I will admit in no uncertain terms: I love Assassin’s Creed. Since the franchise’s launch in late 2007 for the Xbox 360 and the PS3, Assassin’s Creed has captivated millions with its ridiculously complicated tale of an secret war between a clan of assassins descended from the Ḥashshāshīn and the Knights Templar- a conflict spanning thousands of years. To describe much more of the details of this conflict would to do a disservice to first-comers to the franchise, so I will leave most of the story details out.
As a series, the game focuses on one Desmond Miles, a modern day man who is used by both factions to explore his genetic memory through the “Animus.” The majority of each game is spent in the Animus, reliving the memories of a given ancestor. The first game centered on the memories of Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad, a member of the original sect of Assassins. He finally returns in Assassin’s Creed Revelations, accessible through artifacts he has scattered around Constantinople. His descendent (and playable character since Assassin’s Creed II) Ezio Auditore da Firenze continues his story in this game on a quest to unlock the secrets of his ancestor’s secret library below Masyaf. To find the keys to the library, Ezio takes a journey to Constantinople and scours the city in search of the keys while helping the local Assassin chapter wrest control of the city’s districts from the Templars.
The chief strength of Revelations is it’s huge game world- the city of Constantinople as it appeared in the 1500’s is lovingly rendered in the game engine and freely traversable via free-running. Travel is even faster now thanks to ziplines around the city, accessible with Ezio’s new hookblade attachment. The hookblade also assists in climbing the various structures in the city, but occasionally slow down Ezio’s climbing because the game wants to show off Ezio swinging by the hook in its robust animation set. Other new weapons include a crafting system for specialized bombs- using a type of gunpowder, a shell to contain it (and the built in triggering mechanism), and a chosen payload, Ezio can craft anything from standard high explosives to smoke bombs to bombs that blast out fake coins for distractions. My personal favorite is a mix of British gunpowder, an impact shell, and Lamb’s blood- this bomb creates a giant explosion of blood which momentarily stops guards in their tracks as they check their bodies for shrapnel wounds.
Many gameplay elements are retained from the previous installment, “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.” The swordplay retains the killstreak system and disarms, and the crossbow is still ridiculous in its ability to silently kill at range. The game’s soundtrack is again composed by Jesper Kyd, who has scored the series since the first installment. The soundtrack is well worth a listen on it’s own, with it’s seamlessly fused tapestry of period instruments and contemporary electronic synths. The story is again well written, and the missions packed with variety- a particular standout involves Ezio and his cohort disguising as minstrels to infiltrate a lavish reception, complete with the ability to play the lute.
However, with the Revelations experience comes some problems. The horseback riding present since the first game has been jarringly removed. Constantinople is still a very large city, and the ziplines do much to assist in traversing the streets, but “Brotherhood’s” implementation of horse hijacking is very much missed. The “notoriety” meter from previous installments has been replaced with a “notice” system, intended to indicate how much the Templars have noticed a player’s given actions. Killing guards, getting in chases, completing missions, taking over Templar Towers, and, most perplexingly, opening shops will increase the meter. A big part of “Brotherhood’s” gameplay was centered on improving the economy of Rome, and the notoriety system was noticeably less affected when shops were opened in that game. In “Revelations,” this was changed to such a degree that opening an art shop results in a quarter of the notoriety meter instantly being filled. For players hoping to avoid the tower defense minigame that accompanies a maxed “notice” meter, this can be particularly problematic, as the wanted posters have been removed, leaving players with only herald bribery and witness execution as the only methods of decreasing the meter. Since witnesses are randomly spawned, players will find themselves spending a lot of money on heralds rather than on weapons or medical supplies.
Should the player have the misfortune of having to play the tower defense minigame to defend Assassin territory, the gameplay is deceptively simple. Ezio occupies a rooftop and must command units to set up defenses. He can choose from several types of assassin units, as well as erect fortifications to stop the Templar advance. He can also use his gun to directly execute opponents attempting to take over the fortress. However, the interface for this mode is unnecessarily clunky, and players will frequently throw their controller through the screen when a Templar siege machine plows through the defenses shrugging off arrows and bullets like flies.
The “Truth” puzzles in the prior installments have been replaced this time around by an abstract movement puzzle based around piecing together Desmond’s shattered psyche. This part is strangely handled in first person, which is an odd choice considering the main game’s third person viewpoint. During these levels, Desmond narrates elements of his backstory, shining a spotlight on Desmond’s character and background which have gone untold throughout much of the series. For these character bits alone I recommend tracking down the Animus Memory Fragments on the Constantinople map to unlock these areas, as this covers a great deal of missing narrative and will likely play a part in the plot for Assassin’s Creed 3.
“Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” isn’t as good as “Brotherhood.” It’s not as great of a step up in terms of gameplay and brings some new problems to the table. For all it's strengths, it's beginning to show the strain of annualization put on the Assassin's Creed franchise. But on the whole it’s an essential tale as part of the ongoing narriative. Ubisoft Mountreal has crafted a dizzyingly intricate story, and has taken a great risk by allowing players to experience nearly every important moment in Ezio’s life. Few developers have allowed a player to experience a lifetime, and Ezio’s sprawling, three game lifespan is truly amazing to behold. May Assassin’s Creed 3 take the world by storm.
categories: assassin's, creed, revelations, ezio auditore da firenze, assassination, annualization, good, but, tired, horseback, riding, cut, hookblade, headfuck, ancient, conspiracy, templar, altiar ibn la ahad