We’ve got one who can use various techniques to distract guards. Like this noise dart right here:

And here she is whistling like any assassin should be able to (looking at you, Arno... what the hell?):

The game impresses more than it excites, though, because it mostly feels like building blocks, first drafts, or whatever other metaphor you want to use that people also used for the first Assassin’s Creed and again for last fall’s AC: Unity. It’s a pretty game that mostly just gets the job done. Its best twist is that it is a 2D game with depth. This has been seen before, of course, but it literally adds layers to what otherwise might feel pedestrian:


Like many 2D games, China is at its best when the player finds their flow. The game is designed for skilled, quick movement. Yes, you can use your noise-making tools to distract, but a special meter allows you to rapidly move from one cover spot to another, various upgrades speed your animations or add dash-kills. At first you poke at the game, but it’s made for you to slice through it. It’s a pity, then, that the game’s checkpointing system is so wonky and prone to skipping a little too far ahead or back when you restart.

Shao Jun’s arsenal also feels a bit limited. Her inability to, say, quickly assassinate two nearby enemies at once or in rapid succession feels discordant with the series’ presentation of the Assassins and makes some heavily-guarded areas needlessly difficult to get through. It’s possible that some of her possible moveset was held back for the assassins starring in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia, sequels presumably coming out in the coming months.


I had fun as I played Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, but I also wondered what more this game could be. What if our 2D Assassin’s Creed was more like a Metroid or Apotheon, with a more open world to explore? What if our 2D Assassin’s Creed had, like all major Assassin’s Creed games before it, a dense civilian population instead of levels primarily populated by killable bad guys? What if our 2D Assassin’s Creed had a modern-day component? If it had those things, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China might feel more like Assassin’s Creed. Without them, it feels less like an official entry and more like an homage; enjoyable to play, but tangential.

To contact the author of this post, write to stephentotilo@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.