Course Correcting Assassin's Creed

Posted by yeah_write (219 posts) -

I think most fans of Assassin’s Creed were rightfully nervous when Ubisoft announced just months after the stellar second installment in 2009 that the series would become a yearly franchise. We waited two years between the first and second game, and the improvements were vast, how could they do the same in a year? 2010’s AC: Brotherhood turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In just 12 months Ubisoft managed to flesh out the gameplay, refine some existing features, and add a unique, and genuinely fun multiplayer component.

After such a successful turnaround on Brotherhood, I was more than happy to purchase Revelations, the 2011 game, on day one. It’s definitely a great game, and if you like Assassin’s Creed, you’ll enjoy it, but it doesn’t move the series forward much. What it does do is offer further refinement of the core mechanics, and some glimpses at interesting gameplay and story possibilities for the franchise. Also if you liked the multiplayer, it’s even better here.

With Revelations, the AC franchise has reached a fork in the road. One direction leads to further innovation and exciting new gameplay elements. The other direction leads to the death of the franchise through stagnation and over saturation. Here’s what I think Ubisoft should do more of to stay on the right path, and what they should do less of to avoid the bargain bin.

More Customization

It’s fun to buy different armor, weapons and clothing for Ezio, but I’d like to see them take the customization a step further. You start Revelations with an overwhelming number of moves. You’ve got access to every item from the previous games, plus a slew of new bombs and a handful of new hook blade abilities. Revelations does a poor job of introducing you to the old gadgets, instead focusing on the new stuff. But I didn’t really need the new stuff. I didn’t use bombs much because I still had knives, and a gun, and a crossbow, and poison darts and Assassin’s to call. That’s a lot of stuff! I would love to see my play style rewarded and the inventory simplified through a Deus Ex-like leveling system. Instead of giving me everything, let me choose what I want. Then let me level up the things I like. Instead of just buying a bigger pouch for knives, make it a perk on a knife skill tree. Revelations gives you a zillion different options, but when the stuff introduced in AC 2 still works so well, there’s little incentive to branch out. I think a RPG-like leveling system, complete with perks and cool unlocks, would do just that.

More Linear Level Excursions

Brotherhood and Revelations featured some excellent one-off levels that had a clear linear path. The change of scenery and gameplay focus—you can’t just free run any old way to your objective—is refreshing and fun. You can tell the designers enjoy these levels too, as the interior linear levels in Revelations feature some of the series’ best technical and artistic design. I’d like to see more of these levels in future games. Maybe turn the main city into a hub, and have up to half of the missions take place elsewhere. That makes room for more environmental and platforming puzzles, which adds variety to the core gameplay loop.

More Consequential Platforming

The addition of the hook blade makes platforming in Revelations more participatory, and that’s a good thing. Sure, it still looks cool to see Ezio parkour all over ancient buildings, but after four games of sitting and holding up, it was getting old. The hook blade requires a button press in most platforming situations. Now chase sequences actually require timing and skill. I’d love to see them take this a step further. Add a slide or roll maneuver, or just find more ways to use the hook blade while free running to build momentum. I’d like to see games as whole break away from the whole autopilot thing. I want to play my games. Revelations lets you play more than any Assassins’ Creed game before it.

Less Tower Defense

You may have heard that Revelations features a tower defense minigame. It's not aggressively bad, but it's not fun either. Because it serves as a punishment for letting your notoriety get too high, it's not something you look forward to. Also, it totally breaks the fiction of the series. The past three games build the war between the assassins and templars as a secret war, happening in plain site. Huge armies of both factions battling in the middle of the street over a random tower is the opposite of secretive.

Less Convolution

I like the AC series because it fills that conspiracy theory hole that Lost left in my life. I like the mystery of the animus and first civilization, and the crazy secret war between two factions, but I think Ubisoft needs to reign it in a bit. I hope the next game contains some concrete answers that push the story and game world forward. This is a lucrative franchise for Ubisoft, so I doubt it will end with next year’s game. If they want to stay relevant, they can’t continue to rely on the same conflict. I suggest they start with a face to the Templar name. Each game has stretched the Templar name further, using it as a vague and generic term for bad guy. Give us a true villain, a bad guy leader, in the next game. Put Desmond up against something or someone other than “them”.

