became clear last year that Assassin’s Creed was going to be a yearly
franchise, fans reacted with equal parts excitement and unease. Assassin’s
Creed games are sprawling, open-world epics that follow a history-spanning,
conspiracy-laden plot about acrobatic killers; is it really possible to do all of
that justice on an annual schedule? Ubisoft seems to think so, and with no
fewer than six of its worldwide studios on the job, Assassin’s Creed
Revelations certainly looks poised to prove the doubters wrong.
though? Can it? Well, yes… and no. It
depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it.
interested purely in the series’ rooftop-hopping gameplay? Then you’ll be happy
to know that Revelations continues the “let’s just throw more features at it” approach
to design seen in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, changing little while piling on
new elements. The basic gameplay’s essentially the same as before; playing as
16th century Assassin Ezio Auditore (now the graying, middle-aged
leader of his order), you’ll spend a lot of time running up walls, darting
across rooftops, parachuting off buildings and destroying guards with an
ever-more-lethal assortment of blades, clubs, guns and other era-appropriate weaponry.
encouraged but rarely required, opportunities for deadly mischief are
everywhere and there’s a huge new city to explore. This time it’s the bustling,
predominantly Muslim metropolis of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), where
Ezio’s come to seek keys that will open a secret library built by his
predecessor, Altair. And just like Brotherhood’s Rome, Constantinople is filled
with landmarks and vacant shops to buy (which will then funnel money into your
bank account and offer you discounts), secrets to uncover and hidden challenge
levels to explore.
Above: There’s also been a small but significant uptick in graphical detail, as evidenced
by the new faces of Altair, Desmond and Ezio. Oh, and it’s in 3D now, which is
great if you’ve got a 3D TV
however, nearly all of Constantinople is freely explorable more or less from
the moment Ezio arrives there. So if you’re one of the many who’s been
irritated by the Creed games’ insistence on blocking off certain areas until
you’d unlocked the right memory sequence, that’s definitely a plus.
Rome, Constantinople is completely devoid of any horses to ride. Granted, the
city’s design is compact, with lots of narrow streets that would make horses
unwieldy, and you might not even notice they’re gone. However, their absence is
still noteworthy enough to point out.
Oh, and one
other thing: Beggars are back, and this time, they come in threes.
Above: At least you can still throw coins to make them stop bothering you
Not slowing with age
Aside from a
new story and a new city, Revelations brings several big additions to the
gameplay, the biggest being the hookblade. Far from simply being a way to
shoehorn ziplines into the game, the hookblade gives players a little more
control and agency over Ezio’s actions, making climbing and swinging across
Constantinople’s skyline just a little more fun in the process. With the
hookblade equipped, Ezio can grab ledges that are just out of reach, launch
himself up the sides of buildings and swing across gaps by hooking onto hanging
lamp-like objects (which, when grabbed normally, still let him swing in 90-degree
Ezio can also
use it to tumble right past any guards in his path, or – by tapping a button at
just the right moment – throw them to the ground (or off rooftops, which is
much more entertaining). The hookblade’s also good for yanking scaffoldings
down onto pursuing guards and, and as you might expect, it makes fighting with
Ezio’s hidden blades about 50 percent more gruesome.
addition: Bombs. Using ingredients found everywhere (most frequently in chests
placed across the city), Ezio can craft a pretty wide assortment of explosives
by combining different shells, gunpowder strengths and payloads. Each can
accomplish a different goal, whether it’s simply killing a bunch of guards at
once, luring them away from a spot they’re protecting or causing panic with an
explosion of animal blood.
Above: There’s so much new weaponry, ranged attacks are now mapped to a second
button, and weapons are selected from two separate wheel menus
you’ll actually ever use all of those
bombs is another matter. Most of the guards in Revelations are just as easy to
kill as in any other Creed game; as before, they’ll surround you and attack one
at a time, and you can either hack away at one until he forgets to block and
dies, or simply wait for them to strike and either disarm them, or kill them in
one hit with a counter.
previous games, combat can be immensely fun (and it’s flashier than ever here),
but its simplicity means that A) there’s little practical benefit to buying new
weapons, since anything you wield can kill in one hit, and B) there’s little
incentive to use any bomb other than a lethal grenade or a smoke bomb, unless
mandated by the mission. The rest demand a certain level of patience; you have
to want to mess with your enemies, and
mustering that level of interest is difficult when killing them is so much
easier and faster.
hold true when you meet the Janissaries, however. The elite slave-soldiers of
the Ottoman army, the Janissaries are faster, more devious and much tougher
than any other enemy in the core series. Taking one down requires at least
three “killing” blows, and they have an annoying tendency during combat to step
just out of sword range and shoot you with pistols. They’re bastards in a
fight (although they’re relatively easy to beat once you understand their patterns),
but it’s kind of a nice change to see an Assassin’s Creed enemy that’s actually
formidable enough to make avoiding them a serious consideration.
Gather your forces
Brotherhood, Revelations pads out its relatively short narrative with plenty of
side missions, although these are both less numerous and a little more closely
integrated with the storyline than before. The centerpiece this time is your
brotherhood of recruitable Assassins, which (as in Brotherhood) can be signaled
to help you during a fight, and can be sent off on various errands abroad
(which brings you money, nets them experience points and can eventually open
foreign cities up for Assassin conquest).
As you slowly
conquer Constantinople by taking back Assassin Dens (analogous to Brotherhood’s
Borgia Towers), you’ll earn the right to recruit up to 12 Assassin helpers, who
now come with short introductory quests. Where in Brotherhood you just had to
rescue them from angry guards, you might now have to beat a prospective recruit
in a race, or catch one as they’re picking pockets, or rescue one’s wife and
daughter from a Templar madman.
Next page: So how's the story?