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Assassin's Creed, Revelations: A Review
A Wolf in Sheep's Skin
I knew as soon as the first AC game was released it would become a classic, and after the sequel, I knew there was no stopping this franchise. But that isn't a compliment, and neither is this game to the series. Unless you're a fan of such a saga that is Assassin's Creed, in which you'll have vast amounts of joy in comparison to what I did. Let me be absolutely clear that this is not a bad game, but it fails to add much more to what the second game of the series and Brotherhood does. See it as buying the DVD extras to AC2 without AC2. I'd say almost go as far to say that this is ODLC - overpriced downloadable content, but to tell you the honest-to-God truth, this game does far more and I'm surprised at how much content they managed to pack into this game.
Ubisoft Montreal (amongst other locations) have once again released another expansion of Ezio Auditore de Firenze's story, as well as finalising the 'Ezio Trilogy', before the next true instalment to the series. In this one you're not just trying to regain control over a particular territory or remove a figurehead of power, but instead embark on a quest to discover the lost vault of Altair, the Assassin of the first game. This vault contains something far more valuable than money, power or magic but knowledge. Money, power and magical enhancements wouldn't be able to stop the end of the world in 2012, but knowing how to obviously will. It took me several visits on multiple sites to check for certain what the story was, because AC games have never told the tales particularly well. Don't get me wrong, the stories are good but you have to dig deep to find them. Either that or it's because of my autism and failure to see the big picture, but still, let's move on.
The opening slab of gameplay doesn't give me the best impressions it could because it tries too hard to show you all of the gameplay features at once. For example you get used to navigating buildings (all AC fans will be able to do this without a problem), but then you're thrust into combat, learning to assassinate and then alternate between the two constantly. It's hard to tell when you should be getting into fights, assassinating people or avoiding combat altogether but this is mostly because of the incredibly awkward control scheme. Allow me to explain; depending on the situation you might or might not be able to carry out certain actions, but the game rarely gives you a clue as to when you can do this. You're not quite sure when you can climb buildings even though a few seconds ago you could, or you're not exactly sure if you're supposed to be stealthy or using Space Ork strategy. This is all down to that controller layout in the top right corner, telling you what actions you can perform in a specific environment. In previous games it was so simple, and when you're out of this terrible tutorial it is, but as I say, this seriously made me reconsider keeping the game.
"I'm OK with different weapon specifics but it clearly didn't work for a game with fights that are not only supposed to be avoided but end in less than twenty seconds."
Revelations takes place in 1700s Constantinople, a new playable location in the AC universe, which has seen some pleasant changes. During the events of Brotherhood with Ezio assassinated the Borgias family, many of the Assassins have been inspired and recruiting in Constantinople, beating back the Templar influence. For those who don't know, the Templars are the Assassin's worst enemy and have been around since the Assassins first drew breath, as well as being religious fighters for the Third Crusade in the late 1100s. They're still your main antagonist and even in the 21st century their secrecy and their numbers are strong, as well as on the hunt for Desmond Miles - the person who is searching through his ancestor's memories in order to beat the Templars and save the world. Before we go too far and leap into the hay bale that is this game's mechanics and innovations I'd like first to talk about Constantinople.
These games have always tried to populate the world, making a heartfelt attempt at immersing the player in a living, breathing city. I'm hard to impress so at least you know why I'm saying Ubisoft haven't cracked it yet, though I can't say they haven't tried. The civilians have a lot of conversations amongst themselves and the town criers, along with town criers blurting on about different subjects each time you encounter them. Sadly the character models mostly look the same with dusty lime robes and salmon cowls, not to mention the Assassins who you can often see in the streets mostly look the same. The Templars themselves need another looking at with several character models, as all you're going to see is footsoldiers, high ranking officials and riflemen each with the same uniforms mostly.
The city of Constantinople however is a beauty, mixing some of the street and building designs with the dusty settlements of AC1's Holy Land. The architecture isn't anywhere near as good as previous titles, as it's mostly flat but you're not overwhelmed nor bored by the constant sight of towers and steeples. You can really appreciate the work that's gone into every single plank that makes the docks, the bricks that make each building and the straw that fills the carts. If there's one thing critics have noticed, myself included, is the fog. Many seem to exaggerate how much fog there is, but it can cover several patches of land when looking from a high distance, and in nearby zones there's a thin layer that hovers over zones approximately 100 yards from your location. Whether it's to reduce the processing power required to lower the visuals or for just for scenery, it's hardly subtle and worth bringing up.
Most of what you'll do in Assassin's Creed is navigate the streets teeming with crowds, assassinating Templars and infiltrating buildings for items of importance. But unlike a game as free as Dishonored, another stealth-adventure title worth buying, you're very limited to how you can carry out your mission. For example you're supposed to assassinate a target, but you can't just go wherever you want - if you wander off from the very narrow path you're required to follow (either on the rooftops or in the streets), you'll end up failing the mission, and this can happen a lot. One time I sprinted ten yards away from the man I was supposed to follow, without realising I was supposed to wait for him to lead the way, and failed. Even though the game encourages using distractions and diversions there is usually one way of doing things or a single route to take, removing a lot of the freedom this game portrays. You're not allowed to explore the vast spaces you're given outside of missions, and when you're free to do what you want, there's nothing you'll feel like doing.
