Giant Bomb Review

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Assassin's Creed: Revelations Review

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The laws of diminishing returns have started to affect Assassin’s Creed, and while Revelations doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its subtitle, there’s still plenty to like about what may be Ezio Auditore’s final adventure.

Istanbul. Or Constantinople. Whatever!

Last year’s release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood came saddled with concerns that Ubisoft was too quick to capitalize on the success of Assassin’s Creed II, a terrific adventure that went to great lengths to address the issues of elegance and repetition of the still-ambitious original. Brotherhood allayed these concerns with meaningful additions to both the gameplay and the story, and a general sense of cohesion that you might not expect from a game of such scope turned around in just one year’s time. Now we have Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the third game in the series in as many years. The production values are as strong as ever, and it retains most of the tricks that kept Brotherhood from feeling like an also-ran, like the ability to build your own assassin’s guild and a surprisingly engaging suite of multiplayer modes. The additions Revelations makes on top of those features, though, don’t feel quite as essential to the experience, sometimes adding complication just for the sake of it. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the name alone, suggests a certain amount of closure, but the greater Assassin’s Creed story feels like it’s starting to spin its wheels.

Let me just say right now, if you’re not current with the Assassin’s Creed series, or if this would be your first Assassin’s Creed game, you should probably stop reading here and get yourself caught up. Though it tries gamely with a quick-cut “previously on...” montage to get folks up to speed, the story of Revelations is so intrinsically tied to the previous games that it makes for a series introduction that’s confusing at best. Desmond Miles, the seemingly mild-mannered bartender whose genetic memory has been the stage for the Assassin’s Creed series up to now, is in a bad way after the events of Brotherhood. Left catatonic, with his mind fragmented between his own experiences, and those of his ancestors Altair and Ezio Auditore, Miles has been jacked back into the Animus as a sort of mental life support. Inside the Animus loading program he meets Subject 16, or at least what’s left of him, who lays out the plot pretty simply: Desmond needs to see Ezio and Altaïr's stories to their conclusion if he ever hopes to wake up.

Templars come in all shapes and sizes.

Even though the entirety of Revelations takes place inside Desmond’s mind, he’s barely a guest star here, with the focus primarily on Ezio, and, to a lesser extent, Altaïr. There is a peculiar set of optional side levels--abstract, awkward, first-person puzzles--you can load up from inside the Animus that offer some insight into Desmond’s back story, albeit in a shockingly dry, casual manner. Most of the time, though, you’re playing as Ezio, now a bearded, weathered old man, whose dogged campaign against the Templars has led him to Constantinople, where he hopes to find a set of five keys necessary to open Altaïr’s library back in Masyaf before the Templars do. There are major subplots in Constantinople concerning political maneuvering within the local Sultan’s family, as well as Ezio’s growing affection for a local book dealer who is assisting him in his search, but other than the typical, largely anonymous Templar forces working against him, there’s not much of a central conflict here--just a task that needs doing.

The keys to Altaïr’s library, it just so happens, are made from the same material as the Apple of Eden, and with each key Ezio finds, he’s given a brief glimpse into Altaïr’s life. (This means that Desmond’s experiences as Altaïr here are twice removed, though the game never gets all Inception with exploring the layering of reality.) Unlike Ezio, who has the full run of Constantinople, the episodes where you play as Altaïr are highly constrained, taking place almost exclusively in and around the guild castle at Masyaf from the first Assassin’s Creed. These sequences aren’t much to play, and though they provide some insight into snippets of Altaïr’s life after the events of Assassin’s Creed, their implications for the fiction at large seem limited. Yes, we know more about Altaïr’s family and his turbulent relationship with his guild, but it all goes by so quickly that it’s hard to get terribly invested. Generally speaking, Revelations is more interested in filling in back story than it is in maintaining forward momentum. There is an ironic paucity of revelations in Revelations.

"Dude, let go of my fannypack!"

