With Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (PS3), Ubisoft deftly builds on the story established in past Assassin’s Creed titles by adding bomb crafting, tower defense elements, and the all-new hookblade that gives you a fresh way to traverse cities and dispatch swift death. Dripped in drama and mystery, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations pulls you into its rich world and keeps you playing with bated breath as it simultaneously maintains secrets about the last game while opening up new plot twists. It’s easily one of the best games of the year.
Picking up where Brotherhood left off, Desmond awakes on Animus Island where he is immediately confronted by none other than Subject 16 himself. Not a hologram or bunch of zeroes and ones, but an actual human form of the mysterious past-Animus test subject. Subject 16 explains that the island is a grey area between life and death, that Desmond’s conscience is stuck here, and his body is hooked up to tubes and machines in the real world. Desmond quickly makes the decision to again live through Ezio. You’re immediately thrown into a beautiful, full-length cinematic where Ezio is about to be hung by the templars, but quickly escapes.
Old Ezio has no handicaps. You can still run, jump, and climb towers, but you now you have a new hidden weapon at your disposal: The hookblade. The new hookblade is absolutely amazing. The game shows you how to use it in a tutorial-in-disguise when you meet Yusuf. He guides you around town on various zip lines, shows you how to effectively use the hookblade, and even assassinates targets from a zipline. However, when you do eventually play through old Altair, don’t expect the man to run, jump, or even walk quickly. He’s still definitely a major badass as he can, through his younger years, sustain a lot more damage, and perform kills with the much-loved double hidden blade.
Altair’s incorporated into the storyline quite smoothly; a lot smoother than I would have ever expected. As you collect more keys to the final destination, you live through the memories Altair left behind within the keys. Getting the keys is the main part of the story, and how you know you’re truly progressing. Sofia tells you about certain books you have to locate, which you find by using your eagle senses to locate symbols. Those books lead you to other dungeons and tunnels in which the keys are located.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations uses the same face-mapping technology as L.A. Noire, and as such, the improvement in cinematic scenes is quite noticeable. Characters’ facial movements, down to the blinking of their eyes, is incredibly realistic. In fact, their eyes glistened and held emotion as flesh-and-blood orbs would do in real life. The in-world graphics, sadly, haven’t seen much improvement. The environmental differences between Brotherhood and Revelations are slight.
Another very noticeable improvement especially is Altair himself. It was really cool to see Altair recreated with a new engine, since he hasn’t been playable since 2007. Before he was the hooded-mystery-man, but now you actually get to see his face. Using Altair in the new title has the benefits of using a far less aggravating control scheme.
Music is one of the most important parts of a game for me, even over graphics. A soundtrack needs to blend into the game world to where it’s almost never noticed, and when it needs to be noticed, effects your senses from the inside out. Jesper Kyd knows exactly how to do that, and is on my personal list of musical masterminds.
The slightly socially awkward redheaded Dane composer looks like a collection of enigmas himself. But then again, any human that specializes in ambient music usually carries that description. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he also did the music for several Hitman games, Forza 4, Borderlands, and Kane & Lynch (and that’s only a small portion of his resume). Jesper Kyd does a phenomenal job of using music to affect your mood and feeling while playing the game. If you don’t believe me, purchase any Assassin’s Creed soundtrack and go out for a nice night drive. As Desmond goes through memories of his past, the music adjusts to that moment. One minute Desmond is talking about his family, in which the music is subtle, quiet, and peaceful; the next he’s talking about being a bartender, and Tron-like music starts blaring through your speakers; you can’t even help but nod your head to the beat.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations’ as a retooled control scheme that flip-flops the buttons. On the PlayStation 3, Eagle Sense is no longer triangle, but now L3, and triangle is now replaced by dropping bombs and setting up trip-wires. In the last game, you would go around town looking for owl posts to send out your assassins on missions. In Revelations, you have wall-mounted posts; one square box for the assassin quests, and then a large box with the assassin symbol on it for the bomb crafting.
Bomb-crafting is a new to the franchise, and although I personally didn’t use bombs much, the ability to be able to make your own was a welcome addition. There are two types of treasure chests that you loot d around town; some contain medicine and money, while others house several different bomb-crafting components.
The bomb crafting is quite simple; you have three pouches: lethal, tactical, and diversion. When you select a pouch, the game displays the materials that you’ve gathered around town. It also shows you how many you have, and the effects of that specific material. There is no impossible combination, as you can craft whatever kind of bomb you want.
In addition to taking over dens (formerly known as towers), the Templars also have the ability to take over your den if you do not have a lead assassin assigned to a den, or a lead assassin who isn’t level fifteen. These attacks are completely random, and would start flashing on the map in the lower right corner. When you reach the attacked den, you’re dropped into a tower defense type game.
Ezio stands on the roof and observes, well, other roofs, in which he assigns assassins and assassin leaders to do anything from killing from the air to using rifles. Initially, I found this gameplay element quite complicated and confusing, but it grew on me as I unlocked other abilities such as Greek fire cannons and barricades. This was, surprisingly, my favorite new addition to the game, as it was completely different from anything else in the franchise.
Instead of clusters and weird puzzles, Ubisoft took a completely different path on this one. Animus particles help you unlock “Desmond’s Memories,” archived memories in the purest form on Animus Island that tell the story of Desmond’s life from childhood to present being. The puzzles are quite hard, as they are truly an abstract and ambient experience in themselves. You’re in a very minimal, modern “world,” in which you are in your purest form. You have no body, you are just you. Using the R2/RT button, you cast a shape in front of you, which is toggled with R1/RB. That shape is either a triangular ramp, or a straight-away. Using these shapes, you wrestle through several obstacles. The downside to these is that (the third one in particular) they can be stupid-hard and really frustrating. The middle part of the third memory, my hands were filled with sweat as I gripped my Dualshock, almost breaking it into two. Once I got past the challenging puzzles, I finally felt at ease. With these puzzles, make sure you complete them prior to sequence seven.
Overall, Brotherhood plays out a bit better than Revelations, but Revelations has the first ending in the entire series that carries a sense of completion. The conclusion to Ezio’s story is so perfect, as with Altair’s, that tears built up in my eyes. And although you come to a big surprise on who the mysterious voice on Desmond’s side truly is, and what Desmond must do next to save the world, the ending makes it a bit easier to wait for the next installment.
Rumor has it that the next Assassin’s Creed will take place in ancient Egypt, and that a new protagonist will land the starring role. This title is slated for release in November 2012, as Ubisoft wants the final title to hit store shelves before what they believe is going to be the overcoming of the Templars. Oddly enough, this title will be Assassin’s Creed III, so retail employees across the world, prepare for tons of confusion and aggravation in explaining this to a lot of people.