I was worried about Assassins Creed. I started worrying about it when Brotherhood came out. The first one was a mediocre game with an incredible story. Two is where everything clicked, with the gameplay catching up to the story in terms of awesomeness. I remember thinking after finishing the second, “Wow! What could three possibly have in store!”. As it turns out, it’s about three years later and I don’t have an answer to that question (although Ubisoft recently confirmed that yes, Assassins Creed 3 is coming.) What Ubisoft thought after finishing the second was apparently “Hey this sells really well, let’s make these all the time!” The continuing story of Ezio Auditore, now spread across three whole games, was risking getting old and boring. Luckily for AC fans this turned out to not be the case. I definitely believe it’s time to move on from Ezio, but Revelations is a fitting end to this chapter of the franchise. Revelations goes back to the roots of the franchise, literally, as Ezio seeks out Masyaf, former home of the Assassins guild in Altair’s time. Having discovered that Altair had a secret library there, Ezio goes to seek the knowledge within….but instead finds the Templars have pretty much moved as in because they ALSO want whatever secrets Altair left behind. Thus, as any good assassin would, Ezio starts the murdering. This section felt a tad forced, as cool as it was to be back in Masyaf, as the climactic event of this introduction left me a little underwhelmed. Once Ezio makes his way out of there and to Constantinople though, the game picks up in earnest and reminded me why the entire franchise is so much fun in the first place. On a mission to find the keys that will open Altair’s library, Ezio must bring the Assassins guild up to full strength, track down some hidden locations, and kill TONS of people.
(Side note: If you have never played any of these games and read the last paragraph, I’m sorry. It would take a 5000 word article to just bring anybody not in the know up to speed on even a basic level. I’ll be writing this like all you readers are familiar with the franchise. Neither of us has the time to do otherwise ok!)
As far as actual mechanics of playing the game goes, there are three big additions new to Revelations. I found one to be FANTASTIC, one I largely ignored, and the other I actively hated.
- Fantastic: The hookblade. One of Ezio’s two hidden blades shortly gets replaced by this nifty device. It is exactly what it sounds like, a blade that hooks at the end. Doesn’t seem like much, but in practice it lets Ezio do two things that make the whole game play that much smoother. One is it lets him use the generously placed ziplines that are all around Constantinople. Sliding at high speeds down these things and even sometimes dropping off of them and stabbing some Templars in one fluid motion NEVER got old. The second is that climbing with this thing is a whole lot faster than in any previous AC games. Combining these two makes the process of getting around the city MUCH faster. I always felt like AC was at its worst when all you were doing is running from one place to the other, slowly climbing and jumping. Ezio flying up the sides of buildings and sliding across large swaths of the city at a time means less boring and more action. Well done Ubisoft, it’s a small addition that yields big results.
- Ignored: Bombs. The big combat addition is the ability to make bombs. There’s different types of casings, gun powder, and you can choose what explodes out of them. Shrapnel for lethal ones, pigs blood to intimidate, smoke to escape, caltrops to slow down enemies, or even coins so entire crowds lose their minds and just dive for it. It’s a robust system that I used…..twice. I threw a few bombs I picked up for some mission specific goals involving them (and once for an achievement) but there was no compelling reason to really dive in. I felt like using the bombs was so situational that the old stand by of stab everybody was safer and more efficient. It’s a cool idea on paper, but in practice it adds basically nothing.
- Hated: Tower Defense! Revelations lets you capture key areas on the map that become Assassin Dens. Recruits who gain enough levels can be assigned to them, and by the end of the game you have multiple bases spread throughout the land that serve as hubs for assassin type activities. This is all fine UNTIL Templars attack the base. Instead of being able to fight off the attack traditionally, Ezio takes the role of commander and deploys his assassins on to roofs and behind barricades as waves of Templar forces move down a predetermined path. It’s slow and boring. Visually there isn’t much going on, and after doing it two times, it’s not even much of a challenge. Plus, even if you do manage to lose, which I did, it takes Ezio a grand total of about three minutes to recapture the base by murdering the new Templar captain there in a more traditional gameplay experience. The entire thing feels very out-of-place. Lose this mode for AC3 Ubisoft.
Graphically Revelations is the best looking AC game yet. The city itself looks amazing and has impressive size. The one-off exploratory levels (a trip to a lighthouse, exploring tombs or sewers) are visual marvels. Tracking a boat of Templars through an underground river is one of the most striking and action packed moments of the entire series. There aren’t many of these small stages, but it’s impressive that the same team responsible for so much open world goodness shines even brighter when building scripted levels. Level design is the most interesting part of a game in my book, and Revelations knocks it out of the park.
I will not spoil this game, I promise. The story throughout the entire series has been captivating and it remains so here. Especially near the end, as the story of Ezio wraps, its easy to follow, engaging, and had me hooked from both a historical period piece perspective of fighting the Byzantines and the wacked out science fiction side of things as well. Amazingly, and this is a first for a game in this series, the ending actually ANSWERS MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT RAISES. Make no mistake, the end is a cliffhanger. But it’s one that sets up some awesome stuff for AC3 going forward and gives you a clearer picture than ever of the world Ubisoft has spent four games in now. My worry is that the series would start to overstay it’s welcome, but that is most definitely not the case. For any fan of the series, Revelations is a quality precursor for what is still to come. Now get stabbing.