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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

When we last left off in this series it was with semi-sequel: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in which Desmond had reached the apple of Minerva below the Colloseum in Rome, Ezio had ended the last of the Borgia’s and had begun the task of rebuilding the Brotherhood. When Revelations was released it was called the end of the Ezio trilogy, which I didn’t realize that this was a thing. In November-ish, Assassin’s Creed III is going to be released taking us from the Renaissance to Pre-Revolutionary Massachussetts. Yet we’ve had three games already, but they are more like sub-games and Revelations is more AC II.3 than it is a straight up sequel. Which isn’t to say that it’s short, or that the story is hasty, or that it is at all similar to the growing number of tepid sequels that are being pumped out by the game companies. It’s a full game, that will sort of stand on its own, although one of the story lines will make absolutely no sense to those picking up this, as their first foray in the series.

Spoilers ahead: but then again you’ve had over six months.

At the end of Brotherhood, Desmond had stabbed Lucy under the control of the alien Minerva. In response to this he lapsed into something like a coma, but the animus is keeping him alive. The only trouble is that he can’t get out and his mind is stuck in the machine. In it he encounters the consciousness of the mysterious subject 16 from the previous three games. A tortured victim of Abstergo who was thought to have died in the machine. In each of the previous games Desmond as Dante has always had a Virgil to guide him to his purpose. In the previous three it has been Lucy, Shaun, and Rebecca all acting as guides. Shaun handled the historical references with his dull saracstic British wit, Rebecca doing the technical, and Lucy with the overall mission. Here none of that is present, it is only the unhinged Subject 16 that seems to be cryptic for the sake of being cryptic, but generally just points and says ‘go there now and figure it out.’

That’s the Desmond story. As I said earlier this is the final of the Ezio trilogy. Ezio, having left the Order in good standing in Rome has traveled to Masyaf, the original headquarters of the order from the very first AC game to unlock a vault to discover the purpose of the order and what he ought to do with the apple. However, it has been captured and occupied by the Templars who try and kill him. Although Ezio escapes he has lost his equipment and most now flee to Constantinople to discover the five keys to the vault of Masyaf. One of which is beneath the Sultan’s palace in the city.

In the city we meet Yusuf Tazim, the leader of the Assassin’s Order in Turkey. We also meet Suleiman, the future Sultan of the Ottaman Empire, also called Suleiman “The Magnificent,” his jealous brother Ahmet, famed explorer/pirate/inventor Piri Reis, and get to tour various famous locales such as the Hagia Sophia. In short, it’s your typical AC game. What’s impressed me in the past about the series continues here but now it’s expected, and the polish has worn off. We’re also stepping away from a period of history and location that I am familiar with so that may contribute as well, but there is a lack of historical information that populated the previous two games. When it does appear it lacks Shaun’s wit and feels almost tacked on.

What is nice is the feeling that you aren’t alone. Having an established order in the city gives more of an epic feeling to the overall historical narrative that didn’t exist in the previous games. Sure, there were other Assassins like Caterina and Machiavelli, but seemed more remnants of a thing that was, rather than a thing that is. Here Tazim represents an a group fighting a war and they need help. This should have given Ezio a few assistants like the incredibly well done system from the last game, but for some reason you still have to go around doing the recruitment. It’s kind of old to be doing this.

What is new is that Tazim has given Ezio a hook for his arm blade that Ezio can use to travel through the city by means of zip lining along the various wires that for some reason are strewn about Constantinople. It’s kind of interesting, and it gives you a bit of an added reach in combat, but that’s really it. The other addition is that of Piri Reis and his bombs. Reis instructs you on how to create a series of hand grenades and anti-personal mines by mixing different kinds of gunpowder, shells, and secondary ingredients for a variety of effects. This is more of a mix and match method of creating chaos. You can use a time delay fuse on a hard shell, to set off either a smoke bomb, or a noise bomb to distract guards, or poison/shrapnel to kill others. There are contact fuses and mine fuses, etc. There are only in, truth, about nine different bombs you will use, with the possibilities being for more novel effect (goat blood and coin bombs).

The brotherhood system has been revamped as well. Now the assassin’s have more levels and can operate strongholds overseas. You don’t choose the weapons anymore, and while the system seems a bit deeper than it was in Revelations its hampered by a ridiculous tower defense minigame that serves no other point than to be a distraction from the story. Luckily though, you don’t have to do this too often, during my first play through of the game I did it twice, failing both times because I didn’t understand the system.

Playing throught the game, the highlight is definintely the interaction of Ezio with the other characters. He’s older now, much older than Revelations, and this is a unique take on the sequel. Typically sequels track the same character but they don’t seem to age or change in anything other than abilities. While Ezio is certainly deadlier than in his Florentine adventure, he is also wiser. The characterization of Ezio has really given the players a sense of the sweep of his life. As the game ends he departs Masyaf weary, retiring from the Order.

After finding one of the keys to the vault, we are also revisiting Altair Ibn Lahad, the central character from the first AC. This was an unexpected treat, as the first game had yet to find its voice and was saddled with repetitive game play. I’m going to spoil the hell out of this so stop reading:

 

The last image of Altair we have is his sealing the vault with the apple inside it. Then we do something that I haven’t seen a game do in a long time, die. That seems odd doesn’t it, I die all of the time in games. But I don’t mean you die and then you have to start over, I mean that the character itself sits down to die. Sure, it’s not a Call of Duty Game unless you get shot in the face or hit by a nuclear weapon, but this is somehow different. This is the end of the character’s life, and he merely sits down to rest. It’s a surprisingly peaceful end, and is treated not for the shock that the CoD series does it for; but merely to cap off the end of the character. Imagine of a Zelda game did that? During one iteration Link just lays down on a bed and closes his eyes…and that’s it. Altair’s time has come to an end, and as an elderly man he just accepts his fate. It’s an actual touching moment in a series that does know how to tell an emotionally compelling story.

 

End Spoiler: Aside from the lack of innovation, or a compelling mystery to solve (the puzzles are gone), the game feels unfinished and rushed into production. There are several glitches during the game, one in the beginning that had Ezio walking off a roof over and over again as soon as he climbed atop it, which made me turn off the game and restart the whole thing because I thought my Xbox was at fault. The weapon selection system (which has always needed some improvement) has an infuriating default system that constantly forces you to draw your weapon when you just want to select one to be at ready. This can be alarming to the numerous guards and can fail a mission right then. While the previous AC games have been great excursions into conspiracy and history this game doesn’t live up the standard they have set. It’s got all of the elements, but lot of it just feels forced. I want to know more about the history of the Hagia Sophia and the grand Bazaar, I want excerpts from the obscure books I had to find (in the previous games it was art, but at least then I was able to see the paintings), I want puzzles that test my logical capacity to the straining point, all of it in this game feels dumbed down and rushed.

If you are a fan of the series than you have to get the game as it fills in some story questions but all in all, this is like the second to last season of Lost. Sure it’s essential to the plot and is better than most of the other crap out there but it’s been done better before, and by the same people.

7/10

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