RELEASED: November 2011
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): Ubisoft Montreal
PLAYERS: 1, Online Multiplayer
Assassin's Creed II was a revolutionary stealth-action game that changed the face of the Assassin's Creed franchise for good and introduced us to one of the most charismatic lead characters in history in the young Ezio Auditore. A more mature Ezio went on to star in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, another great game of the same flesh which mainly focused on its new multiplayer mode, city simulation and the opportunity to train a small army of assassins by the ways of a very simple attack and defense simulator. By the end of Brotherhood, Ezio's story was far from over; as was the story of the franchise's original lead character, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. To finally be able to move on with a new storyline focusing on the franchise's true protagonist, the modern-day assassin Desmond Miles, Ubisoft made Assassin's Creed: Revelations, featuring both Ezio and Altaïr in starring roles, heading for closure. Three years, three major games - that's remarkable in terms of speed, quantity and company efficiency, especially when we're speaking of a franchise this huge. However, there is one thing that is more important than any of them, and that's quality. Assassin's Creed: Revelations does not lack it per se, but it has not come very far from the very basics that made the first game in the Ezio trilogy so good, and the main focus of the game is on the wrong things. As it progresses, Assassin's Creed: Revelations turns out the weakest offering in the series since the very first one, by one disappointingly long shot.
Desmond Miles is in a coma as the result of his encounter with Juno. To bring him back, the modern-day assassins place him in a special Animus program - the "Black Room", where he is able to develop a virtual consciousness. Inside the Black Room, Desmond finally meets Subject 16, who explains to Desmond that his mind has been broken due to the Bleeding Effect and he needs to mend it by finding closure as both of his ancestors, so that the Animus can separate his ancestors' memories from his own. As it happens, Desmond can find all the solutions he seeks in one place, as in his latest memory the aging Ezio Auditore sets sail to Constantinople, to investigate Altaïr's findings on the true purpose of the assassins.
|Smile pretty for the hangman.|
The in-depth part of the story just doesn't work anymore. The previous game was already full of far fetched riddles I believe even Ubisoft never came up with solutions for - confusion is weird, weird is confusing, confusion is exciting and weird is good. Or something like that. The threads here do not answer any questions, and the story just tramples on its spot instead of moving the least bit forward, leaving us the same confusing riddles to reflect on some more, if we're the least bit interested anymore.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations kind of returns to the roots of the series by being less of a dramatic, progressive and cinematic story, and more of a bunch of simple and simply scripted assignments aiming towards the same outcome, and given to you by mostly just one dude. This style, reminiscent of the original Assassin's Creed - which comes bundled with the special edition, by the way - does not really fit Ezio, who used to run around the city, helping out random people for random reasons, and delivering an amazing one-liner every five minutes. He's way too serious and on the mark in this game, I'm not sure whether to like him just 'cause he's Ezio and he does have a few of his old traits left, or just disregard the character as a mere shell of the man we used to know. Ah, damn, let's just face it - I still get goosebumps every time Ezio says "Requiescat in pace", and he shows a little bit more of his old ladykilling self in each of his encounters with Sofia, the game's extremely solid female lead. We even get a minor cameo appearance by a character from Ezio's past that is sure to do the most eager fans of Assassin's Creed II some service, and prove that inside that hard shell of his, "The Mentor" is still Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Still, the conclusion to his epic story that has spanned three major games will surely leave a lot of fans cold. It lacks a true climax, unlike the story of another assassin from the past.
|I'm placing my bet on some blood and guts.|
General graphics are OK, but not much of awe-inspiring improvement over the graphics in the previous year's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. On this side, we have absolutely gnarly death animations. Ezio might be a gentleman, but there's absolutely nothing gentle about his profession or the way he professes it; we're talking both hidden blades through the opponent's chin, an axe to the head, a dagger in the eye, spear through the gut... this game is extremely violent and the combat mechanics have certainly improved. A little. On the opposite side, we have new facial construction for all three main characters. That would be only natural, if they looked even a bit like the old ones! Ezio looks completely different from what he looked like in the previous games, and both Desmond and Altaïr's faces have been slightly changed to somewhat look more like this Ezio. So the connection to the earlier games fades even further.
|Those tutorials tend to show up in every single |
turn. Except in the turns in which they would
be of some use.
