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Assassin’s Creed Jade preview: Mobile gaming, but not as we know it

A fully canon Assassin’s Creed game in the palm of your hand

Assassin’s Creed Jade was one of my must-plays at Gamescom this year, if only because I was curious if a fully-fledged Assassin’s Creed game could really be brought to mobile and still feel like Assassin’s Creed. And this is a full Assassin’s Creed game, because while an external studio is developing it, Ubisoft is still pulling all the strings. While the currently secret studio can decide things such as side stories and gameplay, the main story is completely under Ubisoft’s control, handing down plot points periodically from on high. The studio has so little control over the story we were told that even the team doesn’t know the ending yet.

Jade features full character customization, which we are assured will have a full canon reason for. This finer detail is up to the team, though there was talk of a virus or glitch in the animus, which is the usual excuse when it comes to Assassin’s Creed lore. In terms of story, it takes place between Odyssey and Origins, before the Assassins and the Templars even existed, and our main character in this timeline is a proto-assassin with their own unique story.

Assassin's Creed Jade artwork

AC Jade's story takes place between Odyssey and Origins in Qin Dynasty China.

Set during the Qin Dynasty, the team wanted the theme of freedom and control that took place at this time to flow into the gameplay. Jade will feature a fully open world, one which the studio hopes players will want to keep coming back to and exploring. Adding to the replayability will be multiplayer modes. These aren’t fully fleshed out yet, but will feature some cooperative special missions, and there was an emphasis that there will be no PvP combat. It’s still a single-player story, though, and the main story can be completed on your own.

But how does Jade feel? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that in terms of your typical Assassin’s Creed games, it’s an incredibly close approximation. The controls are out of the way, and adapt to the situation, so they don’t take up too much of the screen. The joystick is invisible, but the movement is very intuitive. Everything you want from Assassin’s Creed gameplay is also very much here. The parkour is fast and fluid, the assassinations are fast and easy to pull off, and while the face-to-face combat isn’t anything flashy, we feel that it lines up with what you expect from the series.

Assassin's Creed Jade artwork

Jade feels like a fully-fledged Assassin's Creed game.

What most blew us away was the synchronization. Synchronizations are some of the best parts of Assassin’s Creed games, and the views are just as breathtaking and they are on console. It’s hard to believe that this is achieved all on a smartphone, but it is, and all without lag or technical hitches. Part of this is because the game is only downloaded in parts, and when you get so far, you will have to download a new section.

The most curious thing to me about the hands-on and talk with a developer, was the lack of knowledge of other handheld Assassin’s Creed games. They said it was the first fully canon handheld Assassin’s Creed game, to which I pointed to Liberation on Vita, which also has touch controls. They then admitted they’d never played it, pointing then to Assassin’s Creed games on smartphones. However, there are nine other Assassin’s Creed phone games, and while most are spin-offs of some sort, two of them could be counted as canon.

Assassin's Creed Jade artwork great wall of China

Assassin's Creed's setting takes you to the Great Wall of China.

The second ever Assassin’s Creed game was Altair’s Chronicles, which was released on phones and Nintendo DS. This was a prequel to the first game, and while it looks very dated by today’s standards, you can see that it has all the markers of a typical main series game. The second game worth talking about is Identity, which takes place alongside the story of Brotherhood. This one has graphical fidelity and gameplay similar to Liberation, with a mission-based structure that takes place in semi-open areas. Identity is no longer available, but even if you were to play it today, it would be hard to argue that it isn’t a fully-fledged Assassin’s Creed game on smartphone.

What Jade does have other Identity and Altair’s Chronicles is its full open world, and while Jade is distinct in this way, we were concerned about the lack of knowledge concerning these previous entries. Liberation on Vita was a mess technically, and it would have been good to take note of the successes and failures that each of these games had. Despite this, we don’t think Assassin’s Creed Jade will disappoint fans. While an open world doesn’t seem to suit mobile as a platform, the consistent save system will allow players to easily pick it up and put it down.

Assassin's Creed Jade teaser

We don’t think Assassin’s Creed Jade will disappoint fans.

The developer also seems aware of the strengths and drawbacks of the platform, and while the main story as it stands will be a tight 10-hour experience, live service elements, and additional chapters will apparently be added post-launch. It’s shaping up to be one of the best mobile games yet, and we hope that it is able to cross the finish line.