The Assassin’s Creed series was one of my favourite franchises in the gaming world. The first game was nothing but a tech demo really but it offered an interesting story with some unique and wonky game design. Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood are two fantastic games that again tell a great story with some very interesting puzzles and lore. Then it went a bit wrong hence my ‘was’.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations was to me a dumbed down version of the previous two games. Gone were the puzzles and the overall feeling of a grand conspiracy that was delivered through the game lore. It was the first of the series that I burnt through the story just to get it over with. No 100% completion for this game.
Then came Assassins’s Creed III. New characters, new locations, new problems. An obnoxious main character, a confusing story and many, many bugs. The saving grace being the naval battles which would go onto bigger and better things in the next game. Assassin’s Creed III is the only game of the series that I started but never finished which is why Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was such a huge surprise.
Black Flag returned to telling a great story with some amazing characters and the naval battles were offered some of the best gameplay the series had seen. Even puzzles returned and the modern day sections. The series seemed to be back on track. Then came Unity…
Let’s just leave it there on that one.
When Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Chronicles there was a collective groan from the media and gamers alike. Three new games to be released in 2015. Talk about overload. The new trilogy would comprise of China, India and Russia with each installment having its own story and main character. The big change for this trilogy was the fact they were 2.5D side scrollers…
As you can tell from the title, ACCC (!) shifts its game world and story to China. You play a female (shock horror!) assassin named Shao Jun who speaks english perfectly and doesn’t seem to speak chinese. Ubisoft. Two steps forward. One step back. She is a young assassin that is lacking in experience and is taken in by Ezio Auditore. Throughout the game, Ezio will dish out tutorials on combat mechanics and defensive abilities. The story is a bit light, with Shao Jun tasked with retrieving a mysterious box.
As in other Assassin’s Creed games you are tasked with killing off/avoiding lower tier enemies while on the hunt for the levels assassination target. With the location being China, the levels are beautifully rendered in what can only be described as a moving oil painting. It’s that beautiful. As you progress through the game you will visit markets, cliff top fortresses and stormy ports that look stunning.
Even though the game is technically a 2D game, Ubisoft have set the game up so you can move into the foreground and background, which creates multiple routes through the levels. This also sets up interesting stealth mechanics where the player can hide in the front or back of the game area.
Combat is smooth but sometimes frustrating with Shao Jun getting stuck facing the opposite way to the enemy. She has two attack abilities, normal (fast) and heavy (slow). Using the heavy attack against shield carrying enemies is a must in order to break through the shield. During combat you can also parry attacks and roll over enemies and attack from behind. Shao also has other abilities such as throwing knives, firecrackers, noise darts and a good old fashioned whistle. These can be used to distract the enemies and sneak past them or get a cheeky assassination. The knife can be also used to cut ropes that can drop items on enemies or open up hidden paths. Shao can also activate Eagle Vision which highlights the enemies movement paths and also shows up hidden chests or hiding places.
Speaking of enemies, they have all have vision cones which show you where they can see. If you get caught in a cone, it will turn yellow and the enemy will begin investigating. If you continue to be in the cone it will turn red and combat will begin. If you manage to escape out of view there will be a cooldown timer and the enemies reset. The cones can be a little silly sometimes as you can stand right out in the open on the edge of the cone and the enemy will not see you, yet you are standing in front of them less than 10 feet away…
At certain points through each level, you get scored on how well you did on that section. Depending on your play style you can be scored as a Brawler, Assassin or Shadow with each having its own Bronze, Silver or Gold rating.
A couple of classic Assassin’s Creed mechanics pop once in a while during the game. If you climb up to various high points you can Synchronize and access a map. You can also Leap of Faith into a trusty haystack.
It should take you around 5 to 6 hours to finish the game if you go after the collectibles which is a good length for this type of game. Towards the end it does get a bit repetitive but overall the game does a good job of taking the Assassin’s Creed experience and putting into a 2D realm. Can it be better? Yes. Maybe more NPC’s in the levels and not just enemies to pick off or hide from. China is a good start to the trilogy and with India coming in mid 2015 and Russia towards the end, I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.