Search for an ancient secret that might save the world.
PC Release: November 29, 2011
By Ian Coppock
Ubisoft isn’t even trying to hide its greed anymore. Not every series that moves to a yearly installment model suffers in the content department, but if Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood wasn’t a blatant enough attempt to milk this franchise for all it’s worth, then Assassin’s Creed: Revelations finishes the job. I like this series, and I desperately don’t want to see its stories stretched thin and shot out like half-baked potatoes, but I guess that’s not going to happen.
If my introduction wasn’t enough of a clue, I didn’t like this game very much. My distaste for another delay of Assassin’s Creed III was reinforced when I saw that, once again, Ezio Auditore is the protagonist.
Ezio is not a bad character. But sometimes we want our favorite people to get out of our faces for just a moment. That’s a no-go with Ezio, even though he is now in his mid-50s and somehow still able to hop and jump around like he did when he was 16.
The game continues the saga of Assassin’s Creed with dual modern-day and historical storylines. Desmond Miles, the modern-day protagonist, wakes up with his personality trapped inside the Animus, the machine he used to view Ezio’s memories in Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
I didn’t realize that the Animus had an island resort hidden inside of it.
Desmond isn’t alone in the machine. He meets the elusive Subject 16, one of the series’s most enigmatic characters. 16, who is dead in real life, managed to preserve the essence of his being in the Animus as well. He tells Desmond that pieces of his own essence are scattered across the Animus’ digital landscape, and that Desmond needs to collect them in order to wake up.
Anyway, Desmond can only do this by jumping back into his ancestral memories. He begins with Ezio, who makes a midlife journey to the Middle East to find the Assassin fortress of Masyaf.
Ezio journeys to the fortress only to get captured by Templars, who have overrun Masyaf in search of ancient artifacts. Ezio learns that these artifacts contain knowledge of the Assassins’ order, and that they’re now in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. He also learns that they’re linked to Altair, the ancient Syrian assassin and the protagonist of the first Assassin’s Creed.
Ezio arrives to the city and crashes with the local assassins, who are fighting a citywide war against the Templars. In this game, the Templars are ethnic Byzantines who have embraced the order’s mantra as a way of life. As with the previous games, the Templars fight for total world control, while the Assassins want to preserve humankind’s free will. This makes the groups sworn enemies, and Constantinople is their latest flash point.
With the help of his secret fan club, Ezio combs Constantinople for the artifacts he seeks. When he activates them, he relives memories from Altair, in which you take direct control of the character in sequences that follow Assassin’s Creed.
This was by far the most epic part of the game; I love Altair and being able to play as him again was really fun.
So, to sum up so far, Ezio is looking for these artifacts that contain Altair’s memories. Desmond, meanwhile, must complete a series of journeys inside the Animus, at the end of which he regains pieces of his consciousness. All three protagonists undergo these journeys simultaneously, forming the core of the game.
Sounds pretty great, right? Well, it’s not. (inhales deeply).
To begin with, Ezio’s storyline in AC: Revelations is even less substantial than the already pitiful plot in Brotherhood. I beat the last game’s story in eight hours, and this one took about six. All Ezio is out to do is find these ancient memory boxes, and it’s unclear why he’s doing this in the first place. It’s another case of ambiguous motivations.
Compounding this frustration is Constantinople, which while beautiful in design is overstuffed with even MORE useless, piddling side quests than there were in Brotherhood. The ratio of story-critical missions to pointless tasks is at LEAST 10 to one. Why are you doing this to me, Ubisoft?
Now, to be fair, there is a little more to Ezio’s story than finding these keys. He learns of a Byzantine plot to retake Constantinople from the Ottomans, but the story was over so quickly that I barely had a chance to process it. You meet a few historical characters in brief, blip-like cutscenes, but there’s no meat to this potential for better storytelling.
Altair’s story segments also suffer. While considerably more interesting than Ezio’s story, each of Altair’s six missions are only a few minutes long. They also all take place in the same area, which felt a bit lazy. The return of such a beloved protagonist should’ve gotten a bit more effort than this.
