With the number of Assassin’s Creed games that have been released in the recent past, I am starting to wonder if they are trying to outdo The Sims with that series’s affinity of releasing expansion packs. Thankfully each game is a full adventure on its own, with this 3rd installment of Ezio’s trilogy within a trilogy finally bringing two characters to an end (granted we could still see them in some form in the future based on how the series has treated them so far).
Following the events at the end of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Desmond has lost himself to the computer-generated worlds of the Animus that houses Subject 16. Instead of coming out of it to reality, he is trapped within the system / his mind, and though he can hear the voices of the companions from the previous game (minus the apparently dead Lucy, though I still refuse to believe this) with no escape other than through the past, where he once again plays out the memories of Ezio.
As far as stories go, I have made it my goal to figure out what is actually happening within them because between the names and my apparent inability to piece a lot of the story together (I will admit that I sometimes get distracted during the cutscenes), if I don’t start taking notes or reading up on it online I am never going to really understand what the heck is going on. There is a lineage of Assassins connected to Desmond who have fought against the Templars, the all powerful apple of Eden, these godly, hologram-looking people, Subject 16, the Animus, etc… Point is it is a lot to take in, so thank goodness the gameplay is strong enough to keep me coming back because I don’t really enjoy feeling this stupid for no reason.
With that said, I can say that Revelations does help piece some of this stuff together, finally finishing off the story of our first memory provider, Altair, in an Inception type way. As the Templars and Assassins race each other to gain entry into Altair’s library, Ezio is taken one step further downward as he collects the keys to this location, each one providing memories from Altair’s life.
Though the main focus of these moments was to put to rest the stories of two of the characters within the franchise, having three characters provides the opportunity for some changes in gameplay style, far grander than the simple dynamic of Catwoman and Batman bringing different fighting styles and gadgetry to Arkham City. Starting with Altair, as we move through his memories we see him in his prime as a capable assassin at the height of his strength, to the end of his road where he is hobbling along like the old man that he has become. Even though he isn’t a real threat as a combatant, these memories still provide great playtime because he has the respect of many following the creed who will protect him as he makes his way around the map. This may sound lame, but in all honesty simply walking around really is worth it as we get to play witness to other assassins removing threats from the area, whether they are diving onto people from above, pulling them off cliffs, etc.
With that said, the biggest change is while playing as Desmond within the basic structure of the Animus (i.e. not within historical memories). Reliving memories of his own, through a first person POV of these geometric worlds we get to dive deeper into this protagonist’s past as well, learning about his life up to when we first met him in game one. Though it isn’t as full game worthy as Portal is when it comes to puzzle solving, these puzzles are still beautifully built and structured as he remembers his past, creating a great experience even if the change of style to the gameplay doesn’t tempt the player on its own.
Even with the numerous releases in this series, the gameplay is still ever evolving with each addition. Last time we were given large changes with the introduction of becoming a mentor to assassins in training, sending them out on missions to level them up, as well as the ability to call them in during times of need. This is still included in Revelations, but it is taken one step further, and possibly one step too far for this player. As the assassins take control of the Templar dens around the map, the Templars can now retake them if they feel so inclined. However, this is not a simple sword fight to the death, but instead a den defense minigame is brought in that takes a little more strategy than just swinging weaponry around. An interesting change of pace for sure, I found myself more annoyed with the morale system that restricted the different types of defense I could use to keep the Templars at bay, and in the end I would have rather just handed over the den so that I could take it over once more by simply killing the captain and lighting a signal fire in game.
In addition to this personal weak point, I was also a little saddened to see that we weren’t being trusted with horses anymore. I guess Ubisoft received too many complaints from trampled victims… And then there is the change to which button is used to sync and go into eagle vision. The horror! But before I could truly start pouting about these two changes, I was introduced to the most glorious tool in Ezio’s arsenal. Instead of having the identical double blades, Ezio now has a blade with a hook attached to the end of it on his right wrist. This allows him to grab and roll over people as he tries to escape from a fight, climb faster up buildings, and best of all, go zooming around the map on zip lines like a kid (instead of like an older gentlemen who looks like he should be using his sword as a cane). Adding a way to traverse gaps that are too large to simply jump over, the downside is that they aren’t as frequent as I would like, and the majority of the time when I came across one it was the lower side of the line, and no matter how hard I tried gravity just didn’t work in my favor in these moments.
Other than the use of the hook during combat, another great addition to Ezio’s gameplay is the ability to craft different types of bombs. There are three basic kinds: bombs to distract, bombs to impede an enemy’s ability to see/follow, and bombs to go boom with a deadly force. Sticking these lethal bombs to soldiers was my personal favorite; unfortunately it also meant that I saw the “Ezio didn’t kill civilians” message far more frequently than all my other game playthroughs combined.
There may be both good and bad changes made while making Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but the basic reasons that brought large quantities of fans to the series still remain. The combat is as strong as it has been, climbing is still far more entertaining than I remember it being as a child (yes, I might have geeked out far more than I should have when getting to scale the innards of the Hagia Sophia, something learned about in my Art History course a few years back), and though the stories may confuse me to an extent, I can’t help but still be intrigued to see where it goes from here. Now on to Assassin’s Creed 3!
Final Grade: 8 / 10 Follow @BewareOfTrees