Less Face Changes

Revelations opens with a quick recap from the first two games. In it you see Desmond, wearing his white hoody. Then the game starts and you see Desmond in a black hoody…but the changes don’t stop at his clothing. For some reason, after three games, the developers decided to change Desmond’s character model. It’s immediately noticeable and off putting because they open with the old model in the recap. The new Desmond looks all puffy and swollen and dumb. They should change him back. The other character's faces have changed with age, and their changes look appropriate. There's no reason for Desmond looking like he got hit with an ugly stick. This one is nitpicky, I know, but it drove me crazy nonetheless. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Revelations hints at some cool changes for the series, but it also hints at some potential missteps. The story in this new game offers little forward movement, choosing instead to focus on the back story of its main characters. It’s kind of a bummer that the cliffhanger in Brotherhood isn’t addressed, but at least the character development for Altair, Ezio and Desmond is top notch. The writing and gameplay works together to paint Ezio as a master assassin and mentor, and it’s neat to see how much he’s matured since the first game. I recommend watching AC: Embers, the cool animated short, when you finish Revelations if you want to check in on Ezio one last time. As for Altair and Desmond, we finally get to see why the former was so revered (because the first game certainly didn’t make him out to be an amazing guy) and why the latter is so special.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Revelations, and I’m looking forward to jumping back in to get the rest of the single player achievements—which has become a bit of a tradition for me with AC games. The turnaround since the last game was fast, but as Stephen Totilo pointed out in his excellent review, no one has done a game like Assassin’s Creed since the last Assassin’s Creed. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to come back every season for more. Let’s hope next year’s is even better.

#1 Posted by yeah_write (219 posts) -

I think most fans of Assassin’s Creed were rightfully nervous when Ubisoft announced just months after the stellar second installment in 2009 that the series would become a yearly franchise. We waited two years between the first and second game, and the improvements were vast, how could they do the same in a year? 2010’s AC: Brotherhood turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In just 12 months Ubisoft managed to flesh out the gameplay, refine some existing features, and add a unique, and genuinely fun multiplayer component.

After such a successful turnaround on Brotherhood, I was more than happy to purchase Revelations, the 2011 game, on day one. It’s definitely a great game, and if you like Assassin’s Creed, you’ll enjoy it, but it doesn’t move the series forward much. What it does do is offer further refinement of the core mechanics, and some glimpses at interesting gameplay and story possibilities for the franchise. Also if you liked the multiplayer, it’s even better here.

With Revelations, the AC franchise has reached a fork in the road. One direction leads to further innovation and exciting new gameplay elements. The other direction leads to the death of the franchise through stagnation and over saturation. Here’s what I think Ubisoft should do more of to stay on the right path, and what they should do less of to avoid the bargain bin.

More Customization

It’s fun to buy different armor, weapons and clothing for Ezio, but I’d like to see them take the customization a step further. You start Revelations with an overwhelming number of moves. You’ve got access to every item from the previous games, plus a slew of new bombs and a handful of new hook blade abilities. Revelations does a poor job of introducing you to the old gadgets, instead focusing on the new stuff. But I didn’t really need the new stuff. I didn’t use bombs much because I still had knives, and a gun, and a crossbow, and poison darts and Assassin’s to call. That’s a lot of stuff! I would love to see my play style rewarded and the inventory simplified through a Deus Ex-like leveling system. Instead of giving me everything, let me choose what I want. Then let me level up the things I like. Instead of just buying a bigger pouch for knives, make it a perk on a knife skill tree. Revelations gives you a zillion different options, but when the stuff introduced in AC 2 still works so well, there’s little incentive to branch out. I think a RPG-like leveling system, complete with perks and cool unlocks, would do just that.

