I generally like the Assassin’s Creed games, and I generally like side-scrollers. Based on that logic, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China should be a perfect game for me, right? Well, not quite. Having played my way though the PlayStation 4 version, I can’t say I want to revisit the game again anytime soon. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but I simply can’t say that it’s good, either.
A Story of Revenge
Take the plot, for example. The story revolves around the assassin Shao Jun, who is the last assassin left in the Chinese Brotherhood after the rest were wiped out by the Templars. She isn’t all that happy in this, and decides to get revenge by killing everyone involved in the Brotherhood’s downfall. While the plot makes sense and manages to move players through the game, it simply isn’t exciting. There’s nothing new here, and there’s nothing in the story to really hold the player’s attention throughout the game.
Unfortunately, that means the other parts of the game, like the visuals and the gameplay, need to be enough to keep someone playing until the end. I say unfortunately because while the visuals look like a beautiful watercolor paining (they really do look nice, in an artsy sort of way), the gameplay is just as uninspired as the plot. Essentially, players are presented with one big goal (like kill some Templar leader), and are given smaller, secondary goals to complete along the way (like collect a certain number of objects), all while traversing through a 2.5D, side-scrolling world. The world is fairly large, and many times the secondary objectives are actually difficult to find and complete. They generally require that the user search around for a bit and visit parts of the map that they are not actually required to visit. This allows for a fair amount of replay value, if anyone ever wants to try out the New Game Plus mode and revisit the game after completing it.
They aren’t the Brightest Bulbs
However, I am not so sure many people will want to revisit the game. While the large level sizes are great, the content within the levels is not so great. Levels are jam packed with various types of enemies, all of which are incredibly stupid. Players have the option to stealthy kill or assassinate these enemies, or players can take head on with their swords, or players can completely avoid the enemies altogether. No matter what you choose, it really shouldn’t be that difficult. Whether it is the shield-bearing bad guys, the crossbow-wielding enemies, or the normal, sword-waving baddies, they are all just plain stupid.
PSLS: Assassins Creed Chronicles China Review (PS4)
Each enemy has a fairly short field of view, meaning the player can easily see them before they can see the player. If they do see the player, he or she has a number of seconds to either duck into hiding, leap over a ledge and hold on, or simply move out of the field of view without the enemy doing anything. If the bad guy happens to see the player for too long, he will attack, either with his sword or his bow or whatever he is holding. While it is fairly difficult to actually take on attacking enemies, as the dodge button needs to be pressed at exactly the right time and the player can only be hit one or two times before dying, it is very easy to simply backtrack a little bit and stay put. I found that enemies are incapable of walking near ledges for the most part, and are incapable of moving more than a few inches on the screen. If the player moves out of their field of vision, then the enemies will give up their hunt after only 10 seconds, and everything will return to normal.
If this sounds a little too easy, that is because it is. However, it isn’t nearly as easy as moving past enemies that are talking. Apparently, when people talk, they can no longer see. It is a little known fact that Chronicles: China is quick to point out time and again. When enemies talk in the game, they purposefully lose their field of vision, meaning players can literally walk directly next to an enemy with him noticing at all. In theory, it sounds sort of interesting and sort of dumb, but in the actual game, it just comes off as dumb and takes away from any shred of realism that the game was possibly trying to convey.
The poor AI also had an impact on my choice to use gadgets. There are a number of nifty gadgets in the game — throwing knives, firecrackers, a noise-making device — but I never really used any of them. They are designed to help the player distract enemies to either sneak by them or assassinate them, but I found that the enemies don’t need to be distracted at all, seeing as they really don’t know what is going on anyway. Besides a few situations the game sets up to purposefully force the player to use a gadget, they are practically useless. Sure, they can be fun to use, but after a while they become more time-consuming than anything else.
That is kind of the way Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China feels like in general — it starts out okay, but soon becomes dull fairly quickly thanks to a lackluster plot and uninspired gameplay. While there is a lot to explore, especially considering the $10 price tag, the poor enemy AI and almost useless gadgets probably won’t have you staying in the game’s visually beautiful world for long. Unless you are the world’s biggest Assassin’s Creed fan, you should probably think long and hard before giving this a go.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.