Review by Kayos90
"Will Ezio be missed due to series fatigue?"
Assassin's Creed Revelations Review
Assassin's Creed is one of the most successful franchises this generation. The first title was released in 2007 and its sequel, Assassin's Creed II, hit stores in 2009. In 2010, the series saw the launch of a spin-off title Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and Revelations is the latest installment in the Assassin's Creed series. However, is Revelations something new and fresh or is the start of series fatigue?
Perhaps the most interesting concept of Revelations is that it is the last title of the trilogy covering Ezio Auditore, the protagonist for Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood. It's rare that video games see the progression of one character from a teenager into a wise old man, and Revelations blesses gamers with an amazing conclusion to Ezio's life in the Assassin's Creed universe. The story begins with Ezio on a journey to look for the secret library of Masyaf, home of the Assassins from centuries ago. However, what he finds at Masyaf are Templars that block his path and mysterious keys that are needed to open the door to the hidden library. What seems like a simple quest quickly expands to a search across the vast city of Constantinople. Unfortunately there are some heated political mayhem in the city leading Ezio to juggle between his search for the keys and the inheritance of the Sultanate. These two story arcs often times clash where Ezio needs to assist the city's needs in order to find the keys. The sad thing is that these two plot arcs are handled poorly and it's difficult to even care about Revelations' story as a whole. Prince Ahmet's struggle to keep the Jannisaries loyal is never touched on and his quarrel with his brother Salim is mentioned only a handful of times. The potential for a great political narrative is definitely here but sadly, Revelations has minimized the scope to what is a terrible mess. By the time the game's end has come, one has to wonder what the whole fight in Constantinople was all about.
The same can be said about the search for the keys of Masyaf's hidden library. Ezio needs to find these keys but the search is a just a simple quest with no narrative at all. There are story tidbits that revolve around the search such as Ezio's involvement with the Assassin Order in Constantinople and his blossoming romance with Sofia Sartor. In fact, the best part of Revelations is Ezio's interactions with the many characters in Constantinople. The cast is much more likable this time around and sometimes the conversations that Ezio has with them is a real treat. Sofia Sartor is a librarian that has been quickly charmed by the mysterious but honest Ezio as he requests her expertise with books. There are many interactions between these two and the chemistry is definitely there allowing for some heartfelt moments. Veterans of the series will particularly feel happy for Ezio as his romantic life was not always so honest and pure as it is with Sofia's. Beyond his interaction with Sofia, Ezio becomes a confidante of the strong-willed and ingenious Prince Suleiman as the wise Assassin gives advice to the young prince. In fact, Prince Suleiman is a very interesting character because he is a very idealistic leader wanting for Constantinople to prosper but at the same time not letting his own idealism hinder the realistic values needed to rule. The leader of the Assassin Order in Constantinope, Yusuf Tazim, is a humerous and amicable character that becomes quick friends with Ezio assisting him whenever he can. There is something wonderful about the characters in Revelations compared to its prequel Brotherhood, yet all of this is gone to waste due to its failure to develop them.
Ezio is not the only Assassin from the past in Revelations, as Altair makes a reappearance. His character arcs are short quests that give a little more insight about his life before and after his journey in the first Assassin's Creed. It's easy to warm up to Altair for veterans but for new entries, it might be difficult since there isn't a lot of backstory detailed in cutscenes. There is a datalog in the menu that explains everything but it's disappointing that it's not presented in a fashionable manner. In short, Revelations is perhaps a game with great narrative potential but fails to live up to it.
Gameplay hasn't changed much since its prequels and instead of adding in many new mechanics to change the formula, Revelations refines what already exists. One of the new additions to Ezio's arsenal is the hookblade which allows Ezio to add more versatility to his movements around Constantinople. Buildings become easier and faster to climb, rooftop jumping has been minimized due to hooklines, and other interactive objects allow for long jumps or other maneuvers. All of these changes are from one arsenal and it is a good change indeed. Climbing might've felt slow but in Revelations, it is swift as it can be. Sadly, the same thing can't be said for the hooklines. Ezio uses the hooklines to zip from one rooftop to another in a diagonally descending manner, however, it's rare that these are used because the city itself isn't very vertical. In combination to the fact that hooklines hardly show up when needed, it almost seems unneeded. What's the point of it if one has to take the time to get to the hookline to use it? Even so, traversing through Constantinople is still a joy to go.
