Assassin's Creed: Revelations Review
Behind Uncharted , Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed is my favorite new franchise of the generation. The beautiful combination of expansive open-world environments, general freedom, and the flowing free-running mechanic that works extremely well has always kept me in my chair. And while the latest entry is just as addictive, just as technically accomplished, and just as fulfilling, there are some odd drawbacks. And they bug me.
The graphics are a high point again, as the developers give us a gorgeously depicted 15th-century Constantinople. The coloring is better than it has been in recent installments and once again, that incomparable atmosphere (tons of active, realistic civilians, breathtaking architecture, etc.) is a huge highlight. Animations remain fluid and appealing and while the cut-scenes still aren’t supremely appointed or orchestrated, the gameplay visuals excel. There are a few small hitches but that’s okay.
We receive great audio, too, although I remain partial to the Italian accents from Brotherhood . Also, I have to say that while past iterations featured large, capable casts of actors, I wasn’t overly thrilled with a few of the performances in Revelations . Even so, that sweeping orchestral soundtrack is excellent and augments the on-screen action, and the effects – while a tad muddled in some especially hectic situations – add life and metaphorical color to both combat and platforming.
Let’s start with the story because this is Ezio’s third and final(?) story, and we can’t forget about Desmond, the actual behind-the-scenes protagonist who has now become a full-fledged assassin. Desmond is a prisoner inside the Animus this time around and he is guided by a relatively faceless Subject 16. The team from Brotherhood is gone and although they played minor roles, I found myself missing them. And as for exploring Desmond’s entrenched memories, well…
It’s a new mechanic Ubisoft has introduced, and we should appreciate the feature because a lot of people have said, “oh, Revelations is just a rehash.” Well, not really. There are actually quite a few new features. The only problem is that not all of them work as well as the core gameplay. For instance, in Desmond’s memories, you enter a first-person view and solve mini-puzzles by creating pathways. It’s not only a little boring, it’s also irritating when environmental factors mess with your solution.
Of course, running around with Desmond was never a big part of the series, and it isn’t here, either. It’s a little more prevalent (which I find unfortunate due to the aforementioned issues), but at least we spend the majority of our play time with Ezio and his ancestor, Altair. If you recall, Altair was the main character in the original Assassin’s Creed . The progression of the story link between Ezio and Altair is satisfying and even surprising at times, but I can’t give high marks to the overall story arc.
In truth, I never really did. It’s all about the gameplay and atmosphere in AC; it always has been. As I said concerning the graphics, this is yet another amazing environment that is endlessly entertaining and engrossing. The best part is that exploring this immersive landscape is just awesome: not only has the free-running platforming mechanic returned, but now Ezio has access to a hook, which he uses to slide along ziplines. He can even use the multi-purpose hook as a weapon, and it will stop you from falling if you’re quick. The parachute is another great safety device.
Platforming, combat, and exploration are all the best they’ve been in the series. That’s saying something. And in fact, if they had simply left well enough alone, I would’ve been more inclined to give Revelations the coveted 9+ score. It’s rare that I will actually dock a game for trying something new, but it seems like most anything new in this game is either mediocre or just plain bland. One of the most annoying new features is the tower defense, which reminds me of past Saints Row titles.
Like in Brotherhood , you can gain control over an area by eliminating the enemy influence (in last year’s game, it was the oppressive Borgia). In the new entry, it’s the Templars and at first, it’s similar: if you take down the commander of that section of the map, it frees up and you can open shops and stuff. But this time, the Templars can actually take back their lost territory. If you’re not super vigilant and assassinating certain people or bribing heralds, they’re comin’ back, which interrupts your adventure. See, when they come back, you have to do a tower defense battle.
This strategy element puts you almost out of the action; you use Morale like money and place blockades and groups of assassins in beneficial positions. All you can do is shoot from above and watch as the combat unfolds. The view doesn’t change, any victory seems a little hollow, and in general, it’s just a silly addition in my eyes. This is an example of a feature that could’ve added a lot to the overall presentation, but ends up being a vexing distraction. Thankfully, though, the rest of the game is the epitome of assassin goodness.
I still love how the combat works, the counterkills have never been more satisfying, and the missions are nicely paced and there’s plenty of variety. There appears to be more brutality involved, too, which adds flair to every battle. Ezio has most of the bad-ass maneuvers and he also does most of the exploring. Altair’s sections aren’t as big and they often don’t ask too much from him; such scenarios mostly exist for the sake of the narrative, which is fine. This actually offers an appreciated change of pace and fleshes out the story.
