Ben dives under the hood of number four to discover if the final trip with Ezio is worth it…
Reviewed on the Xbox 360 by Ben Keil
The Assassin’s Creed games have developed into one of the premier series of action games for the current console generation. Revelations is the fourth installment in the series and the third (and final) one to feature Ezio Auditore de Firenze. The franchise has developed its own mythos documenting an history-spanning war between the Assassins and Templars. The modern day character whose ancestors the player controls is Desmond.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations’ story begins with Desmond trapped inside the Animus. Following the riveting cliffhanger ending to Brotherhood, very little explanation is given as to how this situation came about, even during the ending sequence (but don’t worry, the conclusion of Desmond’s story is slated for a game due out this fall). I found this to be frustrating, but it’s the only aspect of the story that is anything short of flawless.
The game weaves an exciting tale that ends with a satisfying conclusion to Ezio’s role in the mythos. The story revolves around Ezio’s trip to Constantinople to seek out Altair’s keys. Fans of the series will remember Altair as Desmond’s playable ancestor in the original Assassin’s Creed. Naturally, danger is afoot in the city, and Ezio finds himself caught up in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire during a time of much political strife. As good as the plot is, the character development is where the game truly shines. While some of the emotional impact will be lost on players new to the series, the development of Ezio’s character over three games and nearly forty years of his life is tremendous and truly endears the player to him. He is a character I will certainly miss.
Despite only one year between the release of Brotherhood and Revelations, the graphics seem vastly improved. While the environments have always been gorgeous, I immediately noticed a considerable upgrade in the character models, particularly the facial features. The FMV sequences are so realistic, it’s easy to confuse it with actual video footage. In short, the graphics are so good you might die a few times because you’re simply admiring the view.
One of the most impressive aspects of the series’ progression has been Ubisoft’s ability to improve the gameplay with each successive installment. With Revelations, however, there are few noticeable changes to the basic mechanics of gameplay. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the previous installment, Brotherhood, seemed to take it to near perfection. The main changes in gameplay with Revelations have to do with the style of the missions and the sidequests.
First, the platforming action sequences have been ramped up. As if the Hidden Tombs and Lairs of Romulus from previous installments weren’t enjoyable enough, their equivalent in Revelations is even better (and mandatory to advance in the game). These sequences are action packed and provide an enjoyable change of pace from rooftop escapades. In addition to this, the game introduces bomb crafting. Using the bombs you’ve created is essential in completing missions without having to fight every enemy in order to advance. And if you’re a completionist, don’t expect to get 100% synchronization without mastering how/when/where to use what bomb. One other improvement to note is the improved system of assassin recruiting. Not only are there several side missions you can complete to recruit specific assassins, but leveling up your assassins opens up new side missions to complete. This is more time consuming than the system seen in Brotherhood, but provides more incentive.
In addition to these changes to the main missions, the sidequests are very different from previous installments. Sure, there are 100 Animus data fragments lying around Constantinople to keep you busy, but there are no assassination contracts, races, or other familiar missions. Replacing these are two new sidequests. The first is a fairly simple tower defense minigame. A barrage of bad guys attempts to attack your den, and you attempt to thwart them using barriers, assassins with various abilities, and your own pistol and explosive device. Similar to Brotherhood, the city is divided into districts and you can free them of Templar control by killing the captain. However, unlike the previous installment, Templars can reclaim the area by attacking your den (triggering the tower defense sequence) once your Templar awareness meter reaches maximum. I would have liked to have seen each district assigned a difficulty level (like Brotherhood), as it becomes very frustrating to consistently lose control of the same district because you haven’t unlocked better defense items from beating easier districts. The minigame provides a nice change of pace from the game’s typical action, but to be honest I just manipulated the Templar awareness meter to ensure I didn’t have to fight these battles if I didn’t want (and kudos to Ubisoft for creating a system that allows for this).
The second sidequest involves Desmond. By collecting Animus data fragments with Ezio, you can unlock five levels (you only need to collect 30 out of 100 to unlock all five…lame) that Desmond can play through. These levels are first-person puzzle platformers and present a unique challenge compared to anything else the series has offered. In addition to the stylistic change of pace (noticing the trend?), you learn much about Desmond’s past in each of the five levels. I really enjoyed this sidequest and appreciated the perspective and brain-stimulating difficulty it offered.
For the social gamer, multiplayer is back. Like the previous installment, you can now hop online and quite literally stab your friends in the back. This time around, there is story involved with the multiplayer. As your character level progresses, you unlock documents and cutscenes that provide back story on the Templar organization throughout history. This is another great example of Ubisoft furthering the mythos that they have created. It takes the intrigue to new heights by allowing us to see the reasoning behind the bad guys.
One significant change to the multiplayer gameplay stood out to me. You no longer get to choose which game mode you’d like to play. Instead, you’re thrown into a game and between rounds you get to vote on three server-chosen levels/game modes. The effects of this change are twofold. From a positive perspective, wait times to join a game are significantly down. From a negative perspective, only the most popular game modes will ever get chosen. For those who enjoy a more nuanced style, don’t expect to play your preference very often.
The biggest problem I have is essentially with the scoring system. In many of the game’s levels, two or three players tend to stand on a central high point, in plain sight, surveying the entire level. This makes it much easier to find their targets, but also very obvious to their pursuers. While one could argue that this is merely a preferred style of play, the end result is it affects every player. Soon enough, everyone is forced to leave hiding places and anonymity and join a massacre. Everyone now has no choice but to play that style. You may get an easy kill, but won’t have to wait long until you’re dead too. This is Assassin’s Creed, not some first-person shooter where you can go in guns ablazing. What happened to stealth? What happened to clever kills? The scoring system as it is rewards players for using hiding places and skills to obtain kills, but it doesn’t penalize those who don’t enough. Often, the highest scoring players are those who stand waiting for the target and pursuer to come right to them; and since the levels are fairly small, they can be seen by everyone. If Assassin’s Creed wants to make its multiplayer game a unique and enjoyable experience going forward, this needs to be fixed.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is another stellar entry into an increasingly popular series. The story is phenomenal, albeit a tad short (although this is partially due to a decrease in time-consuming sidequests). The graphics are gorgeous and the missions have improved. The multiplayer is fun, but does have some flaws. While it’s hard to say if this installment is truly better than Brotherhood, it is absolutely not a game to be missed by fans of the series or the action genre.