Finally, there’s Desmond’s segments. Desmond hasn’t really gotten a storyline of his very own yet, so I was disappointed to see that each of his six or seven missions is a platforming minigame. Not joking.
From a first-person perspective, Desmond jumps across various platforms while musing about his life thus far. It’s interesting because we learn more about the series’s central protagonist than ever before, but the puzzles felt very out of place. Third-person, open-world combat to… platforming? The segments are also just walking in a straight line. There are no puzzles or anything. The only interest I gleaned from them was information about Desmond. Revelations expands upon this concept with a DLC called The Lost Archive, in which we learn a bit more about Subject 16, but the production is only an hour long and is way too expensive for its relative lack of content.
As you’ve probably surmised by now, this game’s three-pronged plot is a mess. Ezio’s boring, overstuffed campaign, Altair’s critically short story, and Desmond’s wildly out-of-place jumping games all combine to produce a game that feels lost. Revelations is evidence that the AC team, ordered by Ubisoft to produce yearly titles, didn’t really know how to stretch the series out.
Stretching any series beyond its natural length leaves scars, and this game is full of them. It doesn’t help that “Revelation” is one of the most overused subtitles in the gaming industry, or that the actual “revelations” for which the game is named are small for what they were built up to be. My reaction, upon hearing these revelations, was “really? That’s the big secret?”
The gameplay in Revelations is basically unchanged. Ezio gets two new weapons; the first is a useless gimmick called the Hookblade, a hidden blade that can grapple onto ledges. Conveniently enough, all ledges in the world of Assassin’s Creed are now a foot higher, just to necessitate this tool. Ezio can also use it for traversing ziplines, but he could do that with his hands if he needed to.
The next weapon is bombs. Ezio can craft powerful explosives for combat, though the endless combinations of shells and ingredients are pretty much useless. I’m a strictly practical fellow, so I saw no need for crafting bombs that spew fake gold or diarrhea-inducing smoke. Why make those when you can craft bombs that just kill people? Cut out the middleman, I say.
The worst feature is a half-assed tower defense game. Ezio must defend Assassin HQ against Templar interlopers by installing defenses and soldiers. This feature mimics a tower defense game but it felt out of place.
You also only have to play it once in the game, and it’s easy to avoid, so I did just that. I’m guessing this was another desperate attempt to think up something new for a series that clearly wasn’t ready for its next game.
Though Revelations is a snorefest in the story department, the game’s artwork is a refreshing change of scenery. I was sick of Italian villas and vineyards by the end of Brotherhood, so I was delighted to venture into Constantinople, a city whose design accurately reflects the many cultures of the Ottoman Empire.
As Ezio, you can wander bustling markets and visit stunning landmarks, like the Hagia Sophia and the ancient Byzantine Hippodrome. Ships are crowded with eastern and western vessels alike. Roma dance for coin and Islamic scholars make their way through thick crowds. It’s a very living environment, and certainly a welcome change from Italy.
The game brings to the table the same intricate city and town design that the AC games have become legendary for. Alternating between wide avenues and tight alleys, Constantinople’s terrain is constantly refreshing.
Roger Craig Smith returns once again to voice Ezio Auditore, though by now the character has finished developing. He’s the same thoughtful, matured and occasionally funny man from Brotherhood and the end of Assassin’s Creed II. A few other characters move into the niches occupied by Ezio’s Italian buddies from games past, but they stay within their predetermined niches.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is proof that just because a game is competently made doesn’t mean that it’s a guaranteed hit. The pieces fit well together, but they’re the same worn-out pieces from the last Assassin’s Creed game. Almost nothing has been done to innovate the gameplay, and the narrative feels like nothing more than answering some questions that none of us were really clamoring for. Hopefully, the next Assassin’s Creed game will return this series to form.
You can buy Assassin’s Creed: Revelations here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.