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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Developer(s): Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sandbox
Release Date:
PS3, 360
November 15, 2011 (INT’L)
PC
December 2,  2011 (INT’L)
Rating: M
MSRP: $59.99

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations continues the story of Ezio, our insanely lovable Italian assassin whose travels in discovering what the Creed was written for has brought him to Constantinople. The city is in the midst of an uprising: the Ottoman Empire is making its stand against the Templars. Nearby, in Masyaf, Ezio discovers that Altair has hidden an weapon that could end the war between the Templars and the Assassins for good. The weapon is locked in a fortress underneath the old Assassin’s hideout by six Masyaf keys, which each hold a memory of Altair.

Desmond, on the other hand,  is now trapped within the Animus since his last encounter, and is fighting to retain a separation from his ancestors’ memories, and his own personality. Desmond’s subconscious currently resides in ‘The Black Room’ a sort of safe room that allows Desmond to find the missing memory that links all three of his, Ezio and Altair’s memories together. Should he fail, his subconscious will not be able to tell the difference between himself and his ancestors, and he will become trapped within the Animus forever, facing the same fate that Subject 16 had.

The Assassin’s Creed series has been one of a kind since the original, and one has a hard time thinking how each and every game can bring something new to the table when the formula remains mostly unchanged. This has been both the skill, and the talent that the Ubisoft team has been able to bring. In our newest adventure, very little has changed gameplay wise. Ezio has traveled to Constantine, a beautiful, thriving city located in the Middle East. In a huge, open world environment, Ezio has the privilege to travel to almost the entire city from the very beginning. He is able to take on missions and sub-quests by speaking to key people within the city, and of course, there are many other people who walk and exist within the world. The city is simply beautiful, and can be noted on top of one of the various viewpoints, a feature that has made a return once more.

Some of the new features that add yet another element of strategy within the game are the hookblade and the ability to craft various types of bombs. The hookblade now replaces the right handed hidden blade, yet still functions as a second hidden blade. The hook on the end of it now allows Ezio to slide across zip lines, climb buildings at a much more rapid rate, and even grab onto objects that were slightly out of his reach. The hookblade also serves as a new way to escape, divert and otherwise outmaneuver his opponents, and makes the game feel much faster than it’s predecessors.

The bomb crafting is another feature that brought some interesting mechanics into play. Bombs come in three categories: Lethal, Tactical and Diversion. Lethal bombs are just as they sound, and will typically incapacitate a guard. These range from having shrapnel inside of them, to poison cloud bombs. Tactical bombs are generally used for a quick escape route, or something to slow down your pursuers. These range from typical smoke bombs to caltrops. Lastly, the Diversion bombs are used to draw the guards’ attention away from where you wish to be. Within these three categories, there are different shell types (how the bomb explodes on impact), gunpowder (the radius of the explosion) and the filling (what type of effect the bomb will have). This was easily one of the most fun ways to experiment with completing the missions within the game.

One last new feature that was added was the ‘tower defense’ style mini-game. Similar to Brotherhood, each district is initially owned by the Templars, which must be assassinated to take over. Once killed, Ezio may climb to the top, light the signal fire, which allows the Assassin’s to make it a den, and allow Ezio to recruit two more assassin recruits. The Templar Awareness meter has made a return, however this time there are more consequences. If you are in a fully aware state and you do something wrong, one of your Assassin’s Dens fall into a ‘contested’ state. When that happens, Ezio is placed into a tower defense style game, where the object is to stop the Templars from overrunning the den. Succeed, and the den is safe. Fail, and the den returns to the templars, you lose all income from any buildings within that district, and Ezio must assassinate the new Templar captain in order to take it back.

The overall gameplay of AC:R stayed the same; the player can either blitz through the main story, or take their time doing all of the side missions and such. The removal of multiple faction missions has now been replaced by two separate side missions: Sofia’s missions, which allow you to experience more of Altair’s story, and the Desmond missions which can only be accessed by collecting the Animus Fragments. These missions tell the story of Desmond before he was first picked up by Abstergo in the first game, and really capture his emotions well. As mentioned above, the den capturing has made a return with a small twist, as well as faction objectives. There are plenty more apprentice missions (now called Mediterranean Defense) within the story, but those have also been changed around to allow the assassin’s to have ‘control’ over the various cities, and give you benefits to restoring them to their former glory.

