Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China follows the tale of Shao Jun, the Chinese assassin and a character you might have seen first if you followed Ezio’s story intently and watched his conclusion in the short film, Assassin’s Creed Embers. If you haven’t, keep reading this Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China review and all will be explained.
Shao Jun is a former concubine who was inducted into the Assassin Order after the death of Emperor Zhengde (Ming Dynasty emperor from 1505-1521) whom she served. Shortly after however, the Eight Tigers (a Templar faction of eunuch administrators) saw to the destruction of the assassins in China and all those who opposed their leader, Zhang Yong. It was then that Shao Jun and her mentor, Zhu Jiuyuan fled to Italy in search of the assassin mentor, Ezio Auditore (who we all know and love). This Assassin’s Creed 2.5D game takes place two years later when she returns to China from Italy to avenge the fallen assassins and unravel the Templars’ hold over China.
It’s quite a generic plot and it’s quite clear that everyone involved in making Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China knew it.
Clichéd Plot points are fed to the player through blocks of text or random accusations made by the characters without any prior mention of the possibilities. Shao Jun hunts down Zhang Yong out of vengeance and toward the end casually mentions his overall plot involving the Mongols as if she’d always known, just to add to the fact that anyone might have guessed it.
The Assassin’s Creed 2.5D game itself was first released with the Season Pass for Assassin’s Creed Unity back in September 2014 and is the first of three games in the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy pack. It’s not the first of its kind. Long-time fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise may remember Assassin’s Creed: Altiar’s Chronicles (2008) and Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery (2009), both of them were 2.5D side-scroller games and neither of them was received particularly well. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China bears only one difference to these video games in that instead of being released for soon-to-be-extinct handheld consoles, it was released for PS4, PSVita, Xbox One and Windows.
China was one of the many places fans of the franchise were dying to see and all things considered, this Assassin’s Creed 2.5D game does a wonderful job, artistically, of showcasing the style and beauty of China, all without somehow displaying its unique culture. Even the language is lost upon the game. All but a few guards who generally have the same four conversations speak Mandarin, all the main characters speak with a suspiciously British accent with the exception of Shao Jun herself who possesses a hint of Italian. Fair enough, as seen in the 2011 film Assassin’s Creed Embers, she did spend some time in Italy although, it’s doubtful that it would have affected her accent so dramatically. Mandarin speakers will definitely cringe when they hear the voice actors pronounce the few Chinese names and words in the script. Much like Angela Galuppo (who voiced the character in the short film), Annabelle Galea (who voices her in the game) doesn’t seem to know what a Mandarin accent is. In the end, it sounds goofy. Considering the fact that the same thing was done in Assassin’s Creed Unity, it would be okay, were it not for the fact that every line is spoken without a hint of enthusiasm or feeling as if the actors were workers in a communist labour camp and had been ordered to read lines whilst trying to remember what emotion or character feels like.
Not that there is much character to be felt or seen.
None of the heroes or villains are particularly well developed and while Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China makes fantastic use of its 2.5D maps, the characters fall completely flat. There is no real development and nothing compelling to keep you playing, save for the gameplay itself.
In the beginning, it may seem as though the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is dull and irritably simple and you’ll be glad for it if you go in with low expectations because the Assassin’s Creed 2.5D game will then surprise you. The further you advance, the more moves and tools you unlock. Moves and tools you can use to sneak past or dispatch with increasingly difficult enemy types. It does marginally improve the gameplay but don’t ever expect any truly challenging areas.
Enemies are generally only capable of seeing about 5 inches in front of them unless they’re archers or gunmen in which case they can see an astonishing 2 inches farther. The Eight Tigers hire only the most short-sighted of guards, apparently. Admittedly, it does make for one or two truly puzzling situations, especially when you’re aiming for complete stealth to get the Shadow Gold achievement. You can duck into a variety of conveniently placed doorways, curtains, windows, crowds and haystacks and use her gadgets such as her noise dart or her lips (to whistle, of course), easily slip past most areas without being seen or heard. As Shao Jun jumps and runs, part 1 of the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy displays an elegant ring of dust to show you just how much noise you’re making. When it comes to sight though, guards are limited to seeing things that fall into their white, triangular field of vision and nothing else, except for when they enter conversation with each other in which case, they become so entranced by the person they’re talking to that they fail to see anything around them, no matter how close (respect for clearly being fantastic listeners though).
Sometimes they will stand talking below the only ladder or doorway in a particular area and having used up all your noise darts and firecrackers, you’ll be forced to fight them. So what about Shao Jun’s fighting skills?
Shao Jun cannot fight very well. To say that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China encourages stealth is an understatement. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China demands it by making Shao Jun terrible at fending off guards unlike Altair, Connor, Arno or Ezio who strangely enough, trains her! His brief inclusion in the video game was a poor decision on so many levels, too many for this Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China review to properly explore.
Shao Jun can block and counter-attack, she has a light attack and a strong attack and none of that will save her should she get caught in a re-enforcement area (so essentially everywhere). Basically, she’s a badass ninja and a laughably terrible warrior.
Much like our heroine in a fight, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China tends to miss a lot of opportunities. It possesses all the same flaws fans saw in the very first Assassin’s Creed game as well as in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Much like its elegant artistic style, it appears to be a concept, a technical display, a skeleton of a game without the muscle or flesh to really make it a memorable experience. A lot of people would agree that graphic quality doesn’t have to matter in a video game and that’s true for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China because a lot of it is still enjoyable and despite its flaws, some may still find themselves going back to try the difficulty levels they’ve unlocked after first completing the game, if only to bide their time until we get to explore India during British rule and finally explore the Russian revolution in the next Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy games.
• Elegant, simplistic art style that respects the culture
• Makes full use of 2.5D map
• Game gets noticeably more difficult
• Fun time killer
• Shoddy voice acting
• Undeveloped characters
• Plot is vague and appears random
• Misuse of Ezio
• Game seems like concept work