Review: Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Assassin's Creed: Revelations
PC, Xbox 360
Review copy provided by the publisher
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is one of those games that succeeds based on the players’ motivation for purchasing it. The fourth major Assassin’s Creed game in as many years, Revelations lives up to its title, and as we close the book on Altair and Ezio we watch Desmond start on a new journey to finish an old task. As far as sequels go, the game brings much to the table including stunning landscapes and an expanded multiplayer system.
Whether or not you have already picked up the game, ask yourself this before reading on: What made you purchase the game? Is it because it’s part of the infamous Assassin’s Creed franchise, and like so many other series you are consuming it because it bears the name? Did you feel the game failed you in that sense? Or are you someone who invests themselves in the story of the series and the scent of executive money-mongering, of dragging out a series that could have been wrapped up in two games, means nothing to you? Were you expecting something new and groundbreaking with Revelations or do you find joy in the comfort of the familiar gameplay? What is your connection to the series, and will you shoot the messenger if it does not deliver the result you expect?
As you can guess, as someone who invests herself deeply in the literary value of video games, I am the latter. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, while submerging me in a world I truly did not want to leave, did not exactly reach the classic status of its predecessors.
Despite the typical sequel syndrome, Revelations presents players with a new and highly entertaining cast of characters (most notably hot bookworm Sophia and the Constantine Assassin Yusuf who is just straight up cool) and tweaks to the free-running and battle systems that make it both fluid and more tactical-intensive. Not to mention we finally know what happened to Altair Ibn-La-Ahad and what Ezio Auditore de Firenze plans to do. Desmond’s interactions with Subject 16 bring a whole new level of bone-chilling desperation to the tale…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Revelations is a dense game. I personally have spent almost every night since I got the game – late on Thrusday, November 10 – from around seven or eight p.m. until four in the morning clocking hours in both the single and multiplayer modes. Just one more Templar captain to kill, one more key to find… The content is generous and sports gameplay ideas introduced in previous Assassin’s Creed titles as well as a score of new ones, making for a challenging mesh of new and old. However, 20 hours into the game I was still grasping at threads for answers and trying to figure out what the hell kind of bombs I needed to use in specific situations.
Before I delve into the gameplay, it is important to not overlook the game’s rich artistic design. The game’s 1511 Constantinople is gorgeous, beautifully plotted and delicately rendered down to the trimming on windowsills. The segments with Desmond in the Animus are a breathtaking wash of shimmering blue and white; players feel as though they are floating or staring into a cloud as they watch Desmond struggle to regain the fragmented pieces of his subconscious. From the rich, vivid red of Sophia’s hair to the earthy street of Constantinople to the watercolor wash of the setting sun as Ezio sits atop the city’s highest spire, the aesthetic appeal of the series has remained unchanged, and perhaps grown. You step into a time machine and suddenly you are there – it’s any history buff’s dream to walk through streets as tantalizingly rendered as those in Revelations.
The story, however, leaves a bit to be desired. It is cliché. Ezio is looking for five keys, each incripted with Altair’s memories, to open a door to a secret chamber in which Altair something something Apple of Eden something. Right. He also needs to kick the Templars out of Constantinople and bang some chick who loves books. It is a predictable formula and I could not swing gung-ho into the foray without a couple head-scratching moments of, “Why should I care?” After all we’ve seen him do, Ezio feels foreign to the game’s plot. Still, the assassination missions offer a degree of fun and can be quite challenging. My favorite is still the minstrel episode, where Ezio must stroll around a party dressed a minstrel in ridiculously tight leggings, singing lewd songs to guests in order to distract them from the swooping attacks of his ragtag band of assassins.
Gameplay remains largely unchanged as well. You run, climb up buildings, swing from lamps, and quietly kill your tagets. Ezio has access to his gun from II, throwing knives, and a crossbow, as well as poison darts that slowly drive mad and kill his targets. Ezio can assemble a group of new assassin’s and summon them to fight with him at need, as well as send them to other areas on the map to level up faster. The latest addition to Ezio’s arsenal is a hookblade that allows him to pick pockets, leap over and throw his opponents, climb just a little higher with every jump and slide down zip lines strategically scattered around the city’s rooftops.