The second major addition are bombs. Ezio now has the ability to craft different types of bombs throughout the various bomb stations scattered in Constantinople. Using various materials that Ezio picks up, different types of bombs can be crafted such as a bouncing explosive bomb or a flash bomb that explodes on contact. Though bombs seem interesting to use, they're not necessary at all to complete the game. In fact, the bombs feel tacked on and feel like they have no presence in the game. There are other weapons that do the job better than bombs do and if they served a unique purpose integral to the game, they would be more useful.
The combat is virtually the same as Brotherhood. Ezio has daggers, swords, and hidden blades at his arsenal to combat against enemies. The player still has to utilize the one button to attack and in conjunction with the Right trigger, perform counterattacks against enemies. It's a fairly simplistic way to fight against enemies and depending on what type of enemy it is they may strafe, break free from grabs, or attack more aggressively. Even so, combat in Revelations is extremely easy, with the exception of Jannisaries, that are difficult to kill unless properly tackled. Part of the lack of difficulty is due to the combo killing mechanic. If the player kills an enemy and proceeds to immediately attack a nearby enemy, he will die. Essentially, one kill can chain a series of kills leading to a quick end. It essentially takes the fun out of killing enemies and by the end it becomes more of a chore than an essential aspect of the game. Assassinations on the other hand are a complete joy to complete but are practically non-existent in the game. Previous games have focused heavily on major stealth assassinations; these are rare in Revelations and it's a shame. Instead of focusing on blending into the environment and cleverly walking up to the target, the combat is the spotlight. However, the few assassination missions that the game sports is a blast and becomes more like a jewel in a sea of trash.
Side-quests have made their way into the game through various forms. Constantinople is sectioned off into different districts and controlled by Templars. In order to free them, the player must engage in lighting towers similar to the Borgia Towers from Brotherhood. Each claimed district will have an Assassin Den and there the player can manage a brotherhood of Assassins by sending them out to do missions and gain experience until they reach the maximum level. When they do, they can manage the den by themselves allowing new side-quests to be available. All of these side-quests are fairly short and feel very repetitive by the game's end. They are always trailing, observing, and the like and Revelations is definitely showing signs of repetitive structure that is beginning to get old. Even so, the narrative that accompanies each side-quest is enjoyable.
Besides the single player experience, Revelations sports a multiplayer component that acts like the Assassin game in real life. The player hunts for a particular avatar while avoid being hunted and attacked. It's a simple idea at first but the psychology behind how to act to avoid being detected and how to hunt someone is an intricate art that blurs the line between reality and not. It's a thirlling experience to be had and it's definitely unique. There are new playtypes if the player has played Brotherhood, but Revelations still offers something unique compared to the plague of first-person shooters out on the market.
The sound in Revelations is absolutely phenomenal whether it be the excellent voice acting or the triumphant music created by Balfe and Kyd. Each anthem gives off an Arabic vibe and feels foreign allowing for a great immersive experience. The same can be said about the voice acting of the characters as they are brimming with accents that sound native to the city. Emotions are expressed very well as you hear the silent chuckles from Ezio and his conversations with Sofia. Ubisoft has done excellent work with the portrayal of each character in the game, particularly Subject 16 who sounds as if he's on the verge of insanity.
The graphics of the game on the other hand is a mixed bag. The details on the character are amazing as Ezio's armor shines and the gray hairs of his beard are beginning to show. The facial animations have shown remarkable improvement since Brotherhood allowing for more emotional expressions. The presence of high-production values is definitely here but it's sad that the environments feel like they didn't get the same treatment. The buildings lack personality and the city feels bland altogether. Each district and area feel all too familiar and the light tan color is extremely repetitive. While there are some changes since Brotherhood, Revelations hasn't improved much on its graphical engine and as a result, the series is beginning to show some signs of age, much like Ezio himself.
Overall, Revelations is a fine game that definitely does more right than it does wrong. If it's isn't broken then why change it? This is the philosophy that Revelations follows and it shows that the tried and true formula of Assassin's Creed is still strong. Still there are chips and dents in the game that are beginning to show the series' age and its repetitive mission structure. Package all of that together with a bland story, and one gets something that could've been so much more. Veterans might find that Revelations is much more of old than it is new and series fatigue might be hitting in. However, if there's an Assassin in you then you might want to don that hood one more time for an excellent conclusion to Ezio's story and his journey as an Assassin.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/31/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Revelations (First Print Limited Edition) (US, 11/15/11)
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