The Assassin’s Creed series is a modern success story. Birthed by technical superpower and driven by an intricate narrative, the iconic stealth franchise has taken on many forms over the last seven years. This year Ubisoft is releasing two titles in the series, Rogue and Unity, and true to form, they’ve already announced downloadable content for Unity through its Season Pass. But one piece of DLC could change the series for the better, revitalizing its stale aesthetic and opening new doors for the entire franchise: Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China.
With the imminent commercial success of Assassin’s Creed: Unity later this year, Ubisoft’s Season Pass is a bit of a wild card. For $30 US, the Assassin’s Creed: Unity Season Pass will net you exclusive equipment and two larger DLC campaigns. While the Dead Kings DLC is set to follow Unity’s hero Arno Dorian, the second DLC, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, is where things get especially interesting. The China DLC follows Shao Jun, the female assassin that appeared in the animated short Assassin’s Creed Embers. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China’s trailer shows some authentic Chinese architecture that will surely be a blast to climb.
For all of the missteps Ubisoft has made over the years, they continue to be experts at using standalone DLC effectively. Between the senseless 80’s fun of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and the potent Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry, Ubisoft has done some admirable work creating self-contained side stories. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is set to follow in their footsteps, finally building on the (as yet untapped) potential of one of the series’ coolest side characters.
But the most promising part of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is Ubisoft’s decision to finally experiment with their own universe. I’ve already stated that the Animus has been wasted on settings that offer very little diversity, so hearing about Chronicles: China is a breath of fresh air. Asian-inspired architecture has been criminally underrepresented in the series thus far, and the setting opens up new storytelling possibilities.
It also opens up new gameplay possiblities. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China is a 2.5D sidescroller similar to Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. While that might make it sound like Ubisoft is cutting corners on this release, this allows them to take risks without the constraints of a AAA budget.The slimmed-down design of Chronicles: China is a great way for Ubisoft to ease themselves into this new setting and build new features to use in future games. Ubisoft isn’t diving into classical China head-first. Instead, they’re tinkering with the design and seeing what works, before throwing millions of dollars into a AAA Chinese Assassin’s Creed.
The new setting and aesthetic of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China are blank canvases for Ubisoft to color; it’s exciting to imagine what could become of this era and location. But Ubisoft’s careful progression with Chronicles: China is also admirable. Instead of taking a huge risk with a full AAA title, Ubisoft is letting this small, downloadable title test the waters. They’re gauging the marketability of this new direction without breaking the bank. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China might look like a cheap diversion from Unity, but it could also be the catalyst for Ubisoft to finally bring the main series to new lands.