The best addition to Ezio’s abilities, however, is the use of bombs. Players can find the materials needed for around a dozen types of bombs in chests and bomb-making cabinets throughout the city. The game encourages you to tinker with the different types of shells, gunpowder, and fillings, allowing you to create bombs that spray shrapnel, foul stenches, and lamb’s blood, to name a few. Ezio can create sight-stealing smog and poisonous gas clouds, delay detonations, and cause loud noises that cause distraction. More interesting in the gold coin bomb, which a fleeing Ezio can drop to spread a shower of gold coins in a civilian-filled area, effectively distracting them. While the bomb-crafting system is potentially one of the most original and advanced mechanics of the current generation of games – allowing players to screw around with and outsmart the game’s own A.I. — the idea of an Assasin using bombs, a hero who fights for justice in the shadows chucking explosives around, sort’ve kills the image we’ve built up for Ezio.
Between normal hand-to-hand combat, slipping poisonous darts, summoning a band of other assassins, paying mercenaries to fight for you, shooting arrows and guns from the rooftops, and throwing bombs, the arsenal offered in Revelations is mind-boggling, confusing for some and yet the perfect tactical treat for others. Controlling Ezio becomes a strategical dance for survival; players can take the quiet route to pass under the Templars’ radar or openly brawl with guards to call attention to their antics. There is no right or wrong way to do anything in this game. The freedom given to the player is astounding.
It is precisely this freedom that drove me out of my mind. The different systems in the game are all intertwined, tangled really, and keeping track of all of them tends to keep you out of gameplay – something rather frustrating for the gamer interested mostly in the game’s story. Remember the shop renovating system? Helping these shops now increases Ezio’s notoriety in the city. What’s that, you need to open up more Doctor’s shops so you don’t have to climb like a monkey all the way across the city of buy medicine? Well you better be prepared to have more Templars on your butt for each one you renovate. The higher Ezio’s notoriety, the more Templars will attack as he walks the streets. If players fail to bribe heralds and kill Templar captains, the result is even more Templars after your head.
Training assassin’s and hiring mercenaries all costs money, which you can get from another system in the game or by pickpocketing people and dealing with the subsequent rocks they may throw. Players have to install assassins in their territories for protector and arrange them on rooftops in an awkward tower defense mode that is only slightly less awkward than Desmond’s gameplay segments.
Desmond’s gameplay sessions nauseated me. I had to physically put down my controller and walk away several times, I was so dizzy from the first-person puzzle system. There is lots of jumping and swinging the camera around to inspect the environment lest you accidentally miss the gap between those two blocks, fall, and have to start over at the beginning of the level. It made me physically ill. It is this particular addition to the franchise that will have fans either marveling at the creativity or taking frequent breaks to stick their heads between their legs to fight the dizziness. I understand that we are in a digital version of his mind searching for the fragments of his subconscious, but the Desmond levels feel like an unnecessary addition…unless you count the fact that beating these levels rewards players with additional storyline information. These levels are unlocked by collecting Animus Fragments around Constantinople in Ezio’s gameplay – another infuriating component of gameplay. These fragments can literally be anywhere, and searching for them is a rottura di scatole.
Revelations’ multiplayer is a little confusing, but once players wade through the torrent of additions to the system it’s quite enjoyable. Players can now track their friend’s progress and there are tons of customization options to be had as you rack up experience points in multiplayer matches. The Wanted mode it still very much the heart of the game, but the addition of Steal the Artifact and Deathmatch modes keep the game fresh. Other than that, not much has changed, and you will still enjoy graphically assassinating your friends into the wee hours of the morning.
While Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is one of those games that fails as a sequel to a story but excels as a stand-alone game based on its gameplay. The first-person puzzle addition was completely unnecessary and jarring – but the bomb crafting system and breadth of tools at Ezio’s disposal make you forget there are crappy levels hiding elsewhere in the game. Long time Assassin’s fans will not be disappointed, but casual gamers beware of the frustrations you having lying ahead of you. If this is your first Assassins’ Creed game, you will want to play Brotherhood before you take a step further. But, other than a few gameplay trip-ups and a very watered-down story segment, Revelations is pretty buono.
Buonanotte, Ezio and Altair. Tocca a te, Desmond.