Assassin’s Creed Revelations is a tale of three men – three Assassins – and their intertwined story that spans centuries; close to a millennium. It’s a tale that began in the first game with Desmond Miles, in 2012, reliving the memories of his ancestor – the 12th Century, Syrian Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad. It then continued onwards with Desmond’s story through the sequel and subsequent third instalment, stepping away from Altaïr and instead focusing on Desmond’s 15th Century, Italian ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
You should, of course, be acquainted with these characters by the start of Revelations: the fourth main instalment in this popular series. And it fully expects you to be; you’re thrown straight into Desmond’s mind, now stuck in the Animus due to a fault. It’s not long before you’re back in Ezio’s boots, which you’ll soon be using in combat to kick down foes or whilst dashing across rooftops and through crowded streets.[drop]We meet an older Ezio – undeniably the focus of the game – on a journey far from his homeland, which leads him to Istanbul. Most of the game takes place in this rich, bustling urban environment, though you’ll visit other places – one of which is very familiar and others that diverge from what we’ve seen before – such as the large caverns Ezio explores or Desmond’s Animus island which acts as somewhat of a hub world. However, Ezio’s location feels more compact and recurrent than ever – gone are the large, open areas suitable for horse riding; instead you’ll travel from district to district by boat.
The Assassin’s guild, whilst smaller and more close-knit than what we’ve seen in the past, feels more alive than ever; you’ll soon make new friends – and enemies – including Yusuf, a new comrade and a fellow Grand Master Assassin. Yusuf will introduce you to the hookblade, which replaces your secondary hidden blade and is perhaps the most useful addition in Revelations. This curved blade allows Ezio to extend his reach in order to make longer jumps, propel himself up buildings quickly, grab ziplines to get across the city faster and it can even come in quite handy during combat – it definitely makes the parkour that little bit better, as if it’s what Ezio has needed all along.
There are lots of other, small improvements, including a subtly refined combat system: Ezio will now chain together moves more fluidly and the new finisher moves can be brutal and ferocious; blood splatters out of enemies and covers your blade as you drive it through their skull, before breaking their neck and pulling your sword out in one swift movement. Eagle vision, too, is enhanced, and is now used a lot more to find certain people or items à la Batman’s detective vision, which makes for better investigative gameplay.
Revelations isn’t afraid to try new things (and these are all very successful) along with improving on the old. Levels and missions are more focused, with sublime scripted events along the way to break apart the usual running, climbing and fighting. There’s also a new bomb system, in which you get to craft your own explosives to injure, disorientate or distract your enemies. There’s a large set of ingredients to choose from including different gunpowders, shells and contents, so you’re able to choose from these to help with the approach that you want; that’s the beauty of Assassin’s Creed – it’s largely up to you how you tackle a mission.
Not to be forgotten (but easily done so, with the wealth of new and old mechanics) is the system for recruiting and levelling up your apprentice Assassins. You’re once again able to save citizens and let them join the cause, then send them away on missions to level them up and gain money, or call them in when you’re in need of assistance. To gain more recruits, however, you’ll need to rid areas of Templar influence – which means taking out their leader and burning a signal in a tower, much like in Brotherhood before it. Along with this, renovating buildings returns and you’re now able to build faction buildings for the Romanis, Mercanaries and Thieves.
One thing that Revelations succeeds with is the amount of variety in the missions; as soon as you’ve completed one and become comfortable with what you’re doing, the next mission will most likely be something completely different – one mission you’ll be dressed as an entertainer to get past some guards, and in another you’ll be playing something akin to a tower defence game, complete with different units and blockades. Repetition never gets a chance to set in, which is quite impressive since the last three games have followed quite a similar formula; though each individual mission in Revelations certainly feels more focused than ever before.
And then there’s Desmond’s story: whilst his plot moving forward is put on the backburner for the most part – despite some snippets of dialogue bleeding in from those with Desmond outside of the Animus, whilst he’s stuck inside – we find out much of his background and story before Assassin’s Creed. The way this story is told is both genius and surreal; without spoiling it, it’s five levels of puzzling and platforming in its simplest form, narrated by Nolan North and unlocked by collecting fragments with Ezio. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before and certainly nothing you’d ever expect from an Assassin’s Creed game and it’s absolutely marvellous.[drop2]I did say there were three Assassins, and sure enough, Altaïr returns. His story is told and concluded fantastically, with Ezio and Desmond alike being affected by the decisions he makes after the conclusion of Assassin’s Creed. The story in its entirety, in fact, is superb and there’s moments that will have you in awe – this game doesn’t just pull every trick in the book, it cements new tricks, none of which you’ll see coming.
Whilst the visuals aren’t a remarkable leap from Brotherhood, it certainly looks better – you’ll notice the change in character models and upgraded effects, though the framerate still needs bumped up and often lags behind as Ezio speeds across buildings, amongst various other visual glitches. The sound is sensational, whether it be the grand musical score that never misses a beat, the magnificent voice acting or any of the background sounds.
Multiplayer follows largely the same path as Brotherhood and it boils down to a simple formula, with variations, such as teams, in different modes: you’re dropped into a map populated with roaming AI characters, with several other players and you’re each assigned a target. From here, you must find and kill your target without being detected… and without your hunter finding you. It’s a novel idea, albeit one that has been executed before, and it works well – when people aren’t running across rooftops and making themselves obvious.
It’s a great feeling blending into the crowd and then taking an enemy out without them knowing you were there, and it can be quite frustrating to get stabbed in the back by a character hidden amongst other citizens. It also runs very smoothly, allowing for somewhat of a narrative throughout, though it’s an experience that may become stale in some time.
- It’s simply better than any Assassin’s Creed game has ever been before
- The story is focused and pans out well
- Scripted set-pieces and events are sublime
- Desmond’s story sections are incredible, strange and unique
- It tries a lot of new things, refines old features and always manages to come out on top
- Istanbul’s crowded city doesn’t compare to the beauty of Italy
- Despite the new features, the core game and multiplayer is very similar to Brotherhood
- Framerate and visual glitches carry over from the previous game
Assassin’s Creed Revelations is by far the best game in the series so far. Instead of becoming a repetitive romp through Italy, once again, it’s the story that was meant to be told ever since Desmond was forced to experience Altaïr’s memories. It’s a compelling experience that takes what you’d expect from Assassin’s Creed, refines it and then adds some stellar new features. And when it all ends, you’ll experience the closure of old plot threads and the paving of new ones. Until that story is explored in the next game, you’ve still got the rest of Revelations to get on with – side quests, multiplayer, renovations, recruiting Assassins and much more.
Assassin’s Creed is a series that deserves to live as long as possible if Ubisoft are releasing games of this calibre year after year; Revelations is a brilliant entry into the series and brings so much to the table that it beats not only the other games in the series, but many other games that have released this year or last.