Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
All journeys must come to a conclusion, especially a long, arduous one that has been travelled by a hero. “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” is the final stop of Ezio Auditore’s winding road of retribution and enlightenment. When the game’s synopsis was first announced, I won’t lie- I felt a little sad that this was going to be the Master Assassin’s final game, but at the same time, I was ready for it.
“Revelations” shows us Ezio making a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the very same domain that was once home to his forefather, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad in order to uncover the location of the Secret Library, located within the inner sanctum of the ruins of Masayf. The first of many problems however being the old fortress is now crawling with Templars, who, wouldn’t you know it, are looking for the exact same thing. Ezio has grown weary of his mission, he has started to question whether or not he has truly made a difference considering all of the loss he has experienced through his life as an Assassin. He finds himself debating whether or not he has done the right thing as opposed to the thing he believes is right, even though he is still spreading the word of the Assassin’s Creed. After a detour, he finds himself in Constantinople, the Crossroads of the World, where West meets East, which is in danger of succumbing completely to Templar occupation. Ezio knows what he must do, but given he is not the man he used to be, will his lifework unravel as a result? Meanwhile, in present times, Desmond Miles has fallen into an unusual coma inside the Animus where he too must confront his own insecurities and feelings he has kept bottled up for too long. He is not alone in this strange consciousness between life and oblivion- Subject 16, his predecessor, driven crazy by his time of the Animus, is there with him.
The brilliant cinematic trailer for “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” had me pumped for this game. That wonderful song “Iron” by Woodkid reflected Ezio’s inner storm of doubt and crisis paired with a somber narration of a letter to his beloved sister Claudia contrasting to his optimistic words which in turn shows Ezio being captured by Templars was fantastic. It promised to be a worthy swan-song to The Man From Da Firenze and thus, I reserved my copy with anticipation.
And then I played the game. Oh.
Before you ask if that means “Don’t bother with this one”, I want to be clear- this game works as a character study for Ezio. It accurately captures his emotional state, his dramatically changed perceptions of the world, and a sense of spiritual familiarity with the land of Constantinople even though he has never been to this exotic land before. In that sense, the game is very successful, and if you watch “Assassin’s Creed: Embers” after playing it, it is a worthy goodbye to an influential and beloved character.
Now, story-wise… again, it’s not horrible, but unlike “II” and “Brotherhood” which had high stakes and memorable villains, “Revelations” feels heavily padded. Sure you meet real-life rock stars such as a young Suleiman who provide Ezio with some backup in several sequences, but it all just feels like it’s there because Ubisoft felt unsure as to whether or not the game had legs resting on Ezio’s emotional journey alone. A lot of the missions are very straight-forward and contain no intrigue or urgency to the story. The economic system from “Brotherhood” returns, but unlike impoverished under the Borgia rule in that game, Ezio donating his coin purse for opening the shops of Constantinople doesn’t make the player feel as accomplished. Ezio can go around and collect rare tomes for a potential lady-love (more on her in a bit), as well as obtain unusual data discs that contain the memories of Altaïr (those in turn gives us more insight into said Assassin’s life which is nice), but they really aren’t worth that much more of a damn. While playing the game, I noticed a lot of “Revelations” owes itself “Brotherhood”. For instance, the BAM mechanic makes a return, which is okay, but once again, nothing revolutionary. You are able to send recruits on international assignments to liberate various Templar-influenced territories. Ezio may even obtain a rare armor by collecting rare tokens (that being said, the Ishak Pakur armor is pretty sweet). The only notable difference is that Ezio can lead an Assassin lair defense, known in-game as a Den Defense, where Templars will attempt to attack an Assassin’s Den and the occupants must employ tactics to defend it. This usually occurs when Ezio’s notoriety is at it’s pinnacle… I can’t say I was ever in that much trouble. See, this would have been great if the rest of the game held to these types of immediate stakes. Other new additions include the introduction of the Hookblade (which is as awesome as it sounds), Templar Stalkers (assailants who will strike at Ezio in crowds at any time). A crafting tool is also available for Ezio to craft bombs (some of which help directly in the story) where he may use various materials he has found such as skunk oil, shrapnel, dyes and mustard powder. I won’t lie, using a stink bomb on bunch of guards is hilarious. However, again, I did not find myself needing to resort to those things when it came to missions. Generally speaking, the gameplay is fine, but if only the content supported it more.
