Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Review

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal / Publisher: Ubisoft / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Violence]

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been one of the more surprising of this generation. From its social stealth and parkour mechanics, to the times and places it visits, there’s nothing else like it on the market. It’s even made the jump from a traditional development cycle to an annual one, starting with last year’s Brotherhood. There were concerns that this would cheapen the series, but Brotherhood once again defied expectations by being an amazing single-player game and introduced AC’s first multiplayer experience. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations aims to beat the “once-a-year” curse, while at the same time expanding on everything the series has done before. It’s a tall order. So have the teams at Ubisoft studios around the world pulled it off, or did this title miss its leap of faith?

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Story

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations picks up right where Brotherhood left off, which means that modern-day assassin Desmond Miles is in a coma, but still attached to the memory-surfing Animus. He therefore gets to live in a digital representation of his subconscious, while still reliving the latter years of his Renaissance-era ancestor, Ezio Auditore, in Istanbul, who is himself reliving the memories of the Crusade-era Altair. It’s a pretty convoluted set-up, and sadly, that confusion permeates every aspect of this game.

The strength of AC’s writing has always been its great characters and strong dialogue, most notably Ezio himself. Unfortunately, this time around the characters are all pretty bland, Ezio included, and the dialogue is wincingly painful at times. Everyone has a single note that they play: the Turkish assassin is Exposition Man, the lady is Obvious Love Interest, and the bad guy is… well, you actually don’t even know who the bad guy is until the end of the game.

And that’s another problem: you almost never know why you’re doing what you’re doing. There’s no context. Since the identity of the bad guy is supposed to be a mystery, you don’t really know who you’re fighting, you don’t know what they’re after, and you don’t understand how the different missions relate to one another. One minute you’re helping gypsies for no apparent reason, the next searching for books for no apparent reason. It all ends up being a bit of a mess, a bunch of random assignments that are there “just because.” They’re not always interesting, either; one mission literally has you tailing a florist to discover the source of his flowers, so you can pick them yourself for your lady. Yes, really. I understand this is meant to be a quiet moment in the life of a violent man, but come on! This series is about an epic war between freedom and tyranny, and this game has me picking flowers. Not to mention playing a lute to distract people. Yes, really.

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Fortunately, everything picks up once the bad guy is finally revealed, because now you have an actual story with stakes involved. Unfortunately, this is the last hour of the surprisingly short 8-12 hour campaign. Still, in that last hour you get some great moments, including the kind of philosophical debates between the bad and good guys that we haven’t seen since the first game in the series. The ending cutscene is also another mindblowing sequence, and is a fitting conclusion for both Ezio and Altair.

Oh yeah, Altair! He’s in this game too. I almost forgot. Through the course of the game, he appears in five very brief sequences that are interesting from a lore perspective, but are completely irrelevant to the main plot, or anyone who hasn’t played the first game in the series. But at least he doesn’t have an American accent this time.

As a matter of fact, if you haven’t been playing Assassin’s Creed from the first, you’re going to be lost here. The game simply assumes you know everything that’s happened already, remember it all perfectly, and want to know more about it. If that doesn’t describe you, prepare for some confusion, on top of the confusing plot. All in all, it’s a sad way to say goodbye to both of these great characters, since Ubisoft has promised they will not return again.

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Gameplay

Like with the story, Revelations has more mechanics than it really knows what to do with, and assumes you remember them all from previous games. A large number of mini-games have come back, been expanded upon, and then practically ignored by the narrative. You can still recruit assassins and send them on missions around Europe, but I would forgive you if you missed that entirely. It’s not a part of the story the way it was in Brotherhood, and it has no impact on gameplay.

You can still destroy Templar towers and make them Assassin dens. In fact, you can now install a fully leveled-up assassin as a den leader, which does… actually, having played the game I don’t really know what it does. But you can do it! These dens can then be attacked by Templars, which you can defend against in a tower defense mini-game where you’re literally defending a tower. And you’ll want to do this because… actually, I’ve played the game and I don’t why you’d want to do it. But it’s there!

