The trouble I have writing a review or Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is that I feel as though I’ve already written a review for the game… twice. When Assassin’s Creed II was released, as with so many reviewers, I was stunned and incredibly pleased. The game was—is—a nearly complete triumph. From its large free-roaming areas to the number of sidequests, to the mechanics of it all, the title is a great leap forward from the original Assassin’s Creed (included with Revelations if you buy the PS3 version).
When Brotherhood came out (one year after II and one year before the new Revelations) it represented not so much a leap forward as a slight adjustment and continuation. Unlike II, Brotherhood doesn’t change characters, it merely goes forward slightly in time. It introduces a few new tweaks to gameplay, but nothing huge. Mainly, the title rests on the laurels of the previous incarnation. That is fine, II is a great game so more of it is great as well. Is there a tinge of disappointment that Brotherhood doesn’t redefine things again and raise the bar further? Sure, absolutely, but Brotherhood manages to get away with it.
That “getting away with it” task is slightly harder for Revelations which is another incremental set of changes to Brotherhood‘s incremental changes. And, while going around as Ezio Auditore da Firenze is still fun, the game has a terrible been there done that feel. What is worse is that the most notable of the incremental changes here—the addition of a tower defense minigame—is misguided, boring, and eliminates all that is fun about the series.
It should at this point be noted where our reviews of Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood can be found (just click on those handy dandy hyperlinks). These will serve as background information for this new title as it seems senseless to dive into the specifics of Ezio’s history and the way much the game unfolds as we have done that already.
The Assassin’s Creed series works as games not because of the insane storyline — as we noted back in our review of Assassin’s Creed II, the overlay of the modern day Templar vs. Assassin story is a ridiculous frame for an exceptional title. No, the games are great because you find yourself in these massive city environments where you can climb just about anything, interact (even if it’s by killing them) with just about anyone, and complete a whole slew of sidequests on your way to saving the world. It is the free-running, parkour environment that is great, the hiding in plain sight and the stealthily sneaking up on your opponent before silently eliminating them which works so well. And, that stuff works here in this new title too. They are still enough to make this game worth playing despite its problems.
But, if the game works because of the free-running parts, why add a tower defense minigame where Ezio Auditore gets to stand still and play general as Templars try to take assassins’ lairs around Istanbul? Ezio may have to order people about in his running of the assassins’ guild (one of the tweaks made to Brotherhood that is again present here), but that is really just sending people on missions, not having to watch as they complete them. This new tower defense minigame stands Ezio on a rooftop where he then has to place commanders, archers, riflemen, etc., in order to block the advance of Templar troops. Ezio is allowed to fire his gun, but it is forced to be stationary in a game that works because the character moves so beautifully.
One of the other, alleged, main tweaks to this game is Ezio’s trading in his normal assassins’ blades for a hook blade which mostly just allows him to catch onto the sides of buildings without falling. While that might be a great sort of addition had Ezio not been able to do the exact same thing in the last two titles without the hook blade, he has been able to catch himself and the jumps he can make now don’t seem better for the addition of the hook. There are moments using the hook where you’ll wonder if Ezio simply needs the crutch because he’s gotten a little long in the tooth.