The end of an era.
“Bring on Assassin’s Creed III” – this was the closing statement of my review this time last year. Despite my huge praise of the marvelous Brotherhood, I was neither expecting nor pleased at the announcement of another subtitled Assassin’s Creed so soon after the last two. Ezio’s preceding adventure managed to vastly improve upon its predecessor, cementing itself as one of the best games last year, but could a third Assassin’s Creed game in as many years maintain the high-standard that the franchise is now used to? Releasing annual continuations of successful games will always face the overwhelming difficulty of both maintaining a sense of self, whilst offering something new, something fresh; the situation is no different for the plethora of Ubisoft studios working on the series.
After the absorbing release of the series second outing, Brotherhood took its number one singles, added a selection of sure-fire hits and resulted in the franchise’s ‘Greatest Hits’. Not content on resting on their laurels, Ubisoft has developed a game that not only matches Brotherhood in most aspects, but surpasses in many.
Taking control of the series’ main protagonists once more: Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and Desmond Miles, each have key roles within Revelations, and their use in regards to the storytelling is wonderfully elegant. Ezio is the main time sink – acting as the focal point for most of the narrative, whilst the events post the original Assassin’s Creed will tie-in nicely as you become Altair, all the while learning more about Desmond via some adroit techniques.
“Ubisoft has developed a game that not only matches Brotherhood in most aspects, but surpasses in many.”
Picking up after the events of Brotherhood, Desmond has fallen into a coma and must locate a key memory that connects him with Altair and Ezio to reassemble his splintered subconscious. To do so, he initially relives the more weathered years of dear Ezio, whom having freed Italy from the Templar threat, returns to Masyaf on a pilgrimage to discover that it has been overrun by Templars. The preceding scenes set the overarching goal which lands our ageing assassin in Constantinople. From here, the story is filled with the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from a strongly narrative driven series; and, without spoiling anything, plenty of questions raised in the trio of previous releases are put to bed, whilst a whole new set has been raised – some of which will see you eyes-wide with disbelief.
With Ezio now entering his latter years, we see an increase in wisdom in his approach to live, to combat, even to others. He understands the world far better than during his younger years, and the constant quips at his age is rather humorous. It’s the underlying love story that is most captivating however. The slowly evolving passion between Ezio and his beloved is heart-warming to witness, and, come the closing moments of his role within the franchise, closes a beautiful journey of his life that we have experienced over the course of the last three games.
As with every previous Assassin’s Creed title, Revelations sports countless breathtaking vistas, some fantastic character models and an exquisite atheistic. Granted, it may not be the leap forward that we have seen before, but Ubisoft has ensured that once again, Ezio and his surroundings are a sight for sore eyes. The city is as vibrant as ever, and the soundtrack is emotive, dramatic and empowering from start to finish. Lip syncing is still very hit-and-miss, with the speech often out by half a second – something that is very distracting, there’s a few, albeit very infrequent, graphical glitches, and although most of the characters look superb, Desmond looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Facial animation isn’t as good as other action-adventure titles either, although the voice acting holds its own, no more so than during some of Ezio’s rousing speeches. Ultimately, they are minor setbacks in what is an exceedingly comely presented and efficiently executed title.
None of this really matter though if we’re essentially playing Brotherhood in a new city. Thankfully, Revelations has more fresh ideas than Mensa’s think-tank. Each new mechanic not only livens up gameplay, but in some cases slightly alters the core facets of the game. Firstly, there’s the hookblade – whose name suits it well. Bringing an entirely new dimension to the hidden blade of old, the hookblade has two primary functions: to rapidly speed up navigation, and provide non-lethal attack options. Sprinting across the rooftops, trying to reach your goal in optimal time has never been so exciting, with freedom that has been previously inaccessible. You can now use zip-lines for extra fast traversal, jump further and higher, and thanks to another iteration on the climbing mechanics, do it all with greater precision and accuracy.
“As with every previous Assassin’s Creed title, Revelations sports countless breathtaking vistas, some fantastic character models and an exquisite atheistic.”
