Posted on January 25, 2012, Phil Owen Retro Rewind: Syndicate Has A Long Manual
Although I was a gamer in 1993, at the ripe young age of 6, I did not play Syndicate. I was more into first-person shooters back then, and so I missed out on this one the first time around. I am familiar with the small unit tactical genre, though, having become acquainted with it after my brother got Commandos 2 for his birthday one year. And, of course, I was into strategy games, having played Command & Conquer games for most of my life.
I played Syndicate this week because I wanted to be righteously indignant when the reboot shooter comes out in just a few weeks. Did I like it enough to be angry about a series-breaking remake? Let’s take a look.
My first impression of Syndicate is that I felt lost. I created my crime syndicate and started doing research and stuff and outfitting my agents, and I really didn’t feel like I knew what was going on. I’m doing research, but I don’t really know what the research will give me, or how much money I should be putting into it. I’m giving my agents some cybernetic legs and hearts, but I don’t really know what the point of it is. What the f–k is a persuadertron? The game didn’t tell me any of the things I wanted to know.
All right, let’s play a mission.
The first mission in this real time, small unit tactical game has me try to assassinate some colonel at a military base. So I get my four guys — or, more accurately, my two guys and two ladies — and we go in. I situate my people all around the base, but it takes forever to do that, because my people move so sloooooooooooooooooowly. So I wait. And wait. And wait. An, oh crap, somebody is shooting at one of my guys! I click on the offender, and my guy walks over to him and does nothing. He gets shot again. I try right clicking, which does nothing. S–t, my guy gets killed.
Ack, now somebody else is attacking another one of my people. Oh, maybe I should click on a gun in my inventory first. Oh man, he pulled out his gun! I’m so excited! I left click again, and my lady agent just walks over to the enemy. I right click, and she shoots him dead. Yay!
Then we find the colonel and murder him.
The first mission is simple and easy, and it works as a tutorial, even though it is most definitely not a tutorial. But it allows you to get used to the game.
I played a few more missions with only one incident in which I finally figured out what the persuadertron does. (Hint: it persuades people.) I was having a decent enough time, but I felt like I was missing something. I didn’t really understand how to make money, although I was making money, and it seemed strange that there was no story whatsoever. And then I remembered that gog.com also gives you the manual for a game when you buy it.
So I read Syndicate’s 60-page manual. It turns out the manual actually builds up a dystopian setting for the game. Crime syndicates are wrestling for control of the world’s CHIPs, which allow people to live in a drug-induced fantasy world that is happy and stuff even though the real world is actually a terrible place. Too, your agents have CHIPs, which seems rather cruel.
Armed with the manual, I now understand how the game works, and can evaluate it more accurately.