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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

April 20, 2012

I got this in a rash of video-game buying last autumn. I’ve only recently gotten around to playing it, and now reviewing it.

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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations builds on the genetic memories and conspiracy theories of the previous games in the series. Desmond, trapped in the Animus, must re-live more memories from his ancestor, Ezio, specifically those of his adventures in 1511 Constantinople. Ezio is there searching for the keys to a library underneath the former Assassin stronghold at Masyaf but gets caught up in the political intrigue of the city.

As the fourth game in the Assassin’s Creed series, there is very little here that is new. Constantinople is a sandbox of free-running across rooftops and murdering Templars in a host of creative ways. Those aspects still feel as fluid and bloody, respectively as in previous games. Notable additions to the formula include the hookblade, which allows Ezio to zipline across the city, and bombs, which can be crafted from various ingredients to kill, impede or distract. Revelations is more about fine-tuning than experimenting with anything entirely novel.

Other mechanics returning from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood include the renovation of the city, by buying landmarks and opening shops, and recruiting and training new Assassins. This latter aspect has been improved on. Similar to the Borgia Towers in Brotherhood, several Templar Dens are scattered throughout the city. These can be brought under Assassin control and an Assassin can reach the rank of Master Assassin by being put in charge of one of these dens. In Brotherhood, this process was over in what became a rather repetitive cut-scene. Here, Ezio must aid his fledgling Assassins in a two-mission sub-plot. Indeed, the recruits in Constantinople play a larger part in the plot than in Brotherhood.

Additionally, should Ezio’s actions draw too much attention for too long, the dens can come under attack by Templars attempting to take them back. To maintain control, you must play a ‘tower defence’ mini-game, controlling various Assassin units. An entertaining new mechanic but it’s not a game-changer.

Visually, the game is just as beautiful as previous installments, and the characters are edging ever closer to looking lifelike. Though Constantinople is big, certainly big enough for all the action, it doesn’t feel as expansive as Rome did in Brotherhood. A small complaint; we can’t always improve on what has been done before.

Plot-wise, the game is perfectly serviceable. Historical figures are still being dropped in to chat with Ezio and I’m fine with that. What I particularly like is the depiction of Ezio’s maturity. After his youth and middle age in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood, he is now a visibly old man. Though he is still able to kick ass in the manner of Aragorn and Liam Neeson, the weight of years is evident, particularly in the elements that have Ezio teaching new Assassins, passing on the torch. My friend, Lucy, informs me that there was a bit of an outrage in the fanbase over the subplot involving Ezio and a younger book collector, Sofia Sartor. I can’t see what the problem is – He is Italian, after all. Personally, I found that to be the best part of the story.

I have a real soft spot for the Assassin’s Creed series of games. I find them really fun to play. Revelations did not disappoint. This is a fitting conclusion to the life of Ezio Auditore. While trying a few new things, it is hardly revolutionary. It also lacks the scope of vision found in Brotherhood. Despite this, it is still a fine installment in a fine game series.

P.S. Here’s  the epilogue if you will to theAssassin’s Creed II/Ezio arc of games, Assassins Creed Embers. Warning, spoilers.

 

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