Let’s get one thing out of the way: Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India can barely be considered an Assassin’s Creed game in the traditional sense. This 2.5D side-scrolling stealth-’em-up is an entirely different beast to the rest of the long-running series. Take a leap of faith into this review to see if that’s a good thing or not.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India is a spin-off story and the sequel to the similar Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. The game stars Arbaaz Mir, member of the Indian Brotherhood of Assassins, on a quest to retrieve an artifact from the series’ antagonists, the Templars.
It’s a fairly generic storyline by Assassin’s Creed standards and the game works on the assumption that players have read the AC graphic novel Brahman. If you haven’t, then you may be a little lost and confused, suddenly surrounded by characters and backstory that you’ll have no clue about. The game also dumps a significant amount of lore and plot via the in-game codex, meaning the only way to truly understand the background is to slog through essays of exposition.
Gameplay-wise, there’s a lot more in common with Mark of the Ninja or the older Prince of Persia games than there is with the core AC games. Arbaaz must sneak, sprint and occasionally fight through guards and platforming obstacles. There’s a much heavier emphasis on traditional stealth based on line of sight, as opposed to AC‘s typical social stealth. The stealth gameplay works fantastically well and the game is able to create a great deal of tension as you scurry and dash from cover to cover.
Beyond the stealth there’s lots of potential for solid platforming and exploration. Running, jumping and generally just moving as Arbaaz is a treat, but the stealth aspects restrict the amount of freedom you’re given. At all times you’ll wish you could run just a little further, do a little more parkour, or explore the world just a bit more. And it truly is a world worth exploring, because India has a fantastic visual style reminiscent of watercolours and mandalas. It’s bright, colourful and all the characters have a unique design. There are rare missions where your score is not determined by stealth, but rather by how quickly the level is completed. These missions stand out as the most fun for me, because they let you play around with the platforming and combat without the same fear of failure.
India will keep completionists busy for a good while. Each mission is subdivided into multiple checkpoints and each of them grades and scores players depending on how stealthy they are. A purely stealth approach generates the most points, so the game really expects you to give it your best. Higher scores unlock more upgrades for Arbaaz such as increased health and improved combat abilities. Let the contradiction sink in: being stealthy lets you become a better fighter. Outside of the missions, there are also numerous challenge rooms and trials to test and hone your various skills.
My biggest issue with India is that to me it’s not very compelling. Players who haven’t done the required reading will be lost in all the exposition and AC fans might not enjoy the formula changes. I do hope Ubisoft uses this 2.5D approach for their other properties though, like Splinter Cell or Prince of Persia.