Assassin’s Creed, released in 2007, promised gamers an open world extravaganza, and could have easily been one of the best games of this generation. Though it had an interesting story featuring an Assassin on the run and his digital reliving the genetic memories of middle eastern Assassin extraordinaire Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad from inside the virtual reality of the Animus, thanks to poor AI, unfocused narrative and terribly repetitive game structure it became a case of squandered potential that could have ended the franchise before it really began.
Its sequel shifted the focus from Altaïr to Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian nobleman who, driven by revenge, becomes the mentor of the Assassin’s Order – and finally, through a vast array of improvements – like actually having things to do, became the game we were all expecting. Ezio’s story, too, was so interesting that it became the basis for an expansion-esque sequel of sorts in Brotherhood. There’s still more of Ezio’s tale to be told – which brings us to Revelations, the last game in what could be considered Ezio’s trilogy.
Much like Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed Revelations feels like it straddles the line between expansion and full-blown sequel – bringing with it just enough too keep it fresh. As a continuation as opposed to a standalone title, it requires a certain knowledge of the previous games and their complicated, interweaving plot points. And is the game continues pretty much exactly where Brotherhood left off, it means there might be a spoiler or two from previous games in this review.
In the real world, our reluctant assassin Desmond is in a coma, his mind still reeling from his guided murder of Lucy, the undercover assassin pivotal in Desmond’s escape from Abstergo. In his comatose state, Desmond is trapped within the Animus, on the edge of succumbing to the bleeding effect, the relived memories of assassins past blending with his own, threatening to destroy his consciousness. Trapped on Animus Island, a lucid visual representation of the Animus’ software, he’s helped (perhaps hindered?) by an old, Animus bound friend. To repair his own shattered and fractured psyche, Desmond must seek out Ezio’s final memories to piece his own mind back together.
When we’re reintroduced to Ezio, he’s a powerful man. Having wrested control of Italy from the Templars and in command of an army of assassin’s, Ezio has won all of his battles and vanquished his foes – so what’s left for him to do? Searching, I suppose, for the meaning of it all, Ezio goes on a pilgrimage to Masyaf, the home of the Assassin’s Order to search for the lost library of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad. There, he discovers that the library holds a powerful artefact – one that could finally put an end to the secret war between Templars and Assassins. To access the library, Ezio will need five keys, inconveniently hidden in Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Those keys, it turns out, are artefacts in themselves, allowing Ezio to relive Altair’s memories – making it all a little like Inception. Desmond’s reliving Ezio’s memories, who’s reliving Altair’s. I think I’ve just gone cross-eyed.
Constantinople, nestled with one half in Europe and the other Asia, is the perfect setting for Revelations, which ties together the stories of the Syrian Altair and Italian Ezio. And though it’s where you’ll be spending most of your time there – there’s a little less city-hopping this time around – it’s the most fully-realised location in Assassin’s Creed. Divided in to four regions – the ramshackle, primarily wooden Constantin; the merchant-focused Beyazid, The opulent Imperial, and the affluent water-locked Galata – Constantinople is a wonder to behold, with each region exhibiting its own architecture, populace and characteristics.
The game, for the most part, plays almost exactly as it did in Brotherhood- with most of that game’s interesting assassin mechanics intact. Ezio, a little older, is now a little slower – but that’s mostly mitigated thanks to the Ottoman Hook blade, which replaces one of Ezio’s trust hidden blades. It allows Ezio to travel up and around buildings – conveniently strung together by useable ziplines – with unprecedented ease. The hook blade also gives Ezio more combat options, adding to his already impressive repertoire; it’s now possible to run at an enemy, tumble over the poor fellow and throw him using Ezio’s new gadgetry – making combat even more engaging.
