Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia review
After several months of waiting, Assassin Creed Chronicles: Russia, the last of the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy has finally been released in which Ubisoft briefly visits every location fans have been asking for since Assassin’s Creed II without putting too much (if any) effort into it. AC Chronicles Russia, like any other Assassin’s Creed game, focuses on an obscure character you might have seen from a comic book or film, in this case, Nikolai Orelov, the Russian assassin from the Assassin’s Creed: The Fall and Assassin’s Creed: The Chain comics. The plot takes place in 1918, chronologically between the events of these two comics. You’ll see Nikolai as he undertakes one last task involving acquiring a precursor artifact for the Assassins, before abandoning the brotherhood and escaping with his family from the Bolshevik revolution. For anyone who has played either of the other two games in the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy, you’ll find that very little has changed or improved and that like the others, the game is more about the levels than the plot of characters. If you haven’t played the other games, this game is an excellent place to start (and end).
Doubtless it is a wonderful setting and here the game has an excellent opportunity to really dig deep into that Assassin/Templar conflict and shows us that everything isn’t so black and white. Yet, that’s exactly what Ubisoft has chosen to do. Everything is quite literally, black and white. From the levels to the characters, the game presents us with a wonderful art style, reminiscent of the Russian propaganda of the early 20th century, but just as its predecessors, AC Chronicles Russia almost refuses to explore its own setting in depth and amaze us just as Assassin’s Creed with the Apple of Eden, or make us wonder just as Assassin’s Creed III did by allowing us to see things as a Templar.
Make no mistake, it’d be wrong to say that the plot itself was completely generic. Nikolai is a family man who spends the game thinking about his wife and daughter and how they must escape. The plot does well in providing a practical and emotional reason for Nikola’s decision to leave. That’s what the first half of the story seems to deal with. There isn’t really a major antagonist, just Templars and Communists, in general, this time with every single one depicted as being crazed, with no attempt at justification or reasoning. They throw a few famous figures in there, but there’s no character exploration or depth to them, just a name. It’s clear that everything was thrown in there just to get in Nikolai’s way. Still, it’s interesting to see how the precursor artifact affects those around it this time around, as opposed to Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China or Assassin’s Creed Chronicles India where people spoke of precursor power you’d never see.
You won’t fully understand the setting in AC Chronicles Russia unless you know a little something about the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the civil war that followed. Otherwise you’ll find that the game tends to throw around a bunch of Russian names and words, hoping that you’ll understand a fraction of them, speaking of which— unlike the guards and enemies present in the other games in the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy, no one seems to actually speak their respective language, save for a few widely known words. It’s also worth mentioning that the voice actors in this game don’t seem to want to put any effort into their voice work and it ruins any kind of atmosphere the game is trying to build with its communist-propaganda-styled cutscenes, which, by the way, can be extremely vague sometimes since they’re merely a sequence of still images (as they were in previous entries).
The gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Russia is everything you’d expect it to be if you ever imagined an Assassin’s Creed game played in a 2.5D world. While it definitely tries to match everything the assassins of the main series could do (i.e. double assassinations, hiding in plain sight, pick-pocketing, etc…), it’s best not to go in with high expectations of it. Guards have a visible line of sight, can only see directly ahead of them, and hiding spots have an unnatural shimmer to them which, along with the vibrant red along every obstacle and path you’re able to climb, makes the whole game feel just a tad patronizing. That’s not to say that Assassin’s Creed Russia is lacking any excitement. The series noticeably improves with every entry, which almost makes it a shame that it’s a trilogy. Almost. The levels quickly become repetitive so will not need to buy yourself an Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Russia walkthrough and where once you were glad to see a box you could destroy with your electric grappling hook, you’ll start cringing when you’re forced to find and destroy one for the eight-hundredth time. You’d think after a certain point, your enemies would think about reworking their traps so they’re not all instantly rendered ineffective after one box is short-circuited.
They have added quite a few sequences involving machine guns, sniper rifles, and trains. Lots of trains. These particular levels are quite enjoyable and more memorable than anything that Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China or Assassin’s Creed Chronicles India offered. The setting offers the means for more interesting gameplay and Ubisoft seems to have taken advantage of it. Grappling hooks, elevators, ventilation shafts, and other background routes encourage you to plan out your attack. Again, stealth is demanded as Nikolai too, despite his rather brawly depiction in the comics, seems quite inept when it comes to close combat. You can strike with a light attack or a heavy attack, you can dodge bullets, but if/when you get hit, you’re out.
There is a way around it. As with the other games, Assassin’s Creed Russia forces ‘Helix’ abilities on you. Essentially they make your character, and dying enemies, invisible. It seems like a cheap way to earn the ‘Shadow Gold’ reward and ironically doesn’t seem to blend well with the rest of the game. It turns the character into a blue dust trail as you flit from hiding spot to hiding spot. What’s even stranger is that the characters seem to acknowledge the ability in subtle ways and you’re left wondering if, aside from the Eagle Vision everyone seems to have, the Assassins were gifted with magical metamorphic powers too.
While there will be quite a bit of tension as you make your way through the levels, trying to be as quiet as possible, avoiding all the spotlights so the black and white world doesn’t turn red for the eight-hundredth time— you’re likely to grow frustrated listening to all the guards have the same conversation. Every other guard seems to be from Omsk and every one of them refuses to say why they think resisting the Bolsheviks is a bad idea. Perhaps it’s not just laziness on the part of the writers or the developers at Ubisoft. Maybe it’s a subtle jab at communism and the uniform order it tends to create…not likely, though. The speech, along with the black and white world and repetitive levels, makes you wonder if they were rushed to meet a deadline. Assassin’s Creed Russia feels unfinished in a surprisingly inexplicable way.
The Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy was an interesting concept and if you’re into 2.5D games or you’re simply that curious about what Assassin’s Creed would be like in one of the many settings the fans have begged for, by all means, try Assassin’s Creed Chronicles Russia. If you are unfamiliar with the franchise and want to try your hands at an Assassin’s Creed game this would be an OK place to start.
It’s decent enough, but it’s not amazing.
You’ll play it and experience quite a few fantastic things, expecting it to get even better as you progress, but it never gets there. The same can be said about the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles trilogy as a whole. It was an attractive idea in theory, but a sad, filed experience in practice— a little like the stateless, classless, anti-capitalist country Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky had in mind.
• Memorable levels
• Unique setting
• Dynamic gameplay
• Challenging levels
• Unenthusiastic voice acting
• Poor writing quality/Lack of depth
• Missed opportunity with the setting
• Vague cutscenes
• Unwelcoming for those who haven’t read the comics
• Nikolai is not very good at close combat