So in case you haven't heard (and if you haven't, you must tell me how it is living alone on the moon sometime), Assassin's Creed is back for round four. Or is it round ten, counting all the non-mainstream games as well?
Come to think of it, between the console games, the handhelds, the IPhone game, the comics, the novels, the live-action short films, the big-screen film negotiations and all the other crap out there, I have no idea what round this is. What's next, Assassin's Creed, the Fragrance?
But anyway, Assassin's Creed: Revelations is here to take us deeper into the whole Templar-Assassin, end-of-the-world thing and maybe possibly think about maybe offering some closure to this story that's been going on for the better part of eight years now.
Plot and Characters
There is a lot to talk about here. There are three plots going on at once in this game.
Let me say this before anything else: the Assassin's Creed series has a long, deep, intricate plot line. I'm going to assume you know a good bit about it. If you haven't played at least the other three console games, you might as well not bother with Revelations, because you're not going to have the faintest clue as to what the hell is going on.
Right, so for those of you who have been ponying up your cash like good little boys and girls (don't take that as an insult; I did, too, except for this one), let's continue.
For the third time on the consoles, you'll spend most of the game in the fine, Italian leather boots of Ezio Auditore, a now-infamous assassin from Florence.
He's older, and curiously enough, more agile than ever before. That's always been a bit strange to me, that the older these guys get, the stonger and more agile the seem to become. This is obviously just because each new installment adds new abilities, but still. I guess you could chalk it up to experience, but the year is 1511 and Ezio's in his fifties now, so it seems a bit far-fetched.
Ezio, feeling his age and desiring more and more to leave his past behind him and retire, makes an expedition to Syria, to the original Assassin's temple which operated in the 12th and 13th centuries. He arrives to find it occupied by his enemies, and is promptly placed on a platform to hang.
Ezio, however, is far too cool to die that way, so of course he escapes his captives with a few swift punches and a four-story drop (from which he lands on hardwood and suffers no injuries, natch). Upon eluding his captors, he heads for the basement, where he finds the door to his ancestor's secret library. Only oh crap, he needs the five keys to get in, and oh double crap, they're in Constantinople. Whoops.
Also making a show-stopping appearance is good old Altair, the protagonist of the first game and a few of the handhelds. For his part in all this, you'll be playing through memories of his life that he encoded on various disks that Ezio finds in Constantinople.
I always liked Altair from the first game. His serious, no-nonsense nature just rubbed me the right way, so I was happy to see him have a much larger role in Revelations than he did in the previous two.
That said, I was kind of disappointed by the accent change. Yes, I know it didn't make a lick of sense for a 12th century Arab man to have a stark non-regional American diction, especial when everyone else around him had accents thick enough to cut with a knife.
Still, his new Arab accent, while probably a chick-magnet, gives me this uneasy feeling of non-familiarity. I just don't feel like it's the same guy. I did come round eventually, though, and it was good to see him again, either way.
And then of course, there's Desmond, the bland modern assassin whose DNA the 2012 Assassin's guild is rummaging through to find the ancestral memories of Altair and Ezio and track down the Pieces of Eden, artifacts from the First Civilization laden with mind-altering technology which the Templars want to use to whip everyone squarely into line.
As usual, Desmond is the framing device for the story. He's trapped inside the Animus, the machine everyone uses to root around peoples' minds with, which I guess is glitching out, because it's simulating a strange island surrounded by water and floating metal columns that looks like it was taken right from Salvador Dali's head.
For his role in the game, you'll collect Animus fragments to unlock portals to what Desmond calls the Animus Core. The fragments are scattered throughout Constantinople, and there are 100 in all.
The portals will lead to these boring mini maps where Desmond will walk (not run) through strange-looking rooms that look like the structures of an advanced ancient civilization, all this while explaining to himself why he had abandoned the Assassins in a very existential manner.
We also get to see the mysterious Subject 16 for the first time. For those of you who might not remember, 16 is the man who Abstergo, the Templars' modern corporation, was holding prisoner and subjecting to long, psychologically- crippling Animus sessions before the focus was turned to Desmond.
16 is still "alive" in the Animus even though he died in the real world. His consciousness is still active within the Animus' programming, so he is trapped in the mysterious void, and just as mentally unstable as he's always been.
I must admit, Ubisoft did a fine job of adding a face to the insane ramblings we hear in the previous games. 16's facial expressions and voice that occasionally cracks with hysteria work well to portray him as a man who was mentally tortured to the breaking point. His condition is now only getting worse as he is trapped alone in a semi-malfunctioning computer program.
