ACC:Russia - Review and Analysis
Markuz, February 12, 2016
Translated by: Stefania & Markuz

Assassin's Creed Chronicles Russia was finally released and, for this reason, we decided to do a sort of analysis / review of the game itself and in relation to the trilogy that it brings to a conclusion. We thank Ubisoft Italia for making this article possible and we warn you that the article will contain spoilers or, to make it more visible:


Ok, where do we start from?

There are two main game modes and they are the same ones that appeared in Chronicles India: the story mode, which follows the adventures of Nikolai Orelov and Anastasia Romanova, and the so-called "Challenge Rooms", in which the player is offered a game environment with a challenge to complete as quickly as possible, similar to what happens in Chronicles India.

One of the traditional missions
The Story mode, on the other hand, consists of different types of missions and activities, although most of them are similar, if not identical, to the ones in the previous chapters of the Chronicles series. In the game, then, we can see the return of the classic stealth missions which partially convey nicely the atmosphere, and the idea of the classic “Assassin” mission. These missions, however, are at the same time perhaps studded with too many chances of instant death, and this that makes certain games sessions way too repetitive (the mission on the train with Nikolai is particularly demanding, or should I say painful), and more than once it distracts from the immersion in the story and in the interactions between the characters.
The other type of mission has the character running / fleeing from something chasing him/her or that is about to collapse, or in any case puts his/her life in danger. These missions, no matter how conceptually engaging they are due to the empathy with the character who risks his/her life while fleeing, actually turn out to be perhaps the most annoying missions of the game, once again due to the fact that in many situations you need to perfectly press the buttons, otherwise you fail the mission, or you even have to attempt a jump or stunt blindly because the character is covered by the game environment that is falling apart.
That spotlight can be destroyed...
In addition to that, the game also has some sniping sessions (way better suited to Nikolai than to Arbaaz in India), that have been, although slightly, improved compared with India: rather than being dedicated only to kill a certain number of guards in an area, sometimes you can create distractions by shooting at spotlights and in other cases you need to be protecting another character from the approaching approaching.

Another type of mechanic within the traditional missions has the character defending himself/herself from a guard who uses a machine gun. Unlike India, in which Arbaaz could only escape from the machine gun shots, in Russia, Nikolai can "deal with" the machine gun using covers and even being able to aim his rifle at the guard sticking his head out the cover and then hiding again.

The real twist in the gameplay and, indirectly, in the story, however, is that Nikolai Orelov is not the only playable character, and therefore, the missions are not only designed for him. The other playable character is Anastasia Romanova, the Tsar's daughter, who, contrary to what really happened, survives the "massacre" of his family and follows Nikolai in his adventures. This means that through the story developments that we’ll talk about later, Anastasia is gradually able to act as an Assassin, opening locks, defending herself from the guards, using the rope dart and so on (the Helix moves are intended only for her) .

Anastasia is a playable character with her motivations and suffering and so in the game she develops a relationship with Nikolai, at first extremely fragile but that improves over time and creates some (unfortunately) rare missions in which one helps the other and vice versa, within the same setting. These are perhaps the most fascinating parts of the game, both in terms of gameplay and story.
Still in terms of gameplay, the two protagonists of the game have a varied and diversified set of skills, which we’ll try to analyze following the three traditional pillars of the franchise: Navigation, Stealth and Combat.
As for the navigation, almost nothing’s changed in terms of abilities of the character. The parkour is very similar to the one of the previous two
The Mechanical Winch
games of the series; perhaps the only difference is that Nikolai, unlike Shao Jun and Arbaaz Mir (and Anastasia), instead of using a rope dart uses a "Mechanical Winch": it’s a special winch, apparently created by Nikola Tesla, thanks to which he climbs up to the ceiling, pulls objects towards him and short-circuits electrical components. This is an interesting addition that definitely gave the developers the possibility to create varied and a bit different puzzles from those of the past two chapters and gave the players the chance to approach some situations in a different way.

As for the stealth, we can find various old and new mechanics: smoke grenades with different animations compared to the other Chronicles games, phones used to lure guards in other rooms, air vents in which you can use the whistle to lure guards to the entrance or exit, spotlights to shoot in order to reduce the vision cones of the guards (like in the previous games of the series) and so on. The game also features some interesting obstacles to stealth: elevators that when arrive at their destination attract the attention of the guards, tripwires that make explosives blow up (they can be deactivated with the winch), "noisy" floors on which you need to walk slowly and above all the "Pressure Mines ".
This latest addition was particularly interesting, because there is always a soldier nearby with a magnetic key which allows him to walk on the mines without activating them. This allows different approaches to the sections with these mines: avoid them entirely with the parkour when possible, blow them up with the rifle along with the guards nearby, or secretly steal the key from the guard, letting him walk on the mine ... before it explodes.

