Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia
Fans of the Assassin’s Creed comics will remember a certain russian someone who had a cameo role- via schizophrenic possession- in Assassin’s Creed III. I’m talking of course of Nikolai Orelov. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia, the final installment of the Chronicles series, stars him and is set between The Fall and The Chain during the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution of 1918.
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, Windows (tested)
Developer & Publisher: Ubisoft
A bit of context.
Russia was a powder keg waiting to blow up after the events of WWI. The army was about to revolt, the people were hungry, and it wasn’t fault of the war: it was bad government and administrative choices- the people and industry were doing fine, but inflation and poor management created food shortages! The people revolted, the Tsar abdicated and a provisional leadership was installed. Everybody’s happy! Except no.
You see, they were trying to hold the country together while still fighting in a war with massive losses and desertion, keeping the right and the left happy, they ended up making enemies everywhere. It was not pretty.
chap comrade named Lenin. Returning from exile, he and his friend Leon Trotsky led a second revolution to overthrow the ineffective government and rule through worker’s councils- the soviets. Socialist utopia! They called themselves the Bolsheviks, a word meaning majority.
Ha ha, no.
It was bloody. Communists were not the only socialists out there, so they started barring non-bolsheviks from participating- that means they weren’t even allowing other communists in!- and well…
Civil war erupts and our hero enters the scene.
Story and characterization is usually the strong point of the Assassin’s Creed games. Even when the games have glitches in the case of Unity or repetitive and boring gameplay like the first game, the characters feel alive. Altaïr evolved as a person, we watched Ezio grow up, Haytham and Connor’s story was nuanced and the secondary and background characters are fleshed out a lot- it helps that most of them were real people.
Here? Not so much.
They had a LOT to work with. There was a lot of background for Nikolai and the second playable character whose name shall be without mention because it would spoil the surprise. There were a lot of famous people, there were two wars going on in the vicinity, the world was changing.
What did we get? A bland, cliched motivation and the same dialogue repeated ad nauseam by the guards if you bother to eavesdrop. Nikolai wants to quit the Assassin’s but he need to finish one last mission to get the money for the fake papers for his family. He’s basically the old anti hero cop that is sick of this crap.
Your mission is to find a box with a First Civilization artifact and yes, again with Ezio’s box. Then the game evolves a little bit in terms of story, you get to meet Lenin for example, but only in cutscenes.
The spoiler character is a little more fleshed out, because it was a real person, but it doesn’t save the game from whatcouldhavebeens.
All the main Assassin’s Creed games are three dimensional open world adventures. The change to 2D sidescrolling meant having to adapt a famously stealth game to a more limited format. But the success of games like Mark of the Ninja and Stealth Bastard Deluxe means that it IS doable.
So the poor controls, inexplicably quick deaths and loads and loads of loading are inexcusable. For a Master Assassin, Nikolai is barely a step above a one hit-point wonder and the combat itself feels clunky and unresponsive. So avoid open combat and be stealthy, but then why have combat in the first place?
The platforming parts fare a lot better, but some things require pixel accuracy. One of the gadgets is a grappling hook that you can use to climb, open things from a distance or pull them towards you. Sometimes I had to aim away from my target for the grapnel gun to hit it. It gets very frustrating.
My favorite mechanics are the stealth ones, specially the abilities of the spoiler character. They have the ability to turn “invisible” much like in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and even make bodies disappear. Nikolai fares better in this department too.
Learning how to solve a puzzle, studying the patrols and choosing a way to take care of them, and some of the platforming challenges are very good but the frustrating parts of the game tend to appear more often, leading to a lot of stupid ways to die.
I don’t mind dying from bad decisions, but poor controls and unfair difficulty spikes made me want to quit in frustration too often.
Like in each game with the Chronicles moniker, Russia has it’s own aesthetic. A depressing black and white with red as the only color, it captures the melancholy, sadness and tragedy of those turbulent times. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the game art in general is ok.
I didn’t like that there was no way to get rid of the grainy film effect. While some people love those things, I don’t, and the lack of customization bothered me a lot.
The game is very light in the resources department, so I expect a toaster to be able to play it. It doesn’t lag and I had zero glitches in my playthrough.
If you’re a fan of sidescrolling games and stealth games in general, the game’s price tag isn’t too much to ask for. If you’re a hardcore fan of Assassin’s Creed, I don’t really recommend this game unless you liked the other Chronicles titles.
Overall the game is enjoyable, but average.