Personally, I've always enjoyed the plot of Assassin's Creed, even though it does get a kick out of depicting my denomination as dirty and horrible, but then who doesn't these days?
Stunningly beautiful, of course. The depiction of Renaissance Turkey is polished to mirror-fine detail. Sadly, I’m not sure how much stock I can put in that anymore, with gorgeous visuals becoming less of a selling point and more of a standard for mainstream games.
Not much has changed. That's usual a negative tick on my clipboard, but in the case of Assassin's Creed, it's probably a good thing. It's still very fun and has good pacing, and what else can you ask for? A little innovation, you say? Well, great, because that's exactly what Revelations has: a little innovation.
The free-running has received an upgrade. Now there are zip lines to help you get around the massive city a bit quicker. The new hook blade also helps you scale tall buildings faster, so the flow is good.
The platforming for key plot devices is still there, and it's still just as fun to master. I was actually quite proud when I managed to get through a rather long one of those without dying once and while still completing the challenge objective.
One interesting note: there are a few sequences where Ezio climbs as his footholds and handholds are breaking away beneath him. It was suspiciously reminiscent of . But, Ezio did live about 500 years before Nathan Drake, so I guess he wins.
Swordplay is ok, but it's still completely broken by the counterattack. Some enemies can counter the counterattack, but then the developers threw in a counter for the counter of the counterattack and isn't this getting ridiculous?
Despite that, though, there's a sense of satisfaction to be had when you take down ten guards with the fluid grace of a 16th-century master assassin honed by decades of experience. Not realistic at all, but then we are playing a game about a secret order of assassins locked in eternal war with a secretive Templar order over apple-shaped pieces of technology which can control the world, so I think realism needs to sit in the back seat and shut up.
And of course there are side missions. Loads of them. The game still pulls that "city renovation" garbage from the other games, for one thing. You know, between owning all of the shops in Monteriggioni, Rome, and now Constantinople, I think it's safe to say that the Auditores own half the free world!
There's also races, treasure hunts, stronghold captures, small-time assassination contracts, and blah de blah de blah. The point is, there's a lot to keep you busy. That is, of course, assuming you care enough to do those things, which I'm not sure I can claim.
On top of all the side missions, there's tons of upgrades to buy. Like before, you can buy new armor, new dyes for your robes, bigger pouches for storing ammo and medicine, and, new to the table, bombs.
Yes, as if Ezio's wrist-pistol and poison dart gun in 1511 weren't making things easy enough on him, he can now make what are basically hand grenades. There's a lot to choose from (fourteen types in all). You have to craft them at designated crafting tables. Here you choose what type of shell you'll use, as well as types of gunpowder, and various fillers for different effects.
The choices yield nearly endless options, but being crunched for time, I just opted to make a bunch of smoke bombs to conceal me from view and some shrapnel grenades to clear a room.
That's the other thing I need to talk about, time. I didn't have a lot of time to play because I'm visiting relatives over the holiday, so I just crashed through the story missions as quickly as I could, sprinting like a maniac from one exclamation point on the minimap to the next.
I didn't bother to upgrade any armor, to buy any weapons, or to renovate the city (unless I happened to pass a building on the way). And yet, despite all that, the game wasn't hard. Like, at all. I even took away some of the HUD to make it more challenging, but I still breezed through it.
I only did two stronghold mission, and I found it easier to just brouhaha my way through them, taking down legions of flimsy guards with just my hidden blade. And it was easy. I never died from combat. Not once. I did die a couple of times when I had a "derp" moment while climbing massive buildings, but other than that, no.
My point is, if a game is easy enough that I can beat the campaign with little effort despite having no upgrades, it could probably afford to ramp up the difficulty curve a bit.
I'm sorry, I just didn't have time. I know nothing about it, so I'm not free to comment on it. Given the explosive popularity of Brotherhood's multiplayer, you can probably assume it's vey similar with some upgrades.
I will say this: after four of these games, the concept is starting to wear out a bit. It's good, but it's the same good over and over again, and much like Scrubs, I fear that we're headed to that point where something what was once beautiful and innovative is going to be shelved as mainstream and boring.
At the end of the day, though, I liked Revelations. The plot is still engrossing, the gameplay is still fun (especially the platforming), and the environment is massive and gorgeous.
Investment suggestion: It depends. If you're just interested in the plot and gameplay, rent it. If the multiplayer has lasting appeal to you, then buy it. And if you're planning to grind through the army of repetitive side missions for 100 percent completion, then put on a straight jacket, because you're crazy.
The above is only my opinion. It just happens to be right.
Where to Purchase
Here's some great local places to pick up this game: , , , and .