It’s much easier to like Revelations if you’re not here for the story, as the fundamental action of dynamic urban traversal and timing-based combat that’s both lightning-quick and thick with arterial spray still feels terrific. With a few, minor exceptions--like the ubiquity of horses--Revelations brings back nearly all of the bells and whistles that helped make Brotherhood so good, such as the ability to cultivate your own assassin’s guild, send assassins out on international assignments, buy up local business for added income, take over Templar strongholds, and take on missions for the local mercenaries and thieves guilds.

On top of all this, Revelations piles on a few of its own systems. Ezio has had one of his standard hidden blades replaced with a locally sourced hookblade, which mostly just makes climbing up sheer buildings a bit faster and allows you to make use of Constantinople’s plentiful, conspicuous ziplines, though it also serves some minor combat and evasion purposes. The combat generally still moves at the same bracing speed as it did in Brotherhood, though you’ll eventually encounter enemies that require slightly more strategy and patience to take down--assuming you don’t just call in your guildmates to finish them off for you. Ezio also gets introduced to the craft of bomb-making, which allows you to combine different types of reagents you find, buy, or steal for different explosive results, which I regularly found quite handy.

Revelations makes a certain effort to unify some of its disparate systems, though by creating interdependencies between the assassin’s dens you establish in Constantinople, Ezio’s current “heat” level with the Templars, and the experience levels of the assassins you’ve been training, it’s more difficult for you to dabble in one while ignoring the others. Basically, if you don’t protect your dens, the Templars can try and steal them back. In order to retain control, you have to play through what is essentially a brief tower defense scenario, placing different types of assassins on rooftops and barriers in the streets to fend off waves of Templar attackers. Or, if you find the tower defense stuff as tedious as I did, you just let the Templars take over, then just sweep back in, murder the Templar captain, and take control again.

Sooner or later, everyone gets stabbed.

If there's one area that Revelations makes some unequivocal improvements over Brotherhood is in the multiplayer, which features more maps, more modes, more playable characters, and more customization options as you level up. Subtle tweaks make it easier to defend against an attacker, and the choice in certain modes to remove the directional radar in favor of a simpler, less explicit proximity meter means you have to pay closer attention to make sure the person you're following is your intended target. If there's a critique, it's that some of the modes can seem a little complicated at first blush, though a training room allows you to familiarize yourself without drawing the ire of Internet Teens.

For the most part, what was great about Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is still good in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but the new stuff doesn’t do much to improve the experience, and all the best moments just feel kind of familiar. Even though the game takes place in an entirely new city, the old-world aesthetic isn’t that radically different. This is probably overstating the shortcomings of Revelations, but when I finished the game I was left concerned about the future of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Ubisoft seems completely intent on making Assassin’s Creed an annual franchise, and at this rate, I’m afraid it will have exhausted its goodwill before we get to see a proper Assassin’s Creed III.

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Edited by Gabriel

Was waiting for this review gonna pick it up on Black Friday I think.

Posted by PrioritySeven

Good review. I'm a fan of the series, so I'm looking forward to more. But I have a feeling "more of the same" isn't going to satiate fans much longer.

Posted by SlightConfuse

cant wait for this

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I wonder how well this one sells compared to the last ones that were HUGE! I will say, if I saw the Assassin's Creed games on a store shelf and didn't know which was the latest one, well, you know......they all bleed together like crazy.

Posted by tourgen

another well made game huh?  I have no time.  Skyrim.  Maybe next year when it's $25.

Posted by vhold

It looks like for Giant Bomb, and many like minded gamers, this is the year of "Very good sequels that we have to acknowledge are awesomely made, but aren't innovative enough to excite us."

Posted by SharpShotApollo

Maybe it's because I have Skyrim waiting, but I feel like I played this last year. Shelfing this one for a bit until my plate has more room on it.