More Linear Level Excursions

Brotherhood and Revelations featured some excellent one-off levels that had a clear linear path. The change of scenery and gameplay focus—you can’t just free run any old way to your objective—is refreshing and fun. You can tell the designers enjoy these levels too, as the interior linear levels in Revelations feature some of the series’ best technical and artistic design. I’d like to see more of these levels in future games. Maybe turn the main city into a hub, and have up to half of the missions take place elsewhere. That makes room for more environmental and platforming puzzles, which adds variety to the core gameplay loop.

More Consequential Platforming

The addition of the hook blade makes platforming in Revelations more participatory, and that’s a good thing. Sure, it still looks cool to see Ezio parkour all over ancient buildings, but after four games of sitting and holding up, it was getting old. The hook blade requires a button press in most platforming situations. Now chase sequences actually require timing and skill. I’d love to see them take this a step further. Add a slide or roll maneuver, or just find more ways to use the hook blade while free running to build momentum. I’d like to see games as whole break away from the whole autopilot thing. I want to play my games. Revelations lets you play more than any Assassins’ Creed game before it.

Less Tower Defense

You may have heard that Revelations features a tower defense minigame. It's not aggressively bad, but it's not fun either. Because it serves as a punishment for letting your notoriety get too high, it's not something you look forward to. Also, it totally breaks the fiction of the series. The past three games build the war between the assassins and templars as a secret war, happening in plain site. Huge armies of both factions battling in the middle of the street over a random tower is the opposite of secretive.

Less Convolution

I like the AC series because it fills that conspiracy theory hole that Lost left in my life. I like the mystery of the animus and first civilization, and the crazy secret war between two factions, but I think Ubisoft needs to reign it in a bit. I hope the next game contains some concrete answers that push the story and game world forward. This is a lucrative franchise for Ubisoft, so I doubt it will end with next year’s game. If they want to stay relevant, they can’t continue to rely on the same conflict. I suggest they start with a face to the Templar name. Each game has stretched the Templar name further, using it as a vague and generic term for bad guy. Give us a true villain, a bad guy leader, in the next game. Put Desmond up against something or someone other than “them”.

Less Face Changes

Revelations opens with a quick recap from the first two games. In it you see Desmond, wearing his white hoody. Then the game starts and you see Desmond in a black hoody…but the changes don’t stop at his clothing. For some reason, after three games, the developers decided to change Desmond’s character model. It’s immediately noticeable and off putting because they open with the old model in the recap. The new Desmond looks all puffy and swollen and dumb. They should change him back. The other character's faces have changed with age, and their changes look appropriate. There's no reason for Desmond looking like he got hit with an ugly stick. This one is nitpicky, I know, but it drove me crazy nonetheless. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Revelations hints at some cool changes for the series, but it also hints at some potential missteps. The story in this new game offers little forward movement, choosing instead to focus on the back story of its main characters. It’s kind of a bummer that the cliffhanger in Brotherhood isn’t addressed, but at least the character development for Altair, Ezio and Desmond is top notch. The writing and gameplay works together to paint Ezio as a master assassin and mentor, and it’s neat to see how much he’s matured since the first game. I recommend watching AC: Embers, the cool animated short, when you finish Revelations if you want to check in on Ezio one last time. As for Altair and Desmond, we finally get to see why the former was so revered (because the first game certainly didn’t make him out to be an amazing guy) and why the latter is so special.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Revelations, and I’m looking forward to jumping back in to get the rest of the single player achievements—which has become a bit of a tradition for me with AC games. The turnaround since the last game was fast, but as Stephen Totilo pointed out in his excellent review, no one has done a game like Assassin’s Creed since the last Assassin’s Creed. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to come back every season for more. Let’s hope next year’s is even better.

#2 Edited by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

The tower defense is literally killing the experience for me. I liked having a high reputations because people would fight you on the spot, and it meant I got to stab more dudes. Now I have to use discretion, and there's literally no point to free-roaming in the game if I have to be scared for my dens everytime I want to have a little fun. I'm just going to rush through the story missions and see how much I can get for it. I've never been so disappointed.

Also I disagree about having more linear levels, that's the worst idea ever. The whole point of the AC games was that you could approach missions and assassinations from any angle, any way you wanted. Take the freedom away and you have a generic PoP-wannabe with an all-too-easy combat system.