Jesper Kyd's score is quite much the same it's been for the last few years, only a few clearly more dramatic tracks are added into the mix by Lorne Balfe, who mostly works on similar "extra scores" for movies. The score's at its best at the game's most cinematic moments; the background music will eventually bore the hell out of you. I think that having two or three constant background themes in a 100% on-foot sandbox game (oh, all right, 95%) is not a good idea.
So, yeah, even while the game has had some stylistic modifications which are there to somewhat remind us of the first game, Assassin's Creed: Revelations is still very much a sandbox game... for the most part. You see, all forms of exploring take place within one single city - and I can tell you, Constantinople or Istanbul or whatever the hell you call it ain't no Rome. While other games aim at a more and more epic setting, Assassin's Creed takes a step back - I do acknowledge that it's hard to outdo a 16th century Rome, but something near-equal such as Athens would've been bitchin'. Ezio visits some other locations in the beginning, middle and end of the game, but these little trips on the side are almost wholly mission-driven, and scripted, which in this case means that you cannot return to them. If you're after the collectables and miss the ones in Anatolia, that's just too bad. You'll have to start over a game which really isn't one of the most replayable ones around.
This game is coated with all sorts of side missions or additional ways to pass time from both sides of being fun. Buying properties doesn't mean anything anymore. You're not renovating anything, you're just buying up stuff for no purpose at all. All you get is lousy extra income and the Templars on your ass for buying a landmark for tens of thousands of valuable coin. The rep system indeed works a little differently. Every witnessed criminal action and general misbehaviour, such as entering restricted areas, running on rooftops, and indeed, buying up property results in the Templars becoming more and more "aware" of your presence in the city, and they will keep harrassing you at every turn - if their awareness is at zero, they don't even look at you if you pass them on the street, even in high profile, as long as you're not doing anything illegal or something to screw them out of their dominance. Although it's kind of realistic to have a warrant on your head for each monument, bank, store and pharmacy you buy, it goes without saying that before long, having to clear your name after each transaction by finding a herald to bribe or a Templar info agent to kill will seriously start pissing you off.
|The hookblade - it's such a small thing, but it |
makes your life so much easier.
Training assassins is one part of the Assassin's Creed: Revelations single-player experience that was truly focused on, and which can be quite fun for quite some time - it also takes quite some time to truly finish up with the job, and once you've done it, you'll be glad it's over with. Trust me. OK, so you run around rescuing citizens and recruiting them to your cause, that much is intact from the old. But, this time, some of these citizens will give you unique missions to carry out before they're prepared to put their different skills in use under your guidance (these "different skills" don't mean squat once they're actually part of the team, though - also, their appearance strangely changes by means of the face generator). In the vein of burning down the Borgia towers in Brotherhood, you need to claim the seven Templar Dens in the city for your own by killing the Templar in charge of the area, climbing the den and lighting a fire on top of it to scare the rest of the men of the cloth out. At this point, a Templar Den becomes an Assassin Den where you can manage all sorts of stuff related to your own faction, and at this point, the Assassin Den is vulnerable to counterattacks which lead to games of Den Defense. These counterattacks are once again impossible if you have a Den Leader. An assassin can become Den Leader at Level 10, but his den is only immune once he/she reaches Level 15 - Master Assassin. Once you assign a Level 10 assassin as a Den Leader, his/her unique training mission is unlocked. These seven two-part missions are the most important parts of Master Assassin training; the second parts are unlocked at the end of Level 14. Although the character generator for the assassins is very generic, these missions add a lot to teacher-student bonding that was totally missing from Brotherhood. Of course, Mediterranean Defense, in other words sending your assassins to the capitals of the world to take care of business for EXP and other benefits is still a very crucial factor in your assassins' training program, as is simply calling them for help any time. This time, they don't make things quite as easy as they did in Brotherhood; Revelations is just an extremely easy game in itself. So easy it's downright boring. The only thing difficult about it is unfortunately nothing new to this franchise.
|"Fratello mio. Before I lay this city in your |
hands, I must ask you a question that defines
you as a person: ...got weed?"
