When the first of the Assassin's Creed Chronicles trilogy was released, there was genuine hope that it would evolve from the "decent-but-flawed" category and that by the third iteration, would have made it all the way up to the top deck. With (at least) two more games due, it was a safe assumption that the developer would take note of criticism and feed it back into each subsequent title. Sadly, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India feels like a step back from that relatively decent start, meaning that those hopes and assumptions are more or less all for naught.
On the surface, it's tough to pick out exactly what's gone wrong here, since the bigger picture is identical to the first title. You're an assassin who – after being dropped into a 2.5D world – has to sneak through various levels to reach the end, utilizing all manner of different techniques and non-lethal gadgetry in order to get to where you're going. Enemies have vision cones protruding from their eyes, so you can see exactly what they're looking at and the goal at all times – well, at most times – is to avoid their gaze and get past them without having to resort to combat.
If you do get into a bit of fisticuffs, you're able to whip out your sword and go toe-to-toe with those that wish to do you harm, but this will lower your eventual score for the section. After all, having a full-on battle in plain view of the world isn't all that Assassin-like. Not to mention the fact that you'll probably end up succumbing to a bullet within a second or two anyway because, well, you're literally bringing a big old knife to a gunfight. You do have the ability to lean back and dodge bullets provided you can make out the tiny line that turns red to indicate when you need to press the relevant button, but the timing feels off even if you do see it. This, of course, is all providing the enemy isn't one of the ones who glitches out and decides to not bother fighting, instead deciding to take the pacifist's approach and standing stock still with sword in hand until you've hacked him to death.
Should you get to one of the very generously laid out checkpoints, you'll be awarded a "Shadow", "Silencer", or "Assassin" rating depending on your approach, and will be rated Gold, Silver, or Bronze depending on the number of times you were spotted. Obviously, Shadow Gold is what you're aiming for at all times and when the level is complete, the total number of times you're awarded each rating is aggregated into a final score for the level, with higher scores rewarding you with unlocks for both the standard and "New Game Plus" modes.
That New Game Plus mode was welcome in Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, since the game was decent fun. However, this trip to India is riddled with tiny annoyances that take away from the overall feel and leaves you far less likely to want to play through multiple times. Generally, the issues are to do with Arbaaz's responsiveness, poor level design, or a combination of both. There are a few times when you're given a very narrow window of opportunity to move or avoid things and despite you pressing in the direction required to get Arbaaz to get moving, he just refuses to shift. Well, at least until that window of opportunity has slammed shut, meaning that he eventually makes the move you wanted to and dies. Even without those seconds-long challenges to get past, you'll rarely get through a level without suffering at least one death that was absolutely not your fault and more often than not, you will have played through two or three moments of frustration where the game just decided to flat ignore you. Add that problem to the fact that all-too-often, levels require you to pretty much know what's coming in order for you to proceed, and you have a very stop/start experience. Some timed levels do away with the requirement for stealth, instead just asking you to reach the goal as quickly as possible. These usually contain a chase section or two and it isn't an exaggeration to say that we didn't complete a single one without having to head back to a checkpoint at least once. Low trip wires generally trigger even if you jump over them, thanks to poor collision detection. Crossed trip wires need to be disarmed before you can get past them. High trip wires can be avoided by taking a running slide under them. An elephant is charging and you're running away, but there's a trip-wire in front of you. Problem is, the game is in 2.5D, so in the heat of the chase, you can't really see which of the three types of wire it is. Boom. Restart. Slide under. Success.
These little issues could have been cancelled out somewhat by the addition of a new feature – Challenge Rooms. We're groping for comparisons and the best we can come up with is that they're similar to Metal Gear Solid's "VR Missions." You're given a task – collect all the shards, kill everyone, or kill a certain person – and have to race against the clock to get it done. Initially, it all seems very promising, but then Arbaaz's movement issues come to the fore and you find that the whole thing is just incredibly frustrating. Sure, you can plan out the perfect run through the caves to get all of the shards in the quickest time, grab them, then watch as with a second or two to go, Arbaaz decides to do his usual thing of stopping dead and refusing to respond until you've let go of the controls and reapplied your action. When you finally enter the door 0.83 seconds over the target time simply because the game couldn't be bothered to respond to your inputs, you'll probably write the whole new feature off as a bad lot.
If you liked Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, then there's a decent chance that you'll have a good time in India, in spite of the problems outlined above. There's enjoyment to be had, but the main worry is that almost everything new that has been thrown in is flawed to the point of not being a worthy addition. With the Russian entry just around the corner, we're hoping that this is a missed step in the journey, rather than an inevitable and unalterable course.