You can once again recruit assassins and send them out to handle contracts but Ubisoft has added a few embellishments. This time, completing a contract actually has a positive impact on assassin influence in the city in which he does his job. Instead of just sending your cronies out on random excursions, it feels like you’re doing something. That contract has a purpose . And as before, assassins become more skilled over time and you can rely on them to complete challenging tasks.
As for the multiplayer, it isn’t much different from Brotherhood . There are new characters and maps and a few new modes, along with the mainstays like Deathmatch. One of the new modes, Artifact Assault, is a lot like Capture the Flag so it’s not exactly innovative, although I’m sure multiplayer fans will enjoy the new option. In general, this remains a single-player experience at heart and for the most part, it delivers. You can create a ton of different bombs (which I didn’t use that much, but there’s nothing wrong with the crafting process), and enemies seem more challenging at times.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a great game. It just stumbles when it tries to implement strangely conceived new features that don’t quite work. This includes Desmond’s memory traversal (‘snore’) and tower defense, which is just unnecessary. Even the bombs felt unnecessary to me. But beneath it all lies the same stellar foundation that has allowed past installments to become beloved adventures in the eyes of millions. The world is amazingly designed and beautiful to behold, the animations are superb, and the combat and platforming is just grand.
Sometimes, though, new doesn’t always mean “good.” Especially if the “new” isn’t fully realized.
The Good: Wonderful, immersive new world. Great soundtrack. All action elements remain supremely well implemented. Brotherhood enhancement is an added feature that works. Dedicated fans will appreciate the story completion. Still addictive.
The Bad: New elements don’t strike the right chord. Just don’t care about Desmond. Could’ve done more with Altair. Multiplayer hasn’t changed much.
The Ugly: “Nice try, but that new gameplay piece isn’t cutting the mustard.”
I was hoping for better. I'll give this game a go at some point, as I enjoyed the first 3 a lot. But I think this pretty much confirms the sacrifices that a team must make on an annual commitment when trying to innovate instead of refine. Reviews have consistently attacked most everything "new" the game does. This being the game's low points, suggesting half-baked concepts that needed more time to flesh out and enhance. Oh well, an 8.5 is nothing to be sad about, but the developer has been known for better.
Am I the only person who truly wants to see what the crap is going on with Desmond?? Seriously, they could easily make a whole game about Desmond, running around in the modern world, taking down Templar corporate headquarters Agent 47-meets-Ezio style. Sort of like playing a stealthy Jensen in DX:HR. I see real potential there!
Last edited by TheAgingHipster on 11/17/2011 4:54:34 PM
I believe Desmond will be the main focus in the next game of the series, but yeah learning about his past is intriguing. Also unlocking secrets about the templar order while you level up online is a welcomed edition.
I they're great good games but I do not like the idea of an annual Assassin's Creed franchise I probably won't get anymore after Assassin's Creed 3
Last edited by GuyverLT on 11/17/2011 6:25:10 PM
I decided to give up on the series after playing brotherhood. The story of all the games never really appealed to me but I only played it for the game play anyways. But something about brotherhood just turned me off from the series. I'll probably end up getting it later though in the bargain bin. Right now I'd rather get Saints Row 3 and Skyrim.
i have to say this, frequent installment one after another lead only to an inevitable result -- going downhill and became boring -- as this is the natural psychological process of mind too. some kind of break in between is needed or a new IP is even better, that is just my personal suggestion.
Remember how great and fascinating the first Prince of Persia sand of time was on PS2, but then one after another, lead to this inevitable end, boring down, as good as the recent POP is on PS3, it just does not bring much excitement any more, i think same logic apply to AC series too soon after.
Last edited by BigBoss4ever on 11/17/2011 8:03:48 PM
I'm a huge fan of the series so I'll still get it some time soon....but I'm really not too crazy about "tower defense" I wonder how Vigilant you'd have to be to prevent it.....
Atleast the main elements are still great because that's what I love.
Interesting. I've always loved AC for the stories they tell which was why Brotherhood (while awesome from a gameplay standpoint) let me down. Different strokes I suppose. While I love the gameplay in AC, the story has always been the most interesting aspect of it to me. The ancestor's stories for the most part. Desmond's is ok, but Ezio is one of my favorite characters of this generation. I'm more interested in this game for the conclusion of Ezio's story. Sounds like the combat is still great as is the platforming and level design.
That tower defense mode sounds so, so stupid. I'll probably wait on this for the price to go down to 30 bones or so. Still will get it new to support developers.
Good review as always Ben. Can we hurry up and have Playstation UK magazine come out with the Hideo interview? GAHHHH!!!!