Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 28.04.2015

Review for Assassin

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China is Ubisoft's experiment to see if the Assassin's Creed formula works from a new perspective. Made to be the first part of a series of games, Chronicles: China is a budget 2.5D game that draws inspiration from Ubisoft's Prince of Persia franchise, as well as its own Creed titles. Elaborate acrobatics, gadgets, swordplay and murder are all packed into the platforming package, but does this side-scrolling sneak 'em up rise to the greatest of either series that inspired it, or is it destined to remain in the shadows? Cubed3 casts its eagle eye over the results to find out.

The first thing that draws attention to the game is the art style. From the opening cut-scene it has a heavily painted look, with brushstrokes and ink splashes used as transitions between scenes as the opening narration plays. The story is of revenge and McGuffins, and while it might fit well into the franchise's lore, for newcomers it's pretty standard and underwhelming compared to the art. The game's protagonist is Shao Jun, an ex-concubine who was then trained as an assassin. She wants revenge and to reclaim a box that was stolen from her. That's basically all that's really relevant to know plotwise.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China on PC

The cut-scenes' painted art style also continues into the game, albeit in a lighter and more playable form. This look suits the mood well, and extends beyond mere textures - smoke is stylised as brush strokes, and blood is disturbingly pretty as it sprays from people.

Attention has been paid to the animations, too, as from the first tutorial the character displays smooth acrobatic motions. Shao Jun moves fluidly, leaping, ducking, climbing and killing, all with elegance. Ubisoft is clearly not having any problems animating a female assassin here. This animation quality, combined with the 2.5D perspective, quickly makes the game feel like an update of a classic 2D Prince of Persia title. Thankfully, it is not just a strategic rebrand of that series, as despite first appearances, it takes a lot from its 3D Assassin's Creed siblings.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China on PC

Stealth, weapons, gadgets and a huge variety of moves make Chronicles: China more assassination focused than platforming. While the methods to control all these things might be overwhelming to a novice, the game lays out clear tutorials and a help system that can be viewed at any time. In addition, there is normally a few ways to tackle each area, meaning that there are alternatives if one method proves too hard - but in picking an easier option, it might mean sacrificing the perfect score for that area.

The scoring system consists of grades in a few criteria: Shadow, Assassin and Brawler, with a "Shadow Gold" medal being worth the most. Nicely, the game seems to cater quite well both to those that want to go kill crazy and spray the landscape with blood, and also to those that think it's rude to kill the hired help.

The gadgets and devices Shao Jun gets are the means to pull of these various options - specifically, having tools to both stun or distract guards lets Shao Jun either avoid them non-lethally, or she can sneak while they are not paying attention for a quick kill. Combined with an "eagle vision" Shao Jun has that makes guards' patrol paths visible, there is plenty of opportunity for strategy, whatever the individual's level of bloodlust.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China on PC

Over the course of each level a lot of extra data can be unlocked in regards to characters and world building elements. These can be viewed through the "Animus" menu in the pause options. While hardly essential, it's a nice extra - particularly useful when taking a breath in-between thumb-intensive sessions. There are also upgrades to collect, as well as secondary objectives to complete, giving extra challenges over the course of each level. Despite these features, however, Chronicles: China is fairly linear, with only minor optional detours for secondary objectives. A more Metroidvania approach might have suited the game well, giving more scope to explore and making "secrets" less obvious. Instead, however, the game is very old-school in its level and checkpoint structure, and is possibly the main weakness - or at least a missed opportunity, as it feels like it is holding the game back.

Related to this is the inability to selectively replay parts of levels after they have been finished. To try to get a perfect score from the last checkpoint, all the earlier sections have to be replayed - even if a perfect score was already achieved in them. Additionally, if a checkpoint is passed without completing the secondary objective first, it will save it incomplete and the checkpoint won't retrigger if the player backtracks to get what they missed and then returns to it. Both these things add to the irritation, and discourage replays. However, these are both minor complaints given the budget price. For just €10/$10/£8, it's a solid length game with fun mechanics, great visuals and a lot of options.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China's mix of platforming, stealth and combat blends together into an interestingly strategic game. Beautiful visuals and atmospherics please the eyes, while lots of options in any situation will keep the brain hooked. While it is likely fans of the series will get extra from the story and lore, the whole game is still fairly accessible to newcomers. The only shame is that it draws attention to the fact it's a videogame by having clearly defined levels rather than seamless environments. This detracts from the atmosphere, and makes for a very linear experience, which is a shame as a more open design might have made finding the secrets and upgrades more rewarding. The plot is also sadly quite predictable - certainly not living up to the superb presentation of the game. Still, at its budget price of just €10/$10/£8, this is a recommended purchase for both newcomers and veterans of the series.

Developer

Climax Studios

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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