Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, Review - Games Weekly

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, Review

Oh Ezio, what have you become? While this could be a question validly posed to the entire franchise, it can actually be answered when it comes to 2.5D side-scroller Chronicles: China. Neatly tying into the AC Embers short film, Ezio is mentor to young concubine-turned-Assassin Shao Jun, but here he’s relegated to the mere role of trainer. No need to get your blades in a twist though, this slice of stabbing through the East is far more enjoyable than you think…

Squashing the Creed into a two dimensional stealth-athon, complete with awareness cones, Ubi collaborator Climax Studios has deftly handled its source material. Free-running? Check. Sync points? Yup. Eagle Vision? On it. Blending? Eventually. It turns out flattening the franchise actually forces you to play far more to the strengths of the Brotherhood than ever before.

Stealth is key. Not only are you rewarded for staying hidden, but enemy combat is a frustrating death fest until you learn new tricks. Thus, Jun rolls slickly between hiding spots, makes the most of a limited amount of fire crackers for stunning guards, and clings to the ceiling with her rope dart. She handles impressively as you clamber out of enemy sight, but get caught and she’s infuriatingly underpowered even if she can dodge bullets.

It’s eye-stabbingly beautiful. Flags are wavering brushstrokes, tiny painted birds flutter and the background alone will have you constantly reaching for the Share button. And Jun’s revenge quest of moving Ubi concept art is also coated in O Positive. The red stuff literally leads the way as you follow smears of painterly gore up walls and across skylines.

Hay, Girl
Yet while later levels are cleverly designed with environmental puzzles and a real sense of depth as the camera swivels around buildings zooming as you hurtle in and out of the screen early ones are oddly flat and slightly confusing. Chronicles unfortunately stumbles to the half way point before this Assassin finds her feet.

This is largely thanks to the constant barrage of new tricks to explore ever-riskier environments. Floors creak underfoot, caged birds tweet when disturbed ‘@shaojun, you’re #busted’ and some guards are armed with lamps to see into the shadows. It stings… until you learn to smugly slide-kill and train for the enjoyably precise combat that becomes more satisfying than that of the main games.

Some of the most interesting moves, such as the teleporting Helix Dash, are only revealed in the last hour of a four or five hour run, making the New Game Plus mode a far better offering than the original playthrough. Still, there’s an awful lot of love for the series, and satisfyingly stealthy fun to be had if you’re willing to be patient in the shadows.


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