With Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Ubisoft marks the end of two eras as it explores Ezio Auditore and Altair Ibn-La’Ahad’s adventures. This ambitious conclusion to a four game narrative manages to be the best chapter in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, despite suffering from some all to familiar problems and issues. Witnessing Altair and Ezio come to grips with the lives that they’ve lived is an amazing sight and easily worth one more trip to a world we’ve experienced for the last four games.
This ambitious undertaking with Revelations, which spanned a half dozen studio’s across the globe follow no less than three lead characters, which would be catastrophic in the hands of lesser developers. Revelation’s story doesn’t just include Ezio’s quest to uncover the secrets and the story behind the Assassin Order, but his also budding romance and entanglement in a complex political grab for power. This with the flashbacks to key moments in Altair’s life and extremely brief optional excursions to Desmond’s mind in the animus packs this plot to the limit.
Somehow though, it all ties together.
The part of the game that is most compelling by far involves Ezio, as he’s on his own personal quest to discover more information about Altair brings himself to Constantinople which is in the middle of political and social turmoil. This in turn leads Ezio to Sophia who quickly becomes a romantic interest for Ezio even though he himself is unsure of truly revealing who he is to her. The sequences between them flourish emotionally and you can really belive that these two characters are slowly falling for each other despite the chaos happening around them. It’s quite impressive how convincing these moments can truly be.
Ubisoft’s overall storytelling has achieved new heights.
The previous games seemed to get some cinematic sequences right, while others missed the mark completely. Those awkward and jolting moments are gone and are replaced by very real, fully developed characters in strong scripted scenes. This leap alone helps Assassin’s Creed Revelations elevate itself above some of its predecessors. On a side note, the games visuals have also received a step up, with characters and their expressions looking even better then before. Voice acting like always is pretty solid and the soundtrack is fantastic. All of these improvements, combined with one of the best designed cities ever to be introduced so far adds to the larger narrative experience of the game.
Just like its predecessors before it, Revelations functions much like before. You’re still accepting various missions that task you with chasing, stalking, meeting, or killing certain targets. The curse of this franchise has always been that it seems to fill your time with bland, and repetitive missions that are irrelevant to the larger story. Ubisoft itself more or less avoids this by providing a plot that is multilayer. Still, expect a handful of quests and missions that seem and feel like you’ve done plenty of times before in the other games.
The most thrilling moments of the game comes when Ezio discovers clues about these mysterious keys that unlocks Altair’s library. It’s here where the series’s infamous “dungeon” sequences come into play. Like the Lairs of Romulus or Assassin’s Tombs in the previous games, these epic excavations take you on a thrilling and wild ride that would feel perfectly at home in Uncharted. At times a journey through a damp caves and at other times epic chases alongside rivers, each of these segments are simply fantastic, and are quite possibly the highlight of the entire game.
Almost equal to these excursions are the chapters that feature Altair himself. Each major portion of the game includes a segment with Altair, the original assassin himself. Players will relive specific moments throughout his life, ranging from a very young age to much older. Some of these missions feel very similar to Ezio’s, while others are very different. This variety helps to keep things fresh, as does the fact that they’re very story-driven and help bring a certain amount of meaning and weight to what Ezio is doing. When players reach the end of the game, they’ll see the similarities between the two men, along with differences which help form one of the key emotional cores of the entire experience.
Ubisoft made several additions to Revelations in terms of control, weaponry, and game-play. The most critical alteration is a simple button layout change. Gamers will now have direct access to a secondary weapon (throwing knives, a concealed gun, bombs etc.) in addition to a primary one (hidden blade, sword, axe etc.) This gives players more options, allowing for quick reactions for stealth missions as well as challenging combat scenarios. This simple yet effective alteration changes the combat mechanics in how you operate in hostile situations.
Bombs serve as an extension of your more flexible combat options. Throughout Ezio’s time in Constantinople, he will acquire a wide range of ingredients that can be assembled into three different categories for each bomb. The functionality proves diverse as you can make everything from a standard smoke bomb, to something that will shoot out money that will lure dozens of peasants. Whether you distract your opponent or outright kill them the choice is yours. While the addition of bombs do provide and work decently enough for distracting, they didn’t really change my approach to whatever situation I was in. In retrospect I much preferred countering, and chaining kills, combined with summoning my brotherhood to be the most effective way to dispatch my enemies.
Revelations suffers from this unfortunately for having the inability to break away from it’s own mold and as a result it continues to feel much more similar to its predecessors. Missions and the core combat mechanics like always remain very familiar. Ubisoft did add a new and rather intriguing dynamic to the territorial control element of Revelations. In the previous games, Ezio would not only buy shops around the city, but he’d also take control of enemy camps by assassinating their leader. Now in Revelations enemies will attempt to take these headquarters back through somewhat optional Den Defense segments. These segments are a fancy version of a typical tower defense game.
While I thought this new feature was just okay, some may be put off by this entirely and feel that it detracts from the overall experience. Ezio will stand on a rooftop near the headquarters that is under attack and players must “install” a certain number of assassin’s along the rooftops to defend the headquarters. Controlling the deployment can be rather clunky as is the way the mode meshes with the overall direction of the game. This franchise has always focused on direct combat and not real time strategy.
The other major addition to Revelations deals with Desmond. Ubisoft chose to make the modern day assassin’s sequences completely optional this time. Desmond, who is comatose and is attempting to reclaim his mind within the Animus architecture. He must navigate Matrix-like worlds in first person perspective. He maneuvers through these odd by using two shapes of blocks that he can create and place in the world. This shocking concept is immediately jarring, and yet somehow it works. Largely because its puzzle-like nature actually plays well and ties to the overall story. These Desmond moments are a curious respite from Ezio and Altair’s more intense, combat-driven missions. It seemed obvious that not everyone will love this concept, but despite their simplicity, the sequences are well done.
Multiplayer is back again and it includes various new modes, along with a wealth of customization options. Included are a better interface and even a “story” mode that allows players to learn more about the modern day templars and how they “train” in the Abstergo facility. Ubisoft is creating a fine counterpart to what is typically considered a true single-player centric franchise. Ubisoft’s decision to weave more of the franchise’s lore into these modes was simply genius. The new modes do their job quite well in creating a variety of unique game-play experiences throughout different match types. Wanted and Deathmatch recreate the more calm and collected idea of stalking prey while Artifact Assault is more breakneck and frantic.
Despite adding a number of features, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is very similar to its predecessors and that’s both it’s biggest strength as well as weakness. There is nothing wrong with Assassin’s Creed. It is a great franchise with unique and compelling game-play. The catch though is that we’ve been pretty much doing the exact same thing now for the last three games in a row of this franchise. Incremental upgrades are always welcome but at some point the players are going to want a new experience.
That said however, Revelations serves its leads characters well and is a very effective bookend. The improvements in graphics and story telling combined with the like always top-notch voice acting, and music help make this a memorable finale for some of the most interesting characters we’ve seen this generation. Not even the semi weak Den Defense side-game or Desmond’s insane side mission system can change that fact. Multiplayer will certainly reward those looking for a break from the main story. The game play continues to improve on an already addicting formula, and learning more about the modern day templars proves to be fascinating.
This is the best Assassin’s Creed yet and if you’ve been following this franchise, or have been a fan since the beginning, you deserve and owe it to yourself to see both Altair and Ezio’s last adventure.
Final Rating: 8.5/10