Finally, as for the combat, unfortunately I do not think there was any kind of improvement over the previous chapters of the series. Maybe it's just me, and perhaps I spent too much time trying to finish the levels without being spotted by the guards, but I found it hard to tell the enemies apart and remember the various features that characterized them: only the enemies not affected by certain items (such as the smoke grenades) perhaps stand out, but it has more to do with the gameplay rather than the appearance of the enemy himself.

Graphics – Art Style


In terms of art style, the Chronicles series has never failed to impress. And also in this case Russia doesn’t come up short. The propaganda style promised during the (small) part of the marketing campaign dedicated to Russia permeates the entire game, from start to finish. White, red and black and their shades are the dominant colors in all the outdoor environments, portrayed mainly at night (the few daytime scenes show the blue sky and a few yellow tones). It’s possible to see the revolt in the streets, banners, trams, the rivers and the bridges crossing them and many architectural elements that characterize the towns of Yekaterineburg, Kazan and Moscow and everything contributes very positively to the immersion of the player in the game world and historical era.
In contrast, the interiors of the buildings appear more colored, but always consistent with the setting and the time period.
The difference between interiors and exteriors
Also it is very interesting to notice the diversification of the interiors that can be found in the game: from palaces to houses, from the semi-abandoned buildings to the laboratories.
As for the cutscenes, the style is maybe a little more cartoony and perhaps a little less detailed than what we’ve seen in the rest of the game, but in general it’s able to decently convey the events that take place on screen, except, perhaps, in some few cases.
The art style, therefore, as usual, is undoubtedly the best aspect of Russia.

Audio / Soundtrack
In my opinion, the soundtrack is decent but it doesn’t particularly impress or remain in the player's head after playing and finishing the game, although the main theme is pretty epic and fits the historical era. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, at least it seems to me, the game doesn’t include long tracks or recurring tunes during specific activities.
As it has become a habit in the recent games, the Ezio's Family theme was re-used in this game too, both in the main theme and in the tracks used during the gameplay (and, like in the other games of the series, the guards whistling it are back).

As for the audio component of the game, while the sound effects seem to fit what they depict, the voice acting (in the English version we tested) seems to be, in my opinion, quite poor, especially the voice actor of Nikolai, who in most cases doesn’t seem involved at all in what he says, and often speaks with a voice so low that it is difficult to understand what he says. Probably it’s because of his hoarseness and the cold of Russia...

The speed with which this line is pronounced is one of the several examples of the voice acting in Russia (Source of the picture: Andrien Gbinigie)

The plot
The plot of Russia takes place between the end of The Fall and the beginning of The Chain. Nikolai, after losing a child, after surviving the
Tunguska explosion
Tunguska event and having a second daughter, Nadya, plans to abandon the Assassins and to escape from the turmoil in Russia through false documents but cannot afford them through the Assassins. For this reason he decides to have his last mission for the hooded ones hoping to find a way to afford these papers. The mission, entrusted to him in St. Petersburg, requires him to recover - and this might surprise you - the Precursor Box, which according to informants is in the hands of the Tsar's family, who is kept prisoner by the Bolsheviks in Yekaterineburg. This is where Nikolai's mission starts, with him getting to the Ipatiev House where all of the Tsar's family members have already been killed (as Nikolai had told the tsar in The Fall, "The next man they send to kill you will not be as objective") and reaching Anastasia, the second playable character.
This is the moment where one of the topical elements of the entire plot of the game appears. When Nikolai saves Anastasia (unlike what happened historically), the shard of the Staff in his possession and the Precursor box owned by the girl interact, and, mentioning a sentence that appears in
AnastaShaoJun (Source: Andrien Gbinigie)
the final stages of the game, Anastasia through the Box has been imprinted with the genetic memories of Shao Jun, which apparently means that some if not all of the genetic memories of the Chinese Assassin have been transferred to her. A sort of Bleeding Effect caused by the Box ... which actually in the game is made to appear much more as if she were possessed by the real Shao Jun, which instead would be meaningless in a context like that of AC.
The girl turns out to be able to unconsciously do things she did not believe to be able to do: she can open locks, perform parkour, kill guards, and she also has Eagle Vision. Even here we can see some very similar symptoms to those of the Bleeding Effect caused by the Animus. In a few moments, then, in an initially cryptic if not misleading manner, we learn that the Precursor Box is also able to transfer / imprint memories, in addition to interpreting the manuscripts of the First Civilization (with the ability to create three-dimensional maps, showing Isu Temples HDI), and to work together to Koh-i-Noor (again to create three-dimensional maps that show Isu Temples). And to help people when they lose their way, as good old Ezio Auditore said.

