A new fad is sweeping through gaming, no, not re-releasing old games with a spit of HD polish – that’s old news – it’s episodic titles. Telltale Games made this business model a success and now every Tom, Dick and Harry is dipping their toe in the water to see how it could work for them. Ubisoft have decided that for their next Assassin’s Creed title, it would suit them best to split it up into three separate games, which is rather fitting because each one takes place in a different time period, in a different land and with a different art style. Chronicles is also a far throw from what I’ve come to expect from an Assassin’s Creed title.
The first part is set in China and focuses on Shao Jun, a survivor of the merciless killing of the Chinese Brotherhood of Assassins, carried out by the Tigers – aka the Templars. Assassins…check, Templars…check – so far it sounds like an Assassin’s Creed title, Shao Jun even has an artefact given to her by Ezio Auditore – ok so they may be clutching at straws to tie the stories together.
Chronicles: China is a 2.5D scrolling platformer that’s wrapped in Assassin’s Creed gameplay mechanics. The watercolour graphics are beautiful and the voice acting is well delivered, and minus the cutscenes that are little more than stills from a book, Chronicles: China could easily convince you that this is a normal Assassin’s Creed title, but it’s anything but normal.
Unfortunately, the story is rather throwaway, with an average tale of revenge. I found no empathy for the characters, something I’ve come to love about the series (all bar Conor in Assassin’s Creed III). The platforming is smooth and as good as any of the other recent titles in the genre published by Ubisoft (Child of Light, Valiant Hearts); unfortunately the combat is something I struggled with.
I’ve come to expect smooth and fluid combat from an Assassin’s Creed title but in the case of Chronicles: China, it’s anything but that. You start off with a limited skill set but by the end of the game, and if you’ve collected enough points to unlock them, you will have a full set of skills that you can use to easily takedown your foes, although I would advise against getting into a brawl with several enemies. The key to triumph over Chronicles: China is to sneak past or take out your enemies with stealth kills. Any fluidity of combat versus groups has been stripped away in favour of picking off enemies one at a time.
Shao Jun’s objectives fit perfectly into the world of Assassin’s Creed but they’ve been diluted to work with the style of a 2.5D platformer, it’s a welcome change of pace from what we are used to, and for the most part, it works really well, particularly the environmental navigation. Awareness states, jumping, hiding, Eagle vision, Eagle Sync and Leap of Faith, it’s all there and tweaked perfectly to work within the 2.5D space – it makes for an enjoyable experience although lacks the freedom that the Assassin’s Creed games have become known for.
There’s something strangely intimate about the assassinations in the Assassin’s Creed titles, but the same can’t be said for Chronicles: China – the final kills lack any satisfaction or intimacy – they serve as a means to drive the story forward. I couldn’t help but feel that the gameplay is merely a glimpse into the world of Assassin’s Creed – a lite version of the full titles – lacking the ‘umph’ that I’m used to experiencing.
What Chronicles does do well is to offer a new take on the style of Assassin’s Creed, and to mix up the world of the assassins with that of Prince of Persia – all throughout my gameplay, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this felt more akin to the Prince than to the Assassin titles.
For a small investment (£7.99/€9.99/$9.99) you are getting a rather charming platformer wrapped up in some stunning watercolour visuals, just remember that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is merely wrapped in the cloth of an assassin and not something that is as demanding or involved as a full Assassin’s Creed title. It will be interesting to see how (if at all) the three games that make up the Chronicles are connected – China’s end is rather “single serving”.
Next up in the series is India.
We bought our own copy of the game to bring you this review
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