Every gaming generation there are a handful of titles that help to define it. If someone were to suggest that Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series fit the bill as one of these standout titles, little argument could be made. However, what will the Assassin’s Creed series be remembered for? Will it be the fluid gameplay and superb storytelling? Or will it be that Ubisoft never let the series breathe and eventually destroyed it by making it a yearly release? The answer, surprisingly, may be a touch of one and a touch of the other.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations follows just a year after the release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which in turn followed just a year after the release of Assassin’s Creed II. And after the success of Brotherhood, Revelations has quite a bit to live up to. Like the previous entries in the series, the bulk of the game takes place in the mind of Desmond Miles as he searches through the genetic memories of his ancestors, Altair and Ezio. These memories hold the keys to unlocking something in the present day, if only we knew what that was.
If you are new to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Revelations is not for you. The game picks up moments after the shocking conclusion to Brotherhood and without prior knowledge of at least the previous two games, you will be at your wit’s end trying to understand all the plot contrivances. For those that have followed along on Desmond’s past forays into his ancestral past, Revelations does a lot to tie up loose ends, albeit possibly not the ones you want tied up.
Due to the events at the end of Brotherhood, Desmond is in a mental state of flux which has him plugged into the Animus for his survival, marooned on what is known as Animus Island. The Island acts as the hub to feed Desmond’s story to the player and its success is somewhat questionable. Ubisoft has painted Revelations as an adventure split between both Altair and Ezio, the two assassin’s Desmond is related to. This is somewhat misleading as Altair is playable for just a small fraction of the game. Make no mistake, Revelations is a game once again centered around the actions of Ezio.
Revelations takes Ezio to Constantinople, in a race against the Templars to find five keys, which will unlock Altair’s library in Masayf. Like all the cities in the game series, Constantinople is an artistic masterpiece. The Eastern and Western influences are apparent in everything and the city truly feels like the meeting place of the East and West. However, because of how the city is designed there is a noticeable feeling of déjà vu as Ezio traverses it. This was obviously the intention of the game designers as they try to tie the storylines of Ezio and Altair together but it also results in a tired feeling for the level design.
Fortunately, the game introduces a few new mechanics to the mix to help spruce things up from the same old, same old. The biggest and most important edition is the hook blade. This blade is a replacement for Ezio’s second hidden blade, and has a variety of uses. Zip lines have been placed throughout the city and Ezio can quickly traverse the rooftops by hooking onto one with his new blade. Additionally the blade provides a handful of new combat moves to Ezio’s already vast arsenal.
Revelations also adds bomb crafting and a simplistic tower defense game called Den Defense. Outside of a few missions, I found little reason to actually spend time crafting bombs. That said, everyone has their own play-style and some are sure to find it more rewarding than I did. While I found little use for the crafting it was non-intrusive and did not hurt my overall experience. Den Defense on the other hand is something I found frustrating in nearly every aspect and nearly ruined the game for me on more than one occasion.
Scattered throughout Constantinople are guard towers controlled by the Templars, these towers can be easily captured by defeating the guard captain and lighting a signal fire. Capturing the tower grants control of a city district over to the assassins, which in turn allows Ezio to open vendors and install guild halls. Doing so though raises the awareness of the Templars and if the awareness level gets too high, the Templars will attack the tower attempting to re-seize control of it, thus the assassin’s den needs to be defended.
Players are tasked with setting up defenses, using various types of assassins and fortifications to stop the incoming assault. Stopping the assault grants the player a reprieve, but failing to do so gives control back to the Templars. At its core, Den Defense is a simple tower defense game. Sadly, the game overcomplicates every aspect of the genre making for a highly frustrating experience.
From a story perspective there is little reason to capture all the towers, however doing so allows for the recruitment of assassin’s which can be called upon in combat. The more towers controlled, the more assassins that can be recruited. Fortunately there is a way to make sure that Den Defense only hinders the experience slightly. Returning from Brotherhood is the ability to train assassins in a menu based mini-game and if one wants complete control of the city without having to run around playing Den Defense, then taking part in Mediterranean Defense is vital. Training seven master assassins will take quite some time but doing so unlocks special in game missions where Ezio will accompany his protégé on a pair of missions. These missions are actually well realized, utilizing all aspects of the gameplay.
Also returning to the mix from Brotherhood in Revelations is the critically acclaimed multiplayer component. The multiplayer has been refined a bit, making the learning curve far less steep than before and in turn making it more satisfying for new players. However, despite being a well-constructed and thoroughly unique multiplayer experience, it will still be an afterthought for most players and Revelations will struggle to maintain its community in an already crowded multiplayer market.
None of the gameplay additions or expansions has changed the core of Assassin’s Creed gameplay though, which is still amazingly fluid. The combat is still some of the best in gaming and the platforming is once again a highlight of the game, with Revelations featuring some of the best sequences not just in the series, but in gaming. Sony’s Uncharted series may grab the headlines for its blend of storytelling and gameplay but Assassin’s Creed is right up there with it, arguably doing many things better.
The problem with Revelations is that for gamers that have been following along with the series, we have done most of it before. Worse still, Revelations does not add anything that feels like a needed addition to the formula. It is still a very good game, that tells a very good story, but it feels tired. It does tie up the stories of Altair and Ezio but it does not move the series forward in any meaningful way. Unlike Brotherhood which felt like a fully featured sequel, Revelations feels like the side story that it is.
Ubisoft has made clear that another Assassin’s Creed game will be coming in 2012. That game needs to get the series back on track because good is just not good enough for this series.
Pros: More Assassin’s Creed, multiplayer is more accessible for newcomers
Cons: More Assassin’s Creed, Den Defense is not fun
4* out of 5