by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Assassins meet the Prince of Persia
Assassinís Creed Chronicles: China plays out much like the Prince of Persia has taken a road trip across the Himalayas and into China. Instead of the Prince though, you take on the role of Shao Jun, a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins in China. Unfortunately, the Brotherhood has been all but wiped out and Shao Jun herself has been captured. You must escape capture and complete her quest for vengeance against the Templars who have killed her friends.
Unlike other games bearing the Assassinís Creed moniker, this is a side-scrolling platformer which plays much like a revamped version of the original Prince of Persia. Of course, the location is now Ming dynasty China, and although it has a new style, it does have many features that give it a distinctly Assassinís Creed feel. As Shao Jun moves stealthily throughout the levels, guards can be picked off through special assassination moves whenever she captures a guard unawares. Frontal assaults can also be performed, although combat is much more difficult when guards are ready for an attacker. You can choose between a stealthy route and a brawler path, and indeed the game often allows a path in which guards could be bypassed altogether, as Shao Jun moves silently from one hidden location to the next.
Shao Jun also has some other items at her disposal that can keep guards distracted long enough to enable her to avoid detection. She can whistle, throw firecrackers or noise darts that cause guards to investigate the location the sound came from. This in turn enables Shao Jun to sneak around them. Guards are a little dim-witted though, so if you do kill off one of their brethren in a sneak attack, they wonít pay any attention to it unless they see it happen or stumble upon the lifeless body. A feature that Assassinís Creed veterans may be familiar with, is Eagle Vision. It puts the game into a somewhat black-and-white mode and has items of interest highlighted. In the case of Assassinís Creed Chronicles: China, the main interest lies in the paths that the guards travel. This allows you to plan Shao Junís journey as in such a way to avoid contact as often as possible.
Points are awarded at the end of each level based on your performance. And it seems that a greater emphasis is placed on being stealthy, or indeed, being a silent assassin. Less emphasis is placed on the full frontal attacking moves, and although you do occasionally have to put your sword skills to good use, it pays to avoid confrontation wherever possible. New skills and upgraded health bars are granted as points accumulate giving an incentive to complete both the primary and secondary goals for each level.
Assassinís Creed Chronicles: China works well with both a controller or keyboard/mouse combination, but I would suggest the controller is the way to go. There were a couple of times, especially during the combat sections that felt a bit more user-friendly with a controller. Also, there are a few points in the game where you are required to turn a wheel which opens a gate that you then need to run under before it closes again. This almost required three hands on a keyboard but was much easier to complete with a controller. Otherwise, the game plays out, as mentioned, much like a visually updated Prince of Persia, with running, jumping and swinging across chasms with a whip, Indiana Jones style.
The visuals are lovely. It almost looks like a painting with its Asian-style watercolour brush stroke background. The 2D (well 2.5D is probably more accurate) style certainly differs from what Assassinís Creed fans have come to expect from games in the series, but it works rather well. The cut-scenes are a particular highlight.
From an audio standpoint, I was actually a little disappointed. The background music is fine and the sound effects do the job admirably, but the voice-over work didnít fit the game at all. I found it quite surprising that the voices for the main characters all seemed to have English accents. That would be fine if the game was set in 16th century London, but this is 16th century China. Donít get me wrong - the voice actors have done a great job - itís just that their accents just donít fit into the scenario at all.
Is it really an Assassinís Creed title?
Although Assassinís Creed Chronicles: China doesnít have the same feel to it as recent Assassinís Creed titles, it does perform well as a platformer. The fact that you can choose varying play styles is certainly a bonus. The stealth is done really well and the combat, if you choose to go down that path, is quite easy to learn and become adept at. The visual styling perfectly suits the setting of the game, and although I did find the English accents a little perplexing, it doesnít alter the enjoyment of the story any less. Is the game different from other Assassinís Creed titles? Yes it is. But it is like having a favourite holiday spot where you visit every year and then going somewhere different one year - you might not have as much fun as you usually do, but youíll still enjoy yourself nonetheless.
Wonderful art style.
English accents on Chinese characters feel out of place.