Crossing the Steams 11.3.12: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I chose Assassin’s Creed: Revelations this week due to Assassin’s Creed 3 being released. While AC2 and Brotherhood were dramatic steps above the first AC game, Revelations falters a bit. It adds a few new game systems, and “improvements” (debatable, really), but there is a real fatigue that pervades this game. It kind of matches Ezio’s “I’m getting too old for this shit” mentality that he has in the game. However, there are a *lot* of mis-steps in this game which really knocks it down.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the culmination of the Ezio storyline within the AC universe. Ezio is older now (by a fairly large degree) and that does come across. He still moves the same as before, and has a few new moves to utilize. In the opening cinematic, he tries to storm a Templar stronghold and his right hidden blade gets broken. You get a replacement blade though, the “Hookblade”, which is a combination Hidden Blade, and Crowbar. It has both offensive and locomotive properties. You can sweep a foe’s legs with it, but it never feels important to do so. The locomotive stuff, able to get around slightly faster, making a long jump on the various mini-chandlers, use it to “hook and run” (jumping over an enemy to not fight him), and so on. However, none of it seems right. The hook and run, and the sweep a foe parts never really worked right for me. There was just never any instance (outside of the tutorial mission) to use these two moves. The movement stuff works a little better, particularly the long jump on a hanging-lantern, but that’s it. You could do things in AC2 and AC:B with the right gear/skills to jump higher and such. It was annoying that they removed that skill in AC2 (but you do get it back). In this game, they remove it again, and kind of shunt it to the hookblade but it isn’t necessary. You can get around faster in the game world with it, but it’s a inconsequential upgrade.
The other big “improvement” to this game is that of the bomb-crafting system. Early in the game, you’re given the knowledge on how to make bombs, and….yeah. It’s an interesting system but it never feels organic. You need three components to make a bomb: a shell, an explosive powder, and then a reagent for the powder to interact with. You also have three different bomb classes, lethal, tactical, and diversion. You can have different shell casings (3 to choose from), different powders (3 again), and three reagents to choose from. The reagents also differ from class to class, so you won’t see a shrapnel reagent for the diversionary bomb. There appears to be a decent amount of complexity with this system but it’s never really used. I went through about 90% of the game just using the biggest lethal bomb I could, and rarely ever used a distraction or tactical bomb. There were some missions that had an optional objective of “Distract the guard with a Cherry Bomb”, for example, but that’s it. And once the mission is over, you can just swap out that bomb for the old bomb you are comfortable with.
There are a few good and bad improvements to the overall world/structure of the game that are a bit brief, but should be talked about. For one, you don’t collect any raw materials like you did in Brotherhood. In Brotherhood, to unlock a shop quest, you had to get a set number of random materials and pay it up. This game doesn’t have that, and it’s good for it. The flipside is there’s almost zero reason to find chests. All you ever find in them now is bomb parts, which are already fairly plentiful around the world. And this game has an over-abundance of chests, dwarfing the previous two games, combined.
The weapon wheel is now split into two wheels, left for your primary weapon, and right for your secondary one. It gives the sense that you have more options, but that’s because each bomb class takes a spot on the secondary wheel. If you removed those 3 items, the wheel would just be the same from Brotherhood. Once again, go for the Crossbow early on, and you will dominate.
The notoriety system took a bit of a hit. In the prior games, you could remove posters for 25%, bribing heralds was 50%, and assassinating an official was 75% notoriety removal. In this game, they removed the posters entirely, so you only can use heralds (now at 25%) or killing an official (now at 50%). It feels like a step backward, because it is. Posters were easy and fun to rip down, and there were a lot of them. There aren’t a lot of heralds in Constantinople, and less of any officials wandering around.
Assassin guild maintenance is probably the last notable change the game makes. In the last game, you got your 12 assassin’s and that was it. They had a level cap of 10, and only were swapped out if they died on a mission, or on the field. In this game, you still have 12 slots for assassin’s, but once they reach level 10, you can just send them off somewhere. In the mission screen, you can send your trained up assassin to that location to have them earn more for the movement. It feeds into this whole “Templar vs. Assassin control” metric they try and have, but none if it matters at all. It’s just numbers on a map, and seems like it’s from a different game. There is also the tower defense part of the game (tied somewhat into this system), where if the Templar get too powerful, they can actually retake one of your Assassin’s dens back, and you have to fight for it. You can defend the den with the tower defense stuff, building walls, placing archers and so on, to kill Templar, and gain more points. Quite honestly, I only ever did once (as part of the story), and forgot about it, entirely. I never had any of my den’s come close to be lost, or even attacked. And even if they were, I’d rather just let the Templar retake it, which would mean I have to hunt the captain down again.