Alright, now, about Sofia Sartor (a fictional character whose appearance is based upon a portrait created by Albrecht Dürer). I’m glad they made a romantic interest for Ezio who is intelligent, mature and has a sense of humor, but at the same time, she doesn’t have that flair that other women in Ezio’s life has had. I’m unsure whether or not Ubisoft intended that, deciding that the best way Ezio could finally be happy is to settle down with a woman of Sofia’s bearing, or they skimped on better characterization. Sofia adores books. Her life is literature. I wanted to know more about who she was as a person. Yes, she is a product of two worlds (she’s listed as a Venetian-Ottoman in the Assassin’ Creed Wiki, a venerable fount of information) she is clearly cerebral, and yes, she is obviously intrigued by Ezio, but what else about her do we find out? She isn’t a bad character, but I want to see why else somebody such as Ezio could fall so deeply for her.
Speaking of characters, the villains- we don’t have a particularly memorable rogue’s gallery here. We have a character known as Manuel Palailogos who was once heir to the Turkish throne who wants it back, the current Prince Ahmet (uncle of Suleiman) who has designs of his own and a depraved Turkish renegade who works for Palailogos known only as ‘Shahkulu’. That guy was arguably the most memorable of Ezio’s adversaries because he was the only one who did shit. Honestly, I couldn’t care less for the previous two because… they were just there. When your most memorable bad guy is nothing more than a heavy, that is a problem.
So, what are the good things? Well, Constantinople 16th century is very impressive. Landmarks such as the Grand Bazaar, the Golden Horn harbor, the Hagia Sofia and Topaki Palace really to assure you that you are taking a digital tour of this great city at the time period. I swear, I could almost smell the cloying scents of the markets and the dust off the streets as Ezio melded with the crowd as he went about his duties. Generally speaking, all of the locations Ezio visits during the campaign are beautifully realised and stunning to look at, especially when perched upon a viewpoint. Additionally, I enjoyed the element of pitting the Templars up against the elite royal guards, known as Jannisaries. Those guys came in really handy during a chase because as soon as a bunch of Templars run into a bunch of Jannisaries, Ezio is forgotten for the most part. The best part of it is, the Jannisaries almost always beat those Templars because they are practically OP. I feel the highest compliment I can give this game overall is that is offers the player the opportunity to delve deeper into Ezio’s psyche as a man as well as a killing machine. A lot of games do this as well, and “Revelations” is an example on how to tackle this type of subject matter correctly.
In terms of the Desmond story, you will hear quite a few AC fans out there voice their discontent at the character for not being as engaging as his ancestors. Personally? I never had an issue with the character of Des- considering everything he has been exposed to in the games (which chronologically take place over several months), I have no reproach on the character. Nolan North, as always, is great. Frankly, I don’t hear Desmond without hearing North. Also, Desmond’s interactions with Subject 16, Clay Kazmarek are fascinating because considering Clay’s insanity, Des isn’t fully certain when and if he is being told the truth or a fabrication of a heightened reality.
Speaking of voice talent, the truly standout performance is indeed from Roger Craig Smith. Smith has significantly aged and deepened his cadence and this Ezio reminds me of a hulking, ambling bear who remains as lethal as quicksilver in tongue and motion. To say any more about his performance would be to state the obvious and what has already been said.
All in all, “Revelations” as an overall game is underwhelming to followers of the series, but to the casual gamer, it may provide some entertainment. As the ending of the Auditore Saga though, it is highly respectable and a fitting finale for Ezio’s path. Buonotte, Mentore.
BT DUBS: I did not take note of this in my “Brotherhood” review, but the multi-player element that returns in “Revelations” is decent enough, but I prefer to spend my time on the story, thus I cannot really deliver a valid judgement on that mode.
Fun Factor: 6 – Ehhhh… I mean, “Revelations” does offer enough to do, but it just doesn’t feel rewarding when you embark on side-missions.
Graphics: 9 – Beautiful. Makes me want to invent a time machine ala “Primer” and go back to experience this old world.
Sound: 9 – Jesper Kyd’s music again comes through. While it may not be as immediately striking as his work from previous games, his score remains strong and really resonates with Ezio’s state of mind.
Control: 7 – While the Den missions may leave old hands and newcomers alike scratching their heads, I highly doubt you will be throwing your pad in a rage at the screen.
Lasting Appeal: 6.5