Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: The first steps to redemption

How often do we see 2.5D done right? Not that often, we would suggest. Too often it’s about 3D sprites and parallax backgrounds, but that extra half a dimension is rather lost. It may as well be a flat game. Not so with Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, which on top of a number of becoming qualities appears to understand that 2.5D opens up a whole bag of new tricks to play with.

The key is that it can give real depth to a fixed camera game and that’s what Climax Studios has done with this episodic adventure in the Creed universe. Buildings can have multiple layers moving towards and away from the screen, they can have corners that turn the world around not unlike Fez, and they can have contours and ledges that can be grabbed and spun round. Making good use of the half-dimension can add dynamism to what might otherwise be a fairly well-trodden genre, as can a nice art style and concept.

An interesting feature to Chronicles is that its three parts will each be set in a Different country and as a result the team behind it has decided to give each a look that befits that nation. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China features fluid, sweeping, impressionistic ink styling. The follow-up, India, has bright, rich spaces, full of colour. And finally Chronicles: Russia is an almost black and white world with splashes of red to represent the communist revolution setting. There’s a definite Soviet propaganda poster vibe to it all. This gives all three episodes a unique feel and gives them something identifiable in the increasingly monotone world of Assassin’s Creed. There may be life in the series yet with this kind of approach to style and character in upcoming spin-off games. It’s a very promising step to see Ubisoft making and an endeavour helped by having outsiders from the series, Climax Studios, at the helm.

And Ubisoft is likely to be hoping that this brief sojourn in the world of action and adventure from a side view will cleanse the pallet of Unity players still reeling from the punishment they took from last year’s calamitous experience. This is the hors d’oeuvres that will let us try out some new flavours before a hopefully satisfying main course. The team behind Chronicles is promising that it will have plenty of Creed lore to enjoy, the main characters all having appeared elsewhere in the universe before and all having something tying this episodic story together even though their individual motivations and interests are very different.
“ Each chapter is a new beginning and comes with a unique hero from the Assassin’s Creed universe in a never-seen-before setting”
As are the styles of the characters themselves. Shao Jun is the lead of the China portion of the series and is looking to revive her lost Brotherhood of assassin’s as the last remaining member of her group. Meanwhile the adventures you’ll experience in India and Russia involve fathers looking to protect their children in the midst of revolutionary violence and the pursuit of Templars holding onto legendary artifacts. Each of the three heroes has a signature weapon and abilities unique to them, which should mean each game, while playing from the same perspective, still feels a little different. Shao Jun’s portion, for instance, is looking a lot like Mark Of The Ninja, while our Russian hero Nikolaï Orelov has a long-range rifle that lets you pick of enemies at a distance. A curious choice for a 2.5D game and one we look forward to exploring later this year.

What we’ve seen so far of Chronicles has impressed us with a good mix of fluid parkour platforming, not too dissimilar from the Mirror’s Edge IOS game from a few years back, and some nice stealth that’s similar to the aforementioned Mark Of The Ninja. What will likely set this trilogy apart from other games we’ve enjoyed before is the way it’s approaching that art style and giving each segment its own identity. It’s a fun choice to make and could really help elevate the games overall once we’ve experienced them all. How these three games could tie together is tough to imagine, but we’re interested to find out.

Fans of the broader Assassin’s Creed world may well already recognise our heroes in Chronicles as each has already appeared in some fashion elsewhere. Shao Jun appeared in the animated  Assassin’s Creed: Embers alongside Ezio Auditore, while Arbaaz Mir and Nikolaï Orelov both starred in the graphic novel series. These games, while interconnected, will also tie up some of the story lines from these individual appearances. It’s good to see Ubisoft making better use of this wider universe as it seeks to build some depth to the  Creed roster and experiment with some gameplay within the brand. We also fully expect more comics, novels and animations in the coming months and years.

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