Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Review
Anyway. The keys also serve as some kind of genetic memory deposit mechanism, which allows Ezio to experience some of Altair’s memories, and that gives you a glimpse into what happened to the famous assassin after the events of Assassin’s Creed 1. These missions (slightly) break up what’s going on with Ezio, because they’re generally short and focused, without giving you the full run of an entire city like you get with Ezio. They also put you at different stages of Altair’s 90-some-year life, which is cool in that this game has two aged protagonists who are also bad-asses.
Unfortunately, given that the game isn’t much changed from its predecessor (we’ll get to how in just a second) and is mostly a delivery vehicle for the next phase of Assassin’s Creed’s excessive, somewhat overwrought story, Revelations falls pretty flat. For one, the titular revelations aren’t really all that earth-shattering (or clear — a criticism you could apply to all the games up to now), and the story is painfully lacking in interesting characters or stakes. Villains come and go without clear purposes or real depth, and supporting characters around Ezio are even worse. You’ll spend some time with Yusuf, another assassin who aids Ezio, but while he’s kind of snarky he’s not around enough to really make an impression; and Sofia, a supposed love interest for Ezio who is about as exciting and expressive as a plank of wood. Ezio himself has tempered out so much from his youth that he’s pretty much all business, and only when he gets angry does he seem human enough to be intriguing.
Without strong characters, a strong villain or clear stakes, pushing through Revelations (though it’s shorter than Brotherhood, I think) is a bit of a chore. From a gameplay standpoint, Ubisoft continues to find great ways to streamline the process to strain out the irritations while keeping the fun, and with varied missions and lots of things to do, Revelations is a good time. But the central focus here is the story, and there’s just not a lot to pull you through all the way to the end. Even Constantinople, the city that serves as setting and character, is somewhat unremarkable. While beautiful, it doesn’t feel as well-realized as earlier locations, like Rome, Florence or Damascus.
But Ubisoft has definitely done well in taking all the good ideas of Assassin’s Creed’s earlier installments and making them better with this iteration. Climbing and travel is much quicker and more fluid than in previous games, thanks to the addition of the “hook blade,” a hidden blade that allows Ezio to be lethal as well as snag ledges while falling, ride ziplines and reach higher positions than he previously could. Gone are the frustrating climbs up sheer towers to get to stupid lookout points, which resulted in frustration as you shimmied around looking for a path with close-enough handholds. Now those climbs are generally quick and easy rather than cumbersome. In his old age, Ezio is better at negotiating the environment than ever before, and you can get around the city easily without the need for a horse, which have been eliminated since the last title.
Ubisoft has refined the system of recruiting and utilizing other assassins since Brotherhood. Last year, I felt that the addition of more assassins to the game was one of its strongest points, and now the recruitment of fellow brothers and sisters is much better realized with more varied missions and the ability to develop your fighters through combat (though there are still parts that could have used more development, like the system through which you dispatch assassins to go take part in missions around the world).
You’ll also feel like you’re actively fighting a war with the villainous templars, at least for a while, as you need to recapture Constantinople from them one district at a time. Somewhat like the Borgia Tower system found in Brotherhood, you’ll infiltrate a district, find its templar leader and kill him, then scale a tower and light a signal to overtake the area. Once you do that, you get a new headquarters in that area and the ability to recruit more assassins.