Review: Assassin's Creed: Revelations

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2011 , Posted by admin at 18:20

Review: Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Ezio, Ezio, wherefore art thou Ezio? After the sprawling adventures of the
young Italian in Assassin's Creed II and the slightly less grand adventure
chasing the Borgias in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, we can finally say
goodbye to the now grizzled and milked-for-all-his-worth Renaissance-era Adonis.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the story of Ezio Auditore da Firenze's final
adventures in the series, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad's journey during and after the
events of the first Assassin's Creed, and Desmond's life in the run-up to his
encounter with Abstergo Industries. It's a story of closure for two
Assassins past and the birth of an Assassin present, but does Revelations
prove that Ubisoft can craft a full new title without series founder Patrice
Désilets' input, or is it a symptom of the publisher's iterative addiction?

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PC)

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: November 15, 2011 (PS3, 360) / November 29, 2011 (PC)
MSRP: $59.99
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood fit nicely into the Italy of Assassin's Creed II
 by portraying Ezio's chase after the nefarious Templar pope Rodrigo Borgia
and his son Cesare, but Revelations opts for the rather ambitious solution
of bringing Altaïr and Ezio's arcs to a close with Constantinople and the
old Assassin fortress of Masyaf taking center stage.

Masyaf is now under the control of the Templars, who are trying to open a
door that guards yet another impossible secret. The keys to open this door are
hidden in Constantinople, prompting Ezio to race the atheist power mongers in
a quest to find these keys before the secret ends up in the wrong hands.
These keys double as First Civilization memory storage devices, imprinted
mostly with Altaïr's experiences of the years following his disposal of the
treacherous Al Mualim, allowing the player to find the answers to some
lingering questions surrounding the Codex and the old Grand Master's legacy.

Just like Brotherhood expanded upon the gameplay of its predecessor
while delivering a less expansive story, Revelations adds even more to
 the formula. The Borgia Towers are now Templar Dens that can be turned
into Assassin Dens, which serve as local headquarters. Your notoriety
can no longer be wiped clean by ripping a few posters off the wall; heralds
must be bought off for a 25% reduction, or once you attain well over
50% notoriety you'll be able to kill some unfortunate Templar official for a
50% reduction. Reach 100% notoriety and eventually one of your Dens will
come under Templar attack, allowing you to start a rather imbalanced tower
defense minigame called Den Defense. This is a fun distraction at first,
using Assassins to murder waves of Byzantines from the rooftops, but it
quickly becomes more of a chore that you can just as easily ignore.
Apprentices are still recruited as before, with the addition of a few
unique recruitment quests, and you can have a couple more murdering
peons at your disposal this time around. Your apprentices now gain experience
if you call upon their services to deal with enemies, but you can still send
them away on missions to level up a bit faster. The new Mediterranean
Defense aspect is similar to the one in Brotherhood, letting you select missions
for your recruits to reduce Templar influence in cities around the Mediterranean.
You can even take control of these cities to
provide you with additional money,
experience, and ingredients, as long as they remain under Assassin control.
Leveling up your apprentices far enough allows you to assign them as Den
masters, eventually allowing you to "lock" a Den from Templar attack after
playing a few unique Master Assassin missions. These are centered around
Ezio's new role as a mentor, with his apprentices reflecting
the same brash young
man he was two games ago. If you leave the game running while you go do
something else it still gives you the same easy money every 20 minutes, but
doing so will allow Templars to slowly reduce your influence in the captured
cities and eventually reclaim control if you don't pay attention for an hour.
Unlike Brotherhood, owning landmarks no longer provides you with a huge
amount of income, so by the time you are done with the story, you'll
probably still have things left to buy.

The wonders of the Orient provide two other gameplay additions:
the hook-blade and bombs. The hook-blade allows Ezio to jump a tiny
bit higher and farther. It can definitely make vertical movement a lot faster,
although you're often better off not using it in lateral movement, as doing so
will force you to hook onto a ledge when in most cases you could've just
grabbed it with your hands and moved along more quickly. The hook-blade
also lets you glide along sparse ziplines that are somehow always positioned
in the wrong direction when you want to use them outside
of the scripted missions.

