The Assassin's Creed Chronicles trilogy is finally over. I'm using the word "finally" here kind of sadly though. I will be the first to admit that I really enjoyed Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China and, while not as good, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India was a perfectly decent follow-up. I'm not sure what happened here though, as Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia is both an extremely noticeable drop in quality and a horrid way to finish out what could have been an interesting trilogy.
Much like the first two Chronicles games, Chronicles: Russia has put itself in a setting that would have been better suited for a full game. This time around it's 1918 Russia, taking place shortly after the October Revolution. Eizo's Box turns up again, and Russian assassin Nikolia Orelov (a name that fans may be familiar with as he has served as the main character for many Assassin's Creed comics) agrees to find the box, with the intention of taking the money he earns and fleeing to America with his wife and child after he is done. Along the way, he witnesses the murder of the royal family and saves Anastasia Romanov. Yet, when she chooses to open Eizo's Box she becomes possessed by the spirit of Shao Jun, Chronicles: China's main protagonist. Now the two of them must reach Moscow and escape Russia together.
While all of this is a great set-up, Chronicles: Russia's story, much like the other Assassin's Creed Chronicles games, never really goes anywhere with it. Nikolia may be interesting in the comics, but here he barely has much of a personality. Often he'll give short one-sentence answers to everything as he moves from event to event. Anastasia fares a little better, her constant uncertainty proving to be far more interesting. Yet the whole split personality gimmick never really gets utilized in any interesting way. I also found it strange that Chronicles: Russia, despite being the last chapter of a trilogy, never really acknowledges that Chronicles: India actually happened. It's not a huge deal, considering that nothing really happened in Chronicles: India anyway, but it's strange that you can go from the first to the third entry in the trilogy without missing a beat.
Chronicles: Russia plays just like the first two entries to the series. A 2.5d stealth game, you control both Nikolia and Anastasia as they get through levels using stealth. Enemies have a cone of vision in front of them that clearly shows what they're able to see, and sometimes they can also detect things in the area around them. Your actions create noise circles showing exactly who would be able to hear them. It takes some cues from Mark of the Ninja, which isn't really a bad thing, but none of it is utilized as smoothly. Sometimes, the depth of the levels would actively hinder my ability to do things. For example, one enemy on a train level was a pain to try to kill as he was apparently standing in the background and I was unable to attack him until I lured him to the foreground, but he had no problem shooting me. There was also no real visual cue that this was the case, I instead figured it out by dying a lot. The lack of cues and figuring things out by throwing myself at them over and over would continue to be something that would plague me the entire game.
One thing the game does get right is making Nikolia and Anastasia feel different when you play them. Nikolia has various tools to use. Much like the Assassins from the past games, he carries around smoke bombs to get out of a bad situation. Unique to Nikolia would be his rifle, which he can use to pick enemies off from a distance. The other Assassins couldn't do this effectively, and it's an interesting change to the formula. Nikolia also has a winch that he can use to disable traps and pull down vents from a distance. I found the winch to be rather situational though, either I was using it to advance the game or I wasn't using it. Anastasia doesn't get the same tools that Nikolia uses, but instead she gets various helix abilities. These allow her to do things like move from cover to cover without being seen, remain invisible in plain sight, and hide the bodies of people she kills. It should be noted that another big difference is their fighting skills: Nikolia can participate in direct combat, albeit poorly, whereas Anastasia can not. You probably don't ever want to attack enemies directly though, as Nikolia has very little health and Chronicles: Russia has a noticeable spike in difficulty from past Chronicles game that made hitting the points requirements for extra health difficult.
A lot of the added difficulty came from two major problems. The first is that there were a lot of segments where I had to kill every enemy to move on. While these had been in past Chronicle games, it was never to the extent that Chronicles: Russia does. It seems to be against sneaking past segments without killing anyone, something which always came off as more fun than this. Worse, some of the scenarios Chronicles: Russia wanted me to get through hardly seemed fair. Killing trains and rooms packed full of enemies that could see every corner drove me nuts, requiring me to basically throw myself at the segments over and over until I could figure out a solution. Even worse than that, the game likes to also add in instant failure conditions if I was caught. To be fair, most times I got caught was basically my death anyway, but there were times I could salvage it and Chronicles: Russia was against that.
Far worse than these were the action segments where I had to run away from things like trains, spotlights, and other nonsense. In the past two Chronicle games, these were used as an interesting break from the usual stealth gameplay, but here they quickly became absurd. Often, I had to know what to do long before I could figure it out, and sometimes this required pixel perfect precision. An early scene required me to run through a train while another train opened fire on it. At one point near the end, I had to slide under an enemy machine gun before climbing a ladder to avoid a fire. I kept getting killed on this part, and kept assuming I was doing something wrong. Turns out I just wasn't switching from sliding to jumping fast enough, and I was somehow supposed to do it with some insane pixel perfect timing. Scenes like this would plague the game and often the controls just weren't up to the task of avoiding the threats. A spotlight avoiding section drove me nuts because I had to quickly drop down from a bridge to avoid an oncoming train, but unless I was standing in a specific tiny area, I would watch Nikolia stand there like an idiot as he got hit.
Much like the past entries, there is some reason to keep playing after you finish the story. New abilities and stats are unlocked depending on how many points you get in a mission, and after you finish the game you can replay the game on New Game+, keeping all of your earned skills while having the ability to earn new skills. Sadly, while I had no problem getting these extra skills in the other two games, I found that Chronicles: Russia was just too unfair to ever earn anything noteworthy. There is also a challenge area with various challenges if you can really get into the gameplay, but by this point I was too annoyed to really give it a shot.
If there's one nice thing to say about Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia, it's how lovely the game's art style is. Fashioned after old Russian propaganda posters, the whole game has this striking grey, red, and yellow look. It makes Chronicles: Russia stand out extremely well from similar games. I only wish I could say the same about the boring voice acting or the totally forgettable soundtrack as well. It seems a shame that Assassin's Creed games have made such memorable themes but Chronicles: Russia never really tries.
If you really enjoyed Mark of the Ninja then I highly recommend Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China and possibly its Indian follow-up if you don't mind it being slightly lower quality. On the other hand, I can't recommend Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia even if you enjoy those two. It just does too much wrong that the other two got right. It's baffling how the trilogy could take such a plummet in quality.
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased by the reviewer. It is also available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation Vita.
A lovely art style and occasional bouts of the fun that the past games had doesn't make up for Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia's many pitfalls.