Review: Assassin's Creed Revelations
By Nick Henderson on November 29th, 2011 (23 comments)
It seems like one of the most controversial debates going on throughout this industry these days is the annualization of franchises. Can a series maintain its positive image when bombarding its audience with a new entry every 12 months? Some look to Call of Duty as one of the most egregious offenders with Assassin's Creed not far behind. Unlike Call of Duty however, Assassin's Creed's open-ended formula and inspired fiction has become the backbone of its success. After four entries in little more than 4 years, does Revelations maintain the high standard of quality or is the series finally beginning to reflect the old age of its protagonist?
Assassin's Creed Revelations (Xbox 360)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal + Additional Ubisoft Studios
Release Date: November 15, 2011 (NA)
The short answer to both of these questions is yes. Assassin's Creed Revelations represents the ultimate utilization of the finely tuned mechanics that began to take shape in Assassin's Creed 2. All of the improvements that were made to the combat and storytelling remain intact while little else has been done to allow the series to maintain its forward momentum. Fortunately, the core Assassin's Creed formula has not quite worn out it's welcome.
Since AC2, the success of the franchise has hinged upon 3 major elements: Combat, Traversal, and Storytelling. Last year's brotherhood introduced a beautifully crafted kill chain system that requires patience, careful timing, and skill; an effort that mirrored the successes of the Batman Arkham Asylum combat system and allowed the player to feel like the character they were playing as on-screen. Thanks to the innovations in Brotherhood, players finally have what it takes to feel like a deadly assassin but Revelations doesn't add much to the existing systems.
While combat remains largely unaltered, Ubisoft once again added an additional layer of depth by introducing bomb crafting, an optional but worthy addition to any combat scenario. By stopping at bomb crafting stations littered throughout the city, players can create various types of bombs by combining types of shells, gunpowder, and effects. Players can create everything from smoke bombs to bombs that explode in a shower of distracting, gold coins. The bombs are well varied and allow for combat scenarios to play out in many different ways.
Traversing the world is still done almost entirely on foot, using the simple parkour controls of previous titles. However, Ubisoft has added a useful tool in the form of a hook that works a lot like the hidden blades that have become a staple of the series. The hook will automatically extend and provide additional leverage that Ezio uses to propel himself up the sides of structures, down zip lines, and across wide chasms. It also comes in handy when eluding pursuers by allowing Ezio to disarm and roll over anyone standing in his path. Like most mechanics that have been introduced thus far, this new tool is very much an extension of the character and an afterthought for the player.
For such an established and polished experience, I can't help but question some key choices made by the design team. At this point, it seems like the game is continuously adding new elements but never removing others and as a result, the game feels a bit unfocused. Take for instance, the introduction of the tower defense mini game. After capturing various territories throughout the world, I found myself constantly having to return to these "assassin's dens" to defend against invading troops. The mini-game itself is a shallow and sometimes unbalanced addition that must be repeated over and over. This can be stopped only by leveling one of your assassins to master rank and assigning him to defend the tower. My problem lies in the fact that I rarely spend much time in these games focusing on training my assassins' because there are just too many other things I would rather spend my time doing.
Without scaling back some of the other mechanics, even the assassin training aspects of the game feel a bit unnecessary. Like Brotherhood, assassins' can be sent to far off lands on missions in order improve their rank and call for their assistance in battle. In this case, I feel like that idea worked better as the focus of Brotherhood but has begun to over-stay its welcome in Revelations. With that said, the ability to call for their assistance is an asset that is of great value for some of the more challenging missions.
Revelations once again expands the fiction but at the same time draws some major plot threads, including that of two protagonists, to a close. Ezio, now much older and in search of the truth about his order, travels to Constantinople and uncovers another plot by the templars. Along the way, players are exposed to the final chapter in Ezio's journey as Ubisoft prepares to transition to a new protagonist in future games. Questions are answered along the way but by the end, I did find myself questioning the decision to name the game 'Revelations.'
The biggest departure from past entries comes in the form of linear side missions in which Ezio relives events from the life of Altair (the star of the original game). These short distractions are poignant and serve as some of my favorite moments in the game. They provide a welcomed look at what happened directly following the events of Assassin's Creed and eventually provide the context that the series has lacked since the beginning. Of course, the mystery surrounding Desmond, Abstergo, and Subject 16 are always present to remind players that this universe has far too many questions to answer in one game.
With Ubisoft already very forthcoming about the release of a major entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise coming in 2012, there is no end in sight for the franchise. My only hope now is that Ubisoft can effectively reboot the series by introducing a new hero, new locale/time period, and of course a slew of new mechanics to match. The game they have built serves as an effective conclusion to Assassin's Creed 2 but has ended just in time to avoid over-staying its welcome. Goodbye Ezio. It's been fun.
80-89%: Great - Only very minor issues get in the way of greatness.
I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.
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