For the record, I was a huge fan of the early Assassin’s Creed games. The first couple of games were actually some of my favourite titles on the PS3. The concept, stories and interesting game mechanics meant it was a firm favourite. However, with their annual releases, glitches and seeming reluctance to innovate, the franchise lost its appeal. Yet, with the release of the Chronicles spin-off, I saw a distinct difference from the core games that made me think there could be hope for the franchise yet.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles is an episodic 2.5D side-scrolling platformer that follows the stories of three different assassins throughout history. The first episode, set in China, was released in 2015; with the second and third episodes, set in India and Russia respectively, were released in early 2016.
Visually all three chapters are very good looking games that follow their own aesthetic styles. China for example has a much more muted colour palette that resembles a watercolour painting. Whereas India is much more vibrant and Russia plays around with the contrasts between light and dark. Overall, the design of the chapters are able to reflect the places and times in history they are set whilst also providing enough diversity to make me think I was playing three separate games.
Gameplay is significantly different to the core games with the levels taking a much more linear approach so that the player follows a specific path the game wants you to take. As each protagonist you make way through the environments running, climbing and using stealth tactics to make your way to the end of each level in a chapter. Personally I would have liked to see a little more diversity in the play style for each assassin but the controls feel very familiar to anyone that have played any other titles in the series.
Similar to other Assassin’s Creed games, Chronicles encourages stealth as it’s preferred choice of gaming style. You are equipped with a number of tools including a sword, rope darts, daggers and explosives. However, these tools are are not meant for the player to go charging into battle and are instead meant for distraction, disorientation and silent take downs.
Unlike other titles in the series, outside of stealth, Chronicles doesn’t give you much chance of survival once spotted by the guards. On occasion you can fight your way out of a bad situation but more often than not you will soon be taken down. In the core games, players can fight their way out of most situations or simply run far enough and hide from pursuing guards. However, Chronicles doesn’t offer you this freedom.
One of the biggest downfalls for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles is the instant fail tasks it introduces in the India and Russia chapters. Fans of the series will be aware of these tasks; whereby you have to track a target or sneak into a building completely unseen and if spotted you have to start over. Even in the core games these challenges are tedious but strip away the freedom to plan your own route like Chronicles has and they just become mind-numbing. Which is a shame since the Russia chapter in particular relies so heavily on these challenges; and is therefore my least favourite chapter of the three.
Overall Assassin’s Creed Chronicles does a nice job to break away from the monotonous tones that we have become accustomed to through the main series. Confining the levels in each chapter does make the game much more linear than previous titles and restricts the amount of freedom the player has when it comes to tackling a task.
Whilst the game isn’t perfect and the overuse of instant fail tasks left me wanting to hit my head against a wall, Chronicles does show that the series still has a lot of room to experiment with a new style and game play mechanics.