ACC China hiding

If there is one idea people have had for Assassin’s Creed, it’s been an Asian assassin. Light on her feet, with blades hidden anywhere and everywhere, it is an intriguing premise. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles takes us to China and does just this, but it’s not your typical Assassin’s Creed game and it learns a lot from those who came before.

In ACC: China, players take on the role of Shao Jun, the last assassin of the Chinese brotherhood. She has allowed herself to be captured in order to track down the bad guys higher up the food chain. The rest of the story plays out as you might imagine – she kills a succession of people, races to save her master, gets betrayed. Yes, it’s all the usual assassin’s storyline, but that’s not why you will fall in love with this game.

ACC China assassinate

The game takes a 2.5D approach to the ninja platformer. This means that you’ll be able to scale walls, swing around into a third dimension and find your way through the level with a bit more depth than a typical platformer. Of course this adds extra maneuvering for your assassinations – hide in the shadows and then sneak around corners to hide from guards entirely, or use that hidden depth to grab the guard into the shadows and kill him out of sight from the rest.

Shao Jun has a range of tools are her disposal to help on her cliched story. Her throwing knives work to cut ropes or trigger noise makers elsewhere on the map while her firecrackers can stun and blind enemies for a short time. You even have noise darts to distract guards and your trusty assassin whistle ability to lure guards to their deaths in hay stacks, door ways and off of ledges. Don’t expect these to look like the usual assassinations, though – she is a much smaller assassin and can’t manhandle her way through. Ledge kills leave bodies lying at the edge of platforms and carrying bodies into the shadows are animated to show that this it’s no mean feat to move them around.

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ACC China now you see me

The levels are fun and well designed, ramping up the difficulty and offering secondary objectives and collectibles to add to the challenge. Getting a high enough score for each sequence awards new unlocks – from increased health or damage to being able to carry more throwing knives or faster healing, these need to be unlocked by completing the sequence optimally. Unfortunately, players can’t choose which skills or upgrades are unlocked – this isn’t an RPG where players can customize their assassin like in other games in the franchise.

There are three classifications in ACC: China. Divided into various checkpoints in each sequence, players can take three routes to victory. Shadow means going unseen, without killing any unnecessary targets. Assassin is similarly about going unseen, but includes killing guards in the shadows or without having the bodies discovered. Finally, there’s Brawler, which means taking our your sword and slashing your way through your opponents. While this seems to promote playing the game however you prefer, you do get the most points if you take the Shadow approach. Personally, I prefer killing everyone in shadows, bushes and from behind curtains, but this technique doesn’t yield the highest scores, resulting in fewer upgrades at the end of the levels.

ACC China shadow gold

In many ways, ACC: China feels like Klei’s hit, Mark of the Ninja. It has similar means of showing guards’ fields of view, it includes dogs and noise-making environments, you have some tools at your disposal to help with the killing or sneaking and it is seriously a ton of fun to play. ACC: China goes beyond that, though, with some gorgeous environments. Each level has areas that are a joy to behold as you truly feel as though you are playing in a classical Chinese watercolor painting. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to some confusion about which path players must actually take and which platforms are climbable compared to others. However, for the most part, the aesthetic vastly improves the experience.

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Gameplay is also made more varied with the inclusion of some speed levels. Escaping from burning levels gets the blood pumping and is still crafty enough to feel like it belongs in the experience. Running to kill guards that get in your way is strangely satisfying after slowly skulking in the shadows.

ACC China burning

ACC: China is a shining example of this genre, although it doesn’t innovate as much as I might hope. I would have loved some aspects of historical realism such as having Shao Jun use her feminine wiles to lure guards away from their posts and to their deaths. They hint that she used to be a concubine before joining the assassin brotherhood and this could have added a new mechanic to the game, differentiating it more from games like Mark of the Ninja. Still, it doesn’t really need more mechanics; the ones they have work well and are varied enough for any play style.

