Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is the second part of a trilogy of 2.5D titles that have been developed by Climax Studios and published by Ubisoft. This installment is the story of assassin Arbaaz Mir and his struggle to protect his friends and the beloved princess Pyara Kaur against the evil Templars. Set in the year 1841 against the backdrop of the conflict between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company, the main plot of ACC: India is nothing new to fans of the long-running series. The dastardly Templars have in their possession one of the much coveted Pieces of Eden, and Arbaaz must retrieve it. While the McGuffin of this tale is all too similar, the setting is not. This is the first time India has been the backdrop for any story in the world of Assassins vs. Templars and if I’m honest while you’re meant to root for the main character throughout a game like this it’s the setting that is the true hero of this game.
The start of the game drops you right into the action. You receive the usual control setup tutorial, and then you’re off and running. The first thing that struck me was the art direction. The design encapsulates everything about the setting and era, from the animated intro to the overall feel of each level and area of play. It is a bright and colourful title which is very easy on the eyes. The first section of the game is there to ease you into the control system, which can be tricky and quite sensitive at times. If you have played any of the other Assassin’s Creed titles, be it the previous Chronicles entry ACC: China or the latest installment of the main line Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, you will be aware of how intricate the controls can be.
With numerous ways of traveling through and interacting with your surroundings, ACC: India is no exception to this. Because this is a game set with a 2.5D world you can not only travel within your main plane of movement of left to right, up and down, but you can also traverse the background and foreground of your surroundings, and this leads to some interesting solutions to any obstacles or puzzle you may find yourself up against. I actually had to rethink how I played this game as I went along, because I was expecting it to have straight forward level progressions of point A to point B, but instead I discovered alternate routes and multiple solutions to many of the problems that were unfolding in front of me.
The gameplay itself is very reminiscent of the beloved 1989 classic Prince of Persia. While you are able to attack and defend yourself against the many foes you meet in this game, there is an emphasis on stealth. I spent more time avoiding combat than actively seeking it out and you are rewarded for going completely undetected. There are sections of the game that require you to fight and take out guards, but these aren’t as common as the sections that require you to go unnoticed; If as a player of previous Creed titles you tend to lean towards the action and fighting aspect of the games you may be disappointed with this approach, though personally I found the challenge of avoiding guards to be an enjoyable and rewarding. Another aspect of the game are the puzzles that pop up as the story progresses – some are more difficult than others, but nearly all are part of the environment and must be solved in order to progress. There are puzzles that you have to seek out in order to unlock secrets so be on the look out for them.
As you progress through the game you unlock new abilities for Arbaaz which allow him to move about more freely. These abilities can mean the difference between life and death as the game can be quite unforgiving and challenging. Guards are quick to dispatch some death shaped justice with a quick gunblast to the head or a swift slash of a blade to the chest. You need to be quick on your feet and handy with a blade in order to escape their clutches.
Due to the stealthy nature of the game I often found myself just restarting from the last checkpoint as soon as I was spotted. This was partially because I was playing for all the stealth bonuses, but also because if more than two guards are on your tail and you have nowhere to hide you’re pretty much done for. Remarkably, this is not as frustrating as one might think. ACC: India is very much a puzzling stealth game rather than an all out hack-and-slash side-scroller. There is a lot going on under the hood gameplay wise. All of the aspects of previous Assassin’s Creed titles are there, from eagle vision to disguises, the array of weapons and abilities is quite substantial, with a lot of them focusing on distraction and remaining incognito. Even though it looks like it might be quite basic on the surface it certainly isn’t once you get going.
The one draw back I found with ACC: India is the lack of connection I felt with the main protagonist, apart from some stylishly animated cut scenes that outline the plot there is a very little story presented onscreen. The gameplay is solid and challenging, but there is a lack of investment in the characters with some of them coming off as quite flat (no pun intended). I constantly found myself wondering what this game would have been like if it was realised as a fully fledged Assassin’s Creed instalment. The setting is surely deserving of it, even if the main protagonist is not.
Even though ACC: India is a game rendered in a 2.5D environment it still has a very similar feel to its bigger counterparts. The menu systems and databases which are so integral to the AC series are there. With character bios and guides, these sections grow as the game unfolds, with info about the world you are traversing.
As well as the main story driven part of the game, there is a challenge section, which allows the player to test their skills with both stealth and action. ‘Helix Fragment Collection’ pits you against the clock as you try to beat time records and ‘Assassination Contract’ challenges task you with finding and eliminating a target before the allotted time runs out. Both of these challenge modes are fun to undertake and add another element to the game outside of the main story.
ACC: India is enjoyable. It has challenging and engaging gameplay. It’s just a shame the central character isn’t given a more well-rounded story. As an off shoot to that piece of criticism, the main issue with the Chronicle series as a whole is that when you are playing it you cannot help but wonder how these games would play if the were realised in the same way their larger siblings are. That being said the overall design of the game is quite lovely. The 2.5D enviroment is a joy to explore and the stealth and puzzle-type nature of the gameplay uses it to the fullest. For those seeking an all-out action game will be left wanting, but if you are looking for a game to pass a few hours with some nice graphics and interesting challenges then Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is well worth picking up.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is released on January 12 on the PS4, Xbox One and PC with the PS Vita release coming in April.