Also on: Xbox 360
Developer: Various Ubisoft studios
Medium: Blu-Ray Disc
I may be suffering from a condition known as Assassin's Creed Fatigue. After being a big defender of the original game and as a gamer who thought that the series had been steadily improving through last year's release of Brotherhood, I had fairly high expectations for Assassin's Creed Revelations. After playing through Revelations however, I probably would have been content if the Ezio storyline just ended after Brotherhood. I'm not saying that Revelations is a bad game by any means; it's just a game that probably didn't need to be made.
Assassin's Creed Revelations is the 3rd in the Assassin's Creed “Ezio Trilogy”, and the follow-up to Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. The game is centered on an older, more mature Ezio leaving Italy and heading to Constantinople to help organize the local assassins against the growing Templar threat in the region. Revelations is designed to tie up loose ends (so to speak) and offer more insight into Ezio's connection with Altaïr as well as delve deeper into the mind of animus subject Desmond Miles and his relationship with the assassins. The Assassin's Creed series and the virtual reality "animus" program that the proper game is contained within is never especially easy to follow, though AC Revelations does try to bring things to a conclusion in a somewhat meaningful way. The story takes a while to get going in Revelations, and it thankfully does pick up some steam towards the end.
When hearing that no less than six Ubisoft studios were involved in the development of Assassin's Creed Revelations, I have to be honest, I was wary of the end result. This was especially true when Ubisoft scheduled the game to be released only a year after Brotherhood, the previous game in the series. My instincts I feel were relatively correct this time unfortunately and it seems that the old adage, "too many cooks in the kitchen", applies to an extent.
Assassin's Creed Revelations is a good game, a great game at times, but it's a step down from Brotherhood in almost every way. It is unfocused, buggy, badly-paced, and uninteresting in comparison to the previous 3 games. Brotherhood, in my opinion, was excellent, and added some really worthwhile variation to the series with the strategic assassin recruitment/mission system and the ability to liberate and improve cities to earn cash. The online multiplayer was fresh and new as well and added another dimension to what everyone figured was a single-player only franchise. This was on top of the nicely implemented stealth and combat gameplay, and the intriguing Italian renaissance setting and storyline. Revelations tries to build on top of Brotherhood but somehow manages to upset the balance with unneeded new gameplay additions and a far less interesting setting and plot.
Constantinople is where you'll be spending a majority of the proper game, and it doesn't have the appeal that Rome and other Italian regions had in Brotherhood. There are not many immediately recognizable landmarks or much in the way of environmental variation and the city itself is fairly generic and repetitive. There are a few instances in the game when you'll flash back to some of Altaïr's earlier memories from the first Assassin's Creed for example, and those are quite a bit more enthralling that the core game. There are seemingly a small number of truly unique-feeling missions scattered throughout Revelations, which is unfortunate.
Besides the inferior setting in Revelations, some of the changes to the game itself are just annoying. Ubisoft apparently felt they needed to add yet another layer to the single player experience which was just not needed. Sneaking into a Templar den, assassinating the captain and burning their tower to the ground was an enjoyable element of Brotherhood. Having to continually defend the dens you have taken over in Revelations in some half-assed tower defense mode, is not fun at all. This isn't Grand Theft Auto; I don't want to have to interrupt my stealth assassination plans to deal with turf wars. What's even worse is that Ezio's personal reputation is tied to when the Templars decide to retake one of the assassin's dens, and almost anything you do besides walking slowly through the city causes the meter to tick upwards. You can lower it by bribing heralds or killing off certain templar officials, but it's a constant struggle. Later in the game, once one of your assassins reach their maximum level, they can be assigned to lock down a den, but until you level them all up to that point and decide not to use them anymore, it's an annoyance.
Ezio has plenty of tools at his disposal, and as a stealthy assassin, probably more than he needs. New to ACR is the hookblade, which Ezio has access to right away, and is primarily used to grapple to a slightly higher position when climbing. It's actually a useful addition and not all that different than his previous, unlockable ability to leap higher while climbing. Revelations also adds a whole "bomb creation" element to the game, which again, feels totally unneeded. Ezio can find bomb-making materials in the game, either from chests or by looting soldiers, and can build a variety of bombs with different properties. Some bombs are designed to bounce, have a delayed fuse and attract soldiers with a puff of smoke, and others are made purely for destruction. Having to seek out elements to make these bombs and then find a bomb workshop to assemble them is irritating. For most of the game it's optional, and in some scenarios the bombs can be useful, but stuff like that just kills the pacing of a game. Just having a simple bomb vendor would have been more than sufficient.
Even with many optional things to do in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, the game still felt focused on progressing the story in some way. Revelations is kind of the opposite, and I feel that the things that should have been optional sometimes ended up taking greater priority over the plot. What's more is that actual assassination missions are few and far between, and when you are presented with such a task, they are nowhere near as well thought out and dramatic as they were in previous games. Ezio is drawn into far more battles with Templar soldiers this time around, and while Ubisoft has improved the combat to a degree, it doesn't make sense that a stealthy master assassin should be required to hack and slash his way through a mission.
After completing missions you have the option to jump back and improve upon your performance, but honestly, unlike my experience with Brotherhood, not many are exciting enough to tackle multiple times. Even the "real world" Desmond portions of the game, which are almost completely optional in Revelations, are oddly straightforward and uninteresting.
AC Revelations is a fine looking game but it doesn’t look significantly better that Brotherhood in any particular way. Thanks to the less interesting environments I would almost say it’s a small step down. There’s still plenty to be impressed with, including the well-animated execution kills, gorgeous lighting, and scenic views. The framerate chugs here and there as it did in previous games, though it’s nothing out of the ordinary for an open world-style title. The music is once again excellent with authentic sounding compositions and instruments, and the voice work is usually quite good.
The online multiplayer is still unique and enjoyable, and requires the use of an online pass code that only comes bundled with new copies of the game or can be purchased separately. I'm getting tired of complaining about this new "system", so I won't bother, though merely mentioning it should be enough. Anyway, the online is an interesting diversion of hide and seek, mostly, that was first introduced in Brotherhood, but has been enhanced and refined with new maps, abilities, modes and characters.
I kept wanting to love Assassin's Creed Revelations. I also kept expecting the game to "click" like previous installments in the series, but it just never happened. In the end, Revelations mostly feels like a step backwards that was probably rushed to market just to satisfy the need for a yearly installment. I wouldn't be surprised if other fans of the series might feel the same after spending some time with the game. The good thing is, just by the very nature of the series' virtual time-shifting storyline of sorts, there's no way this is the end of Assassin's Creed. With a new character and a new setting, Ubisoft has an opportunity to reinvent the franchise again, and I'm guessing we'll be hearing about their plans sometime in the near future.