Review: Revelations Offers Few New Additions, But Plenty of Entertainment

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I’ve never been a huge fan of yearly releases for video games. Sequels are feeling less and less like sequels nowadays and I miss seeing major changes/improvements in new franchise installments. Not every game needs a whole lot of development time and I do like a few yearly titles, but most of them lack the innovation of a 2-3 year development cycle. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is another title in an annual franchise. Most games with a yearly cycle are much simpler and don’t require loads of story or level development. This is an open world game with a brand new city, new missions, and an online component. Is it possible for a game to tackle so much in one year without it falling flat?

In every Assassin’s Creed, you play as Desmond Miles, a present day drifter who straps into a matrix machine called the Animus that allows him to relive the memories of his ancestors. The majority of every game is spent in the Animus, exploring cities from hundreds of years ago. After a slight hiccup at the end of the last game, Desmond seems to be stuck in the world of the animus and must continue the adventures of one of his ancestors, Ezio Auditore.

The game takes place in Constantinople during the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. Ezio travels here after he learns of a powerful weapon that Altair (another ancestor of Desmond’s) hid somewhere in the city. The Templars (the baddies of every AC game) have arrived in Constantinople and are looking for the weapon as well. Ezio and his group of assassins are determined to find the weapon before the Templars do, fearing whoever finds it will win the war permanently. Besides the initial introduction, the story isn’t laid on too thick for the rest of the game.  There are plenty of quests and a handful of side missions that will keep you busy and entertained without worrying about the overall plot.

Out of all the Assassin’s Creeds, this is my favorite city. Getting around in the open world environments have always been about the free running mechanics for me. Other titles in the series required some horse riding to get around to more populated areas, but these were always the more boring parts of the game. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as jumping from rooftop to rooftop to get to your destination. The city is much denser this time around and features no barren cornfields that can only be crossed on horseback. This allows you to constantly use your skills as a city free runner with one more trick up your sleeve.

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Revelations introduces a new mechanic called the hook blade. It slides out of your sleeve like the hidden blade and provides a few more options while traversing the city. You can use it to slide down zip lines, reach higher ledges, and screw with guards in combat. It’s a small addition, and probably could have been a later upgrade, but I was happy to get around the city faster than I ever could before using its abilities.

The biggest change in Revelations is the notoriety system. In past Assassin’s Creeds, killing guards made your notoriety meter rise and the authorities more likely to recognize you as you passed by them. Now, performing illegal tasks will still fill the meter, but never make the fuzz any more likely to chase you on sight. In fact, nothing happens until the meter is all the way full. At this point, one of your assassin’s dens can get attacked by Templars at any time and you’ll have to go help. The only way to prevent this is by paying Heralds or killing public officials (lowering the meter), or just making sure the meter never fills to the top. Unfortunately, It’s much easier to “perform illegal actions” in this game because every purchase around town fills the meter a bit (buying up large amounts of weaponry naturally makes the authorities suspicious). Worrying about the meter after every purchase can be frustrating, but at least you can neglect it until its 90% full.

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The game does sport a few questionable sequences. There are levels that can be played as Desmond in first-person were you hop around in the animus dream world, full of walls that look like computer code and a few other random pieces of geometry. I would call these levels “not fun”. The first person controls were a mess and the levels themselves didn’t add anything interesting to the game’s story. It felt like they wanted to give you something to do if you wanted to take a break from controlling Ezio. Playing one of these levels once made me never want to take a break from Ezio again.

The game also has a few RTS sections that have you commanding troops to stop waves of enemies from getting through your defenses. These sequences are short and not as clunky as you might think in a game like this. I wasn’t eager to play these battles over and over, but they were interesting and kept me entertained. It didn’t hurt the game in my eyes, but probably wasn’t needed.

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The online component in this game is clearly an afterthought, but does provide some entertainment for people who are looking to have a bit more fun after the campaign. There are a handful of maps and modes but the one that really stands out allows you to stalk one player while another is stalking you. It’s a simple concept that provides nerve racking matches where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder as you’re trying your best to hunt down your target. I didn’t get to play the multiplayer as long as I would have liked because of the game’s online code requirement that’s becoming so popular with publishers recently. This title, at least, had a three day trial, but the overall principle is the same. If you want to play online, buy it new, or don’t touch it at all.

Assassins Creed: Revelations isn’t very different from its predecessors, but is still fun and has a few extra goodies to merit its existence. I have no idea how Ubisoft was able to build this much in one year, but they did it. The credits show that it was clearly “all-hands-on-deck” to get it done. It seems like every Ubisoft developer under the sun touched this title. Regardless of a few questionable additions and a game that hasn’t evolved much in a few years, I still had a really good time with it. I wouldn’t call it a “must have” but I think it was as good a game can be without transcending into the world of great. Buy it if you’re already done with every Triple-A title that came out this year, but no matter what, rent it. It’s an enjoyable piece of entertainment. Purpose achieved.