REVIEW – While there are of course lots of excellent Chinese merchandises made in the world, the common conception of “Made in China” wares is that they are cheap and of average quality. It’s actually a similar case with the latest China-based Assassin’s Creed game, which became a side-scroller, platformer game with a female Chinese main protagonist.
I still like the Assassin’s Creed games. Yes, Unity was full of bugs, yes Rogue was a complete rehash of Black Flag and actually both were just more of the same, but those games still provided an enjoyable experience with excellent graphics, an interesting historical setting, a decent gameplay and the freedom of using lots of options. What Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China is proposing is an entirely linear 2D platform action-adventure with some gameplay elements taken from classics like Prince of Persia, Another World or other games of the same kind. Are we happy with that? Yes and no…
“I’ve been looking for freedom”
Freedom was a keyword since the very first Assassin’s Creed, and it remained so in the series until… well until this game. (If we doesn’t take in account the handheld games of course, but those are of different type.) While you have the solution to approach some situations in a different way, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is of course extremely linear. You have to make it from point A to point B with soldiers always staying at the same place and behaving the exact same way every time.
The AI is piss poor to say at the least – even for a game of this kind: the enemy soldiers always behave in the same fashion, and while the game is actually difficult it’s rather because of the 2D view and a bit complicated and sometimes messed up controls than the combat with the soldiers themselves. In fact you will have to learn lots of moves, and some of them needs perfect timing like the very basic defence itself, which requires pushing the circle button when the enemy strikes. Yes, you can call this a “challenge”, but in this kind of game it feels rather like an annoying feature which slows down the game.
The patient learning of the assassin
As you progress in the game, you will learn more and more moves and you level up your assassin automatically. This includes some passive skills and features like the simple upgrading of your health bar as well. Some of those skills are fun to use (like the “sliding kill”, or the one that’s helps you to grapple yourself up) others are a pain in the ass(assin.) It’s also a bit bothersome to keep every move in check, 2D side scrollers are not really made for those tons of combo moves.
Every new move is explained by a badly designed Ezio Auditore da Firenze who is not even voiced by the original actor. It was actually more of let-down than a welcome cameo of the best hero of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I never tough Ezio could be ever annoying, but here I couldn’t stand him.
Concerning the usual Assassin’s Creed gameplay elements, even if the game is in 2D, there are all there: we can hide among the bystanders, kill guards silently and hide their corpse and of course the classic synchronizations on top of buildings and the leap of faith aren’t missing from the show either.
The main difference between the usual formula and this 2D version is that while you were free to kill everybody on sight in the 3D open world games, hiding and killing in silence is a necessity here, or else you will be slain fast. It’s not necessary a bad thing, but the way it’s realised in this 2D episode is rather frustrating sometimes.
While the medieval Chinese era is a perfect background to any historical action-adventure game, the story itself here is mundane, simple and rather average here – even by the lower and lower Assassin’s Creed standards. No interesting baddies, or characters here, even Shao Yun (who is – according the her background – the former concubine of the Zhengde Emperor) is a just a boring, cliché character with a pretty face. Same goes for the boss characters: while Ubisoft is famous for its well-made and strong evil characters, what we here are boring Chinese Templar warlords.
Some of those skills are fun to use (like the “sliding kill”, or the one that’s helps you to grapple yourself up) others are a pain in the ass(assin.)
At the beginning of the game Shao Yun wants an important box back so hard that she lets herself catch by the Templars. Of course we will soon liberate her – in a very Another World spirit – but that’s the only interesting momentum of the otherwise boring and plain story with evil Templars and the brave assassin girl.
On the other hand, the graphics of the game looks very nice. They look like classic Chinese oil paintings in both the cut scenes and the game itself. The cut scenes are especially top notch concerning this art style – a pity that they are all telling a boring clichéd story. There are some problems concerning the loading of the textures, and perhaps some of the soldiers could be better designed, but other than that, the visuals are pretty good.
Same goes for the art design of the medieval Chinese city with typical buildings and the citizens standing in the streets: everything looks perfectly authentic.
An assassin game where not everything is permitted
While I liked Another World, the classic 2D Prince of Persia and other similar games, I am not sure I want my Assassin’s Creed games made in the same fashion. The second part of the famous motto: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is missing in action here, and the restrains of this game are taking away what was one of most important features of the Assassin’s Creed games: freedom.
+ Nice graphics which looks like paintings
+ Chinese setting
+ Shao Yun is cool assassin…
– …but she lacks development, same as the story
– AI is piss poor
– Restraints of the 2D view
Developer: Climax Group, Ubisoft
Genres: action, adventure, platformer,
Released: 2015, April