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Dual review: Assassins Creed Chronicles: China

BY CONOR MCBRIEN AND JORDAN RYDER | MAY 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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Jordan Ryder:

I was intrigued from the start by China, so I was pleased to find that game works very well for the most part. From a play perspective, the movement and assassination technique flow nicely together. The movement mechanics work well enough that it feels like the level design does the game a disservice by being so linear, depriving the players a chance to plan their route. 

The stealth mechanics also transitioned well. Guards have cones of vision that clearly mark where they are looking, and the game has a visual indications of how much noise your characters footfalls make. The repertoire of tools is slim compared to the main games though, limiting options. China makes the player prioritize stealth over open melee, a move I approve. In some main Assassins Creed games, I’ve had moments in which I’ve found it easier to go in guns blazing rather than sneak around.

China’s style and art design set the title apart from main franchise and give it a unique identity. In cut scenes, it borrows from the watercolor style that Chinese paintings are famous for and does some little touches during play I liked immensely. For instance, slashing an enemy cause bright red splashes to follow in the wake of your sword like an after image. Fire and smoke effects are similar and look very pretty. There is a level where you need to outrun a blazing inferno, and I stopped to admire the effects a few times. 

I like this game as a proof of concept title, and I look forward to the to the other two Chronicle titles Ubisoft plans. I hope that it builds on this one, with more pathways and tools.

Conor McBrien:

This is game is the equivalent of having dad ruffle your hair after a big loss at a Little League game. “Don’t worry, son. You’ll get them next time.”

It does not punish error in a way that suggests you made a mistake. Without error, there is merely a trial. Jury duty—as in an actual trial—is preferable in this case. For a stealth/puzzle-platformer, this is the antithesis to the brutal Oddworld games on the original PlayStation, where being spotted often meant instant death. There is no risk here. You can fight back more than adequately. You have only three hits of life, but your health regenerates. Combat is easy to avoid anyway. 

I’ve been trained to see guards as an actual threat in games like this. These guards can’t see or hear me if they’re having a conversation. If I’m spotted on one floor, they can’t follow me to another. 

The “cone of vision” mechanic is a tried-and-true one Metal Gear Solid popularized, but here, it is obstructed by everything. Even other guards. Realistic, sure, but I need tension. As an added frustration, bodies of water are featured, but you cannot swim in them. That hasn’t been a problem since the first Assassin’s Creed game back in 2007. On the plus side, second female protagonist in the series. But should she star in such rubbish? Not at all.


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