Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Review

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Title: Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Trilogy
Developer: Climax Studios, Ubisoft
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 2.9 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: 
Yes

It’s not every day that the PS Vita gets a game from a major AAA franchise.  What could be called a game from a hit franchise was Hitman Go from awhile back, but Hitman isn’t really as big as a lot of other franchises.  But, we are talking about games like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, Killzone: Mercenary, Resident Evil Revelations 2, and so on and so forth.  It happens, but not very often anymore.

Assassin’s Creed hit the Vita first with Liberation, which while entertaining, was riddled with bugs and glitches, not an uncommon trait with an Assassin’s Creed game.  Aside from that, Vita owners could also play Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, a PSP mashup of the gameplay of the first two entries as well as a story taking place between the first two games.  However, PlayStation TV owners only have the convenience of Bloodlines, as Liberation was never made compatible with the micro-console.

Both the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV have gotten a new game, or set of games, in the recent weeks for the franchise.  The recent “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles” trilogy has come to the handheld world, and it’s my job to fill you in on how this goes.  Combining the China, India, and Russia chapters, here is my official review of Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles!

Story

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The story of Chronicles takes place over three different time periods, because this is actually a collection of three different games.  On the main consoles, PS4 and Xbox One, these were separately released early this year.  Yet, they’re bundled together on the Vita.  So, to explain the story, we need to explain the story of each individual chapter.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China marks the exploits of Assassin Shao Jun, an Assassin during the 1500s, the time of Khan and the Mongolian assault on the Great Wall of China.  A Chinese sect of Templars known as the Tigers recently ambushed and wiped out almost all of the Chinese Brotherhood of Assassins and Shao allows herself to be captured, having a mystic box given to her by Ezio Auditore as the bait, starting a campaign for the Templars’ quest for this box and Shao’s quest to avenge her fallen brothers and sisters.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India takes place some 300 years later, during the Sino-Sikh wars.  Arbaaz Mir, an Assassin whom has fallen in love with the princess of the Sikh Empire.  After a meeting with her, he is sent on a journey after a sect of Templars in India and later Afghanistan that ambush his mentor and covet a mystic jewel they were carrying, supposedly connecting it with a strange box at a nearby temple.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia is one of the most recent AC games to date, taking place in 1918, not long after the end of the Russia Revolution.  An older Assassin named Nikolai Orelov, about to retrieve legal papers to leave the country for America, is sent by the Brotherhood to retrieve a box at the Tsar’s home, rumored to be the same box that Ezio Auditore had given Shao Jun almost 400 years prior.  Once there, he finds a plot by the Templars not only to covet the box, but also to murder the Tsar’s family, including whom would one day become the famed Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.  This tale follows Nikolai and Anastasia as they make enemies of not only the Templars, but another group as well on their trip out of Russia.

The storylines of these games each tell a specific, standalone tale, but the box Ezio gives to Shao Jun in China is the central point that melds them all together.  It appears in all three scenarios and the Chronicles Trilogy essentially shows you where the box and its corresponding artifacts goes all the way from China in the 1500s to present day in a secret epilogue.

Gameplay

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Unlike most games of the series, Chronicles leaves the realm of 3D open-world and takes the action-stealth gameplay into the 2.5D world.  Chronicles is a 2.5D side-scrolling action-stealth platformer, donning gameplay similar to LittleBigPlanet but with the Assassin’s Creed formula thrown in instead of Sackboy’s typical types of journeys.  You will still be performing assassinations, fighting enemies, taking leaps of faith into bails of hay, and everything else the series is known for, but in a new perspective.

Progression in the game goes in the form of choosing an “Episode” in the form of one of the three games and then going through each story mission until you reach the end.  This is like a mission-based game, though completing one mission automatically spawns a story scene and pushes you towards the next.  It gives you a feel that it’s an ongoing game, even though it is technically mission-based.

Each mission has you in very large 2.5D environments with multiple planes connected by ropeways and bridges, tasking you with various objectives, the objective depending on what mission you’re on.  Some missions have you sneaking past security to assassinate a certain leader, while other missions have you navigating an area in order to reach a boat to escape or a simple reconnaissance mission of stalking someone to find out what they’re up to.  Although you still navigate environments and work on getting past patrols, what you’re doing can greatly vary.

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The stealth elements come in the form of sneaking past guards and patrols.  Each area has guards stationed as well as hiding spots where you can conceal yourself.  These hiding spots could be closets, dark corridors, or bushes/trees.  While in these areas, you cannot be seen (though moving within bushes causes noise that allows patrols to find you regardless) and this is where you look and study patrol movements and patterns to figure out how to get past them.

In some cases, it’s just a matter of waiting for them to walk by, popping out of the hiding spot, and dashing for a window or ladder to go on.  As you play the games further, though, it gets very intricate.  Some areas will require you to use specific gadgets to get past, or gadgets and very specific timing.  Sneaking past enemies is one of the most difficult tasks in the game, though using the Eagle Vision feature that lets you see which guards are targets and which aren’t makes things much easier.

Speaking of stealth, let’s talk about grades.  At the end of a mission, you are graded by what you did.  The game typically wants you to always do stealth and never be seen and never kill anyone other than your target.  If you can accomplish this, you will get a high score, which leads to requirements for upgrades, like more gadget ammo, health, faster running or crouch-based movement, etc.  That’s the typical scenario, though you don’t have to play like that.

I view the game having two types of ways to play it.  You can do 100% stealth with intricate movements and very careful progression to make sure you’re never seen so you can get those upgrades.  Or, you can do what I feel is the more fun route.  Sneak past guards that are simple to sneak past, but also throw in some hanging assassinations and combat to get your blood pumping.  There is a combat system there for a reason other than the few boss fights.  The only way the game will punish you is by not giving you as many points towards upgrades that you don’t necessarily need to complete the game, anyways.