They also changed the Eagle Vision button from Y, to the L3 button, and put a type of cursor on the screen when you use it. And yes, it is pretty dumb.
The big change for the Desmond stuff is that you’re now on “Animus Island”. What this means, in practicality, is that it’s a closed-off place that feels artificially locked out. You can do 5 first person (you read that right) missions as you progress through Ezio’s story, collecting the random “Animus Data Fragments” which unlock these levels. In these events, you basically play as Desmond’s mind, and you have to navigate various puzzle rooms, avoiding lasers, or evil walls, and such to get to the end. You have two main powers in these parts, one is to create a 4 square bridge, and the other is to create a 45 degree ramp for you to walk up. If they had only done it one or two times, it would’ve been neat. But they do it 5 times (and 7 for a DLC campaign) which is complete overkill. You do get a few tidbits about Desmond’s history, but it’s so immaterial to what is going on, as to be kind of laughable.
Graphically, the game is decent enough, but has a few issues. The world of Constantinople is a bit confusing at points, where some things aren’t displayed well. There are a few good effects when you transition in and out of scenes, but they don’t appear that often. The game world is also weirdly dark at times; something that you may have to mess with the contrast to see what is going on. Other than that, the game looks solid enough but it isn’t as stunning or imaginative as the prior games.
The audio similarly has a bit of a “eh, it’s been done” feel from it. The music is a bit more subdued, but occasionally the classic tracks (from the older games) pipe in. Sound effects are about as standard as you can imagine, for this series. The voice work is again solid, with Roger Craig Smith probably being the stand out. It’s through his work that you get the sense that Ezio is getting older. Literally, *he* is the reason that Ezio’s story works at all in this game.
The game runs fine, and didn’t have any huge issues on my PC, but is a bit buggy. The AC games are never technical marvels, but the prior ones usually didn’t have any gross problems. One noted problem is some collision detection, with a guard walking through a roof. I wasn’t able to kill him, except for when he got into one spot. There were a few other problems I had, just with clipping around the environment and such. It again uses Uplay, so take that for what you will. Ubisoft *did* patch the launcher, so now that Brotherhood correctly launches its multiplayer part. Once again, gamepad support is in there (and is really required).
There is the standard compliment to try and keep you enticed into playing the game, but it feels uninspired. They have more stuff for the multiplayer mode, but it doesn’t feel as impressive as in Brotherhood. There is the standard compliment of other AC things to do, building up your guild, doing side missions and so on, but none of it feels important.
Sequel Fatigue definitely set in with this release. While Revelations is solid enough, there is almost nothing to differentiate it from the prior two games, and is actually a bit worse. From the semi-worthless upgrades, the bomb-making stuff which is never important, and to the first person gameplay which borders on the unplayable, there isn’t a lot to offer within this game. If you have an obsessive need to play every AC game possible, then by all means, go for it. However, if you only like the important games, just play AC2, and AC:B and you can then move onto AC3. You would be better off going that route, instead.
Graphics — 8.0 The game is a bit too dark, and the nooks and crannies aren’t different enough to see where you’re going. Some of Ezio’s costumes are nicely detailed, though.
Gameplay — 6.5 Forgettable upgrades that aren’t used well in the game. Stabbing people is still fun, but with 3 games in, it gets repetitive after a while.
Sound — 7.0 Déjà vu, much? The music is solid but not that memorable. The sound effects are the same as ever. The voice acting saves the game though.
Ease of Installation/Playing — 7.5 It still uses Ubisoft’s Uplay thing, but it isn’t that problematic. The game has some underlying bugs though that can be awkward.
Replayability — 6.5 It has the same compliment as Brotherhood, but with only minimal upgrades (if that). You’ll get bored long before you finish the game.
Overall — 7.1 (exact), which I’ll round down to 7.0
Other Steam News
The only announced game for release is Sine Mora which is due on the 9th. I actually reviewed the 360 version, and found it decent enough but unspectacular. Plus the animal rape stuff in it was fairly creepy. Next week I shall look at one of the worst PC ports ever, Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition.