1526. Shao Jun, a member of the erstwhile Chinese Brotherhood of Assassins, must set out to hunt down a corrupt group of eunuchs known as the Tigers, who secretly control China, and consequently reinstate her order. Shao’s the first female assassin since Aveline in AC3: Liberation and she’s certainly made a mark for herself. Do watch Assassin’s Creed Embers if you haven’t already, It sets the tone for this tale of vengeance.
ZOMG IT LOOKS SO PRETTY!
Playing Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is akin to watching an animated Chinese folk tale. Artwork’s always been one of Ubisoft’s strong points; recent games like Child of Light and Valiant Hearts: The Great War are a testament to this. The environments and characters look like they’ve been painted using watercolors – and the fact that the game is basically a side-scroller makes it feel like you’re panning across a gargantuan, brilliant piece of oriental art. You’ll notice splashes and dabs of watercolor over each other which give the impression that the environment has several “layers” to it – some of which might look like they’d been “painted” before, and are now fading away – and others which are a lot more noticeable. This integrates the visual elements of contrast and depth exceptionally well. The game’s soundtrack is subtle yet immersive at the same time, and the sound effects complement it well.
Na’vi-gashun and Kombat
Seeing how Shao Jun is a former concubine, her style of fighting is very athletic. It comes as no surprise that stealth is encouraged throughout the game. Disposing off corpses isn’t a feature that most of us would have used in any other AC game, though it’s vital here. Assassinations aren’t exactly silent, so you’ll need to be wary of alerting other guards in your vicinity. Alert them, and they can even pull you out of your hiding spots. Move into their line of sight, and you’ll have hell to pay for. It’s fairly easy to get killed in this game, even when the difficulty’s set to normal. Two bars of health would imply that you can only take two hits before you’re dead.
The game’s been simultaneously criticised and praised for its similarities to Microsoft’s highly acclaimed 2012 game, Mark of the Ninja. If you’re interested in its historical context, I’d recommend starting with the history of the Zhengde Emperor.
The game features the “traditional Assassins Creed” eagle vision, syncs and leaps of faith; however I found them pretty pointless given that the game is only 2.5D. They do deliver their signature dramatic effect as always, though. Where Shao’s weapons are concerned, her hidden shoe blade is seriously awesome. Other weapons include throwing knives, noise darts, firecrackers that can stun guards, a badass sword – and a rope-dart! Once you get the hang of Shao’s combat techniques, you’d find it difficult to resist charging at enemies now and then. The game consistently rates players on the approach they employ. These rating awards in turn, lead to upgrades for Shao.
Ezio looked exactly the way he did in Embers, and occasionally makes appearances to train Shao. As the game progresses and more of her abilities are unlocked, you’ll notice that she’s a lot faster than any other Assassin from before. The game does its best to provide secondary objectives in addition to the mission’s primary goals, and you’ll find familiar collectibles strewn across its maps. There’s a fair amount of variety in the kind of enemies you’ll get to encounter and the maps are diverse as well (Macau, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall). One of them in particular makes Ubisoft’s love for 16th century European ships very apparent.
Where it went Wrong
The game does however, have a few shortcomings. Like almost every side-scroller out there, it’s completely linear. And though the animus and the cutscenes give quite a few insights into Shao’s life, there isn’t much scope for NPC interaction or development in terms of Shao’s personality. You won’t get to “know” her like you would’ve gotten to know Altair, Ezio, Connor or Edward. To top it off, Shao’s accent sounds more English than Chinese. The second installment of this series, set in 1841, will be featuring Arbaaz Mir – an Indian assassin from the graphic novel Assassin’s Creed: Brahman, while the final episode would feature the Russian assassin Nikolai Orelov – from Assassin’s Creed: The Fall and The Chain – in 1918.