The conclusion of Ezio’s story has begun!
Written by Super User
Published Thursday, 24 November 2011 19:00
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise has not only been an annual standard for the past few years, but it’s also been one of the more intriguing ongoing narratives in gaming today. With a story loaded with mystery that spans centuries, it’s no wonder fans turn out in droves each and every time a new Assassin’s Creed title releases. From the very first Assassin’s Creed to last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the franchise has seen a lot of growth, both in how the game was played and the audience that played it. The release of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the fourth proper title in the franchise, but third in three years, not only seemed inevitable, but it also seemed troubling. Typically, annual franchises are criticized for incremental improvements, and unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened with Revelations. Lacking any substantial additions to the Assassin’s Creed legacy or formula, Revelations feels more like a sequel for sequel’s sake, rather than an important part of the puzzle.
Longtime players of the Assassin’s Creed games have been following the overarching mystery for four adventures thus far, and with a title like Revelations, you would think there might be some actual revelations about the franchise’s complex narrative. Instead, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations dawdles along, and spends yet another entire game with Ezio, while revealing mere morsels of pertinent information. The issue I have with the narrative isn’t that we have a third complete entry in Ezio’s tale, it’s that the story it tells doesn’t move the overall story of Desmond, the Assassins, and the Templars forward enough. Obviously I’m not going to tell you how the game ends, but with the exception of the final few minutes of the game, there is nothing offered in Revelations that will have you looking at any of the interweaving histories any differently. While it was nice to get a glimpse into Altair’s life once again, the moments are ever so brief, and really only serve as a motivation for Ezio to do more relic hunting. I’m not disappointed that we didn’t get all the answers to many of the franchise’s long-running questions. I expect Ubisoft to play their cards very close to the vest, however, there are so few plot points that move Desmond forward in Revelations that it’s a little insulting to the Assassin’s Creed faithful. Saying Revelations was released as a cash-in title is a little unfair, as every video game is released with the intention to make money. That said, Revelations felt like an unnecessary detour.
Perhaps I might have been more inclined to see Revelations as a proper sequel, instead of more of the same, if the new gameplay inclusions were worthwhile. Most of Revelations’ exploration and combat controls remain the same as they were in Brotherhood. This time around though, grenades are added into the combat mix, and a new hook blade is included to make traversing Constantinople easier. The results are less than impressive. While the bomb-making concept is certainly interesting, the application of these new devices doesn’t add any new wrinkles to the core game, no matter how much time it spends telling you how important grenades are. You certainly do have a pretty diverse range of options for the different bombs you can create, but there’s little to no reason to use them in the campaign unless forced to by the game. Outside of the handful of times Revelations made me use grenades in order to advance, I felt no real impetus to use them at all. Fights were still just as easy to win with melee weapons, and the speed and ease of use they offered far outweighed the limited distance of the grenades.
The hook blade is definitely more impressive in concept than it is in execution. First, it makes no sense at all that Ezio is able to stab people with a hooked blade. The “J” shape of the weapon, which is just a new hidden blade that you receive permanently, wouldn’t allow for the stab kills that the assassin has become known for. That doesn’t stop Ezio from jamming the blunted object into people left and right though. Logistics of the combat properties aside, the exploration capabilities of the hook blade do make getting around a little easier. There are wires connecting rooftops all across Constantinople that you can use to quickly slide from section to section of the city. As interesting and easy as it makes traveling, this concept also makes no sense. Why are wires connecting these roofs all across the city? They aren’t clotheslines, as you’ll see plenty of them in the alleyways. Telecommunications haven’t been invented yet. Regular citizens of the city don’t use them for travel, so there really is no reason for them to exist other than to allow the developers to give gamers a new travel method. I understand that Ubisoft is taking liberties with history and the locales, but it’s painfully obvious that the inclusion of this exploration tool was merely a superfluous addition that serves only to provide a difference between Revelations and the previous Assassin’s Creed games.
"While Assassin’s Creed has prided itself on its sprawling cityscapes and rural countrysides, Revelations Constantinople is by far the pinnacle of what the developers can accomplish with this engine."
