The Assassin's Creed franchise has become a seasonal itch that I just can't help but scratch. The annual installments have become a rallying point for the naysayers and the bungled AC Unity release gave them even more gasoline for the fire. And hey, I get it. As much as I enjoy the franchise, it's hard to look past the faults. I don't even think the vitriol that tends to pour out from some gamers over positive review scores for an Assassin's Creed game is necessarily even about the game at this point. Despite what you've heard, you definitely can have too much of a good thing. At this point, I can play a decent round of Jenga with all my Assassin's Creed game cases, but despite a few hiccups along the way, I still enjoy the series. Things have been looking up with the addition of the stellar AC Syndicate and the surprisingly fun first installment in the side-scrolling spinoff, AC Chronicles: China. Which is why it pains me to report that AC Chronicles: India is entirely... average in almost every way.
AC Chronicles: China struck a lot of the right notes for me which is why it's so disappointing that its successor takes a good concept and removes some of the key components that made AC Chronicles: China so engaging in the first place. The core conceit of prioritizing stealth over all-out brawling is still in AC Chronicles: India and it's during these moments that the game really shines. But unfortunately, the vast majority of the additions and changes in AC Chronicles: India do more harm than good.
There are three glaring issues that really hang over this game like a think malaise. First, the multikill feature only works about fifty percent of the time. Basically, the multikills in this game mimic the double assassinations in the main Assassin's Creed games. Whenever two enemies are in close proximity to each other, you'll see a hovering icon pop up over both their heads, indicating that you can kill both enemies simultaneously. But pressing square (or in my case, mashing it in the hopes it would actually work) only yielded me with a fifty perfect success rate. For a game that so prominently emphasizes stealth, this oversight can break certain levels, unless you're going for no kill runs.
The second issue comes in the form of AC Chronicles: India's story... or rather, the lack thereof. I know this is meant to be a short, Lilliputian sized game when compared to its big brother of the same name, but it's so largely forgettable that I'm struggling to remember what exactly even happened, and I just finished it a few days ago. Our protagonist, Arbaaz Mir, is of the roguish, devil-may-care character archetype that seems to be such a prominent trend amongst most of the Assassin's Creed main characters. He's after a Piece of Eden (surprise!) in 1841 India amidst the tumulus war between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company. I'm a bit of a history nerd, which is one of the reasons the AC series appeals to me, but all the potential history they could play around with here is largely ignored or relegated to a short blurb tucked away in a menu.
The last big issue in AC Chronicles: India is its overreliance on running or parkour levels. In AC Chronicles: China, these free running levels were a nice deviation from the slow, methodical nature of the stealth gameplay. But I'm not exaggerating when I say that out of AC Chronicles: India's ten levels, half of them are timed, running missions. That doesn't mean they're necessarily bad or egregiously offensive in any way, but when only half the levels actually feature... assassinating or stealth of any kind, it's a bit disappointing.
So after all that negativity, you may be wondering if there are any redeemable qualities to AC Chronicles: India. Thankfully, the core gameplay that made AC Chronicles: China such a blast is still here. Being a shadow and remaining unseen is still at the forefront of the experience (despite all those parkour levels) and replaying missions and going for no kills runs is still as enjoyable as it was in AC Chronicles: China. Stringing together smoke bombs and noise darts to slip by enemies is extremely satisfying. AC Chronicles: India also has a very aesthetically pleasing color palette despite a few areas looking somewhat muddy or washed out.
If you weren't won over by AC Chronicles: China, AC Chronicles: India probably won't change your mind. But if you want a game with some solid stealth gameplay and a sizeable smattering of timed, platforming bits, you probably won't be too disappointed (the low price of admission also helps). It's unfortunate, but I think using the phrase "you probably won't be too disappointed" is an apt way of describing AC Chronicles: India. It's a short, three to four hour romp that you can safely pretend never happened.