I’ve played both previous instalments and enjoyed them for what they were. They offered a kind of old school stealth, with sight cones, guards which were predictable and decent set pieces to allow you to vary your killing style. This final instalment seems superficially very similar to these, but upon closer inspection it’s a very different game to play.
Once again the game uses a unique art style in presenting the action. This time it’s all stark red and black lines of the Russian Propaganda Art style. The cutscenes and backgrounds are really effective in generating a mood, and it places you excellently well within the period of the revolution.
The first major difference between this game and the earlier ones is the time period, 1918, as this places it into a much more modern era. As Nikolai you are given a sniper rifle and a grappling winch, the later of which can also be used to send an electric current to short circuit lights or knockout enemies. The inclusion of these weapons makes the side of the game much more combat focused and brutally aggressive.
The choice of a sniper rifle makes perfect sense when you consider it to be a silent killing weapon and one which a modern assassin would use. However, the implementation of it in this game isn’t as successful as you’d hope. The only times you get to use it as a sniper rifle looking down the scope are limited to set pieces, the rest of the time it just serves as a rather clunky sword or general gun. Overall this just ends up being a wasted opportunity.
The second major difference is the inclusion of a second playable character, Anastasia Romanov. Anastasia has none of the usual weapons you have in these games. Instead she is more of a stripped back assassin, unable to enter combat and reliant on stealth kills with her knife. This contrast in play styles serves to break up the flow of the game and does add a nice level of variety.
Most of the time you control one character per level, but there are a few later levels where you get to team up and help each other out. These levels really show off the potential for dual play, as you control one of the characters while the AI takes charge of the other, running between hiding spots or sniping enemies. These sections of the game really shine through. These dual play sections are vastly underused leaving you wanting more. They also outshine the single character levels making it feel like a chore when you’re stuck using only one.
Unfortunately this is pretty much the end of anything good to say about this game. There are numerous technical issues with this game, from graphic glitches to slowdown. Additionally this game suffers from an oddly judged difficulty level. I’ve played the previous two instalments and generally speaking graded around average after each level. On this game I was hardly scraping by with the lowest score after each level.
Another consideration of the difficulty level here is an over reliance on instant death sections. The majority of the levels you’ll play have scenarios which result in instant death, either from seen whilst sneaking about, or through missing tightly timed running sections. The reason these instant death sections are infuriating is down to the fact it’s not always clear how you should approach the situation. This is a criticism which I never levelled at the previous games, as they always allowed you freedom to tackle each situation. This game however wants you to use only one way to complete these levels, and doesn’t reward experimentation.
Overall this is the weakest instalment in the franchise and it’s like they forgot what made the earlier games tick. The inclusion of too many instant death fail states and one solution stealth sections feels at odds with what was good about the earlier games. The places where they have tried to mix up the formula, with the inclusion of the sniper rifle and dual play sections, end up feeling underused. As a series of games Assassin’s Creed Chronicles explores some nice new gameplay styles, and this instalment is no different. However this game doesn’t gel together and ends up feeling broken and unfairly difficult.