You can still renovate stores around the city of Istanbul. While the city itself is gorgeous and the fashion and architecture are a nice change of pace from Italy, renovating the city has no visual impact on it. Combat has been so simplified that there’s really no need to buy new equipment or even medicine packs. This was a bit of a complaint in earlier games as well, but it’s really apparent this time around. Basically, if you hit the attack button a bunch and remember to counter, you will win every fight easily.

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In the rare instance when you have some trouble, like when you’re fighting a Janissary guard, just throw a bomb at him and be done with it. Bomb-crafting is another new mechanic, allowing Ezio to create any one of a number of explosives, from lethal to distracting to obscuring. Hardcore crafters out there will probably love combing all the different ingredients into ever-more exotic creations, but from a pure gameplay standpoint, all you need are a few basics. One for killing guards, one for distracting them, and you’re pretty much set for the whole game.

The best two features of this game are the parkour-only dungeons, and the brand-new first-person puzzles. The parkour dungeons are much like they were in earlier games, but with a bonus sprinkling of Uncharted-like camerawork and dynamism. They’re well built, fun, varied, and really pull you in. The first-person puzzles are unlocked by finding Animus fragments throughout Istanbul, but are accessed from Desmond’s digital subconscious. This is really where Desmond’s side of the story comes into play. The puzzles themselves are wild, abstract constructs that you navigate by creating basic geometric shapes your disembodied mind can walk across. Yes, really. It’s totally insane and totally unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I loved them. I just wish more of the game felt like that.

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Multiplayer

Multiplayer is back in Revelations, once again putting you in the role of an up-and-coming Templar training to be the best bad guy. Fundamentally, the multiplayer still does a great job of evolving the single-player experience of stealth assassinations to online. Revelations ships with more than the last game, which will hopefully make for a more varied experience this time around. Modes like Deathmatch make for more fast-paced and intense rounds, since the maps are smaller than in other modes and it is much easier for the enemy to detect you. There are also more tactical experiences like Escort, in which the defending team must protect an NPC from the attacking team. Perks and persistent unlocks are also back, with deeper options than before. It’s still a completely original approach to multiplayer and a welcome breath of fresh air.

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Bottom Line

Revelations very much feels to me like a team checking off items from a list. Ezio, Altair, and Desmond are here; there’s parkour; there’s combat; there’s a bad guy, eventually; there are puzzles; there’s a big beautiful world to explore. The problem is, they never seem to cohere into a single experience, and the kind of passion and quality that has made this series so good in the past is missing. Most of the gameplay is so optional that you might well forget that it’s there, and good luck figuring out how your missions relate to the core plot. The multiplayer is still fun, fresh, and different, and should add good replay value. But in the end, the game feels more like it’s trying to be fan service than an actual game, giving us the end of Ezio and Altair and not much else.

Assassin’s Creed is a great franchise; Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is not a great game.

7 / 10

  1. Great review,it sets expectations and presents itself and the game perfectly.
    Also Nick you’re obviously using a different set up for this review than the one you use for All Your History :D
    Also I think this is less of a review rather than a critique towards the game,is that necessarily bad?I don’t think so,the industry needs more critics rather than reveiwers.Also while I do check the scores I always,always read the bottom lines if I want a quick summary.Our score system is very flawed,I think even more so than movies.

  2. If it’s Brotherhood + extra’s, I’m good. I didn’t expect a full new game, like I didn’t with Brotherhood.

  3. I feel that you have made some very valid points, and I’m glad I switched my pre-order to Saints Row two days ago.

  4. I don’t see why the video is getting so much hate, he backs up all his points. The game had a lot to live up to and it fell short. I’m sure it’s still a good game, just not as good as Brotherhood or II.

  5. then again its your opinion, so all i have to say ism that AC:R brings more to the table then the past games did… i give it 8.5

  6. This game plot was the simplest one from the franchise. How could you not understand it? I mean, if you payed attention to the game… you will understand what you were doing. Yes, the game held a mistery until the end(like “who is the templar in the sultan’s family”)… but how a mistery would be bad for the plot?

    I think I can understand why you think that… I mean, from someone who prefer Saints Row… which is fun, but a stupid game… what would I expect you to think then?