For the most part, the controls feel slick and polished. However, when interacting with chests or secondary objectives, it can feel slow and confusing. I spent a while trying to open a chest that I wasn’t actually able to open and other times I thought I couldn’t rescue an innocent slave because it didn’t respond when I pushed up (you have to hold it for a few seconds and the animation isn’t terribly obvious to show that things are happening).

Coming in at just $10, this is a solid experience for that price. With replay opportunities and the challenge of getting through every area without being seen, there is plenty of content for completionists or casual players alike. I did struggle to link it with Uplay, a strange occurrence on console, but I’m not sure if this is just because the review copy was live before the servers could accept it, or if players should be wary of some Uplay issues with the title.

Last Updated: April 21, 2015

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China
Summary
A joy to play for any fan of stealth and secret stabbing, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China is nuanced and immersive in a gorgeous setting. If you loved Mark of the Ninja, you really shouldn't miss out on this one.
8.0
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China was reviewed on PlayStation 4
69 / 100
  • Pariah

    No score and yet I know the game is great. I’m glad, and the price point is good too.

    Now, with the experiment done, how about a full AC game set in feudal Japan?

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      would be a totally different experience. This game works /because/ it’s a 2.5D platformer. not sure it would be as cool if it were a full AC game. But I’d love for Ubisoft to prove me wrong – I’d love a feudal Japan AC game.

      • Pariah

        Well this is set in china, and since it holds its own, I don’t think another china game would be what I want. It’d have to be feudal Japan, with samurai factions warring over land and power. The Japanese are different enough from the Chinese that it would be a new setting.

        But, for now, that’s just a pipe dream. One I shall cling to with much vigour. 😛

  • ReaperOfSquirrels

    Finished Mark of the Ninja (1 play through) recently and loved it… so maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually pick up another AC game. Haven’t played AC since I put about an hour into 3.

    • Pariah

      Black Flag is really fun. I still need to go finish that.

      • Lord Chaos

        Need to start Rouge at some point.

        • Blood Emperor Trevor

          JJ can give you some pointers.

          • Lord Chaos

            Damned spelling.

          • Blood Emperor Trevor

            😀

      • Lord Chaos

        Need to start Rouge at some point.

      • Sageville

        Personally I thought Black Flag was the best AC of all ACs.

  • Hammersteyn

    AAA games needs to do what indies does and keep it more simpler. Sure visuals are important but not to a point where you need day one patches a couple of gigs big to fix broken games that were released because the suits pointed at the calendar

    • Greylingad

      Im’ thinking of a phrase with a nail, a hammer and a head, unfortunately though, I’ve been playing a lot of GTA V in the last while, especially Trevor, so the phrase will only come out rather grim…but I’m sure you know what I mean…

  • Blood Emperor Trevor

    *feminine wiles

    If “feminine whiles” worked at killing people I’d have died a 1,000 deaths already from all the time I’ve spent waiting for women to do their make-up, hair, clothes, etc. 😀

    • Pariah

      They should ask JJ how its done.

    • Hammersteyn

      I’d take the Top Gear approach. Wait for her at the finish line aka. the pub or the restaurant 😛

      • Greylingad

        Yes!! Then you can invite friends and spend some time enjoying yourself AAAaaaaannnd you’re drunk….

  • Pariah

    Also, this is now on my wishlist. 😀

  • Lynley

    Anyone know if the original season pass deal where you would get this game as part of the Season Pass is still in play?

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      yeah, if you bought the Season Pass, you get this game for free. Otherwise, it’s $10

      • Lynley

        Awesome thanks, TBH that was the only reason I bought the season pass

  • Lord Chaos

    Any game reminding me of the fun times of first Prince of Persia are a must get.

    • Pariah

      That game stole way too much time from my life.

  • Lord Chaos

    Any game reminding me of the fun times of first Prince of Persia are a must get.

  • Donovan Noyle

    Aaai the reverse Axis issue on the PC version is a pain. Up is down. Down is up. Cant find anyway to fix it, trolled the net guys are finding the same issue. Awesome game from what I managed to play in reverse, but man oh man when combat comes its really confusing.

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