Anastasia gradually begins to move like an assassin because of Shao Jun's memories (also using the Rope Dart) ... until she gets the "Helix Blend" ability ... and realizes she can become invisible. Basically we see one of the characters in the historical part of the game understand the effects caused on her by an ability generated by a simulation in Helix in the present day. I do not think I want to go further in describing how illogical this detail is.

In any case, Nikolai and the girl begin to build their relationship initially just trying to use the other for their own purposes and to save themselves. Gradually their collaboration within the various missions and their common enemy make their bond stronger (despite Nikolai's terrible vocal performance) and get the Russian assassin to worry about the fate of the girl and to try and help her during the moments in which ... .... Shao Jun seems to possess her ... ... ...

Nikolai meets Trotzky
The two escape from Yekaterinesburg using the Trans-Siberian railway (there are no links to the Trans-Siberian railway in ACInitiates, if you were wondering) to reach the supposed friend of Nikolai, Leon Trotsky (a real historical character, founder of the Red Army and one of the leaders of the Communist Party), who soon reveals to be interested in the girl not so much for the Box but for the fact that she is a symbol of the tsar's family which needs to be be destroyed for the Revolution. In this situation, therefore, Trotsky's character reminds me a little of some of the revolutionary extremists in Unity, who were ready to perform unnecessary violence, justified by the cause of the revolution (perhaps I'm reading too much into the character...).

In this case, it's Anya (Anastasia) who saves Nikolai, , once again "supported" by Shao Jun, after he was captured by Trotsky. Generally Anya must "resort to" Shao Jun's memories whenever she needs to play an active role in the story. To do so, it seems like it's enough for her to let the memories of the Chinese Assassin's take over, thus giving the idea that she is constantly trying to control her memories and keep in mind who she really is.

The highlight of the story is obviously in the end, when finally Nikolai takes Anastasia and the Box to the Assassins in Moscow. The mission seems to be over and with a happy ending when in fact the worst is yet to come.
Not to forget...
Nikolai, along with Anya, in front of the Moscow headquarters meet Sergei, an old acquaintance for the Assassin's Creed hardcore fans: it is the Assassin scientist grandfather of Galina Voronina that appeared in Initiates and The Chain, who traveled to America in search of the shard of the Staff of Eden and Nikolai on behalf of the Assassins and that was killed by the latter because he was threatening his life and that of his son Innokenti.

Already in Chronicles Russia Sergei proves to be an antagonist for Nikolai and his behavior (along with that of the other Assassins and the Mentor) is the spark that drives the protagonist of the game to want to cut all ties with the Assassins and to leave Russia with even greater vigor. In fact, Sergei tells Nikolai that he will bring Anya to the Mentor to cure her from her... split personality, and that Nikolai will have to go and make a report on his latest findings at the Assassin's local Bureau.
While he is waiting at the Bureau, Nikolai overhears other Assassins confirming that Anastasia has received an "imprinting" of memories from the past and therefore she is a kind of like a living Precursor artifact. For this reason, the real intentions of the Mentor and Sergei are to extract Shao Jun's memories from Anastasia with an unspecified process that will probably kill her.

The relationship built throughout the game makes so that Nikolai is now caring for the girl that he had met two months earlier, with whom he shared his latest adventures and for this reason the assassin (already willing to abandon the Brotherhood) rushes to search for her, heedless of the several brothers that stand in his way. A new Perotto Calderon, if you will, with a less convincing story and reasons than those of the Renaissance assassin.

The underground laboratories
Obviously Nikolai manages to save the girl from the underground laboratories where she was hidden to be studied and subjected to the "procedures" needed to extract of the memories, and the two once again helping each other, manage to escape. The end of the story sees Nikolai deliver to Anastasia the false documents needed for the expatriation that after much hard work he had managed to obtain for himself and his family. Anastasia makes her farewells and travels to the United States under the name of Anna Anderson, convinced of being able to hold off the memories that have been implanted in her, and then to keep being herself.