    I’ll be honest. I’m quite sad with the ending. The plot writers were not so convincing… and contradicts with some things we saw in Brotherhood(like “The Truth” video).

    But the story and missions were so immersive… that if it wasn’t so short… I would say it would be the best on the franchise.

    Sorry for my bad english. But I think you will get it.

  7. I feel that if this game was a brand new IP with the same type of flaws it would have gotten a higher score. It was because this game was an Assassin’s Creed game with these flaws that it got a lower score.

  8. its just one opinion. i dont know nick werner and i dont give a fuck who he is or what he thinks. you could just aswell be angry at a random guy on the street when he says that AC:R is bad. you wont care. because its posted on machinima its suddenly a big deal.
    I say that Kabelas new game is a 0.5 out of 100. i expect the 5 people who bought it to start a riot and threaten me with violence if i dont think like them.

  9. Well, I guess he’s got a few good points. It was very obvious who the love interest was. I had no idea why I had gone out to pick flowers, or why I was going after books. I proffered buying art over books. At least with art you could look at it; you can’t read the books you buy. And I didn’t care for how little Altair time their was. But I loved how the game ended, and the hookblade! There’s no way I can play these games without one now.

    As far as Desmond’s story goes, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting some free-running adventures through the animus, not all the weird 1st person, invisible body stuff.

    Over-all, I think that the good stuff is no excuse for the bad stuff, and the bad stuff doesn’t hamper down any of the good stuff. All-in-all, a good game.

  10. Whoever wrote this review was clearly not paying attention to the game… Although yes some characters are bland; the whole reliving memories through Desmond and Ezio makes perfect sense…

  11. I thought this was a great review and after completing the game completely agree with everything that is said. With the standards set so high from he previous games perhaps this was inevitable. Felt more like a companion piece than a full game (and as such should be cheaper)

    @ gabriel No one said they didn’t understand the plot. The problem is that it doesn’t become apparent that there is a plot until near the end of the game so there is no larger context and motivation for the earlier missions.

    I love the addition of the stalkers. Very nice touch and I hope they keep it.
    I would have liked to have seen Subject 16 get more time and dialogue with Desmond as his appearance is a little too brief to add value to the story.
    I was very surprised there were so few faction missions. Hopefully there will be lots of (free) downloadable content to expand on this.
    One other thing. Apparently there are lots of random unmarked missions throughout the city…. I have not seen them yet… but I guess I had better keep looking.

    All said I still cannot wait for the next installment.

    btw – @ubisoft you have created lots of multiplayer maps in brotherhood and revelations… why not use them as memory locations for a further expanded Mediterranean Defense which includes playable missions?

  12. I agree somewhat to your argument. The part I dont agree with is when you gave examples to parts of the game that you dont understand why you are doing. I completed the game and I understood why I was doing everything I was doing. Even the examples you gave like collecting books, though I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, were important and you were clearly informed why. Good review overall, however you made the game seem much more horrifying than it really is. Though AC2 and brotherhood were somewhat better it was still very enjoyable and couldn’t get myself off the couch. I would give it at least 8.5 out of 10.

  13. Thank for your review now I know not to get the game.

  14. Fun and beautiful on my PC. BUT, too short and far to easy. Took just 3-4 days. Not worth the money.

  15. Wow, this is one of the worst reviews I have ever had the displeasure of reading. I just finished playing AC:R and was surfing around online when to see if anyone else was complaining about how easy this game was when I stumbled across this travesty of an article. Not ONCE during this game did I ever not know what was going on, nor could I understand being confused about the unless this was your first AC game. Of course, if anyone is dumb enough to jump straight into AC:R (the 4th of the series) or something like Star Wars: A New Hope or LoTR: Return of the King that was your decision to start at the end of the series not the gamemakers.

    First off, THE BAD GUYS ARE THE TEMPLARS. I don’t know if you are mentally challenged or just plain retarded but the entire series you have been fighting the Templars. Who cares if its Leader A or B in charge of them (not to mention the first time the “bad leader” came on the screen it was obvious who was going to be the evil guy). You’re fighting a Illuminati type organization there’s always going to be someone who can step up to carry on the cause. Secondly, only an idiot wouldn’t be able to follow the plot. You are searching for the Masyaf keys to find whatever Altair hid. How is that hard? You completely misrepresented this game so many times.

