The lights are on
Warning: This review may contain spoilers.
I'm not afraid to say that my time with Assassin's Creed wasn't enjoyable all the time, and after dropping all my other gaming related endeavors I came away with mixed impressions. Make no mistake, Revelations has the potential to be the most polarizing entry in the series since the first. It's by no means a bad game, but there are a more than a couple decisions that you may wind up not being very fond of by the end of the game.
The biggest problem I came across in my time with the game was a lack of definitive continuity throughout all the features. The plethora of studios, six to be exact, didn't always seem to be on the same page. Several new additions, like Bomb Crafting and the Den Defense mini-game, were entirely optional. I can't fault them for not forcing players to use a feature, but I also can't help but feeling their approach could have been better. I crafted very few bombs in my time with the game and at a certain point it becomes almost a waste of time to search for specific ingredients throughout the city; especially considering many of them are obtained via random appearance in chests scattered about.
Unlike the bombs though, which you can purchase from vendors around the city thus circumventing the entire crafting process, the game is almost designed to try and drag you into the Den Defense mini-game. Everything from killing guards to buying shops raises your notoriety, sending you scurrying to one of the heralds or trying to find a witness to assassinate. Spend too much time with your meter at notorious and you'll be forced into a round of Den Defense. It takes a concerted effort to avoid that; if you want to do what I did and not touch it after the tutorial you'll spend a good amount of time running around the city in between purchasing shops.
Speaking of running around the city, it's still extremely fun. All of the combat works just as well as it ever has, even though I never really found much use for the newer features. The city this time though is scaled back in size and those who expected to be globe trotting as in the second game or exploring some massive and varied environment like the one in Brotherhood will be disappointed. I can't help but feel that it suffers a bit because of this.
The feeling that the other games presented of reaching a point in the game where you happen upon some epic new area to explore is largely absent. A good ninety percent of the city is open to you from the get go and there isn't much change in visuals from one area to the next. Sneaking into places doesn't seem to have the same thrill considering all of these places are open to you, with the exception of one, the entire time. The sense of adventure gained from going some place you shouldn't be isn't the same when the areas are small and something you've passed several times just running around. Part of me can't help but believe the design of Constantinople, which I can't say I personally am a fan of, was born from the expanded number of studios and continued focus on multiplayer.
The city, instead of being a place that stands on par with the story being told, is more of a vehicle for delivery of the plot and is no bigger than it has to be to fill that role. As for that plot I have mixed feelings about it. To me it seems like a movie or show that tries to continue without any of the familiar elements people have come to love after writing itself into a corner. There's an excuse for the old cast not being present in this game, but it feels sort of hollow without the investment that the other games created. It's not about struggling to gain control in a city under control of your biggest enemy or building Ezio as a character. Ezio is simply wandering into this city and doing some stuff with the people who live there.
It is just another chapter in Ezio's life and that "just another" sentiment echos throughout it. The writing is great, perhaps the best in the series on a situation by situation basis; however, as an entire narrative, it suffers from the same problem that Dragon Age II did in that until very late in the game you have no real idea who your main enemy is and there's no change in scenery or youthful naivety in our favorite Assassin to explain that bit away this time around. I honestly couldn't tell you much about Ezio's portion of the story outside of there being a prince, some weird sultan looking guy who was bad, and the last hours. Though those last couple hours are some of the best in the series. If you were expecting the game to earn its subtitle in Ezio's story, though, I think you'll find yourself disappointed as the character advances very little during this game in comparison to past entries.
It doesn't earn it on Desmond's end either, despite what GI's cover story seemed to suggest. The overarching protagonist of Assassin's Creed spends very little time, most of it very early on, in the spotlight. You'll find out a few interesting things in Desmond's head , such as Lucy's fate and just who subject sixteen is or how Desmond wound up at Abstergo to begin the series, but as with Ezio's story fans who were expecting this area to be seriously fleshed out and advanced might be left with minor disappointment. That's fine though, because the game's trips back to explore the events following the first game are excellent.
Altair wasn't a particularly strong character in his staring role, in fact he was literally Desmond's character model with different clothes in what appeared to be an attempt by the developers to tie the two characters together that backfired to some extent. They've done away with that and Altair grows from a vessel through which the players experience the unique mechanics of the original title into the character that he should have been the entire time. This is where the game earns its name as lose ends are tied up left and right and the escapades of the two Assassins finally begin to commingle. Much of the end game events are set up by what happens in the five excellent trips back in time.
The rest of the game is just as much a mixed bag as the rest. Some systems have been mercifully balanced away from being nuisances which is nice, but there are also new additions like the pillbox-esque structures housing riflemen who blast you off rooftops that are just as frustrating as anything has ever been in the series. The textures and animations are still outstanding, especially the beautiful cloths spread about the city, but at the same time the models within the game haven't been improved much. Citizens are still very bland and hair is still a series weak point. On top of that there were a few CG segments that seemed out of place. Early on you see the scene from Revelations' E3 trailer which felt out of place, but I can't fault the inclusion of something that likely took a pretty penny to produce. However, a later scene is just downright ugly, almost as if it were pulled directly from the era of the original Playstation and simply filled with better textures.
One of the decisions I had the biggest problem with was the choice to redesign Desmond's face. A first look at him will likely leave you stunned. I felt that way especially since, of all the models in the game that needed tweaking, he wasn't one of those at the top of the "Needs Work" list in my head. Once again something I contribute to the fracturing of the game into pieces for a group of studios to work on. No doubt the Desmond sections of the game were handled by someone else this time around.
All in all Assassin's Creed: Revelations is a good game that presents a mixed bag of good and bad, and who's development tactics along with small missteps set it up to be a potentially polarizing addition to the series. Some will love it, fans of the series not blown away with it will still find it an acceptable entry, but those who haven't touched the game before may become bored with it before getting to the core of what's going on.
No one has commented on this article.