Like any experienced member of the Assassin Order, Assassin’s Creed has only become better with each iteration, while building new features into its already steadfast framework. Revelations delivers on the later in its most aggressive fashion yet, but some additions don’t mesh as well as others, and it hold the game back from taking a giant leap forward like some of its predecessors.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations touches on Altaïr and Desmond but centers on a greyer and more mature Ezio Auditore (who’s somehow managed to maintain his physical dexterity over the years). Ezio is motivated by the knowledge of a hidden secret in Altaïr’s library at Masayaf castle that’s said to be pivotal in the war against the Templars. Finding the keys to access it lead him to the Ottoman city of Constantinople, where his quest is abetted by Sophia Sartor, a charismatic woman of formidable brains and beauty. Ezio also gets entangled in bolstering the assassin’s power in Constantinople, and this acquaints him with the then less reputable Prince Suleiman as he assists the Ottomans in fighting off a Byzantine Templar power grab. The mission design is top notch in its variety and presentation, and I especially enjoyed the way finding Masayaf keys would then lead into adventures from Altaïr’s past.
These two central plotlines coalesce into what is some of the best storytelling in the series. The tangle of political drama in Ezio’s dealings with the local rulers weaves a thriller more complex than that of what we’ve seen in Assassin’s Creed before. Meanwhile, Ezio’s relationship with Sophia is very well-done and shows that the old man still has plenty charm to go with his death dealing abilities. The flashbacks into Altaïr’s life also inject some new introspection into the series’ first protagonist and complement the main storyline nicely in providing an exciting and worthwhile conclusion to the two men’s journeys.
Ezio’s story in Revelations plays out in the primarily city of Constantinople, and thanks in part to a noticeable graphical upgrade, its vibrant populace, beautiful architecture and majestic natural beauty make it no less a treat to explore than Florence or Rome. Assassin’s Creed has always been able to achieve a level of immersion with their setting that makes me want to spend hours reading the database logs just so I can get to know my way around, and needless to say, Constantinople doesn’t disappoint.
To make his way through the world, Revelations gives Ezio access to a host of new tools. He’s introduced to the hook blade, a retractable device fitted to his arm that lets him hook onto more building surfaces in mid-air, leap higher during a climb, leverage himself over enemy guards, and swing across zip lines. Combined with the new parachutes, climbing – and descending – is more entertaining than ever before, but I still can’t shake the feeling that it’s also too easy. If there’s another thing that makes Revelations truly unique, it’s that it’s the first Assassin’s Creed game in which I never died from a fall when scaling a building.
Another significant equipment overhaul in the game is the new bomb-making system. Ezio can scavenge up different bomb-making ingredients in the world (something the game whole-heartedly stresses by having most of the loot on bodies and in treasure boxes consist of these items) and use them to construct various lethal, tactical, or diversion bombs which can kill, stun, or distract enemies respectively. It’s a nice addition to the tactical freedom in the gameplay, but the complex system of constructing unique bombs doesn’t seem worth the effort when the effect of each bomb is largely indistinguishable among others in its class.
To call side quests in Revelations just that would be doing them a disservice, as they consume nearly as much time and attention as the game’s main storyline. In addition to taking control of Templar districts by offing the captain in charge, Ezio can buy landmarks, set up faction buildings, and restore shops from which he can add to his collection of items. The theme of recruiting and managing assassins smartly makes a return from Brotherhood, and in addition to having them on call to assist during the gameplay, Ezio can also send them out on missions in the world dominance mini-game or place them in charge of Assassin’s Dens. Unfortunately, though, this system ushers in one of the worst missteps in the history of the franchise.
You’re given a constant “Templar Awareness” meter, which Ezio can fill up by, say, lodging the blade of a two-sided axe into the side of a guard’s head in a public square. If you can’t keep the meter down by bribing a herald or killing an official, Templars will attack one of your dens. This makes the game call you into a poorly designed tower defense style game that handles too haphazardly to get any enjoyment out of. After one play through, most gamers will find it easier to just let the Assassin’s den burn and take over the territory again later.
Back on the other side of the Animus, Revelations explores Desmond’s fragmented mind after things went to hell in a handbasket in Brotherhood. He runs into Subject 16 who tells him that the only way to escape the Animus is to separate his identity from Ezio and Altaïr. This sends him through a gratifyingly escapist series of platforming mazes that flesh out Desmond’s past and his family history. The new discoveries are a nice way to set Desmond up for Assassin’s Creed III, but in the end they don’t do much to move his narrative past the events of Brotherhood.
Multiplayer can easily be disregarded in a game like this, but those who do so will be missing out on what’s shaping into the better offerings on consoles this season. Once again, players assume the role of an Abstergo minion trying to work their way up the ranks. This time around though, the higher you level up, the more intriguing secrets you learn about the Templar organization. The game also gives us a new target stalking Team Deathmatch mode and a Capture the Flag inspired “Artifact Assault. Combined with the impressive breadth of new maps and player customization options, there’s plenty here to keep coming back for.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations isn’t devoid of the occasional faux pas by any measure, but thanks in part to its already stout foundation, its strengths overcome them in resounding fashion. While it doesn’t wrap up every plot line in the series like the title might suggest, it doesn’t wrap up the player in even more confusion either. With a top-notch, expansive multiplayer mode adding to a reliably stellar singleplayer, Revelations is a fun, though not must-have warm-up for Assassin’s Creed III.
What’s your opinion of Assassin’s Creed Revelations? Is it a satisfying and worthwhile entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise? Sound off in the comments or in our updated forums!