What’s the story, Auditore?
With Assassin’s Creed III rumoured to be launching sometime in 2013, it would be fair to say, Assassin’s Creed Revelations arrives a hefty amount of pressure placed on its virtual shoulders. Not only is it tasked with concluding the stories of Ezio and Altair, but it has to somehow live up to the gameplay standards set by the wonderful Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Does it manage to tie everything up nicely and succeed, or is it a disappointment? Read on to find out.
Game: Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Picking up shortly after the climax of Brotherhood, Desmond is connected to the Animus after suffering a mind breakdown. As a result of this, he is stuck inside a particular part of the infamous machine, and the only way out is for him to run through stories of his ancestors until there is nothing left for him to learn.
The majority of the story is spent following Ezio’s adventures in Constantinople, as he attempts to get his hands on keys before the Templars that will give him access to a secret library underneath Masyaf Castle. Yes, the same castle that Altair and the assassins called home before Ezio even knew what a hidden blade was. By gaining access to the library, Ezio hopes to get answers to questions that remained at the end of Brotherhood. This is where the aforementioned Altair comes in, as Ezio plays through key moments of his life, and learns about what happened to his fellow assassin.
Whilst in Constantinople, Ezio also gets involved in the unstable political situation involving the city’s leaders. However, this feels like a side dish compared to main course that is the story of Ezio, Altair and Desmond. In fact, even Desmond’s tale takes a back seat in Revelations, as Ubisoft attempt to wrap up everything related to Ezio and Altair. It’s a difficult task, but one that’s handled with real care and attention. If you’ve been invested in the series right from the beginning, you’ll connect with both characters and genuinely care about what happens to them as the game progresses to its gripping conclusion.
Whilst keeping the same visual style as its predecessors, Revelations manages to add an extra layer of polish to an already fantastic looking series of games. Constantinople feels alive, filled with vibrant streets and believable characters.
On a technical level, environments seem to be more detailed, but it’s clear to see Ubisoft have paid more attention to character models than anything else, especially the faces. Focusing on Ezio, you can almost tell by looking at him that he has been through quite a bit over the last few years. It’s great to see Ubisoft hasn’t rested on its laurels, and continued to improve the visuals with every new addition to the series.
The move to Constantinople doesn’t usher in any major changes on the audio front when compared to its predecessors, but the alterations that have been made in Revelations suit the change of scenery very well.
Background music matches the on-screen action well, but it is the voice acting in the Revelations that shines the most. Each and every character is voiced expertly, with special mention going to the war torn, yet wise tones of Ezio himself. Even Desmond, voiced by Nolan North, manages to annoy less than previous games, which is a minor achievement on its own.
Following the superb Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was never going to be an easy task, Ubisoft was always in danger of tinkering with the gameplay formula a little too much, and that is certainly the case here. Whilst the core gameplay remains the same, and is highly enjoyable when it works, it just doesn’t come to the fore often enough. Instead, Ubisoft has chosen to focus on new gameplay features, which don’t really improve the overall experience.
First of all, you have the bomb creation aspect, which is a good idea in theory, but in reality doesn’t work well at all. You create bombs by collecting ingredients and materials, which are conveniently placed around Constantinople. Without exaggerating, almost every decision you make whilst playing the game “earns” you an ingredient or material that could help create a bomb. From looting a dead enemy to opening a chest in a secluded alleyway, Ubisoft push the feature to the maximum. Whilst it’s understandable that they want you to know about it, the fact that the bombs themselves don’t really add anything to the overall experience makes the “promotion” of them slightly baffling. The series has always excelled at making you feel like a slick assassin, unfortunately, the addition of bombs somewhat negates that.
