Say what you will about Ubisoft and their rampant money grabbing with annualised releases, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has produced some amazing games over the years. Ezio is one of the most charismatic characters I have had the pleasure to control and the Naval Combat in Assassin’s Creed 3 and Black flag were total game changers. So it is with lofty ambitions Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China delves into the fray. But can this 2.5D side-scrolling action game compare to the free roaming world and a wide range of tactical options from its brother games? Can it stack up against Altaïr’s medieval war with the Templars, or Ezio flying through the air on Leonardo Da Vinci’s glider, or Edward’s foolhardy charge against a fleet of Man ‘o’ Wars. It is certainly a tall order and one that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China doesn’t hold a candle to.
That is a rather unfair statement, realistically Assassin’s Creed Chronicles can’t compare to an open world game so considering this “just another Creed game” won’t fly and instead it should be thought of as more of a spin-off, an addition that deviates drastically from the script we have come to know and expect in an Assassin’s Creed title.
As I picked up my controller and tentatively played through the first mission of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China I can’t say that I was exactly overwhelmed. It is worth noting that that outside of the main Assassin’s Creed games that I haven’t thrown myself into the books comics and backstory the Assassin’s Universe has to offer, so dedicated AC fans will probably get a lot more from the story than I did. The Assassin that we take control over, Shao Jun, is on a hunt for vengeance against the people who wrought such devastating carnage on the Chinese Assassin order, the Eight Tigers. This is the backstory that we learn from the introductions to each level. The artwork on these is fantastic but simplistic, with beautifully drawn still images and a voice voice-overthese cut scenes don’t help the immersion of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China.
I wasn’t sure how Ubisoft would work the 2.5D environment of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China, it certainly has the looks to win me over with smooth camera transitions while moving around each level. The gameplay is where Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China starts to lose its footing. Each mission gives you primary and secondary objectives, much like the other games in the franchise, but it lacks the depth that these extra objectives would normally provide. The end of each mission is usually achieved by simply running the length of the map and secondary objectives are usually not far off the beaten path. I realise there are limits on the “freedom” a 2.5D game can give us, but finding and lighting five candles, or rescuing captive concubines doesn’t have the spark of heroism I expected it to have. That’s not to say that there are no exciting moments in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles; China. In one mission I had the option of setting fire to a tower and was then tasked to escape before the thing burned to the ground. With a tight timer and some hasty climbing moves it made me think that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China has more to offer than first met the eye.
When it comes down to it, the minute to minute gameplay is the most important thing for a game like Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, flying through the air to assassinate a target, frantic chases through crowded city streets and badass fighting have been the Creed staple for many years, and this is where Assassin’s Creed China breaks away from the series and tries to make its gameplay its own. If truth be told, it doesn’t quite work in its favour.
Each guard has a field of vision marker on the screen that put me in mind of the Metal Gear Solid series and if you are spotted, an “Alert” counter will show on the screen counting down to when it is safe for you to go about your business again. I don’t know if this has been a genuine nod to the grandmaster of stealth games or if it’s coincidence but I like the similarity all the same.
In typical Creed style I begin with very little equipment, as I played missions I was awarded with weapons, like a rope dart, throwing knives and of course, my sword. It felt like there could have been more diversity in the options available but Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China isn’t about the combat, not at all. While brute strength was frowned upon in previous Creed games it is completely blown out of the water in this. The game just doesn’t want you to fight your way through levels, instead it insists on sneaking around and distracting enemies, something that grew to be very annoying, especially in later sections of the game. The frustration of replaying the same section of game time and again until I realised what the developers wanted me to do was a constant thorn in my side and it really turned me off of the whole experience. When Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China releases the shackles it can be pretty damn fun, running through timed levels, slaying every enemy that comes within range put the power back into Shao Jun’s hands and I was more than happy to wield it. These moments are few and far between, like an oasis of excitement in the hum drum plains of the predominantly stealth focused game. Sneaking around on noisy floorboards, avoiding barking dogs and hanging wind chimes was fun to begin with but I think that Ubisoft have misjudged the balance.
All in all, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is only the first of three titles set to launch and expand on the AC universe. The gameplay is challenging with a big focus on stealth, something that many gamers might like but one that I found stifling. The combat lacks the depth or effectiveness of previous games and removes all tactics other than stealth. There’s a wide array of enemies to sneak past or assassinate but there’s not much deviation from the prescribed path and I don’t think Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China does itself any favours. It is certainly a pretty game with a unique artwork and good pacing but it lacks the heart and soul I have come to expect from a Creed game. I can’t help but think that it isn’t well suited to the console market and would make a much better mobile release.
- Graphics – 84/100
- Audio— 77/100
- Gameplay— 66/100
- Story— 61/100
- Replayability— 58/100
- Value For Money— 66/100
Overall – 68.6%