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Review: Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal - Publisher: Ubisoft - Release Date: November 15, 2011 - Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
When Adding Manages to Take Away
Franchises with annual sequels have the difficult challenge of keeping each entry fresh to keep fans excited and interested. As such, it’s almost necessary to add something to an established formula, so that each game feels different than the last. But when is too much enough? Assassin’s Creed II provided mission variety and small city management. Brotherhood gave you an entire Assassin order to operate. Revelations does all that and more, to the point that things have gone a bit overboard. While Revelations delivers on its namesake of providing answers to most of the series’ biggest mysteries, questionable gameplay additions mar an otherwise exhilarating journey.
The new hook blade is by far my favorite new addition as it gives Ezio some extra reach in his jumps, allowing him to quickly catch himself and scale buildings quicker. The hook blade is also used in the new ziplines that crisscross the city for faster traversal and can set up some stylish assassinations. Constantinople every bit as fun to explore as Rome was, though there really aren’t that many differences between them in terms of platforming.
One of the biggest additions to your arsenal is bomb crafting—and the game doesn’t let you forget it. Over 300 varieties of bombs can be created from destructive to distraction, filled with components ranging from shrapnel to lamb’s blood. Ingredients and crafting stations can be found all over the city and new black market dealers sell ready-made bombs if you don’t feel like crafting your own. Despite their overwhelming presence, I couldn’t have cared less about them. While they may have their uses, I never once found myself in a situation where I felt I needed to use a bomb as Ezio’s current arsenal always felt more than enough. Outside of selling their parts, I felt the bombs to be completely unnecessary despite the game shoving them down my throat.
One of my favorite elements in Brotherhood was recruiting and training Assassins and Revelations improves and expands on that feature. The entire system is much more involved, with some Assassin’s having entire missions to accompany them on. Not only is this more fun than sending them to some blip on a map, it made the experience more personable since you get to speak with your apprentices as opposed to only seeing them when they snuff someone out.
You still send your Assassins to missions in other cities, though now it’s become a battle to wrest control of them away from the Templars. Completing missions in a city removes Templar influence until it’s weak enough for the Assassins to take control. Don’t get comfortable once you win a city though, as Templars can take any city back unless you continue to complete missions to maintain Assassin influence. Managing conquered cities while trying to win new ones is engaging and sometimes stressful, but it’s far more rewarding than the relatively simple version in Brotherhood.
Templar-controlled areas can be taken over once the more elusive captains are killed, allowing for an Assassin’s den to take its place. Maintaining a low profile keeps your den safe from attack. Raise your awareness too high though, and your dens can be attacked by Templars opening up a new mechanic I positively loathe: tower defense. That’s not to say that I don’t like tower defense games, because I do; when their done well. Revelations’ take on the formula, however, is terrible. You can assign different units to protect your den from archers to aerial troops, to building barricades, to defeat the waves of Templar soldiers.
Not only is this mini game sloppily designed, it’s infuriatingly imbalanced. While you can get through the first few waves without much problem, the difficulty spikes and before you know it, you’re dealing with seemingly indestructible catapults and a massive amount of troops. Outside of the tutorial, I never once won a den defense and losing a den means having to once again kill a Templar captain to get it back. After losing a den and going through the trouble of getting back, I spent the rest of the game doing everything I could to avoid getting a high profile. I think even the game knows how terrible the tower defense is, giving constant reminders warning to a low profile in order to avoid it. The most annoying thing about that is that buying landmarks and opening shops (among doing other things) raises Templar awareness considerably.
That wouldn’t be much of an issue if there were more ways to keep awareness down, but since wanted posters got the axe, you’ve got two options: bribe heralds or kill designated officials. Thus, the ebb and flow of the game became: open a shop or two, track down a herald, pay him off (and immediately pickpocket him), rinse and repeat. That awareness bar and the horrifying mini game that came with it became the game’s Sword of Damocles, keeping me in check to avoid disaster. Thankfully, Assassin’s that are trained to Master status can be assigned as leader of a den to prevent Templar attacks, though reaching that rank takes so long that it’s not much consolation.
Despite my complaints about certain gameplay elements, everything else performs exceptionally. Combat is still fun and maintains the ability to string together kills. Platforming is still a blast and rebuilding Constantinople, while feeling a tad restrictive, is still addicting. The new Desmond missions give the titular third wheel of the series some much needed backstory, though the bizarrely designed gameplay keep them from being a highlight.
Assassin's Creed unique multiplayer returns and is as fun as ever. Players create their own Templar agent as you climb the ranks of Abstergo, learning more about the company as you level up. Perks and kill/loss streaks can be customized from a myriad of options and players can now create and customize their own guilds. The intense cat-and-mouse feel of matches hasn't worn off and continues to be one of my favorite online modes in gaming.The series' takes on standard modes like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag make them feel fresh again and are welcome additions to an already solid lineup of options.
My biggest praise for Revelations goes to its story, which not only manages to sew numerous loose narrative threads, but does so in a coherent and satisfying fashion. Ezio’s journey of self-discovery and political intrigue is great, but the Altair segments became my favorite. Experiencing the life of the franchise’s first hero, his trials and tribulations, is an amazing tale that made me care for the stoic warrior just as much as Ezio. By the end, questions from the mystery of the first civilization is revealed and set the stage perfectly for what I assume will be Assassin’s Creed III.
With four games in four years, I understand why Ubisoft would do everything it could to keep the series’ fresh. However, not all changes are good and quite honestly, the game could scale back on some features and focus on fine tuning existing mechanics. While I love Ezio and enjoyed playing through different stages in his life, I’m glad that this will be the last time I play as him. The franchise could use a serious shakeup as things are beginning to feel a bit formulaic. This review may seem a tad negative,but I assure you that Revelations is still a fun and polished experienced and a must-play for long time fans.
Final Score: 9/10