Posted by therealminime

I am not surprised by this. I didn't expect there to be anything all that new about this game, but I am totally down for more Assassin's Creed. Like others have said, this is another sequel this year that is really good, but not super exciting. Still, I will play and enjoy it.

Posted by Landon

So many games I want to play. My friend bought this, I'll probably just borrow it from him.

Posted by spencer_twin

To be honest, game-play isn't as important to me as seeing where they take story..... .Yes, I play games for the story.

Posted by Enigma777

An AssCreed game with a bad ending? I am shocked!

/sarcasm

Posted by RE_Player1

I think this is the year of predictable review scores. Not saying the content of the review was predictable, it was a good read, but the actual score was somewhat expected. It seems from the sounds of it they took a huge leap with Brotherhood, with the whole guild and multiplayer component, that they played it safe and added smaller stuff, like the the tower defense and Altair sections, but didn't quite hit the mark with those minor additions. This review also reminds me I have AC2 on my shelve and I hardly touched it...

Online
Posted by Artie

I heard that Istanbul is not Constantinople.

Posted by Dany

Kinda disappointed that this game is not as great as Brotherhood but honestly, with the amount of 'things' the game offers, it was going to start having dwindling returns. I love this game series, and I am PUMPED to go back to it, I just hope the story is great.

Posted by NTM

Just by watching the quick looks you can often tell what the score will get by what they say and how they say it. It's too bad that this game is somewhat disappointing, and I too now worry about the annual release of AC games. I think they should wait for the next generation of consoles to put another out. It should be at least a two year process.

Posted by Scodiac

After Brotherhood I thought, hell, if they can keep it this good year after year I won't mind at all. I'd play an AC game every year if they can keep the quality up. I can't speak thoroughly about Rev cause I'm only a few hours in but I think I can see where Ryan is coming from in his review. It's a really good game but the series is starting to spin it's tires a bit. That's a great metaphor for AC at the moment.

I'm still a fan for sure but I want more drastic changes to the series. Well, at least, in characters and setting. That said, I'm sure I'm still going to enjoy Rev quite a bit cause it's hard for me to put down the controller. I'm into Desmond's story quite a bit to. I really want to see what happens to him.

There may be much that is similar but the game still feels huge and there is so much to do it's hard to believe they made it in a year. I guess that's why at the beginning of the game it says "A game by,,," and then like six different Ubisoft studios fade in and out.

Posted by iAmJohn

@Artie said:

I heard that Istanbul is not Constantinople.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

Posted by Video_Game_King

*growls at law of diminishing return comment*

Posted by bio595

@vhold said:

It looks like for Giant Bomb, and many like minded gamers, this is the year of "Very good sequels that we have to acknowledge are awesomely made, but aren't innovative enough to excite us."

For Assassin's Creed I don't need annual innovation. Bi-annual maybe.

In general I don't think that you need innovation to impress. If you've been running in place like Call of Duty, perhaps, but even then it's still fun.

Besides, true innovation is way harder and potentially harmful because customers hardly ever know what they want otherwise they'd have more helpful things to say than "be innovative".

Posted by sf2733

Were the story bits meaningful to the over all fiction of the game, did it advance anything? While the gameplay is entertaining the story is what will get me to buy this. Loved AC2 and the crazy ending.

Posted by vhold

@bio595 said:

For Assassin's Creed I don't need annual innovation. Bi-annual maybe.

In general I don't think that you need innovation to impress. If you've been running in place like Call of Duty, perhaps, but even then it's still fun.

Besides, true innovation is way harder and potentially harmful because customers hardly ever know what they want otherwise they'd have more helpful things to say than "be innovative".

To clarify my thought, I think that.. Giant Bomb is impressed with these new highly refined games, they just aren't _excited_ about them. That's why they keep giving out 4 stars and saying things along the lines of "Eh, it's more of the same, it's better, but still, if you've played the previous game, maybe this isn't worth your money or your time." This season in particular, with a few exceptions, they seem to be slogging their way through the blockbuster games for the purpose of reviewing them without ever getting hooked. They're giving props to all of the games' creative assets, but not to the gameplay.

