Jarrod Mawson
16 Dec, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revelations Review

PC Review | I feel the need, the need for 'Creed.
Every developer and publisher adopts a different policy to game development and releases, but one of the most popular trends this generation is most certainly annual releases. More than ever, we're seeing a greater number of publishers push their big franchises towards more frequent new releases, focusing on yearly iterations that either guide an overarching story forward, or offer newly balanced gameplay mechanics and tweaks of a recognisable formula. We've seen it several times before with Activision's Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises, and Ubisoft has made it clear they're fully intent on following it through with one of their premiere sagas: the Assassin's Creed series.

This year's big title is Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Released last month on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this fourth entry in the core series continues Ubisoft's trend of late PC ports, having arrived on the desktop platform this earlier this month. But as they always say, better late than never, and finally PC gaming Assassin's Creed fans are given the chance to wrap up the story of both the legendary Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and the very first game's series pioneer Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad. As necessary closure will be for long time series fans, the release of Revelations brings about an important question; as the third Assassin's Creed game in just as many years, is the series evolving at a pace to match the releases? Or does it fall victim to a rigid annual cycle?

Reimaging Constantinople's famed used car salesmen.

Reimaging Constantinople's famed used car salesmen.

Though the fourth mainline entry, Revelations primarily focuses on Ezio Auditore da Firenze, star of the game since Assassin's Creed II, and all round charming Italian assassin now in his later years. As with past games, his memories are lived through modern day protagonist Desmond Miles, now trapped in the Animus after the events of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Face to face with Subject 16's imprinted personality, Desmond must relive the final moments of Ezio's life as an assassin, who in turn is tracking the last days of Altaïr, else risk having his personality splintered between the three and lost forever to madness.

Like Brotherhood, the majority of Revelations takes place in a singular city, this time a 1511AD Constantinople, continuing the series' welcome tradition of using relatively obscure video game settings, and re-imagining of history, keeping the trademarks of colourful characters and events you may have read about in history books. Promising all kinds of revelations (hence the name) to answer lingering questions, Revelations starts slower than expected, spending a little too long focusing on rebuilding assassin guilds and other tropes already established in past titles.

Eventually the plot gains speed, and what follows is the most structured and focused plot arc the series has seen. Covering the lives of both Ezio and Altaïr results in greater exposition to their characters and the guilds they formed, revisiting iconic locations from the past, and by the end gives real closure to their stories with fewer unanswered questions. Those who have felt Ezio's story has dragged out too long will be happy to have it end here and with a great standard of quality. Additionally, extra developments to Desmond's character inside the Animus push forward his own story, and hint at great things to come in Assassin's Creed III.

Living a double life.

Living a double life.

Though strong story developers are at the forefront of Revelations, evolving gameplay is not. The design leaps Assassin's Creed II saw over the original, and even then, to a lesser extent, Brotherhood saw over that, are not to be found in Revelations. Instead, Revelations acts as a culmination of the best qualities found in the series, each polished to a high quality and tweaked for additional depth and customisation. Fans familiar with the base mechanics of controlling characters as they leap between buildings, slice and dice through foes, and blend into their surroundings to escape tailing guards, will find Revelations to be largely more of the same and just as accessible as ever.

That's not to say Revelations doesn't make any effort to introduce new elements. Expanding on the assassin recruiting and guild system of Brotherhood, Revelations introduces guild protection, a tower defence-esque mini-game initiated when enemy Templars attempt to retake Assassin controlled areas. Ezio himself is not shy of a few new tools too, gifted a new hook blade that allows for some fancy new combat moves as well as extended reach when climbing, and the ability to use materials to craft a wide variety of bombs and projectiles for distraction, defense and assault.

Integrated well into the basic formula and game content taken from Brotherhood, these elements help give Revelations a handful of fresh ingredients to keep the series interesting, though fail to truly evolve and differentiate Revelations from it's predecessor. Much more than Brotherhood was to Assassin's Creed II, Revelations at times feels more like an expansion, replicating similar mission structure and identical gameplay elements that most have already done a hundred times over already. Working in it's favour, this core formula is still great fun and presented in arguably the most robust package yet, but one cant help but feel that Revelations is a little too similar to Brotherhood for it's own good.

Paint That Wagon 2.

Paint That Wagon 2.

