The Time has come again for Ubisoft to release its annual installment of the Assassin’s creed franchise and while Assassin’s Creed Syndicate represents a technical improvement over its predecessor Assassin’s Creed Unity, the focus on technical improvements has left many disabled gamers out in the bitter winds of 19th century London.
Those with visual disabilities will have the least access to the world of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. This is due in part to a subtitle system that displays text in a font that is so small that even those without visual disabilities will find themselves squinting to read it. This problem extends to the minimap which, true to form, is covered in similarly illegible icons. Small text and hard to read maps are familiar to patrons of the Assassin’s Creed series, but where Syndicate really struggles is in the accessibility to the colorblind. I have recently begun using a color filtering software to simulate color blindness for the games I review. When using this tool to evaluate Assassin’s Creed Syndicate I was shocked at how quickly vital elements disappeared when subjected to simulated color impairments. For example, targets for assassination which are highlighted in red are all but illegible for players with most types of color blindness because they blend into most of the background when Jacob or Evie are using their eagle vision. This problem also plagues the minimap where highlighted danger zones blend into the gray of the surrounding map if the player has the most common forms of color blindness. To make matters worse Syndicate employs new methods of displaying information visually, these methods are exceedingly hard to use. For example, there is a new method of showing how high an Assassin’s profile is when in stealth mode but for the life of me I can’t tell what the ring of floating bars around the player character is suppose to communicate.
Players with fine motor disabilities fair little better. The assassin’s creed series has always been one requiring great dexterity and precision to execute efficiently. This pattern holds for Syndicate. Players will need to use multiple fingers on both hands in order to progress through the game. This barrier is aggravated by the complete lack of any controller customization. Unless they are playing on hardware with remappable controls, players with fine motor disabilities may be completely excluded from the story of assassin’s creed syndicate because of the demands the game puts on the users dexterity. The real shame is the lack of a multiplayer mode. I have been a huge proponent of the assassin’s creed multiplayer ever since it first appeared in Brotherhood. It gave disabled players the opportunity to engage in a multiplayer experience that awarded strategy and planning above twitch based reflexes and accuracy. I loved the multiplayer so much that in previous reviews of Assassin’s Creed titles I often painted the single player in overly rosy terms in order to avoid discouraging people from trying g a game which includes such a fun and accessible competitive component. While I understand ubisofts desire to limit the scope of syndicate so that they could improve the quality. By eliminating the multiplayer completely, ubisoft has drastically truncated their appeal to disabled gamers by getting rid of such a unique feature.
The case is slightly better for gamers with auditory impairments. One good thing that syndicate does is include subtitles at the very beginning of the game. This insures that players with hearing disabilities will be able to engage in the story even if they get overly excited and jump directly into the story without checking to see if the subtitles are on. Unfortunately however, the classic problem with assassins creed auditory accessibility still exists. The ambient dialogue is not subtitled which means that players that can’t hear will not be able to properly gauge how the crowd around them is reacting to their actions. They will also be unable to notice when they are being prompted through audio cues to engage in a missions.
On the whole assassins creed syndicate may be great from a technical standpoint but decisions on the part of developers ensure that it is the least accessible assassins creed in console history.
Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Inaccessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Partially Accessible
Auditory Rating: Partially Accessible
Released For: PS4, Xbox One, PC
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 9