I write this review amidst news from Ubisoft that it will be releasing a ‘major’ installment in the Assassin’s Creed series in 2012, making it sound like the games released after Assassin’s Creed 2 – Brotherhood and Revelations, are merely detours until Ubisoft figures out what Assassin’s Creed 3 is going to be about. Brotherhood added several elements that moved the franchise forward, but with Revelations, it seems like Ubisoft is clutching at straws where the plot is concerned, instead inundating the player with an endless supply of activities that stray away from what made Assassin’s Creed 2 one of the greatest successes of this generation.
Death from above
Revelations is the end of the story arc of Ezio Auditore, the protagonist from AC2 and Brotherhood. Ezio has now visibly aged, and throughout the game, you’ll see that he’s now evolved into more of a motivational figurehead for the Assassins’ order. Altair, the hero from the first game, also makes brief appearances, so this is very much the conclusion of all that has happened in the four games so far. Sadly, what should have been a nostalgic last ride and a fitting conclusion to Ezio’s tale is instead a muddled plot that only really picks up towards the end, buried under unrelated missions and a slew of unnecessary activities for most of the game.
Revelations has Ezio travelling to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in search of secrets hidden away by Altair. It’s no Venice, for sure, but the bazaars and iconic landmarks do have a distinct ancient middle-eastern charm to them. Ezio is now equipped with a hook blade that he can use in combat and during the parkour segments to reach ledges that he normally wouldn’t. While this does help, it also adds a lot of interruption to the otherwise fluid free-running segments. Revelations also seems obsessed with bomb-making, constantly giving you ingredients and filling the city with bomb-crafting stations, which will let you create various diversionary, poisonous and lethal bombs. That’s all great, but it sort of defeats the purpose of being a stealthy assassin, as does the stop-and-start nature of the hook blade mechanic.
Fastest cure for a bad throat
Another new addition that doesn’t work well is den defense. From time to time, Templars will attack Assassin dens, and you must defend these via a tower defense mini-game, which feels clunky, plays out almost the same each time, and is no fun at all. You’d rather just let the Templars capture it and then reclaim it later. Recruiting assassins has been ramped up a bit, and now you have a deeper menu-driven mini-game that lets you send your recruits to other cities to reclaim strongholds from the Templars, leveling them up in the process.
What’s really disheartening is that these additions, most of which don’t work well, come at the expense of what we’ve loved about the last two games. The thrilling platforming in the AC2 catacombs, the freeing horseback riding, and the cryptic glyphs on iconic landmarks; they’re all gone. The game does try to shake things up a bit by throwing in a bit of first-person platform puzzling when you play as Desmond, but this too is poorly executed. There is sort of an ‘Oh, my god!’ moment at the end, but it really doesn’t make up for the hours of drudgery that came before it.
The multi-player is Revelations’ unlikely redeeming feature. It’s largely unchanged since Brotherhood - you still stealthily stalk your prey with only a blimp on a radar as your guide, while at the same time watching your back as another player stalks you. The addition of the Deathmatch mode takes away that radar, while the Capture-the-flag mode replaces the tense stealth gameplay with free-running as you aim to take flags back to your base while you’re being chased down by other players.
A lot of what has made this series such a success is still here, and the fans will no doubt enjoy Revelations, but Ubisoft seems to be getting a little complacent now by taking away things we loved and half-heartedly introducing elements that just don’t seem to fit an Assassin’s Creed game. The series is beginning to stagnate now, so in 2012, Ubisoft really does need something ‘major’ to bring it back to life.