Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Russia review

Instafails are not fun

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Assassin’s Creed Chronicles concludes with Russia, a country in the midst of war. You play as Nikolai Orelov, an assassin loyal to the creed, but whose main concern is for the safety of his family. During his final mission for the Brotherhood he becomes emotionally attached to a young Russian princess – Orelov turns against his own creed to help her escape the war, the city and his own Brotherhood.

The art style perfectly captures Russian constructivism – it’s a stark contrast to the previous episodes and is easily my favourite of the three – with the many cutscenes looking like those stunning Russian constructivist posters. The black and white environments are punctuated with a heavy dose of red to highlight areas Orelov can interact with. Its style reminded me of the Xbox 360 game, The Saboteur.

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The final part to the Chronicles is rather different from the previous two games. It follows the same excellent 2.5D platform adventure, but rather than flow in and out of the dimensional planes, the action plods along the same one. Combat is heavier handed, lacking the fluidity from China and India, and rather than an option, it’s a necessity but with only one bar of health you won’t want to engage in open combat too often.

Some sequences demand you kill everyone. Rather than go in gung-ho, these sections are tough to get through, a single gunshot can kill Orelov and a route through isn’t always obvious. Orelov does have his own rifle, which can take down enemies at distance but with only three bullets, you really have to make the shots count.

China and India held your hand throughout. Russia does not. Often areas seemed quiet impossible – I either missed something obvious or had to backtrack to loot a guard’s body and gain some extra ammo or smoke bombs so I could get past enemies. One scene I needed to stop a guard from killing a girl, but no matter how hard I tried I could never reach her in time. Just by backtracking to the scene of a previous assassination, I was able to loot a body for some rifle ammo and rescue the damsel in distress – who is then playable as a second character for the rest of the game.

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Sniping sections are featured more often but like the many chase sequences, there’s little room for error. Missing a shot or taking your time to line up your target often ends in failure. This instafail mechanic is featured too much for my liking – I spent a lot of time looking at the loading screen – and this constant stopping and starting broke the flow of the game making it feel clumsy. The previous assassins felt light on their feet, Orelov feels like a drunken elephant stumbling around.

I like a challenge as much as the next person, but instafail sections are just not fun. Sure this mechanic can be used to intensify a situation but when there’s no room for error, failure feels like a cheap shot – after playing the same segment of the game for the umpteenth time, retracing your steps again only to fail at the next hurdle is not my idea of fun.

Russia is firmly at the top of my Assassin’s Creed Chronicles list for its looks and its story, which holds together far more than the previous episodes. The ending is somewhat flat, but after the credits have rolled a code screen pops up, treating you to a tidy conclusion to the series – that is if you have been taking note of the hidden numbers throughout the three games!

The gameplay doesn’t quite live up to the same fluid gameplay of India or China, and the level design was at times more of a burden than a joy to navigate, particularly because it didn’t fully utilise the .5D space that India used so well. The excellent challenge rooms, which featured in India return but similarly, there’s just not enough of them – the two rooms for each of the three challenges are excellent and I could quite happily play a game made up purely of these rooms. Russia plays very differently from the first two games but its change in focus just wasn’t for me.

Thanks to Xbox and Ubisoft for their support

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I've been gaming for longer than I care to remember and spent four years writing for another XCN website leading a 10 strong team. Now I'm in charge of TiX alongside Dave Moran – I hope you enjoy what we do!