Whatever else you might feel about the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games, you have to admit that they look really cool. The China chapter featured gorgeous, paintbrush-like graphics, and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India has a quiet beauty of its own. Colorful patterns and intricate textures abound.
As a continuation of the story being told through the Chronicles series, Chronicles: India begins 300 years after the events of China. As a setting, India is unique because it has seldom been visited in video games. However, once the game has introduced your environment to you, you’ll realize that the gameplay is more of the same old, same old. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s an Assassin’s Creed game, so there’s a lot of climbing, jumping and killing. Unfortunately, a lot of this seems pointless, as if the game is giving you something to do rather than using the combat and traversal to tell a larger story.
The parallels to Prince of Persia are apparent. You’re confined to a 2D plane of movement, with occasional situations which allow you to move closer or further away from the fixed camera angle. The controls and movement are reliably fluid and look great, as you have come to expect from the AC games. You’ll have to use your environment to stay hidden, deftly move out of sight and strike when your enemies least expect you to, like a master assassin. Unlike the major AC games, the Chronicles series makes you handle the sliding, climbing and jumping yourself. If rely too much on your catlike dexterity to get you through environmental obstacles, you’ll find yourself plummeting to your death or into the waiting blade of an enemy.
You play Arbaaz, a suave outlaw who has a dry sense of humor and doesn’t like the folks in charge too much. The game begins with a truly memorable series of sequences, making you infiltrate a crowded palace to reach the princess, who is your lover. It’s evocative of the best parts of Prince of Persia, blending fluid movement with clever environmental obstacles. Unfortunately, things go slightly downhill after the first 30 minutes or so, leaving you to ponder what might’ve been.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India makes several notables improvements to the gameplay. The developers have been learning, and the experience is smoother this time around. You’ll get to spend more time as an assassin this time around, and missions where you have to kill someone are rated based on how stealthily you achieve the kill. You’ll still be crawling along buildings, frantically trying to escape someone’s line of sight. This time around however, it doesn’t feel like the game is forcing you to be stealthy. You’ll engage in a lot more combat, and there are some points in the game where you’ll have to finish off a group of enemies within a certain time limit. With enemy placement more complex than ever, you’ll have a fun time figuring out the right plan of attack. Due to the increased level of difficulty, each of these kills feels more viscerally satisfying.
Arbaaz isn’t the quickest to draw his sword, so you’ll have to take into consideration the time it requires for him to unsheathe his weapon before you dive in headfirst. The game leaves it up to you to choose whether you want to murder your way through a level or play hide and seek. Luckily, the reload times are almost instantaneous, so you don’t have to worry too much if you make a wrong choice. As usual, you have several different tools of the trade at your disposal – a grappling hook, a whistle, smoke bombs, explosive projectiles and a chakram which allows you to stun enemies from a distance and cut ropes. As you upgrade your powers, you’ll get the ability to instantly turn invisible or unleash a devastating one-hit kill. By doing so, Chronicles: India moves away from the AC ethos of ignoring NPCs if you need to in favor of the big prize kill.
The sequences where you have to use your movement to escape a tricky situation were what made Chronicles: China shine. Here, you’ll have several more of those sequences with a caveat – you could be running full-speed, dodging explosions and rampaging elephants only to be cornered into a platforming puzzle that requires precise jump timing. These sequences break the tension and mar the otherwise enjoyable chase sequences.
Even with all of its improvements, Chronicles: India still fails to rise above the limitations that have plagued the series so far. Instant-fail mission sequences and weirdly placed, almost invisible environmental traps break your enjoyment of the proceedings. In several places, it seems like the enemy or trap placement is purely arbitrary, serving no other purpose than lengthening the campaign. This is unfortunate, because the story tackles an interesting period of Indian history and ties into the conflict with the British Empire. Even so, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be had in this outing of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Give it a go if you’re feeling the itch to play a fun platformer, but don’t expect too much.