Also, to respond to your last part, it's not the customers' responsibility to figure out what would excite them in a video game It's still a perfectly valid criticism to say a video game was "Meh" even if they don't figure out how to improve it. As long as the reviewer doesn't lie about their experience with the game it's all fair.

Posted by Jeust

That was to be expected. No one can keep the same show running forever... 

Posted by Vorbis

Will mirror the "it doesn't need to be an annual release" comments.

I loved Brotherhood but I'm not picking this up until there is nothing else to play.

Posted by KamikazeCaterpillar

I never thought I would say this after AC2, but I'm growing really tired of this series.

Posted by bkbroiler

Seems about right. I really hope they don't kill this series.

Edited by Draxyle

@vhold said:

It looks like for Giant Bomb, and many like minded gamers, this is the year of "Very good sequels that we have to acknowledge are awesomely made, but aren't innovative enough to excite us."

Right on the nose. Videogames weren't meant to be taken in annual doses. Too many of these franchises are going to burn out with this desperation to get more games out the door.

That said, I had already felt fatigue with Brotherhood. They're all great games but.. I can't handle that slow of a plot progression that's too slow even for a now-yearly release. Ezio's story is interesting and all, but it's nothing compared to Desmond's story. We're lucky to get maybe a halfhour with him in every game at best. It all screams of just dragging on a story for the sake of dragging it on.

I have to echo the sentiments of being worried for the franchise. It's such a good series, one of the best that can only truly work as a videogame in-fact. There is a definite care to preserving the artistic integrity of these games too. I just hope they don't stuff it out before it rightfully ends.

Posted by 234r2we232

I could barely finish 2 due to all the awkward mechanics and confusing controls... do the kids still think assassins and hoodies are cool?

Posted by Cybexx

That is unfortunate that the story isn't that great as it is what I was looking forward to the most. I wonder if Patrice Désilets departure has had them scrabbling a bit and with this game they are in a "holding position" story-wise until they have things figured out. I really do hope they've had a team working on Assassin's Creed III for the last year as this series needs some major mechanical changes and a brand new time period.

I'm sure I will enjoy this game a decent amount though and I am looking forward to playing the multiplayer, I feel a little guilty for not playing more of Brotherhood's multiplayer since it was so good.

Posted by deathstriker666

@iAmJohn said:

@Artie said:

I heard that Istanbul is not Constantinople.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

Something something Turks

Posted by moelarrycurly

@deathstriker666 said:

@iAmJohn said:

@Artie said:

I heard that Istanbul is not Constantinople.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

Something something Turks

... That's nobody's business but the Turks.

Posted by P_Pigly_Hogswine

I'm going to pass on this one. Absolutely adored AC1, really liked AC2 despite not loving Ezio, gave Brotherhood a shot but it ultimately became the first in the series I still haven't completed. Just didn't excite me for some reason. I really hope AC3 is a well-crafted closer to the first two. I'm a bit worried about the tendency for annual releases so far.

Posted by XxRANGAxX

I need to finish brotherhood, I want to finish brotherhood and i must now stop reading this review before I ruin more of brotherhoods story.......FUCK found out how it ended -_-

Posted by RsistncE

I personally feel as if the law of diminishing returns kicked in with Assassin's Creed II, I guess that's why I felt that Assassins Creed I was a better game just because it felt more unique when it came out. Either way, look at those screenshots: all that airbrushing to make the game look better puts Playboy to shame.

Posted by clumsyninja1

The tower defense mini-game is terrible. Sooo annoying.

Edited by Rheinmetall

It would better be Ezzio's last adventure. Altair is Assassin's Creed for me, he only.

Edited by MaddProdigy

You know, 5 months ago when I saw all these sequels coming out, I was EXTREMELY excited. Now I am burned out as hell. Very incremental changes have cost a lot of series a lot of ground. Still very great, but I need some new gameplay and I need it soon.

