With Assassin's Creed games taking place in exotic locales like Rome and the Caribbean Islands, it was just a matter of time before Ubisoft's historical stealth-action franchise had an entry set in India. It's finally here and it's called Assassin's Creed Chronicles India.
If the game's screenshots didn't give it away, this isn't a brand new, 3D entry in the series complete with sprawling open-world filled to the brim with side-quests and distractions. Rather it's a 2.5D - 2D gameplay, with some design elements that allow you to move in the third dimension such as pillars you can hide behind - game in the style of Mark of the Ninja, or Assassin's Creed Chronicles China, which released last year. Stealth and action games have veered towards large, fully realised, realistic environments this generation, so the vibrant colours and locales of Assassin's Creed Chronicles India make for a welcome visual change.
Much like the last Chronicles game, Assassin's Creed Chronicles China, and unlike the 3D Assassin's Creed releases, this game also disregards the modern-day struggle between series' two warring factions, the Assassins and the Templars, focussing solely on a pre-Independence India. You play Arbaaz Mir, an assassin who recently stole back the Kohinoor diamond from the East India Company. Before you know it, your order has been ransacked and your lover, kidnapped.
It might not be the most inspired of setups, but it should have more than enough to keep you going. But it doesn't. There's a distinct lack of personality and detail that sets this apart from the annualised Assassin's Creed games we know and for that we're all the poorer. For the most part, Assassin's Creed Chronicles India's plot serves as a wafer thin excuse to run through a host of levels, sneaking past guards, and obstacles alike. Preferably without making a sound, much like last year's fantastic Volume.
(Also see: Volume Review: Super Satisfying Stealth)
However, the game's poor sense of pacing lays waste to the notion altogether. From a tacked on opening sequence to a slew of segments that require a seemingly infinite amount of patience, Assassin's Creed Chronicles India feels workmanlike. There's no reward for experimentation despite the host of tools at your disposal. Noise bombs, smoke bombs, chakrams - which replace the series' trademark throwing knives (and ricochet off walls) - are just some of them. They should, ideally, allow you to use any method you see fit to get past your foes. But this is not the case.
The game dictates what your approach should be towards a particular obstacle, making it a severe case of handholding - far more so than Assassin's Creed Chronicles China. It's unfortunate considering that the 2.5D design does bring with it some interesting navigation elements such as being able to hide behind pillars and hang from ceilings. Although both games have many similarities, Assassin's Creed Chronicles India feels less enjoyable because of these niggles.
Persist past the initial annoyances though, and you'll unlock some enjoyable weapons and items that make it a whole lot more tolerable. By then though, you're set in a state of simply slinking through each and every objective, making the additions seem useless.
It doesn't help matters that the controls feel clunky. At times you'll find that inputting a command for a non-lethal takedown ends with you violently stabbing your enemy. Adding to the annoyance is the fact that in most areas even recycle the same dialogues. In an early level, every palace guard in Amritsar talks about eyeing a princess, while a fair share of East India Company soldiers in the later missions complain about their salary, with exactly the same words. Coupled with the substantial amount of trial and error necessary to complete each section, you get a game that's more monotonous than it should be.
Assassin's Creed Chronicles India is at its best when you're quietly moving unseen or slitting the throat of an enemy. The combat is solid. Defeating soldiers with your sword is satisfying, as are assassinations. In motion, it feels like a modern take on the classic 2D Prince of Persia games. But as part of a series whose mainline entries are rife with means that go above and beyond rudimentary stealth and combat, and allow for experimentation, Assassin's Creed Chronicles India is a bit of a letdown.
Unless you're a hardcore Assassin's Creed fan, the stellar art direction and a unique setting isn't enough to warrant purchasing Assassin's Creed Chronicles India at the moment. There are makings of a good game buried underneath, but you're better off waiting for a price drop or the inevitable retail release later this year.
Rating (out of 10): 6
We played a review copy Assassin's Creed Chronicles India on the Xbox One. The game is available digitally on the Xbox One at Rs. 586, the game is available on PS4, and PC as well. It will also be available on disc (along with Assassin's Creed Chronicles China and Russia) at retail next month for Rs. 1,499 on PC and Rs. 1,999 for consoles.