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The Assassin’s Creed franchise has quickly expanded into multiple games, comics and more. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is another game in the already vast series of Assassin’s Creed games. But unlike most of those games this isn’t an open world game. Instead, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a 2D stealth platformer. And while I’m happy to see the series changing things up, this game has a lot in common with the other Assassin’s Creed games. And that’s not always a good thing.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is, as the title suggests, set in China. Specifically the game is set in the 16th Century. You are an assassin and stop me if you have heard this before, you have to kill some Templars who did something bad. It has a similar story to almost every other Assassin’s Creed game. You are taking out Templars one by one and they have a powerful artifact that you want to get back.
It is also a sleep inducing story. It hits all the boring cliches, old master. Check. Templars. Check. Revenge. Check. By the time I reached the end of the three hour story I was ready for it to end. I’m glad to see some non-European locations appear in the Assassin’s Creed series, but the story in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China left me wanting more. Some more diehard fans of the franchise might enjoy some references to previous games and cameos here and there. But the game doesn’t seem to move the Assassins versus Templars narrative forward, so even dedicated fans of Assassin’s Creed might feel disappointed.
Also there is no mention of the modern day story or events. Which is weird, considering the game uses the same aesthetics as previous games. Those games were all set inside the Animus or Helix device. Yet, in Chronicles: China we never actually find out who is exploring the memories of Shao Jun, the assassin you play as.
While the menus and some UI elements look similar to previous games in the Assassin’s Creed series, the actual visuals and art style of the game look entirely different. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China uses an art style that is similar to a moving painting. Brush strokes are easy to spot and some details are barely painted on. The whole game looks lovely. It looks like a painting come to life. The short cutscenes between levels are animated in a similar style and look great. It’s a shame the story they tell is so boring.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China takes place in a 2D world. Or more 2.5D. You will sometimes jump from the foreground to the background, or climb around a corner and see a whole new side of a building. These transitions look nice, but quickly I found myself too frustrated to care.
The cause of my frustration was the non responsive and inconsistent gameplay. Moving around in Chronicles can feel like a chore. Like the open world 3D Assassin’s Creed games, Chronicles can feel sluggish and hard to control. Sometimes my character would climb up something I didn’t intend to climb, or jump into an enemy I was trying to kill. Moving around and sneaking just felt bad, for lack of a better description. Any fun I was having at first was sucked out by the crappy controls.
Even when the controls worked, the gameplay quickly grew stale. The basic setup of each level is you move from the left to the right, sneaking around enemies and killing a target or unlocking something. Enemies have vision cones and you need to avoid this cones. This can be a real pain when sometimes the vision cones will pop through walls or floors.
The main bulk of the game is avoiding these enemies and their vision cones. You do this with a few tools. These tools create distractions or in the case of the fireworks, temporarily stun enemies. You always have a good amount of these on hand, which isn’t too helpful considering I was able to sneak my way around most levels without them.
The game rewards you for playing stealthily or for not killing enemies. Each section of each level is grading separately. Avoid enemies and stay quiet and you will get a Gold ranking. Kill everyone and set off alarms and you will get a silver or bronze rating. Higher rankings award more points at the end of the mission. These points will automatically unlock upgrades to your health,damage or other stats. Some of these upgrades were useful, but it’s a weird system. I spent a few minutes looking for a way to manually buy and equip upgrades, but you can’t. It’s…strange.
The gameplay gets a bit more complex as you continue through the game, but eventually it just felt like I was doing the same thing. Crawl up some walls, kill a guy, hide his body, dodge his friends, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Well, until you hit one of the many bugs and glitches in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China.
Vision cones clipping through walls, enemies getting stuck on walls, falling through doors or flooring, menus locking up and being respawned right in front of an enemy. These bugs happened to me with a depressing amount of frequency.
One of the worse bugs I had was with a boat. I needed this boat to jump across a river. I cut a rope and the boat floated over. But I missed the jump and respawned to find no boat. I spent a few minutes trying to find a find another way. There wasn’t. I had to restart the level to get the boat to show up. On top of all this, in some areas I had the framerate drop and tons of texture pop in. Overall the game just feels rough and that seems to be an annoying trend among the Assassin’s Creed games.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a gorgeous looking game, once the textures pop in anyways. But once they do the game looks great. It has some nice music and the setting is cool. I like the Assassin’s Creed series visiting non-European countries. But good looks and a neat set locale are not enough. It tells a boring and cliched story and feels super rough. Controls are a mess and there are a fair share of bugs.
Huge Assassin’s Creed fans might find some interesting stuff here, but honestly I just didn’t have much fun playing this game. I felt frustrated and bored. Hopefully the next Assassin’s Creed is less buggy and tells a more interesting story.