By Daniel Lein
I’ve never been a very big fan of Assassin’s Creed. The franchise has always seemed complacent to me, doing the same “go hear kill this person” mission over and over again. So when they announced they would be doing a trilogy of side scrolling stealth games I got very excited for the change of pace. There have only been a handful of quality side scrolling stealth games, does Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India have enough to join their ranks?
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India (or ACC India) is set in India during the 1840s. You play as Arbaaz Mir, an assassin for the brotherhood of India. During this game Arbaaz and other brotherhood members are racing the Templars for a special artifact. I know very little about the Assassin’s Creed universe, but I have always been pushed away by the franchises’ strange religious overtones. Thankfully India circumvents that by using the religious type struggle between the Assassins and the Templars as a backdrop for an exciting treasure hunting adventure. The story feels more like Indiana Jones than anything else. And though the story is in no way compelling, heart breaking, or morally inquisitive, it’s a fun tale that serves the game play well.
Speaking of game play ACC India NAILS IT. Calling it a stealth game however is a little reductive. ACC India also combines fast paced puzzle platforming and difficult combat with its well organized stealth sections. Let’s do stealth first, as it is the bulk of the game. The stealth sections are very challenging and easy to get wrong. Most missions or areas have instant failure results or easy deaths. While some people may frown on the game’s harshness, it really doesn’t punish you for failing. It simply sends you back to your last check point and says “try again”. This allowed me to test out different plans and strategies to find the one that worked best. On top of that whenever I did fail I felt it was my fault rather than the game being cheap. I also found staying out of sight and avoiding traps to be very fluid. Once you understand the area it is best experienced at a high speed, just avoiding the gaze of your enemies and springing traps of your own. If you are seen however you will usually be engaged in a very challenging and interesting form of combat. It does a really good job of feeling like a sword fight. You have to look at your opponent’s indicators to see when they are gonna attack, how many times they will attack, and when they are able to be killed. Combine that with excellent animations and sound effects and you get a really fun system, albeit a difficult one. The difficulty however feels justified in the guise of a stealth game as it forced me to assassinate my foes rather than confront them directly. Before I go on to platforming I wanna mention the frequent battles I had with multiples enemies at once. While they attacked me from both sides I really had to keep on my toes to avoid gunfire and sword swings, while delivering blows of my own. Though I usually died during these naturally accuring moments, there were a few times where I was just in the zone. During these zen gaming moments I would dodge a bullet sending it into the enemy behind me, or block two different sword swings from either side. Other times I would duck into cover to give myself an extra dodge. Whatever the case, when the combat is done right you really feel like a skilled swordsman dispatching your foes with a Matrix-like fluidity. The mainstream Assassin’s Creed games can learn a lot. As for the platforming ACC India does pretty good with that as well, though its more climbing than platforming. In certain levels the player will be asked to complete area within a certain time limit to receive a higher score. Higher scores in any level yield new items or upgrades, giving pretty good incentive to nail the level. Anyway, to really get the best time and the best upgrades out of the platforming levels you really have to move fast, and when you are moving quickly the platforming/climbing feels very fun. It has a nice momentum to it that can cause you to make mistakes, but also come off looking really cool if done right. This is especially true for the temples. A few times during the game you’ll have to navigate an ancient temple full of traps and collapsing structures. Throw some enemies and fast paced stealth sections into that mix and you have some of the best levels in the game, and some of the best most nail biting platforming moments I’ve had this generation.
Lastly, ACC India really presents itself very nicely. Though it’s not the most beautiful platformer it does boast a fairly nice looking cell shaded style with some added Indian themed art. It’s not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but is pretty to look at while you wait patiently in the shadows. The cut scenes however are very interesting. They are a sort of slide show with really well done artwork and creative transitions, both of which are bursting with color. As for the music there really isn’t much to say at all. It has a fairly forgettable soundtrack, but at the same time it doesn’t distract from the game either. The sound effects however are excellent. They make the stealth sections especially heart pounding and the combat feel like it has some real weight to it.
All in all Assassin’s Creed Chronicles India is a pretty good game. It delivers a fun story that, though ultimately meaningless, services the game play very well. It has excellent game play that is broken up into challenging stealth sections, fluid combat, and fast paced platforming. It also has a serviceable art style that overshadows the dull soundtrack. With all that said however it does make a few mistakes toward the end of the game. I won’t spoil the latter stages, but I will say that it loses a lot of its challenge and creative level design. Which is a real shame because the rest of the game really does well in those two departments. The game also has an over powered super ability available to you once a certain meter is full. These abilities help with stealth and combat are given sparcely throughout the game. I never felt the need to use them and they were kind of a waste.
At the end of the day Assassin’s Creed Chronicles India is a creative side step from the main drag of the series with a solid art style and really fun game play. It may not set the world on fire, but it does deserve a play through especially for stealth and platforming fans.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India earns a 7.3/10