Man, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is a big pile of elephant Sikh. Sorry, I might’ve been a bit heavy handed with that first sentence. Let me start over.
Ubisoft’s decided that one Assassin’s Creed game a year is too infrequent, so now they’ve decided to shove all their B-team stories into smaller games and charge us $10 for a shelled-out experience where the only people that seem to be enjoying the development process are the artists. The game’s got more bugs than a motel room pillow, and the controls are somewhere between piloting Serenity and the Millennium Falcon. There were some moments where I felt ACC: India was actually doing alright. But they’d often get ruined by it’s nebulous controls, a bug that breaks the flow, and badly designed mechanics in the spotting system for stealth that broke my immersion.
So we’re now in India, ready to insert the generic Assassin’s Creed plot that’s been going on since Altair stabbed his first Crusader. Yep, same plot, different space/time section of Earth. Assassins have some sort of MacGuffin that they hid away, Templars want to harness it because they think it will give them unlimited electricity, a weapon to take over the world with, or maybe the ability to hire a new story writer for Ubisoft. Oh, and there’s some girl that, at the beginning of the game, who is shown to be pretty adept with assassin skills, but is inexplicably stolen and held at ransom out of no where by the game’s ending. Meanwhile, the last we had seen her was the first 20 minutes of the game, so maybe they did it just to add in another level and stretch out the playtime farther than a Metal Gear Solid intro cinematic.
I beat the game in about 4-5 hours, which is saying something. Last time I played a 2D stealth game was CounterSpy, which I haven’t played in a while. The game only has a normal difficulty to boot, and later on adds a hard NG+ where you play through the same levels you played a few hours ago, but with all the gear you have at the end of the game. There’s some challenge modes that test your patience for the game’s most nefarious bugs, and that’s really it.
The game’s use of oil canvas backdrops and cut scenes works phenomenally.. The backdrops use a diverse set of Easter-style colors, and artistry is added into gameplay with these playful streams of red coming out of killed enemies. While this doesn’t make up for level design created by someone with a keyboard that has separate keys for copy/paste, it at least offered some goergeous pictures to look at while silently regretting progressing the game’s story.
The controls were just weird. Sometimes moving the left stick at a 45 degree angle rather than straight forward would cause your assassin dude (yea, the game’s really good at creating non-memorable characters with even less memorable names) to fling in the air. When hanging from a ceiling and attempting to reach the ledge to your assassin person’s left, do you push the left stick forward, to the left, or backward? Well, keep guessing, because I feel as though most of the time the game changes it up on me just for larks. This would cause larger complications when attempting more precise strategies, since I was more concerned over whether the direction I pushed the stick would end up with me plummeting towards the guard below me or flinging myself onto a wall that another guard is staring at.
Let’s say you want to jump down on a bunch of enemies after placing a smoke grenade, land on one guy, stab him up, then carve up the rest into slices thinner than a Hollywood model on a purge. Throwing the smoke grenade will cause assassin guy to lose the target he’s jumping on, causing him to clasp onto the wall opposite the group of enemies. Ok, so maybe jump on the dude, then drop the grenade. Well that would require the game to register that you’ve clicked L1, selected the item you want to use, moved the location of where the item is being thrown with the left stick, then throw with R1 within a millisecond. If this game had controls any more complex it would need a controller the size of the original Steel Battalion.
If you’re able to commit the muscle memory, time, and utter patience for the game and learn how to do this sort of move, you’ll now need to learn how to do it when a bug randomly occurs 40% of the time. For me, the biggest gamebreaking bug was when the sides of walls would invisibly extend, causing assassin man to kick off the air and fall plummeting to his death. Sometimes, enemies would be performing two different functions at the same time, such as talking to another enemy casually, which should cause them not to notice you, yet still have cones of viewing around them, meaning that I’d have to waste valuable resources or just brute strength my way through levels of guards.
I could also tell the game was hating me for using the combat approach to a lot of the situations it was too buggy to offer a stealth option for. Every gadget in the game is geared towards stealthing, with some only gaining combat roles after achieving certain upgrades for them later on. The missions and level design seem much more geared towards a stealth approach to them. And I swear, ACC: India, I was trying to be stealthy. But when I went to assassinate the two guards that had the “multikill” sign above their head, you only assassinated one and let the other one whistle over his friends to beat me so bad I looked like I tried walking through Little Mac and Tyson having a brawl in an art shop. The game’s bugs constantly break my immersion with the game, even on the few missions where I was starting to get into the game.
Missions varied between gather three objects to form a costume, chase an enemy down, run away from things attempting to catch you, and more strategic open-ended rooms where you’re told to retrieve a key from a guard and open a door. Of the four, the running away from things attempting to catch you is probably where we can find the best level design and highest level of immersion. They play out like 2D versions of Temple Run, but instead of collecting coins you stab an East India Company worker right in the Templars. (yes, I’m sorry for that pun, too) But the costume one always angered me. I just knocked out three people with the same exact hat that I’m trying to collect, why not just take theirs? They felt like an exorbitant way to pad out game time, since these typically involved the larger and more options-filled levels that could have been solved by knocking out one guard and taking their clothes.
It’s sad to see the Assassin’s Creed series fall so low. While I never played ACC: China, I never heard anything bad things about it, the least bit having more bugs than a feral dog. ACC: India has managed us to, at best, have lowered the bar for when ACC: Russia is released in little less than a month. At worst, the game is a glitch-ridden beauty, whose art can only be appreciated when the game is in cut scene or paused. The controls would make more sense if they were explained in Hindi, the game’s glitches remove immersion more than I was ever drawn in, and while there are a few levels where I genuinely enjoyed ACC: India, they would always be punctuated with their own bouts of glitches that would pull me back onto my couch.