“…fans of both Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, well they are in for a real treat!”
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is Ubisoft’s first new attempt at creating a different kind of approach to their now massively expansive and incredibly popular Assassin’s Creed series. Adopting a brand new style of play to its predecessors, the game is being released as the first of many in the Chronicles saga of Assassin’s Creed – a saga which Ubisoft hope will allow them to expand an already well-loved series of games even further than ever before. Many long-term Assassin’s Creed fans, including myself, will naturally want to know if this game is going to speak to them, and indeed be a worthwhile investment. Critics will also be considering whether this crucial first step into a new style of gaming is a sensible one for the successful AAA franchise.
First things first, let’s talk about what is new in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. For starters, the game is an artistically-drawn 2.5D stealth game, much like the original Splinter Cell if you played that on your Gameboy Advance back in the day. The first of three games in the Chronicles saga, China sees you take on the role of a new Assassin, Shao Jun, in the year 1562. This is a time where the future of China hangs in the balance, with the infamous Ming dynasty coming to an end. Trained by our old friend Ezio Auditore himself, Shao Jun shares many similarities to this more experienced Assassin in her personality and her way of doing things throughout the game’s story. What is a nice change with this game and hopefully for the new saga as a whole is that storyline now seems to take a much larger role than it has in more recent Assassin’s Creed games; clearly taking on a greater importance than long-term playability. For many fans of Assassin’s Creed, particularly of the earlier games, this will certainly be welcome news.
What will also no doubt please fans of the Assassin’s Creed series thus far is the features which have been very carefully kept and integrated into this new style of playing the games. For one, Shao Jun’s arsenal is expansive and traditional of the Assassins. You of course wield your hidden blade and sword at your side, as well as rope darts, throwing knives and numerous other instruments designed to cause either death or deception. She also has a nifty hidden blade in her shoe, which is a pretty cool trademark weapon which would be awesome to see make an appearance in one of the mainstream titles in the future! Navigation on multiple planes is also as important as it ever was, as is your use of agility. Every level in the game is set out like an assault course, which brings the traditional Assassin’s Creed action style to life in this new 2.5D view.
Some factors of the Assassin’s Creed games have even been stepped up for China, most notably the element of stealth. Stealth has always been important in these games, but it has been gone about all wrong in many ways. Having specific missions where you must not be seen, for example, takes away from the fact that you are an Assassin and should never truly be seen by your targets, at least not until their very final moments. In this game, keeping out of sight and becoming one with the shadows are incredibly important, and this is how it should be. Your character is designed to kill and remain unseen, not put up a full-on fight against multiple enemies, and this is made very clear by the fact that the combat system now makes you less of a match for trained guards than has been usual in the past. This of course brings us back to the Splinter Cell comparison again, and it is true that Ubisoft do seem to have just shuffled some ideas around from those games to make this one work. Luckily they were good games, and so it seems is this one.
It seems an awful shame to say too much about storyline, given the number of twists that fans will already know pop up in any Assassin’s Creed game and the extra effort which seems to have gone into putting this one together. What I will say though is that historical reference and characters do, as ever, make an appearance, an both of these elements work seamlessly as ever alongside the storyline of the game. To give you a basic idea though, the story follows Shao Jun as she returns to China with the intention of exacting vengeance on those who destroyed her country’s former Brotherhood. What’s more, you jump right into the story and the action, and it doesn’t take long for things to get exciting this time around either. Traditionally, Assassin’s Creed games have a habit of long, drawn out introductions to each game. This one throws you straight in, but not unwittingly, revealing the back story as you play.
What I haven’t gone into yet is what isn’t in the game. This is quite a dramatic change in style for Assassin’s Creed, and of course some things have been lost along the way. Most noticeably, this game is not open world. The scale is much smaller, and the game follows a level system instead. Exploring was always one of the great charms of these games, but sadly it has had to be sacrificed in place of telling a good story. No doubt different players will have different opinions on whether or not that is a worthy sacrifice. The other thing which doesn’t really feature is side missions. There are collectables, achievements and options available to you as you play, but you cannot simply follow a different sub-story at your whim. Again, this has been sacrificed in place of the story-driven adventure, but some players may well miss this.
There is one last thing which deserves a speical mention, and that is the art style of the game. Whoever Ubisoft hired to do this work deserves some recognition, because Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China looks beautiful. Perhaps the most visually appealing game that I have played since Nyamyam’s casual puzzler Tengami, I loved the way in which a drawn style had been so carefully and cleverly applied to what has until now been a franchise built on scale and pinpoint accuracy of major cities. Rather than take China itself, the game has been designed in a Chinese-inspired art style, and it really, really works. If the Chronicles games which follow employ a similar technique and do so as well as has been done in this game, the series is going to be stunning to look at no matter what people think of the gameplay.
Personally, and speaking as a big fan of Assassins Creed as a series of games, I like Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. Sure, it isn’t my favourite Assassin’s Creed game, but given the scale and scope we have become used to by now, that is hardly a big surprise. The game does however hold true to the most important parts of the Assassin’s Creed series, as well as pushing a strong narrative and taking a different approach to style which still manages to come out stunningly. Most importantly, the game is good fun and well thought out for a scaled-down version of its massive predecessors. I only have one would-be criticism, and though I did not mention it in the main part of this review I want to throw it in now. The game looks and feels like it has been designed more for the mobile platform than as either a PC or console title. This might bother a few fans, but honestly, it plays well nonetheless, and despite having that feel about it I still very much enjoyed playing it on my PC. Oh, and fans of both Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, well they are in for a real treat!
- A very good scaled-down version of the Assassin’s Creed play style.
- Very story driven – a feature which it pushes more than some of its predecessors – with a strong narrative which you jump right in to.
- Parkour and agility remain as important as in any of the larger games.
- Shao Jun as a character, and the arsenal which comes with her, remain true to the traditional styles which we are used to from the Assassin Brotherhood.
- Stealth plays a heavily promoted role in this game, and has been implemented well.
- The art style of the game is beautiful.
- -is no wide open world to explore in this game due to its downscaling.
- Some fans will miss the side-missions which have been heavily pushed in previous games.
- The game feels like it has been designed more for mobile gaming (most notably in its similarities to Splinter Cell on the Gameboy Advance).
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.