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Let’s get to combat.  To assassinate someone, you have to sneak behind them or hang from a ledge below them and perform the action while they’re not looking.  Raise the alert, and you enter combat mode, where there is no 1-hit-kill-assassination.  Then, it’s you versus them, or a group of them.  The game has a simple way to dodge attacks with the circle button, but things get difficult if you get surrounded.  The ideal situation is to have all enemies to one side of you because if they’re on both, not only are you waiting for combat openings, but you’re blocking attacks from both sides.

I say to do combat often as well because some missions don’t give you that option.  There are some levels that are pure stealth from getting captured or being in a hostage situation where you aren’t allowed to be spotted or knock anyone out at all.

Now, let’s talk about the simplicity of the games, which is something I know other publications have been harsh on.  The basic progression of the game is simple, but simple doesn’t mean that game is easy.  On the contrary, there are a lot of sections in the game that have nothing to do with combat at all that is very, very hard to accomplish.  Some stages in India have very intricate platforming to be done in limited amounts of time that only give you a few seconds of leeway time before you automatically fail, and that only gets harder once you get to Russia.

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To go further, there are two types of areas that really get your adrenaline going, which are the Escape Levels and Sniper Battles.  These are fast-paced levels where killing guards doesn’t affect your score and you are racing against the clock, going as fast as you possibly can.  These can be from running out of a village the Templars are burning down, escaping a crumbling temple, or being chased across town by a giant tank.  These are all very intense, difficult, and helps balance the game between strategic stealth and blood-pumping sprinting.

Sniper Battles aren’t entire levels, but sections of levels.  In these, you are armed with a Sniper Rifle, go into a first-person scope view and must shoot off enemies as quickly as possible before they shoot you off.  These can really get your blood pumping, as in some sequences, you literally have to snipe all other snipers before they get a single shot in.

As far as time is concerned, here is what I came out with.  China took me almost 4 hours to complete and both India and Russia took me about 3 hours a piece.  That would leave the entire trilogy using up about 10 hours of your time.  You also unlock New Game Plus and New Game Plus Hard Modes whenever you complete one, giving you upgraded points and exclusive upgrades, while Plus Hard gives you far less health and takes the ability to see where the enemies are looking.  It’s got a lot to keep you busy.

Controls

Controls are really intuitive and Ubisoft uses the PlayStation TV Compatibility very well.  Not only is the game compatible, but the two different types of features that use the touch screen on the Vita are redirected to the L3 and R3 buttons when the game is played on the PSTV.  To be specific, Eagle Vision is toggled with L3 and Grappling to a ceiling is toggled with R3.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and you can move the field of view with the Right Analog Stick.  The D-Pad buttons are used for activating various gadgets, like Shao Jun’s rope or Nikolai’s Sniper Rifle. The L trigger is used for crouching and crawling, and the R trigger is used for firing off a gadget once you have your aim correct.  Finally, the face buttons.  X is used for jumping, and Circle pick-pocketing or looting bodies.  Triangle is used for heavy attacks or various stealth energy skills like stealth kills and Square is used for normal attacks and assassinations.

I have no problem with the controls, nor do I have issues with how they’re explained.  Everything is shown and told to you throughout the entire game, so you’ll never forget what to do.

Presentation

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The visual presentation was something that was very difficult to gauge.  Since the camera is so far away from you all the time, I had to get an enemy on a plane directly in front of the camera to really see what the graphics looked like.  Up-close, the graphics look more on the low-end of the Vita, but I honestly do not see that as an issue.  When you’re zoomed out of character models, as you will be for 99% of the game, it looks really nice, even on the PSTV.  Everything is colorful, especially the artistic backgrounds in Russia.

So, the big question.  How does it perform?  Assassin’s Creed games are known for being buggy and glitch, and this is definitely some of the nicest work Ubisoft has done on the series as of late.  Yes, there are bugs.  Two that I noticed.  The first is that some of the scenes in China and India will have audio breaks, like they’re coming in with static for a second or two.  This happened with at least 3 different scenes.

The other is featured in this section’s screenshot.  After a sequence in India, I saw that my character’s model was stretching itself, the front half moving while the rear half not moving at all as I platformed and played a constant game of “Catch Up” with it.  It did not hamper my ability to play the game but it was quite bizarre to see.  Once I had reset the checkpoint, it went away.

As far as frame-rate goes, it does very well.  I only saw the frames drop once, for a second or two, and it didn’t affect gameplay at all.  Ubisoft did an excellent job at this game on the Vita.

Summary

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles is a trilogy of games that deviates from the normal flow of the series it comes from.  Despite two small glitches with the audio and character model, Ubisoft has proven that the series formula can work well not only in a 2.5D gameplay style, but also in a melding of three stories into one large one.  This is a keeper for fans of stealth games and the series in general.

8/10

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  • Rodolfo Ferreira

    I keep reading reviews about this game, but I needed yours on this one to get to the final conclusion: it may be great to play because of the Assassin’s Creed formula, but because it’s still a 2.5D – and therefore, a very limited game – the replayability of AC: Chronicles is what actually kills it and is a deal breaker for some.
    Also, I believe this game is like CounterSpy, but done right: Instead of going with the buggy, badly supported, battery-eater, long loadings generator Unity and developed by sony’s affiliates, it actually uses a well-balanced engine and is developed by Ubisoft, so it’s all good (even though the framerate noticeably goes down in some areas, according to other reviews).
    Still, as a Vita gamer who enjoys this kind of game on the go, I wish this game had blessed the Vita before AC III Liberations, just so we could be given Hope for our favorite handheld. But after sony’s last move which indicates the end of the Vita is coming, I guess it wouldn’t matter.

    Great review, keep up the great work!

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