This review is for those distraught folk out there who will have recently heard, to their dismay, that there will be no main release in the Assassin’s Creed franchise this year. Sorry? No gamer actually cares that much? Please excuse my facetiousness but, since 2009, way back in the days of arguably the series’ highlight Assassin’s Creed 2, the series specialising in cloak-and-dagger goodness has been a yearly release, and even the most diehard fans will admit to a little bit of burnout. But, nevertheless, Ubisoft’s corporate machine rumbles on, and now we have the second part of the Chronicles trilogy: India. Alongside an Assassin’s movie, which has just completed filming by the way, India is giving me that burnout feeling all over again.
Following on from the first outing of the Chronicles series set in China, India is a 2.5D, arcadey interpretation of the Assassin’s Creed gameplay system. From left to right, you’ll be imitating the free-running, stealth and melee combat you’ve performed time and time again in the main AAA releases. And, like the main games, you’ve got a bevy of tools and tricks at your disposal to do away with the dastardly British. These tools interact well with an inventively designed environment, such as using your grappling hook to attach to the ceiling to evade the sights of your enemies at the last moment can be satisfying.
The controls will near-endlessly frustrate if you need to hide quickly or pursue
I say satisfying, of which I’m referring to the times that the traditionally imprecise
controls of the Assassin’s Creed franchise work their infuriating ‘magic’. India succeeds in varying up the pace with a variety of mechanics and objectives, but the controls will near-endlessly frustrate if you need to hide quickly or pursue a person of interest. The game is far from all about slow, methodical stealth, so you’ll often need to be quick on your feet, something to which the series’ controls do not lend themselves well. At worst, the gameplay in India is a distillation of pretty much everything you hate about Assassin’s Creed, at least in terms of the control scheme.
The story and writing are also quite clearly an afterthought
But, it isn’t just the controls that let down India, the story and the writing are also quite clearly an afterthought. NPCs regular spout the same dialogue as you sneak past them, which begins to grate especially on the tougher sequences. Besides their inane prattle, Arbaaz Mir is devoid of personality; he appears to
be a weak imitation of fan favourite Ezio Auditore; seriously be sure to have a bucket in close proximity during his ‘love’ scene
(*shudders*). You won’t much care for Arbaaz and his exploits as you trudge your way through another very standard, paper-thin narrative about Templars and Assassins.
Aesthetically, however, India has a beautiful and distinctive art style. The visuals are highly stylised, as Henna-esque symbols glide across the Indian cityscapes, appear in the smoke of explosions and the cloud of gravel as Arbaaz skids on the ground to safety. The locations, in fact, are as varied as the gameplay: in the course of the game we see the expansive views of Indian rooftops, lavish mansions and labyrinthine caves. Even an excursion to the battlefields of Afghanistan is an atmospheric, arresting experience. It’s a shame, then, that the world in general lacks detail and regularly looks grainy and washed out on PlayStation 4. The art style is attractive, but this is undermined by the noticeable asset and texture pop-in when the game resets itself after your failure or death.
There might well be decent visuals and varied, inventive gameplay, but the controls are a disappointing hangover from previous Assassin’s Creed titles, and the story and writing are simply not given due care and attention. For £8 admittedly, you do get a challenging six hour story with multiple difficulty levels, some limited RPG elements, challenge rooms and hidden collectibles, all encouraging multiple playthroughs. So, there’s enough game here for your money, it’s just a shame that, despite the fleeting moments of satisfying gameplay when everything clicks together, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India isn’t especially fun at all.