Climax’s third and final side-scrolling foray into the globe-trotting Assassin’s Creed franchise relocates the action to Russia, joining long-in-the-tooth Templar-botherer Nikolai Orelov as he undertakes “one last job”.
Obviously, the eponymous “final job before early retirement” trope has been done before, but not often in this universe, so the fact that Orelov is a family man when he’s not out cutting throats adds a new angle. He’s more gruff and world-weary than the usual suspects, less concerned with forbidden trysts or pleasing his masters and more with the well-being of his family. Chronicles’ arcade-style leaning means it’s no easier to truly care about his fate than Shao Jun’s or Arbaaz’s, but at least it doesn’t feel run of the mill. Tasked with swiping one of the Pieces of Eden from the Templars, Orelov soon finds himself on the run with none other than Princess Anastasia after the Bolsheviks’ infamous mass-murder of Nicholas II’s household and family.
Slinking out of the shadows so soon after India, it’s hard to get excited afresh over the mechanics. Russia changes very little, presenting the same gameplay with a couple of new weapons and gadgets, but the art style is wonderfully in keeping with the previous two games. China watercolours and India are glorious sun-baked palaces, here replaced by an industrial grey world shot through with vivid splashes of Communist red, where only the interiors are lit with colour and the outside is draped in oppressive monochrome.
Orelov is out in force with the weapons of his era, particularly a long-range rifle, handy (but noisy) in a scrape. Interestingly, certain areas have sniper spots, where you can take position and eliminate distant guards, sometimes under pressure as they take aim in return. The famous whistle is always an option for distraction, or there are smoke bombs to disorient several enemies at once. Orelov can also use his mechanical grapple to manipulate the environment.
The grapple is the crux of most of the puzzles, often asking you to move a platform closer or pull open a vent or window grate. As in India, you can also use the grapple to cling to certain ceilings, affording you other ways to a avoid guards. As with the previous titles, choice is more or less an illusion. You can use various tools and tactics, but you’re always heading in the same direction and often being spotted will result in a reload, either because the game dictates it or because the combat is still a bit rubbish until you’ve a least increased your stamina by a few bars.
Climax has retained the same iffy stealth rules throughout the trilogy, and obviously see no need to change them here. Guards won’t spot you while they’re chatting, even if you’re pickpocketing one of them, and you can stab as many as you like as long as you then hide until the alert timer is gone. On missions that don’t have an insta-fail condition, it’s fairly easy to cheese your way through. That said, it’s simply more fun to speed run as much as you can, pull in off stylish evasions and acing the bronze, silver, and gold scoring system by being slick and sometimes just plain lucky.
If you’ve played China or India, Russia won’t surprise you all that much, and if you enjoyed them, you’ll probably enjoy this, too. The gameplay is very similar to the last instalment, and only the colour palette really tells them apart. Arbaaz’s chakram felt like more fun than Orelov’s rifle, and the brighter atmosphere was more welcoming than Russia’s grim facade, but when weighed together it’s neither a more or less fulfilling experience this time around.
Vivid art style.
Nothing new, again.
Combat is still a bit naff.