As a collaboration between no less than six development studios spread out across the globe, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations could have easily devolved into a disjointed jumble of slapdash ideas. Yet, the fourth franchise entry habitually exhibits the poise of a furtive mercenary, instinctively regaining composure after an errant misstep and rarely revealing a hint of disjunction. Considering that the title interweaves the plotlines of the series’ three protagonists into a pleasing, cohesive storyline while offering a handful of improvements on its predecessor, Revelations somehow manages to live up to its amazement-avowing moniker.
Following a fleeting cinematic intro which reviews the concluding events of Brotherhood, the commencement of Revelations finds Desmond Miles in a coma, his cognition clouded by a tangle of thoughts. To surmount this situation, the present day protagonist is told that he must play out the actions of his ancestors until “synch nexus” occurs- a state achieved once Miles’ descendants have revealed enough critical information to the Animus-bound character.
In execution, that means players will be spending a majority of their time stepping into the boots of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who is scouring the sweeping Constantin cityscape for a collection of Masyafian keys. Attaining these artifacts grants access to some of Altair ibn La-Ahad’s ancient memories, as players jump to pivotal and pleasing moments in the Syrian slayer’s life. Fortunately, this ‘dream within a dream’ device is handed with aplomb, uniting aspects of Miles’s lineage, while crafting each of Revelation’s protagonists as distinct entities. The collection of animus data fragments during gameplay even allows players to further peer into the contemporary character’s past, with Desmond’s Journey delivering optional first-person platforming/puzzling levels which evokes both Mirror’s Edge and Portal. While Revelations intermittently succumbs to the occasional moment of self-indulgence and Desmond Miles never reaches the plateau shared by his forefathers, seeing Ezio’s silver age maturation places a satisfying coda on this chapter of Assassin’s Creed history.
The journey of all three characters is elevated by stirring, impressive CGI cinematics, and to a lesser extent, by non-participatory sequences which use the in-game engine. Seeing Ezio lithely disarm and impale a swath of foes remains undeniably exhilarating while the game’s conversational bits avoid the occasional uneasiness that soiled previous entries in the series. Revelations’ new locales, Constantinople and Cappadocia, rival the splendor of locations from the previous franchise entries. The former offers substantial scope and architectural styles which diverge across a quartet of districts; the later delivers an elaborate subterranean network of tunnels. Regretfully, Revelation’s less static objects don’t fare as well; corpses tend in clip into the ground, while blood can splatter unrealistically. However, the title’s animation is still top notch- seeing a poisoned guard hallucinate and swing a weapon toward his allies is persistently enjoyable.
While the bulk of gameplay still revolves around pursuing, meeting, and killing specific targets, a handful of new devices help offset the feeling of familiarity. Acquiring the hookblade supplements a player’s navigational abilities- allowing Ezio to effortlessly scamper up walls, utilize zip lines and even offer a slight extension to the character’s reach; all of which help increase the character’s navigational speed. Satisfyingly, combat is also augmented, allowing players to overturn foes, throw enemies and counter stikes in a variety of new ways. Revelation’s Bomb making system is the other key addition, allowing players to craft explosives found on downed opponents. With options to frighten with lamb’s blood, create mobs of destitute wanders with coins, or just use shrapnel to kill, the number of blast options are satisfying- endowing players with yet another open-ended technique to execute their objectives.
Less successful is the title’s slipshod incorporation of tower defense mechanics, which struggles to expand on the its predecessor’s Borgia Tower-based responsibilities. When one of your Assassin dens is attacked by the Templar, a side game erupts, tasking players with repelling waves of on-foot and mobilized forces. Commandeering from the rooftops, Ezio is responsible for the placement of barricades and a number of different assassin types. Unfortunately, controlling the game from a viewpoint behind Ezio’s back removes the omnipotent perspective of the genre, constraining the action. Without the strategic elements which are common to even hand-held adaptions of the genre, Den Defense’s inclusion is puzzling. Luckily, players can appoint a Master Assassin to do most of the dirty work for them.
Although Revelation’s multiplayer component retains many of the virtues that make Brotherhood’s competitions a rousing success, several key changes have been made. Beyond a rebuilt menu, expansion in the number of customization options, the mode contains its own separate plotline. Now, leveling up endows players with new abilities and unlockable items, it is also accompanied by an escalation in rank in the Abstergos- a mysterious modern day Templar faction. The inclusion of new mode types such as Deathmatch (which confiscates the handy compass, forcing players to carefully survey their surroundings) and Artifact Assault (Revelation’s interpretation of Capture the Flag) are both agreeable variations that will thrill fans of Assassin’s Creed online skirmishes.
Building upon the accomplishments of the first three entries in the series, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a fitting finale for Altair and Ezio, adeptly linking the franchise’s trifecta of plotlines. Look beyond an aging engine, handful of unwieldy action sequences, and Den Defense, and the title proves to be one of the more satiating sequels of the holiday season. For players who ever received a rush the series’ surreptitious kills or engrossing combat, Revelations should not be missed.