Assassin’s Creed is a powerhouse in the gaming industry. The series made its debut back in 2007 and many gamers became steadfast fans. The series has had many ups and downs since its first instalment, but the momentum of the first games in the series has given Ubisoft the freedom to experiment with different ideas.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. It was the first of three games in the Chronicles series and a foray into the unknown for Assassin’s Creed.
Chronicles had its own story, and instead of the traditional three-dimensional playstyle of the main games it opted for a side-scrolling adventure. The game was met with rather mixed reviews – after all it was a new playstyle that no one was asking for.
And it’s in the gameplay where Chronicles: China truly suffers. Well, suffers may be the wrong word, it’s more like it fails to impress. The combat is fairly bland, and while it is challenging due to how few hits it takes to die, it just isn’t very exciting.
There are really no innovations that make the game unique enough to stand out as a 2.5D game. They did bring back items such as throwing knives and firecrackers to interact with the environment and distract guards, but those have been done before.
Personally, the only part of the combat that really sticks out to me is found in the color splotches they use for the blood animations.
And that is ultimately where the game shines, its unique art style. It is the most consistently praised aspect of the game and for good reason. The hand-painted style, with muted tones and subtle touches of red in a traditional Chinese environment, is absolutely beautiful.
It also focuses on a female protagonist, Shao Jun, which the series could benefit more from.
It may just be me, but it’s hard not to compare every “bad boy” assassin to Ezio Auditore who, by the way, is the best assassin and that is an indisputable fact. Sadly, she just doesn’t get the background and development that she would’ve gotten had it been a fully fledged Assassin’s Creed game.
The setting of China in 1526 is also an ingenious choice for an Assassin’s Creed game and it’s a shame it hasn’t been explored more in other Assassin’s Creed games. This is because it lends itself to the genre magnificently and hopefully it can be brought back in future games. The impressive architecture, glorious landscapes, and rich culture and history would be a perfect pairing for the series.
And with the more recent forays into civilizations beyond the typical European environment, such as in Origins and Odyssey, which were in Egypt and Greece respectively, we can only hope that Chronicles inspires them to look into China as a viable setting.
And while the reception for Chronicles was lukewarm at best, making this game successful was always going to be an uphill battle. Taking away a dimension of play inherently means the game will have less freedom, and regardless of how it’s spun people don’t like losing the features that they have become accustomed to.
In the end, I’m glad Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China was made. It shows that there is the potential for some variety within the series, and while it didn’t knock it out of the park, Ubisoft has been able to workshop worse with phenomenal results.
Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping that, at the very least, China is revisited in future Assassin’s Creed games.
If you wish to play Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China for yourself, or either of the other two titles in the trilogy for that matter – Russia and India – head over to the Xbox Store and grab a download or two.