull off a successful stealth mission, because if you get spotted, you can almost always kill whoever spotted you from range. Upgrade your throwing knife holders and damage as often as you can, and don’t be afraid to use them.

Whistle while you work.

After taking an inexplicable holiday in Unity, the Assassin’s Creed whistle makes a triumphant return in Syndicate. It’s your primary means for manipulating the enemy AI, so you should use it as often as you can.

You can always run away.

If you’re sneaking into an enemy base and things go pear-shaped, remember that you can always run away. The alarm system in Syndicate is less involved and more forgiving than past Assassin’s Creed games. If someone spots you and goes on alert, you can often just bail out and circle back in a few minutes.

Get the two best gang upgrades first.

You may get really into managing and upgrading your gang, the Rooks, or you may ignore them completely. I’d advise at least making a couple of upgrades: Rook Training I makes all your gang members more powerful, which makes them more useful in a fight or for creating distractions. When you can afford it, Pub Investor and the following upgrade path all let you hold more money in the safe on your train. That really adds up and makes it much easier to earn money as you go.

Return to your train frequently.

The safe on your train-base generates money over time, but it’ll fill up and stall out if you don’t empty it out regularly. There are also several questlines that you can only access from your train, and it can be easy to miss them on the map.

Don’t fast-travel to your train if you can help it.

If you check your map and see that your train is nearby, try to catch up with it without fast-traveling. There’s something very cool about hopping across rooftops, then seamlessly dropping down onto your train as it rolls along the tracks. Of course, if it’s across the entire map, there may just be nothing for it.

Don’t ignore all the collectables.

I mean, if you hate collectable, sure, ignore the hell out of them. But some of the collectables are neat, in that they lead you to unexplored corners of the world and can unlock some cool story stuff. In particular, the music boxes (which you can always hear) are worth tracking down, as well as the pressed flowers, the latter of which adds a nice chapter to Evie’s story, if you can collect them all.

Take it easy on that horse, man.

When driving a carriage, it can be tempting to just hold down the right trigger when driving a carriage, but it’s much easier to get around if you keep it at a half-pull. Your horse will trot, and you’ll be much less likely to crash into oncoming enemies or police officers.

Trust your grappling hook.

The grappling hook is easily the best of Syndicate’s new toys. Hit the left shoulder button and your character will Batman his or her way all the way up the nearest building. Thing is, you don’t actually have to wait for the button-prompt to show up on screen. If you’re running away from someone and need to climb in a hurry, just start mashing the shoulder button while near a wall and it’ll work. It’s a similar situation when you’re climbing from rooftop to rooftop—you can often hit the button even if you don’t see a prompt.

You’ll need to use the grapple to access some collectables.

Most collectables are in easy-to-reach places, but some are floating out in seemingly impossible spaces. You can reach those with your grappling hook, so be sure to keep that in mind when planning your next move.

Try to complete each mission’s secondary objectives.

In each mission or sidequest, you’ll be given a secondary objective or two. “Don’t kill any police officers,” or “don’t raise an alarm.” These are worth trying to get done. Not only do they get you better rewards, but they encourage you to play the level in a specific—and generally more interesting—way.

Don’t miss the bonus mission at the end of the game.

No spoilers! But: There is a bonus side mission that opens up at the end of the game that is definitely worth doing. For that matter, the “alternate timeline” missions are also not to be missed. They’re not in the main storyline, though, so when you see either of those things pop up on your map, be sure to check them out.

And there you have ‘em: our tips for playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. If you’ve got any tips of your own, I hope you’ll share below.

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