Swords. Knives. Poison. Even guns. Who can guess what comes next? What could possibly be added into the mix somewhat realistically in a game mostly based on 16th century events? That's right, bombs. You can't just pick bombs up, you have to buy them or craft them yourself using ingredients you can loot from ever-spawning chests around Constantinople and inside your Dens. Another idea that might be kinda cool, but is absolutely needless - there's absolutely no need for the bombs during gameplay. Zero, if you count out the bomb tutorial missions which are completely optional. Trophies and Achievements are of course afloat, but you don't need one single bomb to beat the game. Which is good, 'cause Ezio is simply not the bombing type.
Before taking a dive into this game's lowest depths, and in fact, some of the lowest depths any basically good modern game has sunk into in a long time, I'd like to throw in a little praise for a change. In a very early point of the storyline, Ezio's age-old hidden blade is replaced with the Constantinople assassin's weapon of choice, the hookblade, which is similar to Ezio's signature weapon, but has a hook on its end - duh. With the hookblade, you can jump and reach higher, make long jumps from a rooftop on one side of the street to another of equal height, and use ziplines for even faster travel between rooftops. What the hookblade means to the avid Assassin's Creed player is that navigation of the city is much faster and comfier than it has been thus far - though it would be even comfier if the controls were better.
|The multiplayer even looks like it's been |
In fact, they're not puzzles. You know the solution, but you're gonna rupture a vein or two trying to get to it because the controls are so enfuriating and the sequences themselves are so damn boring! They're annoying bits of Ubisoft presenting how bad their judgment can be even in the case of a franchise that you'd think could afford a little experiment. You control Desmond - or some sort of data collective with his train of thought - in first person, in a labyrinth of raw data. Think of a more surreal and confusing version of Tron. Anyhoo, you need to form these platforms (that look like long Tetris cubes) and ramps to get forward in each situation. Things to watch out for turn up in the second memory, the first one's kind of like a tutorial; orange "read-only" fields that prevent you from forming blocks, and particle storms that move or elevate your blocks to each direction. Checkpoints turn up often enough, until you get to the more challenging (and long) bits, where you will be driven mad by sudden deaths and how much overtly sensitive controls have to do with them. Surely there are people who will find these sequences awesome, but I don't belong with those people... and I couldn't imagine anyone I know liking these. I was thinking of ditching them altogether after finishing the second one - since I knew it was only going to get worse - but I battled it out with the strength of a few beers, just to nail the Trophies. Even if I end up replaying the game, I'll never do these bits again.
|This is what Desmond's Journey looks like. |
These days, one simply can't milk a dead cow in the world of story-driven action and get away with it. Sure, Assassin's Creed II was a damn masterpiece, but we warned you, Ubisoft - we warned you of the consequences of hanging on to the reputation of a single game! The things wrong with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood were easy to forgive. It might've been little more than an upgrade to the working formula of the previous game, but it was still a full-blooded, passionate, ambitious game. Assassin's Creed: Revelations very simply lacks that same blood, passion and ambition. It's just another annual attempt to raise money on the wings of a masterpiece. We players deserve more - Assassin's Creed deserves more. And Ezio damn straight deserved a better exit.
+ The multiplayer mode (apparently)
+ Improved combat
+ The hookblade and the comfort it provides the player with
+ Training assassins is more interesting and personalized
+ You could deep-fry Ezio in butter and he would still be Ezio... somewhat
+ The Altaïr sequences
+ The Assassin's Creed II formula
- The Assassin's Creed II formula
- Not much new questions when it comes to the main story, even less answers; with each passing game, interest in it seems to decrease
- Cinematics are disappointing, down to the voiceovers
- Repetitive missions (tail, tail, tail!!!)
- General controls lack just as much as they did two years back... if not even more
- Besides Trophies, everything extra is just that, extra, and not much more; "owning" the city holds close to meaning at all
- Desmond's Journey sucks ass, AND it is the game's one and only puzzle-oriented part
- Crafting bombs is mostly a waste of time and good storage space
- That damn annoying "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" song will probably play in your head a few times while you're playing the game
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