Next up, in an attempt to expand the excellent “Borgia tower” gameplay aspect seen in Brotherhood, Ubisoft has snuck a “Den Defence” mini-game into Revelations. This new addition means that reclaiming a tower and freeing an area from Templar influence is no longer the end of the matter. If you manage to get your “awareness” rating to the maximum level, Templars will attack your “Den” and attempt to take the area back. This is where the aforementioned mini-game comes into play, and your annoyance levels rise. You are told to head back to your “Den” and hold off the attacking Templars via an extremely average example of a tower defence game. It’s another gameplay addition that doesn’t fit in or compliment the Assassin’s Creed universe. Whilst you can avoid these instances to a certain degree by keeping a low profile, or performing specific tasks to lower your “awareness” levels, the fact that it’s easier to get noticed in Revelations means multiple encounters are almost inevitable.
Finally, you have the Desmond missions, that see you go into a first-person view and task you with solving puzzles whilst you attempt to reach an exit. Sure, they are essentially side missions, as you have to collect a certain amount of “Animus data fragments” to access them, but they are poorly designed and not enjoyable at all. The Portal inspiration is obvious, but not even one of the Desmond missions match up to a section in the sublime first-person puzzles games released by Valve. As these missions give you an insight into Desmond’s back-story, it’s a shame Ubisoft couldn’t think of a better of way giving you access to them. Almost anything would’ve been better than the sub-par Portal tribute missions.
Staying on the subject of side missions, whilst some haven’t made the cut in Revelations (Codex puzzles), the majority of the secondary content seen in Brotherhood has remained intact. However, sadly, you just don’t feel like you want to indulge in Revelations’ side missions. In Brotherhood, you felt like you wanted to restore shops and burn all the “Borgia towers”, that’s not the case in Revelations. Whilst the content is there, it takes a much bigger back seat when compared to Brotherhood. That’s not to say you’re pushed along the main story path, more encouraged.
It’s not all disappointing though, as the core gameplay still remains highly enjoyable. Assassin’s Creed is always at its best when you plan a stealthy kill to perfection or are free-running with grace from to rooftop to rooftop, and thankfully Revelations has plenty of those moments. Few games can match up to the sheer joy you experience in Revelations when you’re leaping from point to point at high speed, it’s just so damn exhilarating. It’s a good thing then that the majority of main story missions require you to put one of these elements (sometimes both) to use, as that is when Revelations excels.
If you do get in a bit of stealthy trouble, or just don’t want to get to hidden blade dirty, you can call on the help of your fellow assassin’s, just like Brotherhood. The mechanic remains untouched, so you’ll still need to recruit and level up assassin’s to make best use of the feature. In regards to the free-running, again nothing has been drastically changed, but you do have the help of a handy hook blade in Revelations. Doubling up as your second hidden blade, the hook blade enables you to climb buildings faster and slide down ropes you see whilst moving around the rooftops of Constantinople. It’s a welcome upgrade, and one that further improves an already excellent gameplay aspect of Assassin’s Creed.
If you stick to the main story missions and only dabble in the secondary content, Revelations should easily provide you with around 15-20 hours of gameplay. Indulge in all the side missions the game has to offer, then you can probably add another 10 hours onto that figure. That’s just the single player though, if you get into the fantastic multiplayer portion of the game, the Revelations disc just might stay in your console for a while.
The multiplayer options in Brotherhood were great, and Revelations builds on that by featuring a couple of new, much welcome modes. An extension of the Wanted match type, Revelations introduces the tension filled Deathmatch. Here the compass telling you the approximate location of your target is gone, leaving you with nothing but your instinct to rely on. The exclusion of the compass make matches much more interesting, and results are a true show of your assassin skills. Corruption is the other notable addition, and just as enjoyable as Deathmatch. Offering a nice little twist on the standard free-for-all match type, one player starts infected, with the aim of corrupting everyone else. The other players have to avoid being corrupted, and as you can imagine, this ends up adding an layer of tension to proceedings, just like Deathmatch and Wanted.
Whilst it doesn’t reach the heights of its exceptional predecessor, Revelations still manages to be a great addition to the series. The core gameplay is still enjoyable, it’s just a little harder to find underneath the new additions this time. On the other hand, as far as story goes, Revelations truly delivers. The tales of Ezio and Altair are wrapped up superbly, setting things up nicely for the inevitable Assassin’s Creed III. It’s not a revelation, nor is it a revolution, but Revelations is still a must buy for fans of the series.