The Assassin's Creed series – hell, Ubisoft's entire portfolio – has been getting a lot of flak lately due to the samey nature of each instalment. The expected announcement of Watch Dogs 2 seemed to excite no one, and it seems like no one really cares about the Assassin's Creed movie that's coming out this very year.
Most of you have also probably forgotten about the Assassin's Creed Chronicles, a sub-series which converts the historical action-adventure into 2.5D form. We reviewed the first entry, China, last year, and concluded that, while good in places, it was a very predictable game. Has the vibrant setting of 1841 India salvaged the series?
Short answer: no.
What's ultimately Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India's downfall is how unoriginal and average it is. It's pretty much your standard 2.5D platformer, with a couple of stealth elements thrown in. You'll run, jump, and climb your way through the Sikh city of Amritsar, as you try to recover a Piece of Eden known as the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
The setting really isn't that nice to look at. The game goes for a half cel-shaded, half-realistic art style, and it really doesn't work very well. What should be a vibrant, colourful background is in reality a loud, headache-inducing mess of bright colours, with bushes and flowers in particular looking like somebody regurgitated pink onto a piece of paper.
The dialogue and general story isn't that great either, though sadly that's been a norm in the convoluted Assassin's Creed series for a while now. Your character, an Indian assassin called Arbaaz Mir, is a wise-cracking, "charismatic" character who's as exciting and cool as the trade negotiations scene in The Phantom Menace, and the only lines of dialogue that any NPCs seem to have is two guards chatting about when they're going to retire.
Naturally, you can cut their tenure short in a variety of ways. First and foremost is the sword-fighting combat system, which is admittedly quite good. As well as the usual light and heavy attacks and counters, Arbaaz can roll over the backs of enemies and attack from behind. All of these moves make fighting a lot more fun than the usual Assassin's Creed wait-for-someone-to-attack-then-counter gameplay, as it requires quicker reflexes and decision making thanks to the variety of enemies, ranging from swordsmen and riflemen to master Sikh guards and sentries.
Like any Assassin, Arbaaz has his fair share of gadgets, too, but they're all non-lethal. There's the Whistle, which you can use to lure enemies to your position, the Noise Bomb, which can be employed to distract enemies, Chakrams, which allow you to hit bells to distract enemies or cut down ropes, and the Smoke Bomb, which enables you to run through groups of enemies undetected, as well as a few other ancient gizmos. As you can see, there's a lot of distracting and waiting.
And that's pretty much the basis of the stealth elements in the game: distract enemies with a gadget, and either get past them by waiting in hiding spots, or incapacitate/kill them and hide their bodies. Each enemy, depending on their type, has a different vision cone: sentries stand in the background and survey around their area, riflemen have longer vision cones, and talking soldiers don't have them at all. It's a simple stealth system that isn't bad, it just repeats the same principal over and over.
The levels are pretty much standard platforming fare: keep going to the right of the screen, occasionally climbing up large towers and switching planes, while evading/killing enemies and earning points. Earn a certain amount of points and you can get upgrades, such as increased health or damage – but the amount of points that you have to earn is paltry, and can be easily attained. There are also side objectives, but they don't stray far from "loot [item] from [number] guards", which are also easy to get thanks to Eagle Vision giving you the ability to see what an enemy has on him.
There's also a Challenge mode in which you take on a variety of missions, whether it's staying undetected or killing everybody on the map. Once, again, it's standard, average, par for the course stuff, which, as we've said before, is the biggest problem. While the game's replaybility isn't bad, the real question will be whether you can be bothered to play through it again.
Aside from the setting, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India doesn't make much of an effort to distance itself from its side-scrolling predecessor. While its stealth system works well and its combat feels good, it's just more of the same. The dialogue is dull, the art style doesn't look good at all, and the game just doesn't have much appeal. It's certainly not bad, it's just so bang average that you'll have seen it all before.