Defending your dens shouldn't be a constant headache… provided you keep up recruitment. As in Brotherhood, freeing up a den makes little “assist citizen” markers show up on your map, each one identifying a potential recruit. Unlike Brotherhood, however, you’ll often have to do more than just defend your would-be trainee against a gang of Templar thugs. During our session, for example, we had to track down a pickpocket who was slipping obsolete coins into people’s pockets; run a race against some guy who wanted to impress a girl; and save a wounded man’s wife and child from a Templar hit squad. The extra effort – and the extra story that goes into these encounters – made the recruits a little more interesting than their Roman counterparts, and we’re told their personalities will be more visible throughout the course of the game.
Also, where your Brotherhood Assassins could only level up from trainee to Assassin, going off on timed missions and diving in to help you as needed, your recruits in Revelations will be a little more versatile. After they make Assassin, for example, they’ll have five more ranks to rise through. When they reach Master Assassin, they’ll take over the defense of their respective dens, effectively stopping attacks and giving you one less thing to worry about.
Your recruits are also a bit more capable in the timed “Mediterranean Defense” away missions (which take place offscreen, in cities across Europe). These now have a purpose aside from gaining experience and collecting items. Each sortie you send your Assassins on now lessens Templar influence in that specific city, and once it’s down low enough, you’ll actually be able to conquer and hold it for the Assassin order.
So that’s the game’s second chapter (and a pretty good chunk of Revelations’ new additions) in a nutshell. As the fourth chapter began, we learned of a Templar conspiracy to kill the son of the Ottoman Sultan, meaning we (along with the Turkish Assassins) needed to haul ass across the rooftops to his residence at Topkapi Palace. The assassination was set to occur during a party, and luckily enough, the entertainment hired for the evening was a group of Italian minstrels. Yes, the same minstrels who got all up in your face in the last two games. And yes, you get to kick their asses.
Taking pains not to be seen, the first part of the mission involved finding the minstrels (not too difficult) and, as they tried to sing us a song, knocking them out and stuffing them into convenient nearby haystacks. Once that was done and all the Assassins had been properly outfitted, Ezio picked up a lute and walked to the palace, entourage in tow. The guards weren’t too keen to let him in at first, but after a couple of atonal, off-key ditties about Cesare Borgia (and various other characters from the series), they were only too happy to see Ezio pass through.
Once inside, our main task was to stroll around and identify killers with Eagle Sense, playing occasional songs to deflect suspicion (and for our own amusement). Once we’d picked the would-be hitmen out of the crowd (again, by using a targeting reticule to scan them), one of our Turkish friends would creep up and slide a knife between their ribs before they could attack Prince Suleiman – who, as it turned out, was the same Suleiman who’d told Ezio he was a student in the demo’s opening.
After their hitmen had been dealt with, the Templars tried one final, last-ditch attack on Suleiman, only to die at the hands of Yusuf and Ezio (who stabbed one in the neck with his broken lute). Recognizing Ezio from the boat, Suleiman offered his thanks, and was soon hurried into a nearby tower. Once things had died down and the guests had been evacuated, we were tasked with climbing up the side of that tower, unseen, and eavesdropping on the conversation within. Doing so meant sneaking past squads of Janissaries, an experience that quickly taught us they weren’t to be messed with.
Climbing the tower introduced us to a couple of new characters: Suleiman’s uncle Ahmet, next in line to be the Sultan, and Tarik, captain of the Janissaries. Their heated conversation taught us two things: First, that Tarik wasn’t at all fond of Ahmet, and didn’t think he was fit to lead – certainly not as fit as Suleiman’s father, anyway. Second, it taught us that – as much as he insisted otherwise – Tarik probably orchestrated the attack in order to make Ahmet look weak.
Clearly, Tarik was worth keeping an eye on, although we had other obligations to take care of. Before we could get to them, however, a slight tilt of the camera alerted us to a man running out of the crowd from behind Ezio. Before we could react, he’d grabbed Ezio by the throat and sunk a knife into his back.
This, we soon learned, was a Stalker, one of many random Templar hitmen who hide in crowds and strike when you’re not expecting it. They can be easily countered if you know to watch out for them, and will try to run after stabbing you if you’re not fast enough. Either way, our first encounter with one was a huge shock – although the loot we gained from chasing and killing the bastard afterward made him well worth the surprise.
Once we’d shaken off our astonishment, it was time to head back to Galata Tower, climb it, head inside and break a crane, which sent us plunging uncontrollably into the deep caverns below. After a quick slide down a hazard-filled slope, a precarious catch with the hookblade and a climb up the dangling remains of the crane, we found ourselves in the first of several hidden dungeons, which correspond more or less to the Assassin Tombs and Romulus Lairs in earlier games.
While it looked scary, all underground waterfalls, yawning chasms and rotting wooden planks, the dungeon turned out to be a fairly straightforward obstacle-course run, time-consuming but not terribly challenging for anyone who knows how to get around in Creed. At the end were a bunch of chests, a hidden switch (detectable through Eagle Sense) and our ultimate prize: A Masyaf key, holding within it not only the potential to access the hidden Assassin library at the fortress, but also a recorded memory from the first Creed protagonist, Altair.
Heading back to his headquarters, Ezio took a seat in the library and activated the key. Suddenly, we were Altair again, moments after the conclusion of the first game. Al Mualim, the Assassin leader who’d been corrupted by the ancient Apple of Eden, lay dead, and Altair had to carry him through a disbelieving crowd to a funeral pyre.
Along the way, he was challenged by Abbas, his old rival, who couldn’t bring himself to understand why Al Mualim had to die, refused to accept that his body should be burned (taboo for Assassins, apparently), and who, after a heated argument, shoved Altair off a small cliff and into the crowd below. A brief fight with some of Abbas’ supporters ensued, forcing Altair to quickly disarm them – at which point Abbas reappeared atop a high tower, this time holding the Apple triumphantly.