Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revelations - An Assassin With A Broken Blade

At last the wait is over. After finally playing through all of the Assassin's Creed franchise, I really wasn't sure what to expect based on the twist ending of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood as well as the various previews I had read of the gameplay systems. With this next entry, released only a year after Brotherhood, I had expected something that would at least be an enjoyable improvement. Since completing the campaign however, I find myself liking it and yet feeling like it could have done better.

While the campaign does shed some light on the protagonists Desmond and Altair, Ezio is still the big star. After the events of Brotherhood, he undergoes a pilgrimage to Masyaf in an attempt to leave his Assassin life behind him, only to be sucked into another adventure that leads him to the city of Constantinople. When he gets there, two plots emerge. In one, he becomes involved in a power struggle between the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantines, while in the other he comes across a beautiful woman who helps him locate important artifacts once belonging to Altair. I enjoyed watching both paths unravel, while introducing some interesting new characters, and then later intersect to help conclude the well-written narrative in a pounding cliffhanger. The story missions themselves are very balanced and offer good variety without being overly frustrating, along with some more engaging cutscenes.

Like with the other games, a number of side missions can be played to help break up the action, including the return of the economic system built in Brotherhood. Thankfully, the shop quests that I also found an annoyance have been scrapped, in favor of just simply allowing the player to buy the item they need. As with before, Ezio can also raise an army of Assassins to assist him around the city as well as send on missions around the Mediterranean. This feature felt improved and more fun, with Assassins now upgrading much easier and offering more content with each level up. They can also now be assigned to Assassin Dens and be put on special missions from there to increase their strength and skill.

New additions are made to the game outside of general tweaks, such as a new Hookblade in Ezio's arsenal. This allows for more combat options such as flipping enemies over, as well as navigation abilities like going across zip lines or grabbing ledges that would normally be out of reach. I found this to be fun and useful, though it wasn't as big a difference as the introduction of bomb crafting. While this feature is unique and interesting, with the game pushing you to use the system by handing out parts at every opportunity or even whole bombs in chests, I didn't really feel any incentive to indulge in this feature. I ended up just doing missions how I had always approached them before using the tools on hand.

But what is perhaps the most disappointing addition is the new Den Defense game, which you may regularly be called upon to play. While it tries to add even more variety to the game by adding an element of Tower Defense, the execution of the idea fails horribly. The controls are sloppy and sometimes hard to wrestle with, since trying to place units with an analog stick requires incredible precision that the controller simply can't provide. It seems designed more with a computer mouse in mind, although I'm not quite sure how much more enjoyment PC users would get out of it thanks to the very awkward camera angle. To top it all off, the whole idea seems a little absurd when compared to the Assassin philosophy of staying hidden and fighting a secret war with the Templars. Lowering your level of suspicion will decrease the likelihood of encountering this game, which is what I ended up doing to avoid it most of the time, but it definitely could have been easily scrapped without negatively impacting the overall product.

While Ezio may play a big role in the game, there is still opportunity to interact with the other two characters. Throughout the story, Ezio will recover Masyaf Keys that allow him to look at the memories of Altair spanning the rest of his life. This allows players to not only find out what happens to him at the end of the original Assassin's Creed, but also control him one last time. The missions may be short in this department and take place exclusively in one location, but they are also fun and memorable and let players feel more emotion for the character.

As for Desmond, the game also gives some follow-up since the events of the previous game while he tries to restore his shattered memory. Collecting Animus Data Fragments in the main game allows for a playable side quest that explores his own past and delivers more depth into his character. While I did find the stories intriguing, the gameplay felt a little iffy. His memories are rendered in First-person platforming levels, which can be a little difficult given the limitations of that gameplay mechanic.

Overall, Assassin's Creed: Revelations feels like a mixed bag. I had more fun than I did with Brotherhood, but some of the new gameplay additions I either ignored or got frustrated with in the long run. However, the story is very much worth it and serves to help lead fantasticaly into the upcoming Assassin's Creed III due next year. I would not recommend newer players to start with this game due to the attempts at variety. However, getting the PS3 version of the game also allows access to the original Assassin's Creed for free, which is a great incentive for purchase and should offer those players a proper place to begin.

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