In Soviet Russia, the game plays you! Or that what I was expecting out of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia. The third title in the Chronicles mini-series and a slow, bloody sneak into early 20th century, pre-Revolution Russia, it represents the final chapter in an occasionally fun but largely middling set of 2D platforming adventures. Yet, this installment turns out to be a happy surprise: while obvious faults keep it from being great, a decent story, diverse combat, and stealth that offers a satisfying challenge (without dipping too often into hair-tearing territory) all make Chronicles Russia the series’ clear high note.
You slide into the valenki boots of Nikolai Orelov, a disillusioned Assassin who plans to abandon his Order after one last mission and leave his homeland of Russia — rife with violence and civil unrest — behind forever. His main means of accomplishing that goal is 2.5D platforming, leaping over rooftops and through more than a few living rooms in a linear approximation of Assassin’s Creed trademark parkouring style. Unfortunately for him, like all one last missions, his is extremely tricky: he must steal an item of immense value from the Russian imperial family, who are currently in hiding from proletariat mobs calling for their heads.
This chapter follows through with easily the best story in the mini-series. Nikolai’s determination to escape the Order creates a unique perspective, and a surprising twist in the game’s opening chapters makes the whole story worth seeing through. That isn’t to say Chronicles Russia is channeling Shakespeare — its story is still typically goofy in many ways — but regardless, it’s suited to the game in which it lives, giving it a worthwhile narrative center that the previous two games distinctly lacked.
While a decent sense of drama is certainly a plus, the game’s biggest strength is easily its stealth, and the way it builds its many lovely environments to accommodate thoughtful sleuthing. Unlike previous entries in the series which really only give you the option to hide in closets or behind a pillars for the majority of their eight-hour runs, Russia offers up a wider variety of stealth-based tools, turning every room into a fascinating, well-paced puzzle of which each of your movements is a piece.
Though it may look a little monochrome at first glance, Chronicles Russia’s version of the mini-series’ watercolor art style fits gorgeously with the setting it’s trying to create. Giving the entire world a stark, dreary look with vibrant splashes of red for drama (and built-in path guidance), Chronicles Russia fashions itself an aesthetic that fits its time period and subject matter perfectly, and looks good while doing it.