Platforms: Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Last year, Ubisoft tried something new with its Assassin's Creed franchise, opting to try out a side-scrolling method with the debut of Chronicles China. The gamble paid off, with diverse gameplay and exotic visuals that stood out from other entries in the series, despite the different setting.
Now, while we wait to see if the mainstream Creed series will continue on this year, we get another spin-off, in the form of Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India. This time around, we jump into the shoes of Arbaaz, a sharp protagonist who uses his parkour skills to put away enemy forces, all while his story is told through a series of simply animated sequences and in-game events.
It's an interesting set-up, and India does have a different locale than China, one that formally suits the subject matter. Unfortunately, the game just can't keep up this time around, mainly due to too much emphasis on stealth (instead of, you know, assassinating) and a story that just doesn't get anywhere.
Looks That Kill, But the Audio Falters
First, let's talk about the appearance of Chronicles India, which is truly authentic. You'll find that the game's design, from the large castle-like structures to the smaller things (like the elephants that Arbaaz can swiftly roll under), is right on par with what we saw in last year's China game. It's not amazingly detailed like, say, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, but it looks good in a 2.5-D setting – despite the fact that there are so many convenient tapestries to climb on. Whoever designed this city must've thought, "Hmmm, this will look decorative here AND provide the opportunity for someone to climb around."
It also helps to have visual indicators, as with the previous game, to tell what's going to give away your position and what isn't. These are great key factors in the game, enabling you to judge success or failure right off the bat, as well as possible getaway plans, should you take too much attention from guards.
That said, the audio could've been way better. The music included here just doesn't sound right compared to the game's beautiful visuals. For that matter, the voicework comes across as cheesy, probably the worst I've heard in an Assassin's Creed game to date. The developers should've done a little more research on their end to make it a bit more authentic, and not so forced.
The Kills Are Right, But the Pacing…Not So Much
You're going to need some patience to get through Chronicles India – and that's saying something, considering that China worked so well. It has a deeper emphasis on stealth, and while that may suit some players fine, others will find it to be a grating experience, especially at the very beginning, when you aren't given any combat skills and instead practically have to go through each lesson before you get to the good stuff. Considering you're an assassin – and you can't even do so much as get away from a guard and learn to make yourself scarce – it's a bit frustrating.
Once you do get the combat skills, they aren't bad, as you can use "throw noises" to distract guards and get them from behind, or get in some good kills with weapons that are utilized throughout the game. It's nice to see some signature stuff thrown in here from the Creed saga, but fine tuned to fit the India theme.
That said, the game's pacing still feels slightly off. There are times when the combat scenarios are just right, but you then have to make your way through slow, sluggish segments (like that dreadful beginning training) that hold up what your great assassin is capable of. It's like a magician being hand-cuffed – he has great stuff to show you, but he can't.
On top of that, the behavior of the AI is all over the place. At one point, they're completely on top of you, suddenly able to detect your position even when you think you've got everything figured out. At another, however, you could practically be jumping up and down and shouting "I'm over herrrrrrre!" and they would still be confused as to what's happening in the stage. This, too, could've used a fair share of balance.