November 14, 2011
Following on from the shocking events that transpired in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, we're informed that Desmond's mind has started to collapse. The bleeding effect has become too intense and he's no longer in control. In other words, he's entered into a coma. This is where the mysterious Subject 16 enters the fray, inside the Animus' Safe Mode. He's been talked about in previous games and even appears briefly in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but Revelations sees him get some prolonged face time.
Knowing that he is stuck inside the Animus forever, Subject 16 makes it his duty to help Desmond piece his mind back together so that he doesn't suffer the same fate. He informs Desmond that the only way this can be achieved is to see the tales of both Altair and Ezio through to their ends.
This time around, the historical story follows Ezio's quest to Constantinople as he looks to find the keys to unlock Altair's library. As seems to be the case in previous Assassin's Creed titles, the historical story within the game takes some time to get going. But in Revelations it feels like it takes far too long. It's not until the later Memory Sequences that things start to kick off, allowing the story to really engross you.
In previous games, there was also the real-world story that was taking place at the same time. This was expanded upon in Brotherhood through some brilliant storytelling, but it's almost non-existent in Revelations. Its omission is a disappointment that can't be understated. How the developers dealt with the end of Brotherhood is also something that should be admonished - it's terrible. Instead of letting us see the consequences of the event, we're told snippets of information through what Desmond can hear while in his coma. It takes all of the drama away from the severity of the situation and it's as if Lucy never existed.
Part of what made Assassin's Creed titles so special was the unique story they contained - the divide between historical and present events. With this gone, it feels far too shallow. Gone is the tension, gone is any care for the underlying plot and gone is the dramatic conclusion. It feels as though the humbling and emotional end of Altair and Ezio was for nothing. Instead of being excited to find out what happens next, it just leaves a hollow feeling - they deserved more.
The gameplay in Revelations serves as an extension to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, although there aren't too many major changes. The two core changes come with guard interactions and traversal around Constantinople.
Due to improvements in technology, bombs are now readily available to suit your every desire. There are three different types, but within these categories there are quite a few different possibilities to concoct depending on your desired result. Your objective may be to kill some guards or to simply creat a distraction. Depending on the elements you use, this could be achieved with very differing results.
This addition is a very welcome one - it grants the game a much stealthier element. Instead of having to sneakily kill people or just stay out of sight, you can instead distract guards to create a clear passage through to your objective. Poison darts are also much more prevalent in Revelations, allowing you to drug guards from afar and witness the confusion that ensues.
The other major change is the inclusion of the hook blade. Another advancement in technology, this allows for even faster climbing due to it serving as an extension to the arm. It does have other uses too though. If you aren't going to make a jump, you can extend the hook blade manually to try and grab on to something. Combat also sees its rather brutal application.
The coolest use of the hook blade has to be how it allows speedy navigation through the city via zip lines. You can quickly cover rooftops, allowing for nippy escapes and even better, amazing flying assassinations.
Aside from this, much of the gameplay feels the same. If anything, combat feels a little bit sloppier. Brotherhood felt very smooth and was a huge improvement over Assassin's Creed II, but with Revelations it doesn't seem to have the same flow any more. Almost everything is the same - you can still instant kill guards if you're on a killing spree. But there just seems to be something that's different. Perhaps it's the types of guard that are present within Revelations - they're a lot trickier to fight against and don't open themselves up for the same artistic fluidity. Or perhaps it's to do with the removal of the combat's rhythmical flow - you can now just spam the attack button.
The climbing is also very familiar, aside from the added hook blade element. But unlike previous games, your climbing skills are never really tested. There are some cool underground caverns to explore, but none of it as particularly challenging on the mind. Instead, these thought-provoking sections have been replaced by chase scenes to cater for those thrill-seeking junkies out there.
Constantinople is a huge city and a great location for an Assassin's Creed title. It features many different elements, and quite a lot of the city works well - it certainly has atmosphere. There are some parts that feel a bit too saturated though and this is a bit of a problem on the whole. Many the city elements are carried over from Brotherhood, but they don't feel as though they fit with the city in the same way.
You've got the Byzantine (Borja) Towers and the city renovation system, but the game just doesn't compel you to dive into this side of the game - it doesn't feel fresh any more. The same also applies to the "Brotherhood" Assassin recruitment, although small additions have been made here. You can now assign certain assassins to run Dens, each of which will have their own mission tree if you talk to them.
Unlike Brotherhood, the Byzantines will also try to reclaim regions that you have taken from them, leading to an odd tower defence simulator. This element of the game is more of an annoyance than anything. It's frustrating to be in the middle of something, only to be summoned somewhere to the other side of the city because you need to do some micro-management. The tower defence simulator is also quite underwhelming. You can assign Assassin Leaders to roof tops, place ranged attackers there and put up barricades, but it's all rather slow and boring. Even when the action gets more hectic, it doesn't feel very engaging.
The core additions that are present showcase some progress that's been made, but the rest of it feels all too familiar - it's almost a carbon copy, just with a different lick of paint. But, that doesn't escape the fact that it's still a fun game to play and you'll still get a kick out of performing some awesome assassinations with the hidden blade.
Presentation is another area where it feels as though there have been some improvements, but also some oddities. The city looks great and while there are some loading screens, they're an omission that's acceptable. The character models on the other hand are a bit odd - especially the eyes. It looks as though people have glowing eyes and the shadows made people look rather creepy, which doesn't seem like it should have been the desired effect.
One thing that should be commended again though is the voice acting. Roger Craig Smith presents another fantastic performance as Ezio and it's also nice to hear Altair get to speak his mind a bit.
When it comes to replay value, as with every Assassin's Creed game there is plenty to keep you occupied. Not only are there all the guild challenges, but there are also side-stories to play through as well related to the assassins you recruit. The major point though, is the inclusion of Desmond's Memory Sequences. Ubisoft did promise that we'd learn more about Desmond this time and it's true, but perhaps not in the way people expected.
By collecting Animus Shards scattered throughout Constantinople, you will be able to unlock Desmond's five Memory Sequences. You may be surprised with what you encounter once you do. Unlike the rest of the experience, these sequences are played out in first person and play out as a platformer, with light puzzles. You can use two different shapes, which you will need to use in order to get to higher or lower places. As you venture through the levels, you'll hear about what it was like for Desmond to grow up as an Assassin.
There's also the multiplayer, which is something that has seen expansion. There are new modes to check out here, as well as new maps and characters. An expanded story has also been included to give the multiplayer a bit more context within the greater universe.
It's unfortunate, but Assassin's Creed: Revelations fails to live up to the expectation. If anything, it feels like a step backwards for the franchise. This time last year, Brotherhood was being praised because of how it expanded everything that Assassin's Creed II was - it felt everything like a true sequel. Revelations feels like it deserves to be a spin-off, a necessary evil to serve as a stop-gap before the main event. Worst of all, it feels lazy. There is still plenty to enjoy and the conclusion to Altair and Ezio's saga is humbling, but the pizzazz the franchise has had up until now just isn't there.
Assassin's Creed: Revelation's was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.