The end of an era...
Endings are funny things, not ha-ha funny, but truly tricky things to get right. After putting over 12 hours into Assassin's Creed: Revelations and watching Embers...which you need to watch after you finish the game, I'm finally done with Ezio and Altair. I feel that we've reached the perfect and very poignant place to call it a day, and so do Ubisoft...this is the game that ties up the Altair and Ezio storyline, answers what happened to Desmond at the end of Brotherhood and neatly segues into the new Assassin's Creed #3 due out...well...eventually.
It isn't a ground-breaking new iteration like Brotherhood, but it is a pretty fantastic game non-the-less and fans of the previous title will find a lot to like in both the single player and the refined multiplayer.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the capstone on Ezio's tale and it takes all the threads from the previous first Assassin's Creed, 2 and Brotherhood - putting them all together for once and answering as many questions as possible, whilst still leaving room for more questions and teasing the player. Desmond's fate is revealed from the end of Brotherhood and there are even more surprises in store, you'll have to play it to discover the answers for yourself though.
This time around we're in Constantinople and there are a few gameplay changes here and there. The combat system has been refined a little, there are now a few new moves, mostly involving the Hookblade and Ezio can counter a lot easier now. It's even easier to get dramatic kill streaks and to look like an utter badass whilst doing so. The traversal mechanics are smoother too, with the Hookblade making short work of even the most devious climb and allowing Ezio to move around the city via zipline. Templar Dens are back, the Assassin Guild management is back with a bigger emphasis on training your assassins up to the rank of Master so that they can protect your Dens from Templar attack.
That's right, there's a Den Defence mini-game that lets you command units in a tower defence style game, placing them and barricades down to impair and kill the enemy. You should only really need to worry about Den Defence if you're being careless though, too many high profile actions whilst the Templar Awareness meter is at full and you can trigger an attack on one of your Dens. Unless that is, you happen to have a fully trained Master Assassin in charge of it, then it's immune to attack.
The random events/missions are back and run in a similar vein to Assassin's Creed. Though to be honest we only ever seemed to see guys who wanted to beat on Ezio. Who is now in his 50's and looking pretty spry for an older gent. He can still kick ass with the best of them.
The renovation of Constantinople is similar to that of Rome, except this time you tend to draw Templar attention when you renovate a building, so you need to be careful how you do it or bribe a lot of Heralds after. Or kill important officials, not much has changed there. You can unlock new weapons/equipment and items by doing various side quests that pop up, you can finish faction based challenges just like in Brotherhood only this time the rewards are a lot better.
You can bring in your Assassins as per usual, as well as triggering the Arrow Storm as long as you have 3 full bars on your meter.
New to the series is bomb crafting, where you can combine an array of shells, with gunpowder and an effect to make lethal, diversionary and tactical devices to help you in your quest to find the secrets of Altair's library. Bomb crafting is simple and effective, you can make a variety of devices and there are quite a lot of combinations to play around with. For causing sheer havoc to your enemies, you can set up an impact shell with some large radius, British gunpowder and say...lamb's blood. People caught by the impact will be covered in fake blood and be momentarily confused, allowing you to get the upper hand in a fight.
There are also bomb stations all over the city. These are usually with a pigeon coop that allows you to access the Assassin Management. Like in Brotherhood you can send your assassins out on missions to get xp, though this time there's a mini-game involved with this...called Mediterranean Defence. You can take control of various cities and keep them from Templar hands, as you do so...you get income, daily xp and other bonuses from the captured cities.
It's a fun way to level up those assassins and makes things far more tactical.
Mission design is sharper in this iteration, though the whole thing is a lot shorter. There is only one quest for the Factions. Romany, Mercenaries and Thieves litter the city, but their quest line is very short. To offset this there are Master Assassin quests that you can trigger when your assassins are a certain level, these play out from 10th and 14th level so that there is a sense of reward to the progression of your low level assassin to the rank of master. There are also a few interesting gameplay mechanics that make a debut alongside the regular missions, which are also pretty well designed and the storyline is worth following to its ultimate conclusion.
