Since it was
first announced back in May, we’ve seen quite a bit of Assassin’s Creed
Revelations; hands-off demos, a multiplayer beta and a handful of videos
explaining some of the new gameplay elements, for example. Until last week,
however, Ubisoft had held back on giving us the one thing we really wanted: a chance to sink our
teeth into Revelations’ story. Thankfully, we’ve finally gotten that
opportunity, playing through the game’s second, fourth and fifth chapters and
getting an eyeful of what’s in store for Nov. 15 along the way.
the game at a point shortly after the events of the Gamescom demo, when Ezio,
after encountering a strong, hostile Templar presence around the abandoned
Assassin fortress of Masyaf, arrived in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
After chatting with a sharp young Turkish student named Suleiman (and briefly
meeting his soon-to-be love interest, Sofia Sartor), he was greeted by Yusuf
Tazim, head of Constantinople’s Assassins. So began the tutorial portion. Our
first lesson? If we got close enough to Yusuf while following him, Ezio would
go on autopilot and follow him through the streets as they talked. Not the most
thrilling start, but it got a lot more interesting when the pair ran afoul of a
group of Templar guards.
been paying attention to Revelations’ development thus far, you may have
noticed that the visuals have gotten a noticeable upgrade, and that there’s
been a lot of talk about changes to the way Ezio Auditore moves and fights.
Don’t let that fool you, though; navigating the streets of Constantinople,
picking the pockets of its citizens and slicing up Templars will feel instantly
familiar if you’ve played any of the previous games. There’ve been a few small
changes to the controls – Ezio’s secret-revealing Eagle Sense has been remapped
to the right thumbstick, for example, while Y/Triangle is now a secondary,
ranged attack button – but apart from layering on a bunch of new additions,
this feels comfortably like the same old Creed.
for fighting as well. While Ezio’s got a lot of new attacks and executions at
his disposal (a lot of which seem to involve stabbing foes in the head), the
rhythms of combat feel instantly familiar. With little effort, we were able to
counter an enemy’s attack, then turn the momentum from killing him into a rapid
series of one-hit executions. Polearms were a little more difficult to counter
than we remembered, but by switching to Ezio’s bare hands, we were able to grab
one, dispatch its owner and – as another Templar backed up to shoot us with a
crossbow – aim it at the second attacker and impale him with a single throw.
as the combat was, though, there was one thing we weren’t expecting. Once we’d
wiped out the first group of Templars, another stepped out of the woodwork to
ambush us – only to attract the attention of a patrol of Ottoman guards, who
quickly chased them off. As it turns out, the Templars (who are affiliated with
the recently conquered Byzantines) are a pretty weak presence in
Constantinople, and the ruling Ottoman guards will attack them on sight. As you
can probably guess, you can use this to your advantage; if you’re being chased
by Templars, shaking them is as easy as running past the nearest group of
Ottomans (marked by a yellow dot on your map).
That isn't to say the Ottomans are entirely friendly, and their elite troops – a bunch of
masked goons known as the Janissaries – are best avoided outright. Similar to the Papal
Guards from Brotherhood (but a whole lot tougher) the Janissaries have abundant
health, are surprisingly resistant to counterattacks and executions, and are
quick to pull guns during a fight. For the first time, Assassin’s Creed has a
class of baddie that can’t be easily beaten by experienced players, at least
not at first.
tour of Constantinople continued, Yusuf brought us to our new headquarters: a
sprawling, subterranean base underneath the colossal Galata Tower. Functionally,
it’s more or less the same as the Tiber Island hideout in Brotherhood, but
bigger, with a more cavernous interior and more areas to explore. It’s also
where Ezio will keep his library, a collection of classic (and, in some cases,
lost) books that replace the paintings
that could be collected in ACII and Brotherhood.
wasn’t where we were about to spend the majority of the demo, and so we were
sent back out into the street to pickpocket civilians for enough money to buy a
new piece of armor (a set of spaulders). As we wandered the neighborhood around
Galata, it quickly became clear that Revelations is keeping plenty of familiar
Creed tropes; we still had to scale Viewpoints to reveal chunks of the map
(which now shows up as a topographical display in the HUD), and there are still
plenty of shops and landmarks to buy, once you’ve amassed enough cash. Of
course, before you can open them up for purchase, you’ll have to liberate their
neighborhoods – but more on that in a minute.
been properly outfitted, we got a brief primer on how to use the new hookblade
(which replaces Ezio’s second Hidden Blade) in the form of a quick run across
the nearby rooftops. Manually activated by hitting B/Circle, the hookblade is
good for mainly three things: first, it extends Ezio’s reach, enabling him to
grab ledges or high handholds that would otherwise be just out of reach.
Second, it can be extended just before you grab a lamp (or any dangling object)
to swing straight across, instead of grabbing it and making a 90-degree swing,
like Ezio normally does.
lets Ezio use ziplines, which are a ubiquitous fixture around the city. While
descending, Ezio can opt for a slower, lower-profile descent that’s less likely
to attract attention from guards, or you can hold down the right trigger to
curl him into a ball and send him rocketing down to the end. Also, if any
guards happen to be unlucky enough to be underneath Ezio while he’s zipping
overhead, he can drop down for a quick assassination.
And yes, in
case you’re curious, Ezio still has access to Leonardo da Vinci’s parachutes.
(Ziplines are a faster way to get around, not a safe way to fall.) In fact,
most of his old arsenal is back – the crossbow, the hidden gun, the poison
darts – although it’s now selected from two weapon wheels (one for close-range
weapons, one for long-range ones) instead of one. One thing we didn’t see back,
however, was a single horse – and in fact, we were told that horses will be
mostly absent from the game, as the narrow streets of Constantinople aren’t
very accommodating to equines. It was something of a shock to realize, but it’s
worth pointing out that we didn’t even notice they were absent until our session was
time with Yusuf gave us a chance to try out another mechanic new to the series:
tossing bombs around. Crafted at special kiosks with a wide variety of
ingredients (which you can buy at shops or find laying around in chests), the
available bombs range from noisemaking distractions to horrifyingly destructive
shrapnel grenades, and they’re easy to aim, thanks to the clear throwing arc
that shows you exactly where they’ll land.
As fun as the
bombs were, we’d already seen plenty of them. What came next, however, was a
big surprise. Toward the end of the mission, we took back an “Assassin den,”
which function almost exactly like the Borgia Towers in Brotherhood. To take
them over (thereby freeing up the neighborhood for you to buy all its shops),
you’ll first need to identify their commander by going into Eagle Sense and
holding a targeting reticule over certain glowing soldiers. Once he’s
identified, killing him will enable you to climb the tower and light the
“retreat beacon,” signaling all nearby soldiers that it’s time to get the hell
out of Dodge. Congratulations: you’ll now have a secondary headquarters, and
will be able to recruit another citizen to join the ranks of your Assassin
The twist is
that this time, you’ll actually have to defend your dens from attack via a
tower-defense (or “Den Defense,” as the game calls it) minigame. Here, you’ll
be confined to a rooftop command post, and will need to defend the road leading
to your den with archers and riflemen. These can be placed at the edges of
rooftops or behind barricades, which you can set up in the street. You’ll also
be able to direct volleys of cannon fire into the street, which comes in especially
handy when the charging Ottoman or Templar hordes give way to huge siege
engines, like the battering ram they wheeled out during our session.