While the hook-blade comes into play often enough, and you'll learn to use
it to your benefit without too much trouble, bombs are a bit of a curious addition.
Instead of harvesting ingredients for equipment, the materials you gather from
chests and bodies are now used for creating different types of bombs. These
bombs can be used to kill, obscure your presence, or distract guards to let you
walk by unnoticed. There are a lot of bombs to craft for as many different effects,
but the question is whether you will ever care to use them. Just like throwing
coins and using hired help were reduced to relatively
 inefficient tools in Brotherhood,
the combat system -- which is nearly identical to Brotherhood's --
 empowers Ezio
 in such a way that you can easily dispatch of any type of enemy save the
 fearsome Janissaries without breaking a sweat.
A few missions here and there remind you that you should use bombs,
by forcing you to distract guards lest you get detected and fail the mission
or fail the 100% synchronization bonus requirement, but chances are you
will forget to use them again the minute you are done with such a mission.
There are just too many other ways to deal with any situation to bother with
 bombs, and in the few instances where you really wish you had a specific
bomb on you, you probably brought the wrong type.

Constantinople doesn't lend itself too well to using some of
these bombs, either; you don't want to risk desynchronizing
by accidentally killing
too many civilians with a lethal bomb, so you end up not using them that much.
What's worse, while the city offers some architectural variety with its Byzantine
structures compared to Renaissance Italy, it is a monotonously drab and brown
maze of buildings. Perhaps this depiction of Constantinople is relatively faithful
 to the period, but one wonders if there couldn't have been a way to bring the
culturally vibrant city to life in a more visually impressive manner.

You no longer have access to a horse, and while you can use rooftops to get
around faster, some sections of the city are cut off from each other by massive
walls from a bygone era. You'll have to find the right building to climb and
then pass over these walls unless you want to run alongside them hoping
for a gateway of sorts, which more often than not prevents you from
easily getting around the city. The tunnel transport system is back, but
 tunnel entrances are too few and far between to serve effectively as time
savers, and it isn't until you start to hunt Animus fragments (feathers) that
you actually learn to quickly make your way around. For some reason,
it also takes pretty long to bring up the map and it quickly becomes
a chore to set a map-marker whenever you don't know which direction to take.

Of course, the history of early 16th-century Constantinople does provide a
colorful tapestry of inspiration to draw from. Unfortunately, the backdrop
of the Sultan Bayezid II's sons and their fight for succession is
underdeveloped in favor of using a remnant Byzantine faction as the
dominant Templar adversary for most of the story. It isn't until halfway
through the game that a rather unimpressive antagonist enters the fray,
and by that time you'll already have spent well over a day on taking over Dens,
defending them, doing sidequests, grabbing collectables, waiting for shops
to appear once you buy them, and playing a few story missions.

Altaïr's story missions are short but solid and offer a nice change of pace,
almost making you forget the rather boring gameplay of
the first Assassin's Creed.

Some aspects of Altaïr's missions may raise a few fans' eyebrows due to
temporal inconsistencies, but they are explained with a deus ex machina as
you approach the end of the game. Desmond's pre-
Abstergo story is told through
his own weird missions inside the Animus, unlocked by collecting enough
Animus fragments in Constantinople as Ezio. The Desmond missions are
played from a first-person perspective, but don't expect any Mirror's
Edge-style gameplay; all you can do is walk around, jump, and place
platforms to bridge distances.

The level design in these missions can symbolize Desmond's journey
in an interesting way, throwing obstacles in your path when Desmond's
early life was in turmoil or visually reflecting his past experiences if you
care to look for it. Yet on the whole these missions are a strange and
sometimes frustrating departure from the core gameplay that you play
an Assassin's Creed game for. They are still worth it for the fans who
want to know more about Desmond, but these missions completely
replace the fun Subject 16 puzzles from the previous games, and
not for the better. Subject 16 himself shares the Animus world with
Desmond's mind and he'll interact with Desmond at times, but for
some reason he is depicted as a raving lunatic with bulging eyes
whose role in the entire franchise is never properly explained until
he is unceremoniously discarded.

