Despite debuting in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed series has already seen over 20 games released. That’s why it’s more than understandable to be a bit sick of the franchise by now. The latest game, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India, is the first of at least two new releases this year that bear the franchise’s iconic logo. Can this sidescrolling stealth platformer manage to recapture the magic that made the series so popular to begin with though, or is this one step closer to the over-saturation point?
Like the previous installment, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India manages to adapt the series’ signature stealth gameplay to work in a 2D plane. Eagle vision, hidden blades and taking leaps of faith are all intact despite the change in gameplay. It’s impressive how well developer Climax Studios has retained the feel of Ubisoft’s signature product, as the gameplay feels just as deep as its 3D counterpart.
Due to how familiar the gameplay is, fans can jump right into the new assassin’s shoes. While not a ton of time is spent establishing a rich narrative, protagonist Arbaaz Mir comes is a very likeable character. He’s a badass dude that has no problem slicing up Templars, and while there isn’t a ton of depth to him, he fits his role well. Sure, he isn’t likely to be a fan favorite, but he also won’t draw ire from the fanbase like Connor from Assassin’s Creed III.
Each level of the game’s campaign finds Arbaaz climbing buildings and sneaking past enemies. The levels are generally pretty lengthy as they can take around 30 minutes to complete. Once you know what you’re doing, though, it isn’t uncommon to run through them in about 10 minutes or so. You are incredibly agile in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India, and it feels great to master a stage in a fraction of the time that it previously took you.
While the assassin can hold his own in combat, this game is even more stealth focused than other titles in the series. It just isn’t a viable option to fight against foes, as going Rambo only means you’ll find yourself watching a death animation more times than you’d be willing to admit. Instead, players will be watching out for enemy vision cones, and lurking in the shadows in order to execute stealth kills. Hiding bodies is absolutely essential as enemy soldiers will check your hiding spots when an alert is raised.
A successful run through a level is typically one where you don’t get spotted a single time. It feels great to take out an entire building without anyone suspecting something had gone amiss. A large part of why this is possible is due to the tools that Arbaaz brings with him and also pickpockets from unconscious guards. These gadgets include smoke bombs that disorientate foes, a slingshot that can be used to cut rope and break lamps, and noise bombs that distract guards.
While the stealth action is solid, it can definitely get repetitive at times. Apparently the crew at Climax Studios knew that though, as there are several platforming focused levels in the campaign. Acting as a breath of fresh air, these stages put your climbing skills to the test. It’s nice to see one of the best parts of the open-world Assassin’s Creed games make the transition to its linear sidescrolling brethren, as getting to explore a dangerous environment feels just as exciting as sneaking past enemies.
The biggest disappointment found in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is just how linear the experience is. While there are nooks and crannies full of secrets, there is only one set way to get through a level. A little more freedom in the platforming would have made a more interesting game, as there are simply not as many ways to tackle enemies in such a linear experience. The few times that the game does offer up giant areas full of enemies, similar to the predator encounters found in Batman: Arkham Asylum, are definitely highlights. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more room for experimentation here.
In fact, India feels like too much of a safe sequel in most regards. There aren’t really any huge improvements from its predecessor, instead delivering more content that the Assassin’s Creed faithful will surely eat up. That’s fine, but anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China will feel like they are experiencing déjà vu. Even Arbaaz’s gadgets are exactly the same as the last game, despite the fact that they’ve been retooled to fit into the time period.
Hopefully this won’t be the last time we see India as the setting for an Assassin’s Creed game, as it really does shine. The architecture is gorgeous, and it’s a far more interesting locale than yet another European city. While I won’t ruin the surprise, the game even takes a detour into another country for a little while that has a lot of promise in itself. Just like China, this is a visually stunning outing, and the setting is a real star of the experience.
For better or for worse Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India feels like a re-skin of its predecessor. While there is a pretty new coat of paint on the game, it still plays virtually identical. Thankfully, that means the stealth gameplay is solid, and the platforming is still a ton of fun to watch unfurl. Even if there are no surprises, there’s still a decent amount of enjoyment to be had in Assassin’s Creed‘s excursion to India.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with.
If you enjoyed the previous installment of Assassin's Creed Chronicles, then you'll find more of the same here. It won't convert anyone who didn't like the last game, but it does provide more stealth platforming at an affordable price.