Want to know something I regret? I slogged through Revelations just so I could be up to speed in time for Assassin’s Creed 3. In my defence, the other Assassin’s Creed sequels up to that point were respectable – the first game laid the groundwork for a decent murder simulator, and subsequent titles added more and more features until it reached a point where the core mechanics and meta-games were pretty enjoyable.
Revelations, on the other hand, feels flat. The studio was evidently trying to keep the series fresh and relevant while attempting to offer some closure to Ezio’s story, which had long since overstayed its welcome. Seeing through Revelations to the end will seem more effort than it’s worth.
Ezio Auditore de Firenze, the Renaissance protagonist that has managed to survive his third title in the series, is feeling his age. This time around he’s clambering the architecture of Constantinople, and to Ubisoft Montreal’s credit, the locale looks great. The world detail is impressive and lovingly sculptured, while Ezio and his friends get a high-fidelity makeover, complete with scars hidden beneath a grizzly grey beard and ornate flowing robes. The game looks superb for this generation.
However, a new locale isn’t enough to change the fact that you’re still doing the same thing as you were for the past few games. Heralds still yell from the same wooden platforms until you shut them up with a fistful of gold. Boxes are still stacked like stairs to propel you to window ledges and street signs. Roof tops are still swarming with guards, as always. People sitting on benches still leave a handy gap for you to magically disappear from pursuing authorities. Courtesans are now called Gypsies. Mercenaries still loiter in alleyways and marketplaces. For all the changes in scenery, NPC models and mock accents, it doesn’t feel all that different.
The few additions feel more like “nice to haves” rather than “paradigm shifting”. (This doesn’t include the disjointed “Den Defence”, a tower defence-like minigame that is so far removed from the concept of assassination that I could only suffer the tutorial.) The assassin’s hook helps Ezio climb buildings and adds some more combat moves. Bomb crafting blows out the assassin’s arsenal to the point where I wonder how much weight Ezio bears on a typical day. Chests now contain more bomb materials than currency, and these materials can be used to craft bombs for all situations. Aside from standard explosives, certain bombs can spray fools’ gold everywhere to distract citizens or unleash a plume of skunk oil (which were never used and gathered dust in my inventory).
Combat has hardly changed, although it feels somewhat protracted as the enemies in Revelations are tougher and appear in greater numbers. There are also fewer opportunities to decrease your infamy, which require longer periods of skulking around and hiding from patrols. The game is certainly catered to stalwarts of the series, so if you’ve taken a hiatus from the series, you may find the learning curve a little steep at first.
I guess I was done with Ezio before Revelations, because when the end credits rolled, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. On second thought, I think I’m done with the series in general, because Assassin’s Creed 3 still remains unfinished on my shelf. An Asian-themed Assassin’s Creed would’ve been enough to recapture my attention, but it looks like we’ll have to be content with pirates for now.