Review: Assassin's Creed: Revelations
It’s weird to think that the first Assassin’s Creed came out in 2007. It seems like such an old and revered franchise, mainly because Ubisoft has been pumping annual sequels since Assassin’s Creed II in 2009. People were skeptical of such a tactic, but Ubisoft was given the benefit of the doubt with the outstanding Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Now, with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations out again only a year later, it’s easy to see why the public would be apprehensive. Although there is a feeling of “been there, done that” that permeates Revelations, it still manages to continue the immensely enjoyable murder simulation that is Assassin’s Creed. It also offers some really cool insight to the protagonist of the first game, Altair, and it would behoove those interested in the lore to play through this game.
The story of the Assassin’s Creed games is what draws me into them, and Revelations continues that trend by setting the stage for some wacky stuff to happen. After the totally insane ending of Brotherhood, Desmond is now in some sort of Animus induced coma, and is placed upon an island in the Animus. There, he meets the oft-mentioned Subject 16, who reveals to Desmond that for him to regain consciousness, he must see the complete lives of Altair and Ezio. This is convenient, as Ezio is looking for 5 Masyaf keys which Altair left behind, and each key contains crucial moments in Altair’s life which Ezio can go back and witness. These moments are some of the most interesting parts of Revelations, and it’s great to see Altair as a man with a little more personality and complexity, especially compared to how he was portrayed in the first game. Desmond’s backstory is attempted to be explained as well, through the use of first person puzzles that require a lot of platforming. These sections fell flat, as complex puzzles done in the first person are just frustrating, and the method of storytelling is only through a Desmond voice over. Although these segments are optional, it’s disappointing that the main character’s background couldn’t have been revealed in a more engaging way.
Unfurling behind all this is the story of Constantinople and the political shifts the city is going through. Once again, the Templars and Assassins are fighting for power, and the role of the Sultan plays a big part. Unfortunately, this portion of the story wasn’t as intriguing, mainly because it’s not very personal. The tales in II and Brotherhood affected Ezio’s life in a more heartfelt way, and were more relatable as a result. They do attempt to make it more intimate by adding in a love interest for Ezio, but it’s not as effective as it was in the previous games. The city of Constantinople also has a flair more akin to the first game in the series. There’s a Middle-eastern approach to it, with dusty roads and a large bazaar placed in the middle of the city. Although I personally enjoyed the jaunty European style of Venice and Rome more, as long as the city has rooftops to run across, then any setting is fine with me.
Ezio Auditore is now considerably older, sporting wrinkles and a gray beard, but his physical prowess has not been diminished. You’ll still be scaling huge buildings and leaping impossible distances as Ezio, and the fantastic feel of the motion is intact as well. The main new addition to the gameplay, the hookblade, assists in making the movement feel even smoother than before. The hookblade not only allows Ezio to climb faster and make longer jumps, but also lets him utilize zip lines installed in the city to quickly cross from one rooftop to another. The feel of the movement is still spot on in Revelations. The best parts of the Assassin’s Creed games are when you’re deftly jumping from one platform to the next, and Revelations maintains that tactility perfectly. One memorable mission has you chasing a boat through an underground cavern, and the speed and fluidity of the action throughout the entire level is an exhilarating experience.
Many tenets from Brotherhood are here in Revelations. You can level up your brotherhood by sending them out to complete missions in other cities, liberate Templar dens to house your own assassins, and signal your assassins to assist you in fights. Revelations adds a minigame in the form of tower defense. If one of your dens gets attacked by Templars, you can defend your turf by taking part in a tower defense minigame where you place archers or assassins on various rooftops to halt the advancing Templar attack. This mode isn’t terribly exciting and is usually more of a chore than anything else.
But the fact still remains that regardless of some meaningless additions, the simple action of killing dudes in Revelations is as satisfying as ever. The free flow combat from Brotherhood that allowed Ezio to perform one execution to the next still feels and looks awesome. Ezio has the same arsenal from his previous games, and all these weapons continue to be as fun as ever to use. You’ll also be able to craft different kinds of explosives ranging from destructive bombs which will outright kill your enemies, to smoke bombs that will disorient those around you. These add a little flavor and spice to the gameplay, and it’s often hilarious to see a group of guards explode every which way after a bomb detonates.
Although the experience may vary for other people, I have to mention the numerous technical complications I bumped into on the 360 version. In addition to the small, minor glitches I would encounter, such as random textures obscuring my view by popping up through the ground, I had a horrible problem where the game would lock up on me constantly. It was so bad that I could barely play for longer than an hour at a time. Eventually, taking my 360 offline solved that issue, but it’s an inconvenience that I need to mention, even if that issue is only unique to my system.
The fundamental knock against Revelations is that it all feels just so familiar. There aren’t any major new weapons, and many of the same mission structures are still present. The people I would recommend Revelations to is somewhat of a paradox. The story and the unraveling of Altair’s background is what was most riveting to me about Revelations, but only those heavily invested into the Assassin’s Creed universe would be interested in that. However, to those deeply rooted into the franchise, the gameplay offered in Revelations is so similar to previous games that some may get burned out quickly and easily. The plot of Ezio’s final adventure is still interesting and the core gameplay is entertaining enough so that those who stick with Revelations will still get a meaningful experience, regardless of the familiarity.