Assassin’s Creed introduced its 2.5D spinoff series Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China last year, and though it stayed off the radar for a while, the second entry, India, received an early 2016 release. Was this delay because of development improvements and tweaks? It doesn’t seem so, as India is very much the same game as China, for better and worse.
If you played the China iteration of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles (which isn’t necessary, as this is a standalone experience), then India will feel exactly the same. The engine, design and control scheme all are lifted from game to game, and we couldn’t tell if there were any tweaks to sensitivity.
Movement is a mixture of stealth and parkour, with trigger buttons activating both while face buttons are used for combat (quick attack, strong attack, parry) and interactions. The directional pad is used to call up various items and tools in your inventory, also used in China.
Stealth was an issue in China, mostly because of a lack of precision — actions never totally lined up with the animations involved, which made for some punishing sequences. This is more based on level design, though the floaty feel of moving in and out of hiding is retained. This leads to frustrating situations, although the generous save points help.
GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/ 5)
China suffered from a limited color palette and sub-par, sometimes strange voice acting. Fortunately, India works better in this department, with vibrant art and more consistent voice performances (in particular, the accents).
That doesn’t change the animations, which have essentially been skinned from the previous game into this iteration, and I’m guessing when we get to the trilogy’s conclusion in Russia, it’ll be the same thing.
China broke new ground as a 2.5D version of Assassin’s Creed, melding the series fiction and tone with the original Prince of Persia. What you’re getting here in India is a very similar experience, warts and all.
Reach a checkpoint, stealth or fight some guards, pick up some collectibles, repeat. Despite some slightly better level design — including some sections that focus more on parkour — India faces a lot of the same repetitive issues that China faced. Even with nicer production values, the game is still blocked off into small segments of stealth or combat or parkour.
Each segment gives you a score, rewarding you with points that can be cashed in for upgrades. However, what it’s lacking is a sense of cohesion behind it all, and in many cases, it feels like you’re playing through a set of individual stages as a twitch exercise rather than a blend of gameplay and narrative.
We’ll see what happens when the Russia game is released, but this feels like a good idea that turned into a missed opportunity. The novelty of the series’ mechanics are done in by hit-and-miss level design, and India has only course-corrected the aesthetics, not the design that hampered China after an impressive start.
A more Metroidvania approach would have really blown the doors on this 2.5D opportunity (see last year’s Strider and Apotheon for excellent examples of that), but instead this is a good standalone experience that certainly doesn’t need to be replicated into three games.
While improved visually, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India only delivers minor improvements and falls into many of the traps from its predecessor, creating a fun but frustrating experience.