I’ve arrived in Constantinople, and have decided to write you this letter as a clever means of narrative exposition without all the drag of pre-rendered cinematics because we kind of blew the whole budget on the intro sequence. I think it looked pretty magnifico, though.
Anyway, I am here to find a bunch of keys to open Altaïr’s secret library in the castle at Masyaf because all the answers are there (I’m sure!), but this might be a bit harder than I’d first thought. I mean, it doesn’t look like they’re anywhere on the docks, so I guess I’m going to have to get off this ship and actually go into the city and look for them.
Sigh. I just know what’s going to happen – I’m going to end up spending most of my time here running away from guards and falling off roofs and tripping over pedestrians who always seem to instantly double in number and cluster in the exact archway whenever I’m trying to make an escape from an ill-timed assassination.
And then it’s all going to end abruptly, inscrutably, and just inconclusively enough to rationalise doing something very much like this, but just a bit different all over again this time next year, and maybe not so much “revelations” as “minor clarifications and major prevarications”.
Aut vincere aut mori aut spaghetti cum globis caronis, Ezio
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations gets off to a bad start. I’m putting that right up top here so anybody who reads this review and then buys the game remembers this bit during you’ll-see-what-I-mean (hhhnnnnnnggggrrrr), and boldly pushes on through, anyway. It gets better, pinky swear.
But perhaps not by very much, at least in context. Where Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood introduced loads of innovative concepts, gameplay improvements, and a generally more dense, varied, and interesting experience over Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations feels more like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Again, Now With a Hookblade, Ziplines, Bombs, and a Sort of Rubbishy Tower Defence Sort of Thing, RAZZLE DAZZLE!
Which is certainly not to say that the game isn’t much good, but rather that it simply doesn’t quite seem to be a game in its own right, and more like a 30-hour Brotherhood expansion instead. The Hookblade, ziplines, and bombs are seriously super cool, though.
The tower defence thing, not so much. Basically, when your activities around town have attracted significant Templar attention – and this could be anything from murdering fifteen people in broad daylight right outside the Hagia Sofia, to renovating the corner tailor shop, it all adds up – they’ll launch an assault on one of your assassin dens. This means swapping over to a clumsy, wave-based counteroffensive from the nearby rooftops that becomes mostly a matter of dreary bureaucratic procedure once you’ve unlocked the grenadiers.
Besides, since when is being an international superstar hitman all about standing next to a chimney and telling which guys to go where? Since never, that’s when. Totalmente detestibile.
Once you’ve worked an apprentice up to Master Assassin level, he or she can “lock” an assassin den, making it effectively immune to further Templar interference, but this takes quite a bit of time, and getting enough Master Assassins to cover all your dens takes most of the game. Honestly, I preferred it when the apprentice training mini-game was its own reward, instead of obligatory, tedious busywork.
You could also bribe heralds or murder Templar officials to bump down your current notoriety level, but again, it’s a chore on top of everything else you’re supposed to be doing.
It’s also the most inaccessible Assassin’s Creed game to somebody who’s not played any of the previous games – it simply won’t make any kind of sense whatsoever. I’m not convinced it’s a clever idea to expect players to have finished most of the other games in a series in order to understand what’s going on in the latest one, but then, maybe that’s the whole point from a business perspective.
Over to the multiplayer then, and it’s mostly a refinement of Brotherhood’s already excellent concept, with a bunch of new modes chucked in for variety. The subtle sneak ‘n’ stab gameplay might not appeal to the Call of Duty and Battlefield dudebros, but it remains a superb, exhilarating, and completely unique experience for everybody else.
It’s hard to evaluate a game like this on its own merits, especially given the lack of any real evolution from Brotherhood, and a somewhat muddled and unfocussed story that, while bringing some closure to much-loved protagassins Ezio and Altaïr, feels like just another stopgap in front of whatever Ubisoft is planning for the inevitable sequel. The multiplayer component could keep you occupied for months yet, but whether or not that’s worth the pricetag of what more or less amounts to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood v1.5 is up to you.