Review by MageofBlood391
Continuing the Creed
Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the fourth entry into Ubisoft's highly-praised historic-based sandbox franchise, Assassin's Creed. A direct sequel to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Revelations continues the story of Desmond Miles and his merry little band of Assassins fighting to find the Pieces of Eden and bring down the evil Templar-controlled Abstergo Industries. However, it additionally continues the stories of both Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian-born Assassin from the 15th and 16th centuries (and protagonist of the two previous to games in the Assassin's Creed franchise), and Altair Ibn-La'Ahad, an Assassin born in the 12th century and the main character of the first Assassin's Creed game. Throughout the course of the game, you'll be going back and forth between Desmond, Ezio, and Altair to finally bring to a close the intertwined stories of the three Assassins.
As Revelations begins, Desmond finds himself in a coma and is strapped into the Animus, a device which allows one to relive the memories and life experiences of their ancestors through a sort of amalgamation of The Matrix and Inception. While I never personally grasped exactly why he had to be strapped into the Animus to survive (isn't that what I pay my tax dollars to hospitals for?), it makes for a rather minute plot-point that is easily overlooked in the overall picture. Anyway, as a result of being essentially stuck in the Animus, Desmond's mind is running wild and the Animus itself views him as a sort of virus, which it attempts to quarantine on a physics-testing location known as Animus Island. Desmond's goal is to get off of Animus Island and return his conscious to his body, which can only be done by reliving even more events of his ancestors. Cue Ezio being a boss.
This time around, Ezio Auditore travels to Constantinople (which, for those of you who may not be as well-read in your world history, is known today as Istanbul) in order to unlock the secrets of Altair's personal library. Constantinople's definitely a change of pace architecturally compared to previous games in the series in that you see a lot more mud and wood buildings instead of the brick and mortar that was in previous games. This change in architecture is also reflected in a very different color pallet there's definitely a lot more green, brown, and orange in this game. The people you see walking around the city are also dressed entirely differently, and tend to wear more outlandish colors (think purples and very light blues). As a result, the art direction of the game is very well done. It masterfully reflects the desert-esque tones of the Middle East while also bring to life the culture of the time period and very easily causes the game to be a metaphoric (and perhaps literal) sight for sore eyes that have spent way too long looking at bland color pallets with way too much gray and brown.
From a gameplay perspective, not a ton has changed. Combat is still more or less what it was in previous games that is, a bunch of guards will attack you and you can fight them off with a sword, knife, crossbow, or something of that nature, or you can choose to run and flee across rooftops, blend in with crowds, sit on benches, or simply hide in covered structures. That's not a bad thing though, because the combat is more than entertaining and is definitely not a drawback from the game. In fact, it's probably the most fun in the series, due to Ezio having a habit of doing some rather impressive finishing moves that make you feel like you're really playing as a talented and experienced killer. While there are definitely new things to see, most of them are subtle tweaks to the game instead of being radically new ideas. There's the advent of parachutes which can be used to both glide across Constantinople after jumping from a building high enough or alternatively to prevent you from dying if you accidentally aim yourself off of a cliff. In general though, you still run around a city doing various quests for people which usually result in somebody being stabbed, you still climb over buildings instead of simply run around them in the streets below, you still collect money so that you can upgrade shops and buy better weapons, and so on. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Revelations takes lots of existing concepts which were found in previous games and evolves them to make them work even better. For example, very early on, you acquire a tool known as a Hookblade, which both functions as a replacement for the Hidden Blade from previous games and allows you to climb objects roughly 30% faster. While it definitely makes things more speedy and user friendly (you can grab onto ledges with a Hookblade that would have just been outside of Ezio's grasp in previous games), I would like for Ubisoft to put more focus into trying to make the controls slightly more smooth. I found myself accidentally running up the same wall that I didn't want to run up three times in a row quite often, simply because Ezio couldn't seem to understand that I wanted him to run away from the wall, not back towards it.
