Review: Assassin’s Creed Revelations
It’s time to put on that hooded garment and equip those hidden blades as Ezio is back on the trail to discover the hidden secrets of the Creed locked away by his ancestor Altaïr and is looking a fair bit older.
The story starts with flashbacks from the previous Assassin’s Creed games and a brief narrated explanation of the story so far, which will vaguely help those who are new to the series to get a basic understanding as well as jog the memories of those who need it. Following the flashbacks you discover Desmond is trapped in the Animus on a small island which is the main setting for his parts throughout the game. After entering the gate of light the true tale begins.
This is the third part to Ezio’s story, continuing 12 years after the events in Rome during Brotherhood, and taking him to a familiar location Masyaf where Altaïr’s tale began in Assassin’s Creed. After an amazing cutscene you are left to control Ezio, with not so much a tutorial, but the ghost of Altaïr to guide you which provides some assistance those new to the series. However throughout the game there are on-screen prompts allowing the player to access various tutorials for movement and combat.
Combat in the game is identical to that from the previous games with a few tweaks such as the ability to use a secondary weapon (ranged/bomb) during combat instead of having to switch weapons manually. Ezio also gains access to a new gadget during the game which is the hookblade. This provides a few new moves such as hook and run allowing Ezio to hook onto and roll over the target, and hook and throw which works as a good counter against those larger weapons. The hookblade serves its uses with free running too as it can be used to reduce the time taken to scale structures, save Ezio from falls, catch on to ledges after a long leap and use the various zip wires scattered throughout the map.
One thing players of the previous games will notice are the new health meters for Ezio/ Altaïr and above the heads of their foes. Instead of the diamond blocks that were used before, a single bar meter has been used. Another noticeable difference is how much bloodier and gruesome Ezio’s combat finishers are, which are not over the top, but show the game is targeted to a more mature audience.
After Masyaf, Ezio is taken to Constantinople (Istanbul) where the majority of his story is based. The map is huge, but has fast travel to areas via the tunnel system. The environment and its population will appear very colourful compared to that of the previous games set in and around Italy and those Middle Eastern cities from the first Assassin’s Creed game. The structures are quite iconic of a Turkish setting such as Mosques and markets which are accurately mapped and include famous historic sites such as the Gelata Tower and the Grand Bazaar, showing that Ubisoft have done their homework.
Visually the game is quite stunning and the streets and alleys seem much tighter and more populated than before which makes it feel more authentic, however it makes it much more difficult to get around quickly without knocking into people which is where using Ezio’s free running skills become more useful. There seems to be much less imagination with the characters, which although they are in brighter and more colourful, they also seemed very cloned, dressed in exactly the same outfits when comparing them to those in Brotherhood. This is partially due to the female NPC’s accurately wearing veils which reduces the scope for character models with regards to hair colour and facial features.
Much like with Rome in Brotherhood, Constantinople is divided into districts of which there is a “Templar Den” in each requiring Ezio to take control by assassinating the Templar leader and setting fire to the beacon tower. This is made a little more difficult as the towers have a few added defences by way of gunmen in guard posts which can not be killed using close combat and will spot you very easily.
Once the tower is taken, all shops and buildings in the district it covers will be available for purchase as they were in Brotherhood. This includes the standard blacksmiths, tailors, banks, doctors and iconic buildings which will generate additional wealth every 20 minutes. This feature is a direct copy of that in Brotherhood and does not add anything new to the game. When a shop/building is purchased however, the player will notice their notoriety meter go up which indicates the Templar’s awareness of your presence in the city. Notoriety can be reduced in the same way as in Brotherhood by bribing the Heralds or killing off officials.
Another difference in Revelations is that the Templar’s can attack your dens which will lock the ability to purchase shops and buildings in the district they control. To prevent the capture of the den the player must participate in a new defence mini game in which you are required to set up troops on the rooftops and barricades on the grounds below to prevent the attacking swarms of troops from destroying the tower. The attacks on the dens seemed more frequent when notoriety was higher and later became quite frustrating when trying to purchase shops in the area (which increases notoriety) for them to suddenly be locked.
The tower defence, although a refreshing new feature for the game became quite repetitive and uninteresting after playing through so many of them. If Ezio successfully defends the tower he is granted access to new troops and barricade types for future defences, but this does not improve upon them getting repetitive when you are trying to do other things in the game. If the defence is not successful however, the tower will fall back under Templar control and recapture is required.