On that note, where the hell ARE the assassinations? For a game called Assassin's Creed, I'm doing an awful lot of dull errands, boring diversions, and things that generally don't involve stabbing people in the face, which is pretty lame.

#3 Posted by MetalBaofu (1442 posts) -

@MikkaQ said:

The tower defense is literally killing the experience for me. I liked having a high reputations because people would fight you on the spot, and it meant I got to stab more dudes. Now I have to use discretion, and there's literally no point to free-roaming in the game if I have to be scared for my dens everytime I want to have a little fun. I'm just going to rush through the story missions and see how much I can get for it. I've never been so disappointed.

You can get rid of having to worry about den defense pretty early along in the game. I just focused on getting masters in them as soon as I could, because I didn't really the den defense stuff either. I only had to do 2 den defenses when I played it(not counting the tutorial one), and I fought dudes and had a high rep fairly often. I did bribe heralds and whatnot to keep it down some, though, but that's because I prefer not being attacked on sight.

#4 Posted by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

@metalhead87 said:

@MikkaQ said:

The tower defense is literally killing the experience for me. I liked having a high reputations because people would fight you on the spot, and it meant I got to stab more dudes. Now I have to use discretion, and there's literally no point to free-roaming in the game if I have to be scared for my dens everytime I want to have a little fun. I'm just going to rush through the story missions and see how much I can get for it. I've never been so disappointed.

You can get rid of having to worry about den defense pretty early along in the game. I just focused on getting masters in them as soon as I could, because I didn't really the den defense stuff either. I only had to do 2 den defenses when I played it(not counting the tutorial one), and I fought dudes and had a high rep fairly often. I did bribe heralds and whatnot to keep it down some, though, but that's because I prefer not being attacked on sight.

But every time I take over a den, my notoriety goes up to the point where they attack mine. How did you deal with that?

Also how do I even assign masters to a den? This game... doesn't explain things very clearly, and Ubi has ditched the concept of manuals so I have nothing to refer to.

#5 Posted by MetalBaofu (1442 posts) -

@MikkaQ said:

@metalhead87 said:

@MikkaQ said:

The tower defense is literally killing the experience for me. I liked having a high reputations because people would fight you on the spot, and it meant I got to stab more dudes. Now I have to use discretion, and there's literally no point to free-roaming in the game if I have to be scared for my dens everytime I want to have a little fun. I'm just going to rush through the story missions and see how much I can get for it. I've never been so disappointed.

You can get rid of having to worry about den defense pretty early along in the game. I just focused on getting masters in them as soon as I could, because I didn't really the den defense stuff either. I only had to do 2 den defenses when I played it(not counting the tutorial one), and I fought dudes and had a high rep fairly often. I did bribe heralds and whatnot to keep it down some, though, but that's because I prefer not being attacked on sight.

But every time I take over a den, my notoriety goes up to the point where they attack mine. How did you deal with that?

Also how do I even assign masters to a den? This game... doesn't explain things very clearly, and Ubi has ditched the concept of manuals so I have nothing to refer to.

Once the notoriety was up, I would just bribe heralds mainly. I would just always bribe them whenever I saw one. And kill those other guys that would occasionally pop up on the map...I forget what they were called, but they drop the meter 50%.

The game will inform you when you can assign an assassin to a den. They have to reach level 10(I think it was 10). Once you put them in a den they can level some more. Then, you level them to their new max(15?), and go to the den to do a mission for them. Once that mission is done that particular den cannot be attacked anymore. Just focus on recruiting/leveling assassins for a bit.

#6 Posted by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

@metalhead87: Alright, I'll try that, thanks.

This game still got a little too complicated for my tastes. AC II was the perfect balance for me.

#7 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

I've played 8 hours of ACR and I think it's pretty great. That lute playing part was fucking great and they've added some great cinematic touches.