Revelations offers the same game as Brotherhood, but in a straitjacket and
a new coat of paint. Gameplay-wise, it's still a fun, deep experience that
any fan of the franchise will enjoy playing because it's not very different
from what you're used to; you've just already played it last year, and the
year before that. Ezio's final chapter in the franchise is a shadow of the
past two games, and you realize how sorely you miss the "real-world"
characters like Shaun when they do make an
 appearance for a few seconds.
More importantly, there are just no great characters in Revelations.
The famous Piri Reis is far from a Machiavelli or Leonardo da Vinci and
feels like a throwaway character, while Yusif,
the leader of the Brotherhood
 in Constantinople, is just not interesting enough to care about.
A female character inspired by one of Albrecht Durer's famous paintings
acts as Ezio's love interest in the autumn of his life, but even she seems
to be there just to make Ezio a little bit more human. That leaves Suleiman
I, still the young scholar during the game's time frame, as the game's
strongest support character, although his impact on Ottoman rule is
mostly lost to all but those familiar with the period's history.

However, Revelations does offer a dozen strong sequences that are
among the series' finest. When the soundtrack booms during one of
these superb and varied missions, it reminds you why you love these
games in the first place, and a mission featuring a minstrel Ezio is the best
thing you'll encounter this side of Mass Effect 2's Mordin singing Gilbert
and Sullivan. Alas, it makes it all the more painful to notice how the rest
of the single-player is simply a letdown. In fact, nearly everything about
the story mode feels rushed. This includes the gameplay additions that now
give you too many tools to ever use half of
them, the lack of quality of Ezio's
story arc and its numerous sidequests, and even the recycled NPC
animations that show Ottomans using Italian hand gestures if you
pay attention to them long enough. Revelations seems like a throwaway
title that ends up being a bridge too far.

One time Ezio is shown in a cutscene with items he isn't logically supposed to
have on him at that point in the story. Special icons for your Assassin recruits
limit the missions in Mediterranean Defense they can go on, but the items are
never explained properly. Having to sit through unskippable conversations
when restarting a memory for 100% sync can become a nightmare if you're
a completionist. Being able to recruit identical-looking Assassins makes
a cutscene with all your recruits look ridiculous. Buying a landmark
doesn't actually renovate it or change its

The list of small rough
edges goes on and on. Add to all these minor issues the larger impact
of the lack of Subject 16 puzzles and the absence of the VR mode with its
insanely competitive time trials -- despite the entire game taking place
 inside the Animus -- and it feels like there could've been a masterful
 title here if Brotherhood and Revelations were simply developed as
one game that closed the Borgia arc, the Ezio arc, and the Altaïr arc at once.

Whereas the story mode is by no means bad and still offers a decent
enough experience that is merely disappointing compared to the
 past two games, the multiplayer mode almost completely makes up
for Revelations' single-player flaws. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's
multiplayer surprised many who thought it would be a worthless
addition last year. Admittedly, it's a unique beast that can be frustrating
at times, yet rewarding like few other games if you stick with it. If you
loved the multiplayer in Brotherhood, the rebalanced and improved setup
 in Revelations alone is worth the price of admission.
New perks and abilities now need to be unlocked and then purchased with
"Abstergo Points" that are gained by playing
rounds of multiplayer. As befits
a new iteration in a series, a wealth of new modes for free-for-all and team
play has been added, and some of Brotherhood's iconic maps like Castel
Gandolfo and Venice make a return. The new Artifact Assault (a Capture
The Flag variant) is a supremely enjoyable mode when you are playing
with a good team that works together. Capture the Chest, Revelations' take
on Modern Warfare's Domination mode, makes teams alternate between d
efending and capturing three chests across the map. As chests are
captured, the area surrounding the last chest inevitably becomes a temple
of butchery where defenders and attackers vigorously strive for dominance,
only to chaotically flee in all directions once the last chest is captured and
three new chests spawn across the map. Escort has you protecting VIPs
from a rival team as they make their way through checkpoints, and you
can imagine how tense that can be with enemies potentially lurking in the
shadows at every turn. Most other new modes are welcome variations on
Wanted, the main free-for-all hunt-and-be-hunted mode, and each provides
a unique vibe and feeling of tension.

