Assassin's Creed's often Euro-centric historical fiction is in the middle of a rapid-fire spin-off anthology that takes place in Asian countries. It began last April with Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, continues this week with India, and will wrap-up next month in Russia. While the premise allows Ubisoft to explore new areas quickly in the context of a side-scrolling stealth game, India may be an unfortunate sign that its varied locales aren't matched by distinct gameplay hooks.
For those who played China last year, India will seem all-too-familiar. Your assassin, Arbaaz Mir, uses a variety of gadgets to sneak around guards and assassinate enemies from the shadows. While you have some rudimentary combat skills at your disposal, they feel intentionally awkward and often the sheer number of enemies will overwhelm you. The scoring system rewards avoiding combat above all, so like China, this is a stealth game at its core.
Despite taking place in two different countries and centuries apart, Arbaaz's tools are almost identical to Shao Jun's from ACC: China. You have a grapple to cling to the ceiling, and the ability to whistle or use a noise dart to attract guards to a location. The new Chakram is a less lethal version of Shao Jun's knives, albeit with a ricochet effect that goes underutilized. He also controls exactly like his Chinese counterpart, from the movement speed to the slide-attack animations. India does introduce a new Smoke Bomb tool that comes in handy, especially when confronted with a new guard type that hides in your own stealth spots and strikes when you cross their threshold.
That's not to say India is entirely a carbon copy, however. The most noticeable change is to the art style, trading in a fairly dark style with splashy brush strokes for a vibrant, colorful world. The colors even sometimes look oversaturated, like we're watching an old VHS tape of some Bollywood classic. I was especially fond of the bright pink flourish effect whenever Arbaaz swung his sword.
The experience is also more exciting on the whole, due to a series of large set pieces. Most of these come in the form of harrowing escapes, and at one point you're asked to snipe enemies while still keeping in mind the stealth focus. Assuring guards don't notice that you're picking them off one-by-one from afar makes for a unique challenge not seen in most stealth games.
The greater frequency of thrills comes at a cost to the pacing, though. China felt more naturally like it was leading toward a conclusion, with a traditional build-up to the climax. By comparison India just keeps introducing moments that feel climactic throughout. I was sure I must be on the last mission three or four times, because video games usually follow the familiar language of storytelling. The result feels episodic and slightly odd.
While the 2D stealth backbone invites comparisons to games like Mark of the Ninja, Assassin's Creed Chronicles doesn't quite match that level of gameplay precision. Sometimes platforming or stealth sequences require a level of perfection that the controls don't properly accommodate. Plus, on the rare occasion that you're forced into open combat, the weakness of that system is on full display. What's worse, a major combat segment was saved for near the very end, after encouraging stealth throughout the entire game. By that point I had used the combat so little that it took several tries to even remember the flashy tricks needed to overcome the boss fight.
Clearly, this trilogy of Chronicles games is meant to be a matched set. The mechanical similarities mean fans of the first will feel right at home, but I couldn't shake the feeling of deja vu. I enjoyed Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India, but it wasn't different enough from China to suggest that playing both is a necessity. If Russia is similarly indistinct, I'd have to recommend players simply pick the country that interests them the most.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India available now on digital storefronts, for $9.99. The game is rated T.
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India
- More exciting set pieces than previous game
- Chronicles series continues to offer solid stealth challenge
- Colorful and vibrant world stands out from others
- Fairly indistinct from Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
- Occasionally demands precision that mechanics don't match
Steve Watts posted a new article, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India Review: Naan Responsive