Assassin recruitment and Templar dens have a new combined effect. Now when you take over a Templar tower (similar to Brotherhood’s Borgia towers), the location becomes a den for your assassins. The mini-game where you send recruits across the world to level up makes a return, but now there’s an additional element added to defending these dens. If you gain too much notoriety, you’ll attract the attention of the Templars, who will then try to take the den back. If you choose to return to the den in question, you’ll enter into an RTS-like mini-game where you will commence with the defence. It’s not very fun. In fact, it’s actually almost easier, and more fun, to let the Templars take the den back over so you can flush them out again. The RTS portion isn’t bad, but after a few rounds, you can tell that Ubisoft clearly has some work to do to make it more engaging if they choose to implement it in further sequels. The whole thing just boils down to a massive grind, and winning is determined by how quickly you can spawn various classes of assassins for defense. There’s no real skill involved at all, and much like the other new inclusions, the mode is better in theory than in execution.
There’s also a new puzzle-solving element added for the portions of the game where you play as Desmond. These sections take place within Desmond’s mind, and literally have you putting the pieces of Desmond’s past together. There are only a handful of these segments, and they are completely optional. You unlock them by finding Animus shards in the Ezio portions of the game. Though there are 100 shards, you thankfully only have to find 30 to complete all of Desmond’s puzzles. The puzzles themselves involve you traversing the manifestation of the Animus in Desmond’s mind. There are two different puzzle pieces to use to work your way through various chambers of forgotten memories, and the mild challenge presented makes them pretty fun to play. Desmond missions are unlike anything that’s been in an Assassin’s Creed game before, and stand out as the one portion of Revelations that actually feels new.
Despite my trepidations about Revelations’ single-player content, I absolutely love what Ubisoft has done with multiplayer. Though much of it remains the same as it was in Brotherhood, I really enjoyed it then too, and the improvements made to this iteration of the competitive online component make an already interesting mode even better. The user interface has been cleaned up, and the front-end experience (where all the character customization is done) is much better, and the in-game HUD is much easier to read and understand. There’s a new Capture the Flag variant included, which is somewhat fun to play, but I still prefer the solo modes more. Hunting down assassination targets on my own, while seven other people are competing for the same job or trying to kill me, is a lot more fun than working with others. I still wish you could actually kill the person that had a contract for you, but the other refinements made to this mode still make it one of the most surprisingly good multiplayer components in gaming today. It’s still an acquired taste, and not one everyone will be a fan, but for me there’s none more satisfying.
While Assassin’s Creed has prided itself on its sprawling cityscapes and rural countrysides, Revelations Constantinople is by far the pinnacle of what the developers can accomplish with this engine. Non-story characters that populate the game world are actually starting to show their graphical age, but Ezio, Altair, and the rest of the cast all still look and move really well. You don’t really spend a whole lot of time looking at the common denizens anyway, as your attention will always be focused on the landmarks and buildings you’re climbing. The voice acting, as per usual, is on point, but it should be noted that the actor playing Ezio seems to have developed a thicker Italian accent as the character has aged. Revelations also has my favorite score of the entire series so far as well. If I had to lodge one complaint about the presentation, it’s that a few of the animations still look a little awkward, but that’s to be expected when virtually all the animations are the same as they were for the past few games. If there is any difference, I certainly can’t see it.
I was worried when Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood came out just a year after Assassin’s Creed II. Fortunately, Brotherhood had enough going right for it that the yearlong development cycle didn’t hurt the franchise. Though I doubt the lack of innovations in Revelations is going to damage the Assassin’s Creed series, I definitely feel burned by Ubisoft on this one. There wasn’t enough happening in the game to move the franchise forward at all. Multiplayer is still a great deal of fun, but Assassin’s Creed titles are more about the single-player experience, and there just wasn’t enough of one this time around. I’m still optimistic about where the franchise can go next, but I hope Ubisoft actually continues pushing Assassin’s Creed forward instead of just being content with how far they’ve come.
Release date : 2011-11-15
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Montreal
Gameplay : Action
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