The announcement that the next Assassin’s Creed game would be another sequel to Assassin’s Creed 2 was met with a fairly mixed reception. The original Assassin’s Creed was beautiful but flawed by a limited range of gameplay. AC2 and its variations have resolved the problems of the original in fine style and Revelations is no exception. Despite this a lot of fans were really hoping for Assassin’s Creed 3 with an all new hero in a different historical period and setting. Well, they’ll have to wait a bit longer for that, but hopefully they won’t be too disappointed because Assassin’s Creed: Revelations really is an excellent addition to the series and a fine conclusion to the Ezio trilogy.
As the game begins our 21st Century hero Desmond is in a coma. He has spent so long in the animus that his consciousness has broken down and he has been placed in a safe area in the animus subroutines. He may be able to find his way back to the real world if he can finish exploring the final significant memories of legendary renaissance assassin Ezio Auditore de Firenze and break his link to his ancestor. So, off we go, back into the adventures of Ezio, this time as a much older man, in the ancient city of Constantinople.
The game follows the same format as Brotherhood. Ezio arrives in Constantinople as an expert mentor to help train the young assassins of the city, fight the Templars established there and help sort out the political machinations of the city’s feuding factions. The early stages are guided by Ezio’s colleague Yusuf who shows you the ropes and introduces all the game mechanics without you ever feeling like you’re treading water in the game. The tasks are many, varied and always lead naturally from one to another giving an addictive quality that makes it very difficult to just switch on for a quick go. You might intend to only have a blast for twenty minutes but you’ll soon find that two hours have whizzed past while you hunt enemies, track spies, steal documents, rescue courtesans or any of the other innumerable mission variations.
Gameplay hasn’t changed significantly from the earlier episodes but there are some notable refinements. Ezio now has an Ottoman hookblade as his hidden weapon which makes for some spectacular kills but also allows him to climb more quickly and use ziplines to race between buildings. He also gains the ability to construct small grenades. As Ezio collects treasure and items he also gathers bomb-making ingredients which can be taken to workstations where he can construct specialist bombs to throw. Some can be used to distract guards with sound or smoke, some are loaded with poison or shrapnel, others work like limpet mines or explode on timers and all these possible variations allow the player to get very creative in the way they tackle the games many challenges.
Constantinople proves to be a beautiful playground. Like Venice in AC2 and Rome in Brotherhood it is a massive map to explore with many different suburbs and districts. As before there are shops to repair and famous landmarks to buy, all of which add to Ezio’s income. There is plenty to explore including secret Assassin’s guild temples which contain information keys crucial to Desmond’s quest. Each key opens up new memories where you can play as Altair from the original Assassin’s Creed, which is a definite bonus. These are similar to the wolf-lair challenges in Brotherhood but are better integrated into the game as a whole.
Templar ruled districts also return but this time defeated factions wait for opportunities to seize back their towers and re-establish control. Unfortunately this leads to the only misfire among the new innovations. To repel the returning Templars Ezio has to mount a tower defence where he places blockades and positions soldiers and marksmen. Initially it seems like a good idea to add this sort of tactical element but these sections feel flat, static and out of place in a game which is usually so fluid and kinetic.
The main storyline is a massive challenge but even when that is completed there is still plenty to do. There are guild challenges to complete and many side puzzles to solve which are as head-scratchingly complex as anything in the earlier games. You can revisit any memory and try to complete it with a 100% synchronisation score. Then there’s the challenge to find and loot all the treasure chests hidden throughout the city or collect all the scattered memory fragments and unlock even more secrets. You can return to Desmond in the strange construct world of the animus and do a bit of exploring there too. As in Brotherhood Ezio can recruit new assassins and train them up by sending them on missions to fight the Templar threat in other cities around the Mediterranean.
As well as the huge single player adventure ACR offers some nice online multiplayer options. Once you’ve logged in and chosen your avatar there’s a nifty menu and some cool new cut-scenes to get you up to speed. Then there’s some quick basic training tutorials and you’re into the fray, hunting and assassinating your mark while trying to outwit other online assassins who are after you. There’s a lot of fun to be had trying to catch up with your victim while keeping your eyes peeled for would-be killers sneaking up on you from behind to put the knife in. There isn’t anything too different from the elements introduced in Brotherhood but there are more options and some welcome opportunities to customize your character.
The fact that this is the sequel to a sequel of a sequel stops this from being a ten but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a magnificent game. It’s a huge, rewarding adventure with enormous depth and variety that matches the high points of the previous games and adds a few special new twists of its own. Hopefully the developers of Assassin’s Creed 3 will keep their eyes on the elements that made these games so successful and remember that something radical and new is not necessarily better than something familiar that has been refined almost to perfection.
Reviewed on PS3