Review: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations delivers on action, but stumbles on plot

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The much-anticipated conclusion of the Ezio-centric trilogy Assassin’s Creed: Revelations delivers more Renaissance-era climbing, running, jumping, and, of course, stabbing. By now, most people probably know what they are going to think of any new Assassin’s Creed game, since the formula has not changed significantly from the first installment’s release in 2007. But now is when we need to ask an important question: What do we want from a franchise sequel? More importantly, what do we expect?

I’ll start off with a quick trip back to 2010. I was extremely excited for Brotherhood to release, but I was also a bit nervous that the game might feel rushed or lack polish due to the short turn around after AC2. I was quite surprised that Brotherhood didn’t end up feeling like an expansion pack that I paid $60 for. There were enough new features added (including multiplayer) that kept the game feeling fresh. My sense of confidence in Ubisoft handling sequels carried into Revelations and I was sure that I could expect the same level of excellence from it.

Revelations is much like Brotherhood in that it takes you to a new location and makes some interesting improvements to the movement and combat formula. Constantinople/Istanbul is a lively locale that is fun to play in and it is quite nice to have the ziplines to more quickly move around the city. Apprentice assassins operate largely in the same fashion as in Brotherhood, and they are still immensely enjoyable to employ in combat. Bomb crafting is an interesting addition that can be quite helpful in getting 100% sync on several memories and can sometimes prove amusing, but largely not needed to progress through the game. All told, Revelations is the best gameplay experience in the series.

Where I felt the game stumbled was in the story. We pick up immediately after the end of
Brotherhood
with Desmond injured and the Animus keeping him alive. Desmond is on what is referred to as Animus Island, a waiting room type construct that is used as a launching point for reliving Ezio’s memories. Ezio is in early 16th century Constantinople searching for the keys to Altair’s library under Masyaf. The backdrop is political intrigue as the ailing Sultan’s sons are fighting for power and the Templars are trying to take advantage of the situation. The five keys allow you to relive a memory of Altair, giving more insight to his actions after the end of the first game. There are also Animus data fragments scattered throughout Constantinople that you can collect to unlock five memories for Desmond to relive. These memories give significant backstory to Desmond before his capture by Abstergo. I found Desmond’s and Altair’s memories quite interesting and fun to play, but found much of the action as Ezio to be quite forgettable.

I can remember many of the targets from each of the previous games, and sometimes even the motivations behind going after them. But even now, right after finishing Revelations, I’m having trouble recalling many of the missions, with one of the final bosses sticking out simply because his fight changed the usual find the boss, stab the boss, watch cutscene formula I had become accustomed to. The most interesting part of playing as Ezio was going on missions with my trained assassins to track and kill Templar agents in the city. Also, while the title promises new information, we are left with only a short end sequence with another member of the First Civilization that mostly details the calamity that struck their society. I suppose the intended revelations could be the Altair and Desmond memories, but those were more background data and not exactly what I would call “revelations” as far as this series is concerned.

Revelations also sees the return of multiplayer, an addition first seen in Brotherhood. This feature has stayed largely the same, but major revisions were made to loadouts, with a few new perks and abilities needing to be purchased from the Abstergo Store with credits obtained by playing sessions. The user interface was also overhauled, which should be a welcome sight for anyone who played multiplayer in Brotherhood, but the actual gameplay is almost identical to the previous installment. The most significant addition is the ability to contest kills. If you are too late to stun your hunter, you can now receive a point bonus and reduce their kill score by contesting the kill. This seems to be a bit of a patchwork fix for lag and the occasionally shoddy netcode, but is a vast improvement over Brotherhood, where I would sometime watch myself stun a hunter only to have the game inform me that I died instead.

With great gameplay, lots of fun missions, and paranoia-inducing multiplayer, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations scratches the itch I have for sandbox parkour deathdealing even if the main plot was a bit weak. Revelations’ certainly gave me what I wanted, but perhaps failed to meet all my expectations for an Assassin’s Creed game. This game is a great addition to the series, and I already eagerly anticipate the next installment.

 

The Good: Solid gameplay that sticks to the proven Assassin’s Creed formula

The Bad: Uninspiring and forgettable storyline/characters

The Ugly: Damnit, Romanis/Courtesans, I’m using you as mobile cover. Don’t leave to distract guards unless I tell you to.

 

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