Welcome to another edition to my ever-growing Assassin’s Creed rank. As it inches closer to the most recent title, Odyssey, the games become in some aspects harder to rank and in others aspects easier. While the games throughout have changed in scale, they all have that third-person, open-world core to them. Because of that, this game is going to be hard to rank. Why is that? Let’s get into it. As always, the rank to the game is here, and this blog acts as why I placed the game where it is.
Taking place in China, you play as Shao Jun. She is one of the last Assassins left in China after the Eight Tigers (surprise, a Templar group) nearly wiped them out. After being trained by Ezio Auditore, she goes around China taking out the Templars and hopes to bring back the Brotherhood to China. The rest is as expected.
When it comes to the story in this game, Chronicles China is completely forgettable. The story feels like it took the basic outlines of a normal AC story and condensed it down to about half of its size. The main games sets up characters and a plot line and all of the other things to make a story, but this game’s story is straight up “go here, kill that guy.” While the story isn’t strong, there is something to be said about it. This game is a smaller experience, so it wants to streamline the story as much as possible and get to the gameplay, and there is something I can appreciate about that. It almost feels like the game is saying “you know how this goes, so why bother?” and it has a good point. What also speaks to that is a complete lack of a modern story, which I wish other Assassin’s Creed games did as well. It doesn’t stand up to other AC games, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to or is trying to.
I talked about earlier how this game is different from the rest and how it is hard to rank. So, how is it different? This game (as well as two other Chronicles game coming soon), are 2d action-platforming games. As a result, the game also isn’t open-world, which means the two core things of all previous Assassin’s Creed games are not here. So, what does that mean?
Let’ start with the most obvious: 2d. I actually like the change. Not in the sense that I think every game in the series should follow suit, but I found the 2d gameplay to be a refreshing change from the other games. The levels in actuality are 2.5d, with some multi-layered levels that allows you to go back and forth between them. As a 2d game, I find it to work surprisingly well, though it isn’t perfect.
When it comes to playing an Assassin’s Creed game, a game about being stealthy, the 2d format works well. In some aspects, I would say this game actually works better than its 3d counterparts. Since the game doesn’t have to worry about an extra dimensional level, the game gets away with more unique stealth mechanics. Guards have a vision cone, and it also says when they turn around. There aren’t a lot of gadgets to the game, and the gadgets are pretty standard for a stealth game, but one of the abilities caught me by surprise: whistle strength. You can control how loud you whistle, making a larger or smaller noise radius, which I personally think is a really cool feature I wish the 3d games could somehow emulate. Also, certain floor types makes louder noises, and there are various things in the environment like animals or wind chimes that make noise as well. The stealth mechanics in this game are different, but in a way that makes sense to the main shift in the gameplay. The one area where I would say the stealth isn’t great is around the vision cones, as for they sometimes catch you despite being outside the vision cone or you can even duck underneath a vision cone and be right in front of a guard without them noticing you. Overall, I think the stealth in this game is built well, making a 2d Assassin’s Creed game feel viable.
Combat, on the other hand, isn’t so grand. The whole thing felt clunky, and being squished between two enemies ended up being messy. Whenever I got caught and couldn’t run away, I would just restart to the last checkpoint and try again with stealth because I didn’t want to interact with combat. While I wouldn’t say the other titles have had a strong combat presence up to this game, I would say it was still serviceable. This game isn’t.
While I did restart checkpoint when hitting combat to avoid it, I had another reason to do so. This game has a unique system in place that analyzes each enemy encounter, and rates it based off how well you did. At the end, each encounter was into into one of three categories: shadow (stealth without killing), assassin (stealth with killing), or brawler (killing outside of stealth). Based off how well you did, you either get a gold, silver, or bronze level, and gold got more points than bronze. Also, shadow style got more points than brawler style (though you can still get by on assassin), and the game also rewards consistency. Normally I ignore getting high scores in a non-arcade game, but the score in this game matters because each level offers upgrades at certain point thresholds, making points useful. For what this game is, I think the point system for upgrades works well, and it is a unique way outside of side objectives in the main games to accentuate stealth play.
While I did say the point system is a good way outside of side objectives to focus on stealth play, I didn’t say this game doesn’t have side objectives. Each level has its own fair share of side objectives and collectibles to worry about while you play. They aren’t anything special, but what is special are the escape sequences and boss fights. I love the escape sequences because they get pretty intense. Watching the hay you are running on burn up behind you as you see the city or the boats in the background burn up as well is a pretty neat experience. What I don’t love as much are the boss fights, which tend to either be easier than common enemies or impossible. The extras added to the game are a nice way to break up the gameplay.
Something that also sets it apart from other Creed games is the art style. While the other games try for realism, this game takes a more artistic approach to things. The cutscenes are stills, but every one looks like a wallpaper because of how good they look. But even in gameplay, this art can be seen. The edges of flags looks like they are blowing away with the wind, areas are highlighted with red paint that kind of looks like blood, and the whole game looks like it was made with water colors. I really like the art style in this game, and I hope the other two games also try something unique with their style too.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this game. It is a nice, little break from the other games that is different from the rest. Unfortunately, that is what makes this so hard to rank. While I did enjoy this game, it’s hard for me to consider this game as a serious contender compared to the full titles. Because of that, I put the game in between Liberation and Revelation, making it the head of the smaller title herd. I think it will stay in that general area, and I think the other Chronicles games will be there as well.