Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China Review

 Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China Review

Developed by Climax Studios
Platform: PS4

The Assassins' Creed series gets a much needed step away from its usual format with an unusual first release in what will ultimately amount to a trilogy.

It's also the first of the franchise to feature a female lead in its 2.5D release and one which will see you either hating - or loving - the aesthetics of the game.

You play Shao Jun in 1526, during the downfall of the Ming Dynasty. With the brotherhood of assassins despatched, it's up to you to wreak vengeance and restore order to China from the shadows and from upon high or low.

Predominantly,  Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a lot about sneaking around and killing from a distance rather than outright combat. Shao has only a few bars of health, and despite the ability to leap free like a very flighty thing, when it comes to fighting, she's somewhat easily despatched, even with swords and knives to use.

So, it's a lot of skulking which makes  Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China the game that it is - and it suffers a little for it unfortunately. Also suffering is the story-telling and character as all you're doing is moving from location to location, trying to complete tasks, earning Assassin's Gold (your way of levelling up) by completing jobs in the best possible outcome (ie not a lot of combat) and moving to the next location. It's all very reminiscent of Counterspy which was released earlier last year and sees a spy infiltrating Russian locales trying to defuse bombs and save the day.

But it's not to say that it's not eminently playable, more that it's a frustrating occasion. Saves don't always seem to work, meaning you can complete a task, do what needs to be done, move on and die - and suddenly, you have to do it all again. It's time constraining, annoying and irritating to retrace some of your trickier steps to make it all happen again.

Anything but stealth alerts a series of guards (a countdown clock to alert comes up if you're discovered) and creates more trouble than it's worth; so combat is really quite limited. Equally, your ability to carry only a couple of weapons (no more than 2) is a niggle as well, causing you to have to think laterally to solve tasks.

Being graded at the end of each section helps you know what to achieve, but also points out the problematic nature of anything but stealth; points are docked for dead bodies being discovered - which I suppose is in keeping with the Assassin's nature.

But it's graphically that the game looks impressive.

From its side-scrolling which won't set the world alight, there's a lot been brought to bear in the feel of the game, which looks like an ancient Chinese scroll, complete with gorgeous paint brush swishes and blood red palettes. It's visually gorgeous and well in keeping with the actual world within. As you move between worlds, the next gen elements of the PS4 come to life, making it feel like a diaorama that's opening out for you to enjoy and be amazed at. Occasionally, with the platforming nature of it all, and the back and forth flatness in places, it does feel a little iOS and suited to a small screen, so it's not all perfect.

All in all,  Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a good solid start to the spin off series. While it does feel like a DLC rather than a full-on game (even though it has a reduced price), it remains to be seen if the next two titles bring the series together in a surprising way.


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