A different perspective.
The thought of a third Assassin’s Creed game in just over a six month window is a little overwhelming. Having come off two main entries in the series, I was certainly hesitant about taking a leap of faith into yet another tale of the Assassins and Templars. Thankfully, Chronicles is an entirely new approach to the franchise, with a minimal price tag and fresh game play. Combine that with one of the most interesting characters in the series since Ezio, and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China has enough to make it worthwhile, even with series burnout.
The storyline in the Assassin’s Creed games has become a tangled web of confusion over the years. The Chronicles series is looking to fill in some minor gaps, featuring some lesser-utilized characters. China follows the exploits of Shao Jun, an Assassin that was briefly featured in one of the short films, and is the last student trained under Ezio Auditore.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
The plot in this iteration is thin. There is little here to flesh out the otherwise intriguing character, and it serves more as a catalyst to move Shao Jun from one kill to the next. I was disappointed that her character isn’t more fleshed out, as she definitely showed promise in the brief appearance before.
Thankfully, story isn’t what dragged me into Chronicles. The simplistic game play creates a playground of stealth. It is nearly impossible to describe this title without making a reference to 2012’s Mark of the Ninja. This is a 2.5D stealth game that focuses on solving how to get through a set of enemies, using silent techniques with an array of weapons and gadgets.
Shao moves though the environments left-to-right, as well as being able to move in and out of certain areas. She can creep by holding the left trigger, and snap between cover with the A button. Holding down the bumper also brings up the item area of effect. This allows her to toss distraction items, or throwing weapons to progress through the levels. It all feels tight and well-constructed. I never had any issues navigating through the environment, and each puzzle has several ways to go about handling it.
Combat is a last resort, but still an option. Shao doesn’t have a ton of health, so a couple hits still means death, but the swordplay is well done. Parrying can be done as well as rolling over enemies to disorient them. It is not the best system, but it means being spotted doesn’t always necessarily mean game over.
In addition to the standard stealth puzzles, the game mixes up the pace by throwing in free-running segments where split-second decisions are paramount. Just when I was getting tired of the core game play, the team threw in one of these levels to break it up. It was a nice change of pace, and the game switches back and forth between just often enough to keep it interesting.
The upgrade system also strays from the norm for the series. Shao earns points dependent upon performance in each level. There are thresholds on those points, and the game rewards upgrades based on which tier of points are scored. For example, the level may have a health upgrade for earning 940 points in a level, but a perfect score also earned a radius upgrade for my throwing weapons. It encourages replay, and makes the levels fun to return to once completed.
Visually I love the look of Chronicles China. The red profile meshes well with the clean, crisp visuals. It looks like a painting at times, and the animations are all so fluid and fun to watch. I wish there was a bit more variety to both the enemies and environments, but for the brief adventure and price, it is a small gripe.
Assassin’s Creed Chronices: China is a nice change of pace for the series, and a great way to spend $10. I had a great time with the experience, and am on board for the next two whenever they release. If you like bite-sized stealth adventures like Mark of the Ninja, this is definitely one to check out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.