#8 Posted by dietmango (1667 posts) -

I had fun with Revelations, but at the same time, kind of disappointed with it. Firstly, the tower defense wasn't fun at all. The "tutorial" tower defense part was the only time I ever did, and did all I can bribing heralds to avoid maxing out my notoriety level because I didn't want to do that bit ever again. The Desmond bits were good only because it gives you more insight on the character. The gameplay in those parts weren't so fun either. I was disappointed there weren't any cutscenes or whatever showing his experiences instead of just narration, but w/e.

There were also a lack of faction mission as well. It's like I did one for each (Romani, Mercenaries, Thieves), and then that was it. If I recall, Brotherhood had a fair amount for each. I was also hoping they'd expand more on customizing each assassin recruit other than the option to promote them to Master Assassin status, but that's all I got. And they were already Level 5, which kind of felt like was hand holding for me, in a way that the game basically did the stuff people would deem long-winded and unnecessary. They did a good job making the recruits feel like they're part of the story, giving them a bit of some personality in their MA missions, but I feel like they could've done more with it.

There were also story bits that felt inconsistent with Brotherhood. I was hoping they'd explain the stuff they introduced in the previous game, but they didn't. Not all of them. And I'm talking about specific key characters, btw. Also, where are the cryptic messages/puzzles? One of the best things about the AC franchise for me were the conspiracy theory/weaving real history with their own meta-universe features they keep going on about.

I don't know, I guess I was asking too much on Revelations, since Ubisoft did promise that all questions will be answered, but unfortunately, we're going to have to wait a while. The things that were great in Brotherhood carry over here, and the new features they added weren't much fun at all. I wish they did the notoriety and Den defense stuff differently and scrapped the tower defense crap, and some of the notable crazy things about the franchise were missing in this game. Altair's story I thought has a fitting end to the character's arc, though the Ezio stuff comes somewhat full circle only if you watch the Embers short film. Hopefully ACIII will be great, but after playing through Revelations, I'm kinda worried.

#9 Posted by dietmango (1667 posts) -

@kingzetta said:

I've played 8 hours of ACR and I think it's pretty great. That lute playing part was fucking great and they've added some great cinematic touches.

Ha yeah, I had fun with that part. Basically talking about the things that happened in Brotherhood and II was a nice touch.

Also, Ezio can sing!?

#10 Posted by cstrang (2381 posts) -

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like you're more easily noticed in Revelations than in Brotherhood. One of the reasons I enjoyed Brotherhood so much was that it specifically crafted scenarios and levels that made you feel like a really sneaky, badass motherfucker. In Revelations, it feels like all of these guards have unbelievable vision, and that scenarios are crafted to force you to get familiar with the smoke and distraction bombs, which I can do without.

#11 Posted by yeah_write (219 posts) -

@cstrang: I think you're right. Guards do seem to take notice of you quicker in Revelations than in Brotherhood. That's a shame because it forces you to play a way you might not want to play. I suggest leveling up your assassins as fast as you can. It improves the experience in two ways:

1. Protects your dens so you don't have to do the tower defense game. During my play through I did the den defense game four times. Once when the story required, two more times to defend my dens throughout the game before my assassin's were leveled, and then one last time to get the achievement.

2. Leveling up your assassins gets you the Master Assassin armor. The armor and health stats are maxed out and it also makes you harder for guards to hear or notice. Wearing that armor, I could sprint past guards on rooftops without raising suspicion. Also, it looks pretty cool.

#12 Posted by cstrang (2381 posts) -

@yeah_write said:

@cstrang: I think you're right. Guards do seem to take notice of you quicker in Revelations than in Brotherhood. That's a shame because it forces you to play a way you might not want to play. I suggest leveling up your assassins as fast as you can. It improves the experience in two ways:

1. Protects your dens so you don't have to do the tower defense game. During my play through I did the den defense game four times. Once when the story required, two more times to defend my dens throughout the game before my assassin's were leveled, and then one last time to get the achievement.

2. Leveling up your assassins gets you the Master Assassin armor. The armor and health stats are maxed out and it also makes you harder for guards to hear or notice. Wearing that armor, I could sprint past guards on rooftops without raising suspicion. Also, it looks pretty cool.

Good to know about the master armor. I've been spending a good amount of time leveling my underlings, but I still only have the one story-given full assassin.

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