Lastly, the multiplayer has been revamped allowing for a more seamless play. There have been a few new game modes added in, as well as a few features here and there to make things feel fresh, but I personally was impressed with the first multiplayer game in Brotherhood, and couldn’t even fathom how they could make a single player game like that into a multiplayer expedition. Having this mode in Revelations only made common sense. Most may remember the awful load times and ‘Searching for other Abstergo players’ message that repeated over and over. I am happy to announce that is no longer the case.

If you sit down and blitz through the storyline, there will be a lot of things that are missing for your experience, and I feel that you will ultimately be unsatisfied by the game. Part of what makes this storyline so brilliant is the addition of the backstory behind Desmond as well as some missing parts to Altair and his connection with Ezio (aside from DNA, of course). The small additions and refinements to the system were enough for me to truly look at the game and see yet another solid title in an already wonderful series. There are a few things I can do without, such as collecting yet another 100 objects from an open world (the Animus fragments I mentioned above), as well as the den defense, which becomes incredibly difficult after the first mission.

I did raise an eyebrow though, when I found out that if you train your apprentices to the level of Master Assassin (which is now level 15, raised from level 10), the dens can no longer be attacked. This is a bit odd, considering if all of your dens can no longer be attacked, why even bother with adding the mini game in the first place? Still, the small quirks like this do nothing to the actual game itself, as I still would back this game as a solid addition to the story. I am still having a hard time justifying purchasing all of the buildings within each district (referring mostly to the landmarks) as once you get so far, the additional income really doesn’t mean much at all.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations does not feel like it’s milking the franchise. When I pick up each title, I feel rewarded with new content, updated features, and some new treats to keep me drooling for the next title. I would warn, however, if the overall game play features and slightly repetitive nature bore you, you may be cautious around this one. There is only so much that a company can do with this IP, and while I give them credit for what they’ve done, it’s certainly not perfect. If you are a fan of the series, or have been drawn into the story much like I have, then you’ll find that Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a beautiful addition in this already beautiful series.

Likes:
+Hookblade speeds up climb process
+Multiplayer has been revamped
+Bombs add to the stragegy

Dislikes:
-Hookblade loses its appeal quickly
-Small features don’t remedy the repetition
-Some of the new features are rendered useless from other new features

Innovative:
~Desmond missions add a new storytelling element
~The hookblade is fun and creative
~Tower Defense type mini-game

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Assassin’s Creed – Ubisoft – 360

(This review was written for RPGamer in an attempt to apply for their open reviewer position. This is the reason for the odd format that is clearly different than the rest of this blog.)

Title of Review: Assassin’s Creed
By: Peter XXXXXX

REVIEW
Intro:

Assassin’s Creed (AC) is one of those games that when you first pick up and play it, you know you’ve got yourself a piece of history in your hands. When it comes to originality in the gaming world, it’s very hard to find something that is so completely new and refreshing, that it simply knocks your socks off and puts a brand new pair back on. AC does just that. You are Desmond Miles, a seemingly captive individual inside a facility by the name of Abstergo. Inside, Warren Vidic and Lucy are standing next to a large table, beckoning you to lie down inside the machine. The machine extracts memory glitches from your DNA of a past life you once were. Basically, it allows the individual to relive memories of one’s earlier descendents. Enter the game’s main protagonist, and who you will be playing as 95% of the time, Altiar, a used-to-be high ranked assassin within the Hashshashin living in Masyaf. His master, Al Mualim, has stripped Altiar of all of his high ranked privileges, and it is up to you to earn them back. This is done by assassinating a few powerful officials amongst the land whose motives in life can be questioned greatly. With the ground rules set, and your objective in mind, you pick up your blade, and off you go, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, blending in with the crowd to perform your duties as promised.

Battle System:
While nothing to be completely ‘wowed’ about, AC takes a decent system and implements it well. Breaking the system down into two modes is probably the easiest way to go about it: stealth and open conflict.

While stealthy, controls are fluid. You have complete control over where Altiar’s blade goes, and with good reason. You can assassinate anyone moving and quickly move away without ever being detected. The assassinations can be done in a number of ways, from various angles and distances. The choice is yours. While fun to do, there’s not too much that can be said in the way of excitement. You’ll come to find that while the real challenge lies in trying to remain undetected, you may end up having an easier time just beating your enemies to death with swords. You’ll tend to find the main set of missions (and even some of the side missions) get really repetitive as time goes on.

