Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is Ubisoft and Climax Studios’ second foray into this spin-off series, following the decent Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. This time players take control of the assassin Arbaaz Mir during the conflict between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company in the year 1821, almost 300 years after what happened in China. Once again the game is a 2.5D stealth action platformer, where sneaking is much more preferable to open combat.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India opens in the city of Amritsar with Arbaaz trying to sneak into the palace, to reach an objective he holds very dear to himself. It’s actually quite interesting, at least to me, to see Amritsar represented in a game having been raised in a Sikh family and having visited the city a number of times. Climax and Ubisoft have incorporated the Punjabi language into these opening moments too for the guards, though you can tell that the actors are reading from the script since the voice work is missing the natural flow and emotion of Punjabi. It comes across as stilted instead.
During this opening segment you’ll learn the basics of how to sneak past and fight guards, though it won’t cover everything. If you’ve played ACC: China then you’ll be familiar with the gameplay, but to newcomers this segment covers all the basics. Players are introduced to Arbaaz’s various pieces of equipment including his exclusive chakrams, that can be used as ranged weapons or as a tool to cut ropes to open up paths or bring a fixture down onto an enemy. You also have the noise dart which draws the guards attention to certain areas when thrown, and smoke bombs to make enemies both easier to pass and simpler to take down.
Within each level you’ll have different places to hide too, again almost exactly the same as in China, such as dark doorways, behind pillars, below ledges, or hanging on to a ceiling. Eagle vision can be used to scout out the surrounding area so you can plan your approach, and work out whether it would be better to fight or hide. Most missions have linear paths to follow, though on some occasions there are diverging routes that can be pursued instead. When it comes down to it though fleeing is almost always better than fighting.
Arbaaz is a decent enough fighter, and has both light and heavy attacks as well as the ability to dodge and dash, but he isn’t the strongest or fastest person in the game. Early on you’ll get into conflict with easy foes but as the missions pass the enemies become stronger and more dangerous. These guys can take chunks of your health very quickly, and when a group closes in it’s more likely than not that you’ll be sent back to a checkpoint. I did find that sometimes the kill animation takes a bit too long to play out when fighting guards which was especially frustrating in timed missions.
The stealth play is much better as you look at how to avoid a guard’s cone of vision, and how to make as little noise as possible when moving near them or taking out a guard without alerting someone else. Sneaking up on a guard or using the environment to take out someone makes you feel more like an assassin than charging in with sword drawn. There is a lot of trial and error involved though as you piece together how to put a plan into practice. Drawing a guard towards your hiding spot using a noise dart or whistling and then subduing them doesn’t ever feel unsatisfying.
It’s a shame then that the story of ACC: India is incredibly lacklustre and never manages to really feel like it gets going before it ends. The plot focuses on Arbaaz’s conflict with the Templars over the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is believed to be a Piece of Eden in the game. Arbaaz’s search for the jewel takes him from India and into the First Anglo Afghan War, before returning to India, facing two prominent Templars. Even though Climax and Ubisoft try to build up a hostile relationship between Arbaaz and these characters it never really comes to fruition.
The climbing still isn’t quite fixed either, feeling clunky at times and unresponsive at others. Not being able to move as fast as you would like due to Arbaaz taking his time to grab a ledge is an annoyance, especially since you know that he as a character that can pull off complex moves quickly in other situations. The enemy AI can also be dumb at times, done intentionally to help a player along. If you distract a guard they will blindly walk into an explosive trap that was placed there to stop you. If these are the recruits the Templars have then the Brotherhood really shouldn’t have worried so much.
The story can’t affect the visual feast that ACC: India is however, with its painting-esque qualities. Smoke wisps from fires are like brush strokes, while the stages themselves have a great deal of colour to them. Certain areas mesh grey and gold really well too, while at the same time exuding a sense of power. The environmental design is something that really has to be given credit.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is a decent game though I think China was the better outing, mainly due to the story. India’s plot just seems to limp along without a truly satisfying ending, whereas China’s had a lot more emotional investment within, though it was still quite shallow too. Either way, ACC: India manages to keep the stealth gameplay fun, while the open combat still leaves room for improvement. If you’re a fan of Assassin’s Creed then it will suit you, though perhaps you’d be better off waiting for the collection. ACC: India can be completed within a day or two, so if you’re looking for something to fill the time there are worse things.
Version tested: PS4