Game On: ‘Assassin’s Creed China’ a stealthy success

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First announced as a season pass bonus for “Assassin’s Creed Unity,” “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China” is finally here. These last few entries into the “AC” canon have been quite the rollercoaster ride. “Black Flag” was outstanding. “Unity” was good, but it suffered from lots of bugs and issues. I didn’t experience any of those issues, but, from what I gather based off of the news and online reports, it was very disappointing for most people. Morale amongst the “AC” fandom is down currently, so most people aren’t excited for “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China.” As a huge fan of the series, however, I was excited to check it out.

The “AC” series is known for huge open worlds set in historical locations, like Renaissance Italy, The American Revolution or the French Revolution. Now, the setting is 16th century China. Though a bunch of the spin-off “AC” games are just garbage mobile games, this is the best extended universe “AC” game so far. Not only does “China” play differently, it looks like no other game in the series. It is darker and hand-drawn, as if a painting’s come to life — except, in this work of art, you can stab dudes.

The story is about a young assassin named Shao Jun, the star of the animated movie “Assassin’s Creed Embers.” She was also trained by my favorite character, Master Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Shao Jun is the last assassin of the Chinese brotherhood — the rest were killed by a group of Templars. Now, Shao seeks revenge for her fallen brothers.

Shao has many of the same moves as the normal games, but on a 2D side-scrolling plane she can run, jump, climb and hide behind cover. You have to sneak through each level undetected by monitoring each guard’s flight patterns, as well as manipulating the environment and sounds in interesting ways.

You have to evade the guards’ vision cones to make sure you are not spotted. This requires you to hide in the shadows, avoiding making too much noise or else they will come looking for you. One good thing is you can use sound to your advantage in order to distract guards, beckoning them close in order to knock them out. Make sure you hide the bodies, though, because if they are found the guards freak out. It is possible to fight, but you die quickly, so it’s better to remain undetected.

Another reason to be stealthy is because you are graded on the completion of each level. If you complete a level undetected, you get a perfect gold rating, netting you extra points to use toward upgrading your gear and abilities. The checkpoint system is pretty fair, but since you can’t skip cut scenes, sometimes you have to watch movies again after you die, which can get frustrating.

Not every part of the game is stealth-related. There are some scenes that are more fast-paced — running missions. When the running sections start, there is fire on one side of the screen that will threaten to overtake you if you don’t run fast enough. This doubles the excitement since you still have to take down guards and avoid other obstacles.

I enjoyed my time with “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China.” It is a huge departure from the familiar series and the art style is very different. It’s not super long, and the story is a little generic, but it is nice to see a good spin-off as well as a new time period. The gameplay is a lot of fun, so if you are looking for a small downloadable title, you might really like this game, especially if you like small, bite-sized platforming games. It definitely doesn’t feel like an “AC” game. It is a nice little diversion if you are waiting for the next full entry into the series. “AC China” is a good attempt at a new style of gameplay, serving as the first installment of the “AC Chronicles Trilogy.” Be sure to look out for “AC India” and “AC Russia” coming soon.