It's time for a new generation, and new starts to many franchises.

Edit: They better not have focused on Desmond at all because the next game is going to be about him, with sweet futuristic assassinations and such.

Edited by Rheinmetall

Istanbul or Constantinople: it's the same because Constantinople was a wonder city of the Medieval times and was often called: The Polis (Greek word for The City) "Istanbul" is essentially the corrupted form of the phrase: Is tin Polin (To the City) Then "Is- tin- Polin" became "Is - tan -bul" in Turkish.

Posted by chem
Posted by Undeadpool

@Rheinmetall said:

Istanbul or Constantinople: it's the same because Constantinople was a wonder city of the Medieval times and was often called: The Polis (Greek word for The City) "Istanbul" is essentially the corrupted form of the phrase: Is tin Polin (To the City) Then "Is- tin- Polin" became "Is - tan -bul" in Turkish.

Posted by Besetment

"It’s much easier to like Revelations if you’re not here for the story,"

Yep. That convinced me not to buy this game.

Edited by Javes

'It’s much easier to like Revelations if you’re not here for the story'. This is a bit troubling. Frankly, the only reason I'm interested in the AC series at this point is the story. The combat is mind-numbingly easy and at game #4 using the same gameplay mechanics I'm a little burned out. Just a rental to experience the storyline for me.

Posted by Dynamix

@Besetment said:

"It’s much easier to like Revelations if you’re not here for the story"

In Bizarro-world Ubisoft would put this quote on the box.

Posted by Cornman89

Think I'll pass on Revelations. I enjoyed Brotherhood (at a reduced price point), but goddammit, Ubisoft needs to get moving with the 2012 stuff.

Posted by kerse

I'll be playing this, but if the next game isn't called Assassin's Creed 3 and still has the same engine I might be done, no matter how much I liked the story.

Posted by MEATBALL

After Brotherhood I decided to shut my yapper about the yearly release cycle until they screw up, it's a shame that it sounds like it only took them one more iteration. Not to say it sounds like a bad game, it sounds like it's another enjoyable Assassin's Creed game, just that it might be getting a little tired and too iterative, with the biggest changes not proving to be positive additions. This doesn't bode well for what will probably be Assassin's Creed "3" next year.

Posted by Rekt_Hed

The fact that this went on sale day 1 in Sainsburys for £32 or $50 was kind of telling. Think I'm gonna hold of on this for now I've really got no time between Batman and U3 still. Plus I went and bought Bully after the bombcast just gone.

When I need to get my 'uh uh uh uh' on though ill pick this up

Posted by Eyz

Can hardly wait to grab my copy...this December during my holidays break :/

Posted by CloneTrooper

From what I've read over the last few months, Assassin's Creed III was potentially going to be the last yearly iteration of the franchise for awhile.

I think they've gone for this model because they want to be able to release the true third part of the series in 2012, because that's when it all takes place blah blah.

But yeah, Im enjoying it at the moment....and I love the franchise, but Renaissance Period is done, and it needs to either focus more on the Modern Side of the story and/or choose something as far removed from the Renaissance as you can get to spice up the series and really get the fans back.

On a completely different note, Ubisoft have pretty much squandered the goodwill the got with Project Legacy...it still has DDS 2.0 as "coming soon", but there's been no word on it for at least 7 months. Its a real shame because it had great potential to explore more of the universe, but its almost like they've abandoned it. Shame Ubi, shame.

Edited by Humanity

The fighting practically hasn't changed in the past two games so if the story isn't strong were in trouble. I've had my fair share of stabbing people and climbing up two story shanties. Lets hope Hitman is going to be as great as it looks so I can refresh my assassin needs.

Posted by dropabombonit

Great review, I'm going top pick this up at Christmas because I have done that with every AC game since AC2. Also get AC1 free on the PS3 version (even though that game is a 7/10 at best)

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