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Ezio Shows His Age

I'm a long time fan of Assassin's Creed. I didn't have a 360 or PS3 when the original game released, but by the time the game became an Platinum Hit, I was able to pick it up.

I fell in love.

I now fully understand the that it's was a flawed glory. However, my first play sessions with AC1 were amazing. I literally stopped and just looked. It was one of the most beautifully rendered games I had seen.

This took my breath away in 2008.

This franchise is now four installments older and (generally) wiser. In fact, I recently completed my time with the fourth major installment, Assassin's Creed: Revelations. While I found the experience to be fun and fulfilled my AC itch, I came away with mixed feelings.

AC2 and AC:B focused on Ezio's vendetta with the Borgia family. That was a great story line filled with intrigue, betrayal, and other duplicity (not to mention incest!). AC:R fast-forwards to Ezio's later years, after spending decades as the Mentor of the Assassin Brotherhood. He has found himself deeply interested in Altaïr's connection to the Pieces of Eden. As someone who has played all the console entries of the series, this was interesting for me. Though the Altaïr segments seem fragmented with little to connect them, it was great to see the ways that he had influenced the order for the centuries to come. Additionally, the story concludes in a way that aligns both Altaïr and Ezio as peers and precursors who know they are ultimately meant to deliver a message to a man they know nothing about.

With that said, Revelations felt extremely short. It took me little over 20 hours to complete 1000G gamerscore worth of achievements, including multiplayer and excluding any DLC. Much of this time was spent achieving 100% sync within all missions, collecting MacGuffins (memoir pages, data fragments, treasures, etc), and managing my Assassin empire. Personally, I focused on the story missions up through Sequence 4, at which point I stopped to do all of my collecting and such. Once I decided to return to the main story, I completed the remaining sequences in about 2-3 hours. Stripping away all of the side missions and objectives, one could conceivably complete the main story in 5-7 hours. While I am not one to criticize the length of a game's main storyline, the length of this entry did not seem proportionate to those that came before. There are a few great twists involving Subject 16 and a wrongful death, but these come and go so quickly.

Bombs are an interesting addition to Ezio's arsenal, but really do very little to change his effectiveness.  Distracting guards is all well and good, but Splinter Cell this is not.

Despite the brevity of the main quest, Revelations is packed full of so much optional content that you will not be without something to do. Assassin missions and city district control metagames are expanded greatly, including the ability to install assassins in foreign cities, assign your more advanced recruits as den masters in Constantinople, and even defend your dens against Templar assaults. As fun as these are, I did run into some control issues. Many times, I found it difficult to know exactly which assassin I was installing in which place. The den defense minigame was also not without it's faults. Units did not feel very different from each other, and the difficulty spiked rather quickly, though it was not insurmountable.

Though the shock has worn off and I have acclimated to the current generation's graphical fidelity and capability, Revelations is still generally a good-looking game. From a distance, that is. When you get close to character models, such as Sulieman's hands when he is playing chess with his uncle, things get awfully...well...lumpy. It's the only word I can come up with. Facial animations are definitely not the best of the Ezio trilogy, either. Part of the issue is also the locations themselves. During the game, you spend time in Constantinople, Masyaf, and Cappadocia. All three of these places are generally monochromatic. There is so much brown in Constantinople, you'll think you're playing Borderlands 1.

Never thought I'd say this, but I miss the purple and green of Florence.

The voicework on display here is on par with the rest of the Ezio games. Ezio's grizzled and gravelly voice does much to show his age. Also, the inclusion of John de Lancie as Desmond's father was a great addition.

Desmond's dad, everyone. *brohoof*

Multiplayer went through some changes, as well. The biggest change is that there is a story to multiplayer. You take the role of an Abstergo agent using the Animus to train your combat skills in order to hunt down assassins. Messages from Vidic are unlocked along the way, giving you more insight into the minds at Abstergo.

Instead of unlocking abilities as you level up, there is now a currency system in place and new unlocks have to be purchased using this new currency. I have mixed feelings on this system, but it does allow you to have more control over what you get and what you don't. You can relegate less desirable abilities for later and focus on the more useful ones that fit your playstyle. Character personalization is back with some added features, such as taunts. There are a few new game modes, but they don't evolve the existing formula much beyond what it already was.

Overall, Revelations continues the tradition of each AC game creating it's own voice. That voice may be well worn with the ravages of time, but it is still unique. Though the setting harkens back to AC1 while the story and features feel more like AC2 and AC:B, Revelations uses this juxtaposition to bring Altaïr, Ezio and Desmond together in a more cohesive manner than has been done previously. The lauded "answers" that were promised in the AC:R marketing seem to be relatively minor, to be honest. More of my questions have been answered in the first hours of AC3 than they were in Revelations. I had a good time with this game, but I would not say it's a must play for all. If you're a big fan of the series, I'd say play it. But, it's not entirely necessary.

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