It would be easy to criticise any other game for similar issues, but these games are usually coupled with low production values and a sense of rushed content in order to meet their annual deadline. Revelations manages to avoid both of these potential problems, the latter by a high standard of gameplay polish, and the former by sparing no expense on package presentation. Beautiful textures, detailed animations, and a realistic character performances once again create a remarkably convincing world, as the alluring qualities of wandering the detailed streets of Constantinople, littered with civilians going about their day, backed by a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack, feel like you're legitimately peering into a long forgotten past (sans the science fiction).

Production values through the roof, much like Brotherhood Ubisoft has gone the extra mile on PC, offering higher quality texture resolution, anti-aliasing, detailed shadow rendering, and more bells and whistles associated with hardware capable of pushing games to their limits. Support for newer DirectX 11 features would have been welcome, but with the game looking as good as it does it's hard to complain, especially as increased rendering resolution, anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing help make those long draw distances and impressive vistas look notably cleaner than the console iterations.

Accompanying the single player, and again just like Brotherhood, Revelations supports an expanded multiplayer offering to round off the package. On a fundamental level the multiplayer offers a very similar experience to that found in Brotherhood, but again Ubisoft has managed to fine tune and add to the basics for greater variety in play style and gameplay modes. New characters and maps are expected, but the greatest enhancement is integrating the multiplayer into story components. Levelling up online grants new information on the Abstergo corporation, giving good incentive to keep playing and learn more about the game's universe. Unfortunately we found the quantity of multiplayers games a bit lacking, and suspect majority of the Assassin's Creed fan base has found home on console platforms, not PC, or is more content with dedicating time to the single player adventure over online battles.

Kiss chasy.

Kiss chasy.

Taking the time to absorb everything Revelations offers, we can see the series is at a crossroads. Annual releases have bought the franchise to a point where a predictable formula dictates the course of the game, the core game mechanics having hit a design ceiling where, in their current incarnation, it is hard to see how much further, if at all, they could be taken. For this reason Revelations lacks much of the punch that Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood had. It's the same old gameplay playing the same way as it has for over and year, losing a spark of originality and evolution that has kept the franchise as an innovator of the sand box genre. Much like Ezio himself, Revelations finally shows the assassin's age.

Yet, as a testament to what the franchise has established, these issues fail to significantly detract from what is still a wonderful Assassin's Creed experience. In place of evolution is refinement, as the formula and mechanics, as familiar as they may be, are at times presented at their best. Revelations doesn't quite as consistently hit the highs of Brotherhood, but comes close often enough to make it a valuable Assassin's Creed game by it's own merits.

For Assassin's Creed III, expectations are on Ubisoft to truly evolve the formula and uproot the franchise in the same way Assassin's Creed II did. The franchise cannot afford to meander about what has been tweaked and recycled for three games now, and if this is the path Ubisoft chose for the final entry in Desmond's story arc we can only expect unfortunate disappointment. But what Ubisoft chose to do will remain a mystery until the game is ready to be shown. Until then, Assassin's Creed fans not tired with parkour running and assassin leading antics of Brotherhood will enjoy this final outing of Ezio and Altaïr, if just for the pleasant closure to their stories and characters.
The Score
A fitting end to the stories of Ezio and Altaïr build on a high standard of gameplay fitting for the series, ultimately held back by a lack of true gameplay evolution. Fans of the series won't be disappointed, but may find the wait for Assassin's Creed III made just a little bit harder. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
Feel it should be pointed out, Revelations was made by an entirely seperate team to Brotherhood, (That and the absence of Partice Desilette). With that fact and the fact that Ubisoft have stated that they hate the fact that they got into the yearly release thing and are looking to shift away from it after AC 3.

My money is on this game being made by a largely B team while the A team that made Brotherhood has been busy working on AC 3 giving them more time for it's development.
2 years ago
Ubisoft stated they hate the yearly thing? ......... Really?
2 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Ubisoft stated they hate the yearly thing? ......... Really?
Yeah there was an interview with some big wig at Ubisoft saying they regretted that they went with the yearly release and resent that due to the story they've basically locked themselves into AC 3 having to come out next year, and after AC 3 they're completly dropping the yearly release schedule and just going to take their sweet time with the next game. I'll see if I can dig up a link.
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