Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China

Ubisoft’s Downloadable Spin-off Becomes A Trilogy
by Bryan Vore on Mar 31, 2015 at 06:26 AM
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Climax Studios
Rating: Teen
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Last September, Ubisoft revealed a new game called Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China in a preview video highlighting the Assassin’s Creed Unity season pass. This 2.5D, side-scrolling spin-off is still on the way as a freebie for season-pass holders, and will be available separately for $10 in late April, but that’s only the beginning. Ubisoft is releasing two more Chronicles games by this fall (set in India and Russia) for an additional $10 each. We got a couple hours of hands-on time with the games, and here’s what we know so far.

The first installment takes place in China in 1526, with a watercolor-painting aesthetic. You control Shao Jun, best known for her appearance in Assassin’s Creed Embers, the epilogue video for Revelations. The game begins as she returns from her training in Italy with Ezio Auditore (whom you see in flashbacks during tutorial sequences). A templar gang called the Tigers has slaughtered and driven out almost all of the Chinese assassins. Shao Jun is out to eliminate those in power one by one to restore the order of assassins to her homeland.

If you enjoyed Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja, the 2.5D stealth action vibe should be right up your alley. You hide in darkened doorways and haystacks as guards patrol with vision cones panning the environment. You can sneak up from behind and stab them with your sword or brutal foot blades, and later earn the ability to perform jumping and sliding kills. Secondary weapons include noise distractions, stun bombs, and throwing knives. No matter how you finish your foes, hiding the body is crucial to avoid setting off an alarm state and summoning reinforcements. Fighting toe-to-toe isn’t ideal, as it doesn’t take much to kill you. Carefully timed button presses block melee attacks and dodge crossbow bolts, and a mix of heavy and light attacks put enemies in a weakened state. At this point, you simply tap the heavy attack to finish them off.

Every checkpoint saves your progress and issues a grade. If you weren’t seen and didn’t harm anyone, you earn the valuable Shadow gold rating for maximum points. If you focus more on silent assassinations or fighting, you can earn golds in those categories as well. Reaching certain point values unlocks upgrades like extending your health bar or adding to secondary weapon ammo. Completing secondary objectives, like collecting assassin scrolls or freeing slaves, also contributes to the final tally.

This is Assassin’s Creed, so expect plenty of series trademarks. Shao Jun can climb up buildings and synchronize viewpoints to see more of the map, hidden chests, and Animus fragments. Next, take a classic leap of faith into a haystack. Eagle vision makes an appearance as well, showing patrol paths and highlighting targets like a guard carrying an important key.

While sneaking and stealth is the core of the game, speed-running levels shake things up from time to time. The final stage in the demo is all about outrunning explosions and flames while trying to escape a base. Rather than using the standard scoring methods, players only have to worry about the completion time.

Assassin Arbaaz Mir (from the AC: Brahman graphic novel) stars in this 1841 adventure set amid the conflict between the Sikh Empire and East India Company. He must track a templar who has recently appeared with a strange object and steal it back. Romance is a factor as well, but we don’t know many of the details just yet. The art style changes things up with vivid colors and a newspaper-etching look.

The one area we played in the second game was in the speed-running category. Arbaaz must climb along crumbling structures and stalactites inside a massive cave without falling into the gaping pit below. The middle section is patrolled by guards who carry swords and pistols, a changeup from the crossbows in China.

After completing a platforming puzzle to open a massive door, I enter an enormous futuristic chamber created by the First Civilization. It’s loaded with glowing energy traps that kill you in one hit (similar to those players have seen in previous AC games). The end of the demo fades to black, so we just have to wait to see what’s inside this mysterious vault.

The final entry wasn’t available to play, but we know that Nikolai Orelov stars as an assassin helping to rescue the Tsar’s daughter and escape with an artifact. The 1918 story takes on the look of Russian propaganda art. Fans may remember him from AC comics The Fall and The Chain and as an ancestor to villain Daniel Cross. He stands apart from the other protagonists with his sniper rifle shots; it will be interesting to see how this long-range weapon changes the gameplay.