Joining the hook blade in Ezio’s new armoury is an expanded collection of bombs; ingredients scattered throughout the world allow you to craft explosives. The number of bomb-types you can create is pretty staggering – though you can only have one specific type of each of the three classes of bombs; lethal, tactical and diversion. Lethal bombs, as their name suggests, are bombs that are used to dish out death and can be built to be sticky, detonate on impact, bounce before exploding, or become proximity munitions. They can be further enhanced by packing them with shrapnel, or poison or caltrops. I’ll let you experiment with bomb-making, but will say that there’s a certain morbid satisfaction in packing a large explosive with lamb’s blood and detonating it in the middle of crowd, watching as everybody freaks the hell out.
You can still call in your coterie of skilled Assassins to quick kill targets, or rain down a shower of arrows – provided you’ve built up and recruited enough assassins. That’s a little trickier to do now, as Constantinople is littered with Templar Dens, which like Rome’s Borgia Towers, need to be cleared before you can recruit new assassins or improve Constantinople by renovating shops or landmarks. Once controlled, they become Assassin Dens – which the Templars may attack should you rile them enough – bringing about another of Revelations’ new features; a tower-defence minigame. When attacked, Ezio has to try regain control of a den from the Templars, by strategically placing units on rooftops or in structures to stop the onslaught of attacking Templars. It plays out, unsurprisingly like other Tower defence games like Plants vs. Zombies Truth be told, it’s probably my least favourite bit of the game – but is entirely avoidable if you manage to keep your Templar Awareness low.
Ezio’s last – and in many ways most important – upgrade is to his Eagle Vision. Now called Eagle Sense, Ezio can now not only distinguish between friend or foe, but all track their guard routes – see where they’ve been and where they’re going – allowing for much more strategic encounters. It’s also exceptionally useful in the returned, fantastic Secret Location gameplay areas, reminiscent of Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time that brilliantly blend puzzle-solving and platforming.
When not ambling around Constantinople, you can use the hidden Animus fragments collected there to access Desmond’s own memories in a surreal series of first-person puzzle rooms where you create steps and inclines to reach new platforms and exits. Much like the bibles own Revelations, these are discordant to the game proper, feeling wholly out of place – but Assassin’s Creed’s never really been about playing as Desmond and it’s wholly optional, but fans will want to play these sections to learn all they can about Desmond, his history and perhaps his future.
Multiplayer – perhaps Brotherhood’s biggest revolution – makes a return as well. The stab-happy digital online hide-and-go-seek significantly fleshed out with more modes (mostly based around classic multiplayer modes, just with bit of a twist) as well as a more interesting narrative – making it a story-driven multiplayer. In Revelations, you’re a Templar in training and as you progress, Abstergo – the Templar-run multinational will contact you giving you greater information on the modern-day Templars. The perks and abilities in multiplayer can now be crafted, and finely tuned to suit your play style.
In the end, Revelations is wholly satisfying – but decidedly less revolutionary than Brotherhood, adding far less of substance to the formula. If there’s one thing that Revelations, the end of Ezio’s part in the Assassin’s Creed universe , has done though is make me want more; with the previous lead assassin’s roles having come to a definite end, Revelations has made me excited for the future of the Assassin’s Creed – will Desmond realise his potential as an assassin and become the primary playable character, or will we be stepping once again in to the shoes of an assassin past?
Ezio’s movement is much more fluid thanks to the Hook Blade. Beyond the story, there’s just so much to do – and I played for 10 hours just doing side stuff before thinking I should get on with it. The Tower Defence sections and Desmond’s own memories are a low point, in what’s otherwise an incredible game. It’s slightly more cinematic this time around, with a few rather exhilarating platform sections .
Design and Presentation: 8.5/10
It looks and plays like Brotherhood, so you know what to expect.
A lengthy campaign, an expansive multiplayer and hours of side-quests, challenges and collect-a-thons make this a necessary purchase.
Fans of Assassin’s Creed and its rich universe can look forward to more of the same, with additional features, story and settings as well as very good multiplayer modes. That’s not a bad thing. There’s enough new content tostill feel fresh, but the formula’s going to need something big for the next, already announced iteration.