Ezio is armed with multiple weapons, each having their different purposes and effects, yet once again it doesn't fulfil its purpose. No matter what weapon you use, everything is effective against an enemy. I absolutely hated when swords were ineffective against certain enemies, but the halberd was brilliant against others because picking up weapons before dropping them after a fight felt so pointless. I'm OK with different weapon specifics but it clearly didn't work for a game with fights that are not only supposed to be avoided but end in twenty seconds. Alongside your long sword, daggers and hook-blade you're also equipped with numerous helpful weapons like bombs to distract foes, smoke bombs to make a quick getaway, throwing daggers, your wrist-mounted pistol and my personal favourite: poisons. As fancy as these seem there's almost no point to most of them thanks to combat being rendered to R1+square, which is "Counter" attack, instantly killing your opponent at a specific time. It's fair to say that I'm being harsh on the combat but with each addition to the AC franchise combat gets less and less strategic, and the need to lock on or even parry has been reduced. Why bother with spamming the square button when you can kill an opponent from any angle with a counter blow?
The need to recruit other assassins to hassle guards or fight alongside you has been reduced considerably on account of combat being so easy. Rarely will you die, and if you do it's mostly because you decided to play fair rather than counter strike, which is how one should be. Even so, mercenaries and your partners in crime are rarely needed, and if a distraction is needed I'm never without a few cherry bombs to clear a path and slip away unnoticed. The only time you will need them is in one of my favourite features: the den defence modes. These aren't as shallow as The Saboteur's defence side-missions but take on the fresh idea of tower defence. Using assassin leaders to allow troop placement on rooftops, you can defend a zone with cannon fire, makeshift barriers, archers and gunners to prevent the enemy from reaching the assassin base. This doesn't feel tacked on at all and is refreshing after a day's worth of stabbing, slicing and sneaking. Such gameplay I'm hoping is in Assassin's Creed 3, the next addition to the series I'll be purchasing.
Aside from the things I've mentioned there isn't much else left to talk about with Revelations, as it doesn't really attempt all that much nor change what it does best. The often asked question "if something stayed with its original formula, would it be better today than what we already have" can be applied and answered here: No. AC: Revelations tries to remain true to the second game except it does so too hard, satisfying only those who are hardened fans of the series to the bitter end. If you're new to this series, I wouldn't recommend Revelations, but either Assassin's Creed 2 or Brotherhood, for this one doesn't like the idea of change.
The game's visuals are its strongest suit, making the assassin Ezio a more dashing character with customisable armour and weapons, but the character itself does not develop at all. Constantinople and the four districts therein are magnificent but like I said before, fog can obscure a lot of it and remove the features of the buildings in the distance. My favourite thing of all is the day to night transitions which only add more to the beauty and life to the world you're navigating, except it doesn't remove the civilians from the equation, who must be knackered roaming the streets in the Constantinople limbo 24/7.
The soundtrack is enchanting and heavily reminiscent of moments in Skyrim when exploring (never thought I'd say something good about that game), which helps me remain patient as I soar the rooftops searching for my next target. Especially at night, the sweet song that plays makes the city one of the nicest places I've ever been to in video gaming.
The time has come now to finalise my thoughts on Revelations and present to you my final verdict. Assassin's Creed: Revelations gets a FIVE out of NINE, which is above average in my books but requires a little more work to get a six. This game does little to expand upon the previous two in environment, gameplay mechanics and story. It also fails to address any of the older issues such as control (instead, AC:R complicates matters further), narration nor glitches involving getting stuck on a surface without any way of getting off, or enemies finding themselves stuck inside a building by dodging. Simple issues such as fog in close vicinity is also something that could be seen to, but alas isn't.
Even though I'm not terribly fond of this game, I give respect to Ubisoft Montreal for remaining true to the original formula, and keeping their loyal fans satisfied throughout the journey in Desmond's life and Ezio's escapades. At least they've done what many developers and publishers I've followed in the past haven't, and it's much appreciated.
I give you my thanks for reading, and please, let me know what you think about the game in the comments below! Until the next time, thanks for reading, and have a pleasant day.
Although the gameplay is good for fans who love the series, it's not enough for anyone who expects.... well... more.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations gives you a lot to do in side quests, the main questline and collectables, but whether you want to partake in such things is a different story altogether.
Movement and the collision detection when doing parkour is great, but sometimes the control will be very iffy in certain scenarios and situations.
The city is stunning but the character models, not so much. Great gore effects though!
You'll rarely hear the music, but when you do it's blissful.
I can't see myself going back to this, but others might to do the bonus objectives in missions for 'full synchronization'. This however might be the one thing that stops you from replaying this altogether though.