So Ubisoft reverts back to the side scrolling stealth gameplay seen back in 2009 with Assassin’s Creed Discovery. It’s a gallant move towards risking recycling old mechanics in the hope of releasing a side story to the hugely popular Assassin’s Creed franchise. Good on them. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China takes the fantastic series to 1526 China during the downfall of the Ming Dynasty where you play as Brotherhood member Shao Jun. Newly trained by none other than Ezio Auditore da Firenze (no prizes for guessing who he is and if you don’t know, shame on you) Jun embarks across China seeking vengeance on those who took down her fellow Brotherhood members.
It’s a typical revenge plotline that works. Told stylishly with really well made cut scenes consisting of artwork and cool smoke effects, I was hooked to the end. This is definitely an Assassin’s Creed game without doubt. Shao Jun is a cool protagonist. Badass and scorned with redemption, she takes enemies down with deadly stealth skills...but she can’t fight for toffee. When you’re seen, an alert phase triggers making all nearby enemies come to get you. The free flowing combat is gone; you have to time your blocks and attack with basic combos. This is why sneaking around is more rewarding and encouraged by earning higher scores by not being seen. Background shadows can be used to hide and also stick a sword in any unsuspecting baddies who just happen to wander past. Stealth killing is super satisfying and doesn’t affect your score.
There is a nice variety of enemy types scattered around. Standard swordsmen mix with pole-arm wielders, crossbow men and heavy armoured soldiers keeping you on your toes. The main enemy though is the environment. Birds and dogs can give you away. You have to think about your next move carefully. Do you use your grappling rope to cling to the ceiling? Or do you choose to scurry from shadow to shadow? That choice is yours which makes Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China a smartly made game.
You do have tools at your disposal. Throwing knives, firecrackers, noise darts and your own gob can be used to distract (whistling I mean). These are in short supply to begin with so you will need to find more within the game. There are plenty of options to get past that frustrating part. The stealthy parts are nicely separated by tense escape sequences which require you to keep moving. These breath-taking bits are cool. The first one you encounter is in a Chinese dock where large ships are crumbling to the depths below in the background as the foreground is in flames. It’s exciting!
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a beautiful game. Shao Jun’s black and red attire is one of the best one’s I’ve seen in the series to date and the environments are deceptively large even though you can at first only go left and right. Later, the environments rotate whenever you reach a certain edge granting impressive scale. The sketchy graphics found in the cut scenes follow on to the environments too, very nice touch.
Brilliant stealth gameplay requires a lot of patience.
Shao Jun is badass!
Stylish sketchy graphics and nicely made cut scenes.
Escape sequences are tense and exciting.
The story works, but it’s nothing original.
Ezio...what the hell happened?
The Chronicles series kicks off nicely with China. Shao’s bid for revenge is tense, exciting and satisfyingly bloody but it’s a plotline that is nothing original. The game is fantastic to play though with a lot of thinking required in order to get the highest scores and the best upgrades. Roll on India and Russia!