Assassin's Creed: Revelations
November 15, 2011 (PS3, 360)
November 29, 2011 (PC)
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has come a long way since its creation in 2007. The first game sold well enough, but had as many weaknesses as it did strengths. The sequel, released in 2009, not only eliminated many of the previous game’s problems, but strengthened the values that made it so fun and unique. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, released in 2010, continued the tradition while still adding many new features, despite the short development time Ubisoft had to work with. Now, it’s 2011, and the highly anticipated next game in the series has been released, once more on a development schedule of one year. Has the series managed to keep its charm while still adding in new mechanics, or is it just another yearly rehash?
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations picks up shortly after the end of Brotherhood. The group of Assassins comprised of Lucy Stillman, Shaun Hastings, Rebecca Crane, and series protagonist Desmond Miles has finally acquired an Apple of Eden, but at a great price. The resulting effect has sent Desmond into a coma, and his friends have put him back into the Animus in hopes of waking him up. Desmond must find a memory that links him and both of his ancestors – Altaïr ibn La-Ahad and Ezio Auditore da Firenze – together if he wishes to wake up and continue his fight against Abstergo Industries.
Diving into the later life of Ezio Auditore, Desmond finds that in 1511, Ezio has found a letter written by his father that tells of a vast wealth of knowledge hidden beneath the former Assassin stronghold of Masyaf, Syria. Ezio travels there, only to find that he must locate five keys created by the great Altaïr if he wishes to access the library. Ezio travels to Constantinople in pursuit of these “seals,” which not only unlock the door to the Masyaf library, but also let Ezio relive key moments in Altaïr’s life.
The story is by far my favorite of the series so far; returning characters are even more fleshed out by the end of the game, and the events of the game tie in fairly nicely with a political struggle that actually happened many years ago. I do have several gripes with it, however. For one, new characters don’t have a whole lot of character development to them. One character in particular, Yusuf, is a great example of this: while he does play a fairly important role in the story, the player never learns much about who he is or what he’s done, leaving little to connect with. Another thing is that the game doesn’t elaborate enough on what’s happening in Desmond’s time period. After the shocking ending of Brotherhood, Ubisoft made it seem like its events would be explained in Revelations, but it would seem that explanations will instead be saved for the next game in the series. Despite this, the game’s story is one of the strongest of the series thus far.
Despite being in his fifties, Ezio is as agile as ever. While traversing Constantinople, he will have to climb buildings, jump across rooftops, and sneak by soldiers by blending in with crowds of people. One thing the game adds to this is the hookblade, which is essentially an extension of Ezio’s second hidden blade. With the hookblade, players can stun enemies, climb quicker, and utilize ziplines throughout the city to travel faster.
Revelations also adds to the Borgia Tower concept from Brotherhood. Due to the fall of the Borgias and the change in scenery, Borgia Towers are now Templar Dens. You gain control of them the same way you would in the past: you kill a Templar captain, and light a signal at the top of the tower. However, it doesn’t end there. Causing too much commotion in the vicinity of the Den will alert the Templars of your presence, and will attack your Den in a tower defense-style minigame called Den Defense. If you want to keep the Templars away permanently, however, you can train Assassins and assign them to Dens. Once the assigned Assassin is fully leveled up, that Den is protected from future attacks, and you can worry about other things. Den Defense is a surprisingly fun, though difficult, diversion from the main game, and can keep you occupied for some time should you choose to play it continuously.
Speaking of Assassin recruits, that concept has also been expanded. While Brotherhood only allowed an Assassin to reach level ten, Revelations increases the level cap to fifteen. However, after level ten, progress is stunted until you escort your Assassin on a mission. After completing the mission, they level up as they normally would by completing contracts, but in order to become a Master Assassin, you must go on one more mission with them. This adds another layer of depth and believability to the game, and gives you another thing to do in a game that already has plenty of diversions.
Another mechanic the game adds is the new bomb crafting feature. In previous games, the only bombs one could use were smoke bombs, which briefly stunned enemies. In Revelations, however, players can find materials from treasure chests and dead bodies, and use them to create their own bombs. There are a ton of different bombs and bomb types that can be created. For example, some bombs explode on impact while others have a set time period, some bombs inflict damage while others merely startle, and some bombs attract people while others make people run away. While the game rarely forces you to use bombs, if you choose to use them, they can be a ton of fun, although they do make the game a tad bit easier than it already is.