In open conflict, the camera conveniently moves up to a ¾ view and gives you a very good look at what is going on. Nine times out of ten, you will be out numbered, and in the beginning of the game, this can be tedious and frustrating until you learn a specific move later in the game. You can easily switch your target simply by moving your controller stick towards the opponent you wish to fight. It’s simple, but it works really well for what you’re doing

Music and Visuals:
One of the things I noticed right off the bat was how awesome your locale looked. You felt like you were in the Middle East. I played this game on a 32” (1080p) with HDMI and the visuals were breathtaking. From every building to the people roaming around, each tree and face was taken into consideration. To put short, the location is believable.

The music was something that when you first start playing, you don’t notice it right away. In fact, it rarely plays a part in the game. However, if you listen closely you’ll notice that all of the music does fit in well with the rest of the game. The snake-charming flutes and the drums go well with the bustling town that you’re walking through. The only time I ever noticed the music getting loud was when there was absolutely nothing going on, and you were roaming the city.

Difficulty and Completion Time:
The game has its own variable difficulty, starting off relatively easy, and gradually getting harder as you progress through the game and unlock more ways to assassinate your targets. I never felt so overwhelmed while playing that I wanted to quit. On my first play through, while achievement hunting and the like, I got through the game in about 25 to 30 hours of game play. That isn’t bad, considering how many achievements I got. The game does get tedious at points, especially if you’re looking to complete all of the memory strands, and you can feel yourself grow weary of the formula. Taking it for what it is (the first entry in a continuing series), you can find it’s enough to push through. Give me this game before the sequels were out, however, and I may have become a bit bored with it.

Interface and Localization:
The interface is very clean, and fitting for the setting of the game. Your health bar is located neatly in the top left of the screen, your current weapon selection in the bottom left (this vanishes away when you aren’t utilizing it), and a mini-radar in the lower right, showing you all of your destinations and such. At any point you may hit the back button to bring up the large map and set ‘waypoints’ for yourself, which will appear on the mini-map as well. Overall, the integration of the interface is well done, providing you with the information you need, when you need it, without interference to your playability.

Originality and Story:
Hands down, the game is unique in every sense of the word. I’ve never played a game quite like it, and you’ll not find a game much like it. The story is well done, giving you a well etched timeline of Altiar’s life from the assassin’s side of things, while leaving you confounded throughout most of the game as to what role Lucy and Warren play in the story. This unfolds as you progress further into what becomes one of the most engrossing games you’ve ever played. The worst part about it all is that you don’t even get the entire story when you beat it! You’re left dazed and confused, trying to sort through the puzzle you’ve just opened up for yourself. To me, that’s what makes it all the more wonderful. A game that can leave off with such an awesome cliffhanger, and still be good, is truly an amazing feat, and one you don’t see often anymore, if much at all. Best of all, is that it isn’t a cookie cutter story of hero saves the day, or rescue the princess, but a true-blue once told story.

Conclusion:
While you may find that the game can get repetitive after the third or fourth memory glitch, that doesn’t stop Assassin’s Creed from being a great addition to your game library. Little peeves like not being able to swim, and not having much variety in your assassination missions are just small under sights to the big picture. This game ultimately sets up the story for one of the most epic story’s I’ve seen in a game since the last solid Final Fantasy game. Assassin’s Creed opened up a can of worms, and finished them all. For the first go around in the series, you cannot put Ubisoft Montreal’s efforts down the drain just yet. This game is definitely worth borrowing from a friend, if not owning your own copy.

FAST FACTS
Platform: X-Box 360
Battlesystem: 4/5
Interaction: 3.5/5
Originality:5/5
Story: 3.5/5
Music and Sound: 5/5
Visuals: 5/5
Challenge: Moderate to Hard
Completion Time: Roughly 25 to 30 hours

Overall
3.5 / 5

Highlights and Lowlights
+Original and refreshing storyline.
+Life the live of an assassin? Yes please!
+Fluid movement and battle mechanics.
-Lots of collecting little things.
-Repetitive after the fourth mission.
-You can’t swim… really?

(Rating: 7.0 / 10.0)