What Revelations showcased next was most unexpected. Whereas in Brotherhood, once you captured a Templar controlled tower it was yours for eternity, Revelations realises that your enemy wouldn’t just go down without a fight. So at random intervals, your Assassin Dens will come under attack, and you must defend them via a tower defence mechanic. With Ezio commanding the troops, your fellow assassin’s will take the rooftops as you draft in archers, blockades and more, by spending the morale at your disposal to thwart your foe and protect your keep. It was something that I neither expected to see in an Assassin’s Creed release or indeed to actually enjoy. It brings an entirely polarised dimension to gameplay than anything else, whilst utilising simple yet effective controls to provide a thoroughly entertaining experience.
The increasing amalgamation of technology and history in the Assassins’ Creed games becomes even more apparent with the introduction of bombs and their crafting. With lethal, tactical and distraction bombs at your disposal, you can use them to misdirect, confuse or even just eliminate unsuspecting guards. It brings an entirely new tactical edge to both stealth and combat, that will revolutionise the way you engage your foes. Set off a Cheery Bomb to tease the guards into checking out the cacophony of noises, thus relieving their posts, allowing you to slip past unnoticed; or perhaps you want an effective way of taking down a trio of infantry from distance, just use a Splinter Grenade and its wide destruction radius. You can either purchase bombs from black market dealers, or craft one of three-hundred combinations yourself using ingredients you’ve acquired.
Already there is a great set of new additions to Revelations, on top of all of the fantastic features the game already houses including micromanagement and use of fellow assassin’s, purchasing of property, an abundance of side quests to partake, not to mention the slick free-running. There’s more to Revelations still though: defected assassin’s will attempt to eliminate you in the streets, eagle vision has a more focused purpose – including a hint of investigatory necessity, and a far more responsive combat system. Not to mention the first-person puzzle-platformer side missions as you unravel the mystery that is Desmond Miles.
Best of all is the subtly of the balance of each feature. Nothing feels over or under powered, no tasks too frequent and no challenge too repetitive. The mission variety, whilst containing a few that we’ve seen before, throws in a whole host of new thrilling and enjoyable options to not only suit Ezio and his ageing body, but also provide great satisfaction.
“It is the best in the franchise so far, bettering one of the greatest action-adventure titles in recent years.”
One thing that is instantly noticeable is that there’s a real sense of power, of mastery, in Revelations, something that Brotherhood touched upon in the latter stages. From the moment you set foot in Constantinople, people know who you are, they know what you’ve achieved and they react accordingly. Now part of a wider reaching Order, you will command and interact with fellow assassin’s far more frequently, mentoring them when necessary. You are no longer the student, trying to prove himself, you are the Grand Master, you are the main threat. Ubisoft has also learnt from the poorer sections of Brotherhood. Whereas the closing sequences were some of its weakest, Revelations really revels in the final moments, offering power you’ve never felt before. At no other time have you truly understood the devastating impact that a brotherhood can wield.
Multiplayer returns for a second outing, expanding upon the impressive debut that it experienced with Brotherhood. There’s the usual expansion of characters, locations and modes – including several story-oriented quests, but the increased diversity of additional features that help to iterate the mode so well. Character customisation makes an appearance with great depth and guilds provide the ability for players to be a part of something bigger than themselves, however, it’s the added focus on the narrative that is the most engaging. Playing on the already brilliant application of the Abstergo training facility, players will rank up within Abstergo as they level up within the game, gaining access to more information about the company.
A few gameplay features have also been implemented or altered, with the most apparent being the replacement of the proximity compass with a “line of sight” warning, informing you when you enter the visible range of your target. With stealthier kills still rewarded heavily, each and every round is an exhilarating balance of attack and defense as you try to locate your prey, whilst always being wary of your own hunting predators. The core of multiplayer is essentially the same, and we’d want it no other way, but the new lick of paint, plus the small improvements all contribute to a sterling multiplayer component.
With yet another engrossing plot, perfectly iterated controls and combat, a selection of new features that most sequels would die for, and an evolution of a protagonist that we have come to love – along with the return of the quite brilliant Altair, Revelations has really stepped up. This is no cash-in, no stopgap sequel, no underachiever. It is the best in the franchise so far, bettering one of the greatest action-adventure titles in recent years. It is the perfect sequel and one hell of a game. It sets up the inevitable sequel in glorious fashion whilst bringing closure to the tales we’ve been living over the past few years. Assassin’s Creed Revelations continues the glorious gold-standard that the franchise has set so far. Now, seriously, bring on Assassin’s Creed III.