One new feature which I did enjoy was the bomb making. During the course of the game Ezio will collect various materials which can be used to make bombs. There are three different classes of bombs that can be made, lethal, tactical and diversion. Lethal bombs are those with intention to injure or kill foes, tactical bombs are used for combat and evasion such as smoke screens to blind victims, and diversion bombs are for causing distractions such as luring guards away from their posts. There are over 100 variations of bombs that can be crafted using collected materials which can be changed at any time by locating a bomb crafting location scattered around the city.
As with Brotherhood, Ezio can recruit Assassin’s to aid him. Recruiting them is very much the same where in most cases you are required to defend the helpless victim from guards attacking them. There are however a few other tasks in rare cases in order to recruit new assassins, which avoid the repetitiveness I felt with Brotherhood. Calling assassins to launch an arrow storm or kill a target is the same as before and there are not any new abilities introduced which is something I was hoping for.
Once recruited, the assassins can be sent on missions much like before where they will be gone for a set time and once they return they will be rewarded money, materials and experience points for those sent on the mission. There are many more areas for these missions to take place than before, and much like the dens, these areas need to be captured and defended using your assassin army. Once an assassin reaches a certain level they can be placed in a den tower, which they must then take on a training quest in order to level up further and become a master assassin. Once they ready to become a master assassin there will be a follow up quest which continues from the previous. Each assassin tied to a tower has a very different quest path, so there is some variation.
General missions in the game play very much as they did in previous Assassin’s Creed games where there is a set task and a optional/bonus task or challenge to gain 100% synchronisation of that DNA sequence such as not killing any enemies, or avoid detection. The missions themselves however do not feel so repetitive, and the story is by far the strongest point in the game. I found myself wanting to play more just to delve deeper into Altaïr’s secrets. One of the main tasks throughout the story is to collect keys to the locked door discovered in Masyaf.
Upon discovery of a key, Ezio will analyse it to uncover some of Altaïr’s story, which will then put you in control of Altaïr. Although these sections are relatively short and linear, they do break up the game nicely and offer a slight change in pace and style, especially in the latter missions.
It is however one of the interesting parts in the earlier games that is the most disappointing in Revelations, which are those involving Desmond. There is the option to jump in and out of Ezio’s part at any time through the pause menu and go to Animus Island, or wait until the end of a sequence. This will take you back to play as Desmond on the small island where the game started. There is not a lot to do on this island until Ezio collects a certain number of Animus fragments scattered throughout Contantinople.
These fragments unlock the gates on Animus Island which grant access to the parts of Desmond’s past where his story and connection with the assassins is told. All five parts of his story are played the same, in a first person view with the use of block puzzles to get through the level. Desmond is granted two shapes of blocks to use and make bridges and slopes to overcome the various obstacles. While they are challenging, the puzzles and environment do become quite tedious and at times frustrating, this isn’t helped by the setting in these sections either which generally seemed very bland with a few exceptional areas thrown in.
Something I wish Ubisoft kept going with Revelations was the flow between Desmond’s parts and Ezio/ Altaïr’s parts during the story. It seemed the Desmond sections were very detached and contained little interaction. They made me feel quite disconnected from Desmond’s character, which was something that had been built up since Assassin’s Creed 2.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations is a great game, but the general gameplay felt too much like I was repeating what I had already done in Brotherhood such as purchasing shops, recruiting assassins, climbing and synching to viewpoints, and completing the tick list of challenges set out by the guild factions. This may be a trademark to the series and does offer a lot for the player to do which is great for the completionists, but does not feel at all new. Where this game shines is with the new gadgets as well as the great storyline which keeps you wanting to uncover more. The integration of Ezio and Altaïr’s stories works well and is likely to please the fans of the series since the first game. It’s just a shame that Desmond’s part in this game was quite boring with very little going on, which lets the game down a bit.
I highly recommend to anyone who has played through the previous Assassin’s Creed games, and even if they haven’t the short recap at the start will let them get started with the basics of the story so far, as well as the detailed tutorials which are accessible at any time. Anyone who is looking for the game to offer a lot more or something a little different in terms of gameplay may be left disappointed.