Also, giving Anastasia those papers is not much of a problem for Nikolai. After all, as it was heavily implied in The Chain, it is thanks to the shard of the Staff of Eden that Nikolai and his family managed to escape from Russia without consequences.

The plot of Russia, therefore, proves to be interesting in terms of the personal arcs undertaken by the characters, but it poorly executed due to the very poor and not engaging voice acting. Anya's character has a great and unexpected spotlight in the plot, and a very welcome one to be fair, also because of the chance of having her as a playable character.
The Precursor Box,
from The Russia database
The new ability of the Precursor Box, although interesting in itself, and maybe an indication of future developments as we'll see, actually creates further confusion regarding this Piece of Eden and makes it perhaps even more important (but also more "rejected" by hardcore fans) than it previously was. In this regard, while the Chronicles series (which could also be renamed the "Precursor Box" series) tried to create a historical path of the Box through time, with objectives that soon we will see, actually it has failed in its intent, creating more confusion and possible plot holes about an artifact that already between AC: Embers and AC: Rogue had shown some inconsistencies. In addition to this, the Box - or rather, the BoxES - has now achieved an importance that probably it did not have originally, and, bringing with it the confusion and inconsistencies arising from the past releases of the franchise, it risks to be counter-productive or even harmful for the franchise.

What is certain is that this is not the last we'll see of the Box, because finally with Russia it was possible to solve the mystery of the 12 codes scattered in the three chapters of the Chronicles series. In fact, as we showed on our page, the input of the 12 codes leads to a very short sequence dedicated to the present day, the only of its kind in the whole Chronicles series.

Laetitia England playing the
Abstergo version of Minesweeper
In the video, which must necessarily be watched after playing three games in the series, or at least Russia, it's possible to see Laetitia England who urgently calls Otso Berg to discuss about "Shay Cormac's" Precursor Box that was recovered in 2014 by him after it had been stolen (in Rotterdam, by Harlan T. Cunningham and Arend Schut, more details in our 2014 Scenario). It's interesting that England says "You recovered it last year ", yet another clue that indicates that Russia and this sequence had to be released in 2015.
In any case, England asks Berg to deliver the Box to Gramática in his laboratory whose location even she is not aware of (this, in turn, could imply that Russia would have to be released close to Syndicate and its Jack the Ripper DLC, considering that the location of Gramática's laboratory is the main target for the Assassins in the DLC).

Berg obtains the coordinates from Gramática and joins him in his laboratory, handing him the Box that had belonged to Shay. Asked by Berg about what he plans to do with the artifact, Gramática says he will use it to better understand another artifact that the Templars have uncovered - probably the doctor refers to the Shroud that has just been recovered during the events in Syndicate.
As a last piece of information, Gramática adds that the research he's working on is dealing with is (once again) the Phoenix Project, the project through which Abstergo is trying to sequence the genome of the First Civilization, and, indirectly, to re-engineer the Pieces of Eden .

If the other artifact mentioned by Gramática really is the Shroud, the Precursor Box, given the new developments in the plot of Chronicles Russia (that the Templars did not know about before, as mentioned by England), could have an important function. The reconstruction of a Precursor "from scratch" through the Shroud, as shown in the Syndicate may lead to the creation of the body of this entity, but in all likelihood it might not bring the memories or knowledge of a Precursor.
The new piece in the Phoenix Project puzzle
Through the Box, therefore, which necessarily belonged to the Precursors and thus has been touched by them and might have registered their genetic memories as it did with Shao Jun, Gramática could transfer these memories in "Precursor Body" built with the Shroud. At this point Gramática would have a lot to play with ... if Juno weren't lurking around, at least.

Finally, it is interesting to note that England has ordered Berg not to tell anyone about the Box, and about it being handed to Gramática. Perhaps she is afraid that even among the most trusted allies might lie an Instrument of the First Will...

This concludes our review / analysis of Assassin's Creed Chronicles Russia and its secret ending sequence. What do you think about it? Do you agree with the views expressed in this article or do you have different opinions? And which are your ideas about the possible developments in the present day?

Let us know in the comments!

comments powered by Disqus




The forgotten TWCB

Six we tried in succession