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PlayStation 3 Review: Assassin’s Creed – Revelations

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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.

Revelations also sports a different controller scheme.  It functions far less well and will be greatly confusing to those who have traveled with Ezio before.

There are also bombs added to this game, which isn’t a bad twist, and the Templars not the Borgias play the main baddies.  But, those are not exactly reasons to go out and spend $60.

The reason to go out and get this game is if you love the last two titles enough to want to see what happens to Ezio next.  There really is a lot of this game that’s good, but none of what makes this game good isn’t in the earlier titles. 

Revelations does take you out of Ezio’s life at points to throw you into that of Altair (from the original game) or Desmond (the poor modern day schlub around whom the game is framed).  While the Altair bits are enjoyable, the Desmond ones only serve to remind the player that we are really Desmond the whole time, and that Desmond is just living through Ezio and Altair’s memories.  Honestly, that isn’t the sort of thing the game should emphasize because then it has to repeatedly point out it’s DNA-memory-relive-past-lives-in-a-machine-called-the-animus-to-find-artificats-spread-throughout-time-in-order-to-control-the-present-day-world story.  The tales of Ezio and Altair’s lives are great and are more than enough without the Desmond frame which has never been compelling.  Playing as Desmond one has to wonder if at some point even the creators of the game have wondered why they saddled themselves with such a tale and didn’t simply set the whole thing in the past (much of the Desmond story being optional this go round may indicate they do).

Going back to the pluses, Ezio’s storyline here certainly is compelling, and the game itself is absolutely beautiful.  Whether it’s an accurate representation of Istanbul at that time, I can’t say, but it is a gorgeous, varied representation, and it’s a wonderful city to travel through.  Additionally, there are still a whole lot of missions and a whole lot of sidequests that can be explored.   Except for the location though, none of what works is new.

If you’re a fan of the franchise, go out and pick up Revelations.  If you’re not sure if you’re a fan yet, go get a copy of Assassin’s Creed II and play that before you buy this.  If you find you love that game you’re gonna like what you get here.  No addition of multiplayer action makes this game as good as that one.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.