The multiplayer menu UI has been improved to quickly allow navigation of
the ability menus with the press of a bumper
 button, while friends' high scores

are always in your face and give you "dares" that taunt you to improve
on their scores in one of the many modes. Ability sets can now selected in-
game while you spawn, a most welcome addition. Some troll favorites like the
smoke bomb are now further down the line of unlocks, while Templar vision
 is somewhat easier to obtain early on. A fearsome option to craft your own
abilities awaits you at level 30, as does the option to reach level 99
 Prestige for those of you who need a virtual badge to rationalize the
amount of time you have lost to multiplayer. The level of customization
is huge, with everything down to different parts of a Templar's outfit,
weapons, and stun animation offering tailoring to your taste.

A lot of work has evidently gone into balancing as well. Challenges
no longer lead to overpowered abilities but simply give you XP. The
old "I totally stunned him/I totally killed him" stun vs. kill dilemma has
been addressed with the Honorable Death system; you can score some
points if you try to stun one of your attackers who is simultaneously
going for the kill, which kills you but also lowers their score in the process.
This makes aggressive stuns less effective than before, and you can't stun
people over and over again. Whether or not you will miss annoying people
 with stuns (there is "The Stunner" title to make
 up for it), it's a good solution

to the problem of not knowing when a stun or kill animation takes primacy
when both players are mashing their respective buttons, in a way that leaves
both parties at a score disadvantage. Moreover, progressing in multiplayer
unlocks videos and texts that document the rise of the Order that once became
Templars and currently hides behind Abstergo Industries -- a fun story
addition that gives solo players an extra reason to try out multiplayer.

Ubisoft Annecy truly deserves a lot of credit
for improving on Brotherhood's
multiplayer by such lengths that Revelations' highest praise is reserved for the
 multiplayer mode of a traditionally single-player franchise. If you are not big on
multiplayer, however, you might not care for the balance of quality between
 the solo and online components.

Revelations is the Janus of Assassin's Creed. One head looks to the past
titles and tries to improve on the single-player aspect while wrapping up
the story of Ezio and Altaïr, not quite succeeding in improving the gameplay
and at the cost of the story's quality. The other looks to the future and
succeeds at delivering one of the finest multiplayer games you can find this
season. It's simultaneously a transition towards next year's big new title and a
closure of not just what happened to Those Who Came Before, but the two
 iconic Assassins that came before. Given how much it does right and how
much it disappoints, I can't help but feel that most of Ubisoft's attention
has gone to next year's Assassin's Creed title.

You need to be a die-hard Assassin's Creed fanboy to be blind to the
apparent flaws in this latest semi-sequel, but that doesn't mean Revelations is
a mediocre game or even a mediocre package; it just won't be good enough
for most fans. Brotherhood already showed a small but noticeable decline in
quality compared to Assassin's Creed II, but it
still had plenty of good moments

and offered better gameplay than its predecessor. Revelations shows a
further decline and simply doesn't add enough in terms of gameplay to make
up for the unfocused and disappointing story. You'll get some answers
but they don't give you anything you couldn't have lived without. That is,
apart from the traditional "WTF" ending, which, thankfully, doesn't disappoint.

As much as Assassin's Creed: Revelations is a testament to the inevitable
cost of trying to milk your franchise too much, too fast, it is still a fun
game that gives you the single-player gameplay you've come to know and l
ove, but sadly offers little more on that front. A few months after you finish it
Revelations will be that game that had better make Assassin's Creed III
worth the price Ubisoft has had to pay to release both titles on schedule,
but the main reason you will remember it at all is because you will have
the disc in your tray for the masterful multiplayer.
Requiescat in pace, Ezio.

Final Verdict:
Very Good: 7s are well-above average games that definitely have an enthusiastic audience within their *genre*. Some might lack replay value, could be too short, or has are some hard-to-ignore faults. Nevertheless, the experience is still very fun.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations


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