As you complete the game’s main story, you will find the seals that Ezio is searching for. These seals will each grant you the ability to experience one particular moment in the life of the original game’s protagonist, Altaïr. From naive young adult to middle-aged man to an old and wise mentor, Revelations offers unique insight into the life of Altaïr through small side missions, ranging from protecting Al Mualim, to saving a friend. These sequences not only give more development to a fan favorite character, but also give off a feeling of nostalgia as you revisit characters from the first game. By the end of the game, you will feel satisfied with the end of Altaïr’s story.
There’s one more character that the game lets you play as: Desmond Miles. As you navigate Constantinople, you will find small memory fragments. Collecting enough of these allows you to play levels viewed from a first-person point of view that offer previously unknown information about Desmond, while at the same time delivering fun and unique puzzle-based gameplay. My only problem with this is that the concept as a whole, while entertaining, simply does not fit in well with the rest of the game. Regardless, they’re fun little diversions that add more development to a character growing increasingly important.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the game is how gorgeous the graphics are. While previous games were eye candy in their own right, Revelations manages to improve on the visual front by having more detailed motion capturing and facial expressions. If you’ve played previous games, this can be a bit jarring, as some returning characters look slightly different now, but when you climb onto a rooftop and see the detailed, colorful city of Constantinople for yourself, you won’t even think about it. Character models themselves have also been improved; clothing now has more detail, and as stated before, facial animations have also been improved.
Jesper Kyd returns as the main composer for the game, and for the better; his music matches perfectly with the atmosphere and culture seen in the game. However, he is now assisted by Hans Zimmer, who composed the game’s main theme, and Lorne Balfe, who is a longtime partner of Zimmer. Balfe largely composed the themes that you will hear in cutscenes and in multiplayer. His and Kyd’s pieces are, for the most part, indistinguishable from each other; both have similar styles, and both are very experienced. I’m constantly finding myself humming the game’s main theme, which is presented throughout the story in several places, and even some of the songs from the multiplayer.
“Wait, the game has multiplayer?” Indeed it does. Ubisoft has carried over the multiplayer component seen in Brotherhood, and introduces a slew of new features. One of the biggest changes is that you can now customize your character to your liking. Want to change what weapon you’re using? You can. Want to change what clothes you’re wearing? Go for it. The multiplayer mode also has a deeper story to it this time around; while it still follows the concept of training an Abstergo employee, it gives more insight into Abstergo’s past, present, and future. The game’s new modes are also welcome; Artifact Assault is a fun variant of the traditional Capture the Flag, and Assassination is crazy as heck. It’s also fun to simply play with returning favorites, such as Wanted, where you must hunt down a specified target, but also watch out for pursuers of your own. My one complaint with multiplayer is that while there are nine maps to play on, only five of them are new; the rest are taken from Brotherhood. While they aren’t bad maps by any means, they have gotten a bit old by now, and new maps would have been appreciated. Overall, the multiplayer is very enjoyable, and it still feels unique even after last year’s offering.
There is one consistent problem with the game, despite all of the things it has going for it. No matter what you’re doing, there is an unshakeable feeling of “been there, done that.” While this may not be a problem for some, it can be fairly annoying. The game, for better or worse, simply feels like a very long expansion for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, as very little has changed or been added. Even the Altaïr sequences, while fun, simply feel like Brotherhood’s Cristina Missions in a different setting. I personally don’t mind this too much, but after playing Assassin’s Creed every year since 2009, it’s starting to get too stale. Assassin’s Creed III will hopefully remedy this, but on its own, the worst part about Revelations is definitely its overwhelming similarity to previous offerings.
All in all, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is nothing short of a masterpiece, just as the two games before it were. The graphics are easily the best I have seen in any game I’ve played, the soundtrack is very fitting and atmospheric, and the gameplay – while extremely familiar – is as addicting as ever, even the multiplayer. If you’ve been a fan of the series thus far, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up. You won’t be disappointed.
Tons of side content.
"Been there, done that" feeling.
Little development for new characters.
Desmond sequences feel out of place.