Review by vivalapolitik
"Ezio's Final Revelations Are More Painful Than Intended"
Single Player Review ONLY
I've been a fan of the Assassin's Creed series since the first game launched in 2007. While certainly full of flaws, I was in constant awe of how much potential the series had.
Ubisoft realized this potential when it returned with Assassin's Creed II in 2009, a game widely regarded as one of the finest ways to approach a sequel. The series returned the following year with a more refined experience than its predecessor with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations aims to bring an end to the Ezio story arc that began in AC II, but is the game a continuation of the series' excellent game design, or is it a shockingly painful revelation?
The game follows an aging Ezio who, in search for answers to end the eternal Templar-Assassin struggle, travels to Constantinople. Here he hopes to recover five keys that will unlock the library of his legendary forefather and the protagonist of the first game, Altair. Ezio's quest is set against the backdrop of political strife in the Ottoman empire.
Similar to the previous games, Revelations has nine main story chapters. However, you'll be hard-pressed to make it that far, as the game is painfully slow and boring, even as it draws to its climax.
The pacing creates a dull and sluggish narrative that fails to keep players interested in an already vastly toned down plot when compared to previous installments. You'll constantly find yourself asking, Why am I doing this?, as you perform bland and menial tasks throughout Constantinople. The game does have a number of action-oriented story sequences, but even these fail to create any more than a whisper of interest. The story's biggest problem is just how insignificant and menial it feels when compared to previous entries in the series.
Ezio is now not only the leader but the mentor of the entire Assassin order, and with this maturity comes wisdom. It's satisfying to see the character become philosophical and contemplative as Ubisoft provides a solid insight into Ezio's character.
My only issue with Ezio's actual development is the way his story ends. While his last hurrah is enjoyable, his actual life is given very little closure. Without giving away any spoilers, I was left feeling bitter, as our favorite Italian's end is uninspired and completely undeveloped. Considering this is a well-constructed character whom most have spent three games following, the poor execution of our last moments with Ezio is disappointing.
Similarly, Ezio's involvement in the Ottoman political struggle is unimportant and frankly, not at all interesting, serving more as filler-content than an essential part of the story.
Altair's story sequences are short but sweet, helping to break up the monotony of the story. However, I can't help but feel this attention to characterization should have been implemented in the first game. The consequence of this flaw is a character you want to learn more about but who sadly doesn't receive as much attention as he deserves, as his story takes a backseat to Ezio's already uneventful journey.
Desmond receives little to no attention, which is a shame considering he's trapped in a coma within the Animus from the end of Brotherhood.
Ironically, very little is actually revealed about the overarching story of the series, and the cliffhanger ending of Brotherhood is left completely unanswered in Revelations.
The story also suffers from the lack of a clear enemy. The Borgias were an identifiable face to the Templar force in AC II and Brotherhood. Even after completing the story, there is no distinct enemy in Revelations, and I was left wondering Who was Ezio even fighting?. He's obviously still fighting Templar forces, but even as the real enemy is revealed near the close of the game, they simply don't seem as noteworthy as previous villains.
All of these issues contribute to what's arguably the worst story the series has seen. Underdeveloped, frustrating, and incoherent only begin to describe our final journey with Ezio. 5.0
Revelations receives a graphical upgrade more noticeable than the jump from II to Brotherhood. The series has never looked better, with facial animations and textures being the most notable of improvements.
The AC series has always been known for it's incredible attention to detail when creating it's settings. While the cities of Italy, especially Rome, were full of vibrant colors and variety throughout the landscape, Constantinople is entirely homogenous. The city is nearly identical from one end to the other and sports a drab and washed-out color palette, both of which add to the growing disinterest players may feel.
Revelations succeeds in implementing a refined graphical approach instead of a complete overhaul, but fails to make Constantinople a unique visual experience, ultimately creating a sub-par visual experience that fans of the series are not accustomed to. 7.0
The sounds of Revelations are refined in some areas but worse in others.
While the voice acting and city ambience is great, the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired.
Jesper Kyd, who composed the score for the previous games, was unable to return for Revelations and is replaced by composer Lorne Balfe. While the music isn't necessarily bad, the majority lacks any familiarity with any musical themes or ideas established in Revelations predecessors. The entire score feels disjointed and inconsistent with the excellent music established in previous games.
Save for the the game's discontinuous score, Revelations refines the series' already great sound. 8.0
Revelations' gameplay suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, jumping between entire genres without rhyme or reason.
The same excellent mechanics from previous entries return almost entirely untouched, which isn't a negative approach in this regard.
Combat and traversal is altered with the introduction of the hook blade, a variation on the hidden blade that allows Ezio to pull down scaffolding on guards, sweep the legs out from enemies, and roll over the backs of people while running. Ezio's hook blade also allows him to reach higher ledges and grab onto far off ledges while jumping. While these are nice additions, they don't hold any significant value other than marking a new feature off a checklist.
Other new additions create a game more akin to a child with ADD than a consonant game experience, four of which completely change the AC gameplay experience for better or worse.
1. A tower defense mini game called Den Defense has been implemented as a means of controlling certain areas of Constantinople. Den Defense has issues with the way it works, including bad camera angles and a cumbersome user interface. The only reward for completing these Den Defense challenges is the ability to buy shops in the areas you conquer, consequently increasing your level of income. However, this achievement is trivial when considering the amount of work put into both the design of the mini game and the amount of work it requires to complete each Den. Not to mention the obnoxious task of repeatedly revisiting areas you've conquered to prevent Templar forces from regaining control. Den Defense simply isn't much fun.
2. Desmond's Journey is an optional set of first person puzzle sequences that tell Desmond's story from his childhood to abduction by Abstergo. While I did enjoy this portion of the game, I was a bit annoyed Desmond's backstory wasn't developed in a manner more familiar to the AC series. When I play an AC game, I want a third person action-adventure experience. I don't play the AC series for Portal-esque puzzle sequences. So while I did enjoy these, it was a bit annoying that I was required to complete these in order to understand Desmond's past.
3. To address difficulty complaints with past entries, Revelations introduces a slew of new enemies in an effort to make the game more challenging for players. While I do appreciate Ubisoft's attempt, the result is more often than not a poor gameplay experience resulting in senseless button mashing. Examples of this bad execution can be seen in the Ottoman Janissaries patrolling the streets of Constantinople. These enemies have a large amount of health and will dodge 90% of your attacks. The only real way to kill Janissaries is to either mash the attack button or spam bombs, leading to torturously mindless encounters.
4. Bombs represent a new way for Ezio to approach a given situation. There are over 300 unique bomb combinations in Revelations, but most of these have the same effect. This is another addition to the game that simply feels tacked on and unnecessary. While they can be used to achieve interesting results, you can just as easily use your trusty blades in almost if not all situations. These again represent a checklist approach to game design adopted by the developers.
While the tried and true AC gameplay is still present, many new additions fall flat in adding substantial content to Revelations. 7.0
I really wanted to like Assassin's Creed: Revelations. In the months leading up to Ezio's conclusion and the assumed segue into AC3, I was excited at the prospect of another strong AC title.
Unfortunately, Revelations ends up purposefully straying from the success of past installments with unnecessary and poorly executed additions. The result is a desperate attempt to be a jack-of-all-trades experience. Rpg, puzzle, tower-defense, and first person gameplay result in a thinly spread out experience. Ubisoft needs to stop trying to be everything to everyone and instead stick to what gamers love about the series: being an assassin.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/11/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Revelations (US, 11/15/11)
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