Sadly, a lot of the new or supposedly refined game mechanics simply didn't turn out the way that one would have hoped. There's a new Den Defense mode, for instance, which triggers whenever your notoriety bar gets filled up, and is basically a tower-defense game in which you set up troops with rifles or crossbows and attempt to prevent the Templars from breaking into one of your Assassin Dens (which essentially function as headquarters for Ezio and his crew). Unfortunately, the concept wasn't very well thought out and really only serves as an annoyance which I found myself trying to avoid at all possible costs. Secondly, you can craft bombs now, which can do things such as disorient a target, hide yourself in a smoke screen to get away easily, or simply just blow stuff up. This is all fun and interesting at first, but there's really no practical reason to use bombs. They're slow, don't have a great blast radius (they're closer to hand grenades than bombs, in fact), they cost quite a bit to craft, and they don't really help you at all in combat. Hopefully bombs are put to better use in the future. Lastly, pretty much the entire multiplayer component of the game (which was supposed to be improved after its low-reviews after its initial inclusion in Brotherhood) just really doesn't work very well. While you'd expect multiplayer in a stealthy game like Assassin's Creed to be, well, stealthy, most games that I got into seemed to consist of nothing but players running full speed at each other trying to kill their targets first in order to get the most points. As far as I can tell, Ubisoft didn't really do much of anything to improve the multiplayer. Sure, they added in so-called Abstergo Points, which function as a money system that allows you to buy upgrades for use online, but that's not much to call home about as far as improvements go. Nothing that's changed between Brotherhood and Revelations is worth a call home about, really. And it's a shame too, because the idea of a competitive multiplayer experience in a game like Assassin's Creed has a lot of potential it's just not being done justice as it stands in Revelations.
One new addition to the game is one that's most certainly of note, however. For obtaining a certain number of Animus Data Fragments while playing as Ezio (collectable items that are scattered across Constantinople), the player can elect to play optional Desmond Sequences back on Animus Island. These Desmond Sequences are entirely unlike anything else I've ever seen in a game, to put things shortly. In a nutshell, you play as what seems to be a disembodied floating portrayal of Desmond's mind (though gravity still applies and you can jump somehow...) which is attempting to reach the end of the, for lack of a better term, puzzle-room. You're given two shapes that spawn platforms that you can walk on a straight one and one that resembles a ramp. With these two platforms, you have to cross various gaps, navigate through gravity pushing you different directions (even up!), avoid lasers, and try to hopefully find some hidden goodies along the way. What's amazing about these Desmond Sequences though is that they follow the writing of the story. See, each sequence follows a step in Desmond's life, ranging from his childhood training as an Assassin to his capture by Abstergo right before the beginning of the first Assassin's Creed game, and the writing is absolute fantastic. As in, best-writing-I've-ever-seen-in-a-game fantastic. It truly brings to life another aspect of the backstory of the series and gives Desmond a real, deep personality. It's something that no fan of the series should miss. Additionally, the gameplay itself in these segments is interesting. It's most definitely new, and something that I'd describe as a sort of avant-garde mixture of Portal and Minecraft. And it's hard to believe that a video game could have anything that could be classified as avant-garde.
The biggest draw of Revelations would have to be simply its placement within the Assassin's Creed franchise. As a direct sequel and continuation of the overarching Desmond story, it does admittedly fall short to some degree, with the focus of the plot being on Ezio's life and his connection to Altair instead of on Desmond's tribulations in modern-day. However, that's not really a reason to skip out on Revelations. The lack of Desmond-related plot is made up for by the amount of plot involving the other two, and is every bit as interesting and well done as you could ask for out of a game. Most importantly though, the gameplay is still every bit just as good as in previous games in the series. If you enjoyed any Assassin's Creed before, you'll certainly enjoy this now. And some enjoyment is really is all you could ask for out of a game, isn't it? In that most important of regards, Assassin's Creed: Revelations delivers and is an extraordinary continuation of a great franchise, and thus shouldn't be missed out on by any gamer out there.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Assassin's Creed: Revelations (US, 11/15/11)
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