There's not been much buzz around for the Assassin's Creed Chronicles home console trilogy, well at least not in my bubble of the internet.
I enjoyed the first of the series for what it was, an interesting diversion for the brand and one that was full of ideas as well as being polished throughout, but I was left a little perplexed that there were another two games in the pipe-line.
By the time China
finished I wondered how they could possibly keep the series feeling fresh outside of location changes. Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia
, however, is proof that there are legs in the sidescrolling stealth game yet.
It didn't grab me straight away, choosing to introduce new players with a tutorial that I felt I'd already done before. But once the game started proper what I liked about the first game came flooding back and soon enough I was combining everything the series has taught me up until that point to slip past enemies unnoticed.
You play as Nikolai Orelov an aged Assassin on his last mission to recover a mysterious box and keep it from the Templars. Not anything particularly interesting, and the story gets lost amongst the gameplay but the events that take place allow for some interesting variations in play.
Once you meet up with Anastasia, a princess who seems to be possessed, you switch between the two characters, getting different perspectives on the same mission. Although this doesn't play into the story it does mean that you can't rely on the abilities of either character and have to constantly mix things up.
Moments in the story do, however, adjust the goals asked of you. When Anastasia hears some guards laughing and joking about the death of her family, the stealth gloves are off and you'll enjoy ripping them apart as much as she does.
It's these little moments that make you feel as though a trilogy wasn't a bad idea after all. Although the mechanics of the game never really offer much that we haven't had before, what they do with level design and mission objectives makes the game still feel worthwhile.
Russia isn't as interesting a setting as the previous titles and that comes across visually. Gone are the instantly recognisable architecture of China and the vibrant colours of India. Russia is cold, dark and grey, reflecting the stereotypical view of the country.
The distinct look of these games is lost here. When I play a sidescrolling game like this in 2016 I want to see some jaw-dropping visuals to make up for the lack of vistas that more open games offer. I felt the China
managed to achieve this, but Russia doesn't manage to make up for that extra dimension.
What hurts it further are the occasional moments of frame-dropping, something that I can never forgive in a game like this despite my lack of game design knowledge.
The performance issues only really affect the dash escape levels, which were a highlight for me in China
. But the moments that chug add to the other problems these moments have adopted. In Russia
they lack fluidity, are full of trial and error moments and feel like a step back from what made them entertaining in the first place.
However, these issues of the game are the only ones that fall short. Level design is vastly improved with simple A to B objectives taking you on a twisting and turing journey around mansions, across train roofs and down into dark basements.
The puzzles and stealth sections themselves ask a lot of you without ever getting too confusing and unlike the games before it aren't filled with traps that can barely be seen until they've already given your location away or, worse still, instantly kill you.
Instead the focus is on presenting a challenge that seems almost impossible at first glance. But, given the tools on offer and after studying the surroundings and movement patterns, they can be achieved in various different ways, ultimately leaving you with a satisfying experience.
It does dip into frustration here and there and although the loading times aren't long, they don't help when you want to instantly get back to trying out new ideas, but the vast majority of the game provokes that feeling of overcoming the impossible - of taking on a room full of guards and leaving through the front door with either the unsuspecting or unliving behind you.
It feels as though developer Climax Studios has hit its stride with this. With dash escape missions aside, Climax has perfected the original ideas they had and what they've created with Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia
is a game that's worth playing even if you haven't got an interest in the world of Assassin's Creed
+ Satisfying gameplay
+ Excellent level design
+ Variety to missions and abilities
- Terrible 'dash escape' missions
- Forgettable story
- Minor performance issues
SPOnG Score: 7/10