In Russia, Chronicles crush you!
Serving as the third and final game in Assassin?s Creed Chronicles, ACC: Russia has the unenviable task of bringing up the rear guard of this series of spin-offs. Although Russia fails in some regards to capture the spirit of the main series?much like its predecessors?it at least continues the maturation process we saw between China and India, and can stand proudly as the strongest of the three.
Set in 1918 during the height of the Russian Revolution, veteran Assassin Nikolai Orelov, protagonist of the Assassin?s Creed: The Chain and The Fall graphic novels, must take on one more mission for the Brotherhood before he escapes with his family to America. This mission is not an easy one, however. Nikolai has been tasked with infiltrating where the Templars are holding Czar Nicholos II and his family, and must retrieve Ezio Auditore?s infamous box?the primary narrative link between all three Chronicles titles. Along the way, Nikolai interferes with the execution of the family, leading to the youngest child, a teenaged Princess Anastasia, surviving and suddenly coming under Nikolai?s protection. With the secrets of the box revealed, Nikolai must escape the pursuit of both the Assassins and the Templars if he hopes to save Anastasia and get his family free of Russia.
Like its antecedents, ACC: Russia is a side-scrolling platformer that focuses more on the stealth aspects of Assassin?s Creed than anything else. Each level is broken down into subsections, where players are scored upon how effective they are as Nikolai. High scores lead to character boosts, and by continuously scoring gold in the Silencer (non-lethal takedowns), Assassin (lethal takedowns), or Shadow (no interaction with enemies whatsoever) disciplines, a score multiplier will come into effect.
Where Russia shines compared to the two previous chapters of Chronicles is in the variety of objectives each level throws at you, and how you can accomplish them. While combat is still a detriment here?with Nikolai feeling relatively underpowered compared to his foes?there is a new array of items and tools at his disposal. Their inclusion will help you avoid combat more easily and better even the odds, making the stealth elements not nearly as punishing or predictable as in Russia?s precursors.
For instance, Nikolai has a grappling hook that he can send an electric charge through to disable light generators, electrify water (and the enemies standing in it), or even overload outlets?all undoubtedly benefits of the time period. There are also new distraction techniques like using telephones to alter enemy patrol routes, or firing Nikolai?s rifle to pick enemies off from afar or make noise to divert their attention when necessary.
The rifle also allows Russia to build on the sniper sections introduced in India. Here, however, they feel more natural, since Nikolai often has to pull his rifle out to cover Anastasia as she runs ahead. Speaking of Anastasia, there are even sections where you have to play with her and her far more limited talents, forcing you to push your stealth skills to the limits. This is a rare instance in this series where narrative actually led to more interesting gameplay.
The only downside to all these new tools was how everything was poorly spread out, as certain techniques?like being able to electrocute enemies?are introduced very late in the game, making them feel like an afterthought design-wise. As well, some of the level felt noticeably weaker in terms of design than others.
A perfect example of this is in the chase levels. In ACC: China, when Shao Jun had to get through an area as quickly as possible while being pursued, it was one of the best elements of that game and it only seemed to continue on in India. The chase levels in Russia, however, are probably the weakest of the series, with old, plodding Nikolai being something of a chore to control in those moments. It makes sense for him to feel different than the other characters, but for those differences to make him feel inferior?at least as a parkouring assassin, because his gadgets definitely give him a leg up in other ways?might have made sense for the story, but definitely detracts from the experience.
One last disappointing element about Russia was the art style. India was the most vibrant and interesting world of the three games, and Russia may be the weakest. The Sin City-esque usage of grayscale with splotches of red do make sense for the setting, giving everything a downtrodden, depressing overtone. Unfortunately, they don?t work as well as intended, making many parts of the game somewhat painful to look at?especially when you get to the handful of indoor levels that are awash in color.
Assassin?s Creed Chronicles: Russia is the best game this offshoot series has offered up thus far. Sadly, it still falls short in ways that have plagued the series from the get-go. However, if you?ve come this far with Chronicles, at least things end better than they began, with a compelling narrative, great gameplay variety, and ingenious uses of stealth that will reward those players who have stuck around.
|Developer: Climax Studios ? Publisher: Ubisoft ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 02.09.16|
Shortcomings that haunt the entire series remain here, but more gameplay choices and a compelling narrative make Assassin?s Creed Chronicles: Russia the strongest of the three Chronicles titles.
|The Good||Largest variety of gameplay of the three Chronicles games, interesting story that ties well into greater AC universe.|
|The Bad||Combat is still a chore, poor pacing.|
|The Ugly||You can almost see the osteoporosis setting in on Nikolai as he sluggishly runs around.|
|Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|