There aren't quite enough new mechanics and so on in this instalment to really make it shine above Brotherhood though, which was a major step forwards for the franchise...and a much longer game. It is a fitting send off for both Altair and Ezio though and that's worth the price of the single player admission at least.
This is definitely a good looking game, it's beautiful in places and there is no pop-in at all across a huge sprawling city. Constantinople looks truly fantastic here and the sense of wonder in the architecture has been evoked in every single brick and gilded rooftop. There is some repetition in terms of NPC character models and faces, but I always thought of this as a trick of the Animus anyways so it doesn't really spoil things for me at all. It is definitely the best looking Assassin's Creed game to date. The camera has finally been fixed too so it always points at Ezio and doesn't tend to wander off in a combat, or at least it didn't through the whole 12 hour playthrough.
Using a new animation system for faces (Mocam) and body movement, these are some really well done motion capture animations in terms of character interaction in the various cut-scenes and so forth. It shows mostly in the face though, with a slight disconnect from the actual body animation, it's only a minor niggle in an otherwise great system.
The physics in the game seem to be similar to that from Brotherhood, though with the added effects from explosive based bombs. In terms of combat physics the characters interact well and there are some great physical battle moves. Impacts and crowd physics are also spot on with the crowd being a very viable way to cause trouble for guards and the player in chases.
Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood set some nice standards for the combat AI and traversal AI. In Revelations they have smoothed this system a lot more and it allows for better battles and even more impressive chases.
A high quality soundscape has been created for the game, with the city coming to life day and night with vibrant and varied audio cues. The combat sounds are great with the clash of sword and the crack of guns from the various Ottoman and Byzantine enemies.
The soundtrack to Revelations is one that evokes the right themes and emotions, it is beautifully moving in places and suitably stirring in others. This is a soundtrack that fits the superb set-pieces gorgeously and there is one part later on near the end of the game that truly had an emotional grip on the senses. It matches perfectly and you'll know it when you get there...
The voice performances in this iteration of the franchise are some of the best yet, with Ezio on top form and Nolan North reprising his role as Desmond. The rest of the cast do a good enough job and there are some really great new characters with excellent performances.
This is really where the game shines in terms of the whole franchise, the writing for this instalment is excellent and there are very few moments where things don't work script wise. Ezio is a character that has grown over the years and this is the part where his story comes full circle, his character has changed from the brash youth and it is reflected in the script for Revelations nicely.
What began as a bit of an experiment for the franchise in Brotherhood has grown over time into a solid gameplay mode and now it's back with a vengeance. Bigger and definitely better than before we sadly only had a short time with it on the PS3 version. Since most of our multiplayer is geared towards the 360 due to the amount of friends on Xbox Live over the PSN.
What we played has convinced us that the changes are for the better, the new deathmatch style modes are fun and there are other modes that are worthy of the series. There's a nice new level of character customisation and the perks/unlocks are better implemented this time around. Unfortunately for our time with the game, the PSN seemed to be suffering from some intermittent lag and a difficulty to get into a match.
So we didn't cover the multiplayer side of the game as much as we really would have liked to. We can say without a shadow of a doubt though, if you liked Brotherhood's fresh take on online play, then Revelations truly takes it to the next level with better kill animations, more level rewards and a whole plethora of unlocks.
The new maps are nicely done and there are at least two introductory sessions to get you to grips with the game. With an expanded leaderboard and also a friend dare system, similar in many ways to Autolog from Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit there are numerous ways to enjoy the online side of Revelations.
10-12 hours is the projected time to finish Ezio's tale and see most of what the game has to offer. There are hidden tombs and there are a few secrets that we have deliberately failed to mention, since we're not big on those kind of spoilers. All in all though it's a good send off for Ezio and Altair...now we can't wait to see what's coming in Creed 3.
We also recommend that you only watch Embers after you finish Revelations.
Embers is the finale to Ezio's story and you don't want to miss it.