    One example, Your quote:
    “Yes, really. I understand this is meant to be a quiet moment in the life of a violent man, but come on! This series is about an epic war between freedom and tyranny, and this game has me picking flowers. Not to mention playing a lute to distract people. Yes, really.”

    There are only 2 quests where you have to run super quick very simple missions to grab something for the girl (one painting which was stolen and one bunch of flowers) to repay her for helping you find where the Masyaf keys are. And really? All you could mention about the lute part was “playing a lute to distract people”. What he really should have said was:

    There’s one mission where you sneak into the palace, knock out some minstrels and assume there identity so you can infiltrate a party with your fellow assassins. The Templars have also infiltrated the party and there are Templar assassins waiting to kill the Shehazade (prince). While you use your lute to distract the party-goers with your bawdy lute songs your fellow assassins neutralize the Templar assassins and dispose of their bodies ALL IN THE MIDST OF THE PARTY GOING ON.

    tl;dr Whoever wrote this review is waste of space who clearly couldn’t follow the very simple plot of this game and misrepresented many situations.

    My single biggest complaint about the game was just how easy it was. Between the counter kills, summoning assassins/arrow storm, bombs (esp datura and sharpnel bombs), and instant health medicine (i.e. “potions”) you will never die in combat unless you are ultimate noob status.

  16. Con’t from above:

    Sorry but I read this sentence and it just made me rage so hard.

    Authors quote:
    In fact, you can now install a fully leveled-up assassin as a den leader, which does… actually, having played the game I don’t really know what it does.

    >mfw I read this
    NADSJNDSNJKSADDNJKAhsdhjkhjksddjks

    ARE YOU BLIND, DUMB, OR STUPID?? SERIOUSLY HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW THAT GETTING THEM TO MASTER ASSASSINS MEANS THEY WILL PREVENT THE TEMPLARS FROM ATTEMPTING TO RECAPTURE THE DENS THAT YOU CAPTURED

    Seriously, if you’re the same Nicholas Werner who makes those horribly horribly bad machinima videos and you think of yourself as an artist, you are a joke. You make horrible crap like that and then misrepresent something that is so far above your creative level it is not even funny. What a joke your life is.

  17. this is ridiculous, this review was completely biased, the game deserves at least an 8.5 out of 10 AT LEAST. even though it was easy it was still an excellent game. If you have played the the games with ezio then you will definitely love this game. Its just like brotherhood but revamped

  18. This was a really good game, the review disentangle do it justice. It made a really good impact on the franchise and I think that opened up new doors for the games that are to follow.

  19. I dont want to sound like a fan boy, but I have to get my opinion out on this review. In short, this review is completely bull…
    I bought this game, and I played it for two days straight. That’s how much fun I had with this game. The missions all added to the story, which changed from left to right. It kept you guessing, and that is a new and amazing step in the Assassins Creed series. I agree that for new players the beginning didn’t give an adequate summary of the previous games in the series, and the controls are introduced a little too late, but after these bumps the game is addicting. Way more historical content and figures were added, which kept progressing the story. The story wasn’t confusing at all. It is explained thoroughly. He must have been talking to some one when they have a clear cut scene to explain what needs to be done. The engine should be upgraded, but the campaign alone gets a 8.5 out of 10.
    Now, there is multiplayer. Multiplayer is improved… DRASTICALLY… From brotherhood. It’s amazing and purely addicting. Better graphics, new game modes, better design, new maps, and smooth controls make AC:R have one of the BEST multiplayers to date. It’s unique. Multiplayer deserves a 9.5 out of 10.
    Averaging out, Assassins Creed Revelations is a great buy if not a must buy. It deserves a 9 out of 10. Anyone thinking of buying it should.
    Thank you for reading.

  20. some multiplayer gameplay ;D : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzJqDKQjvJw
    please comment and press the like and subscribe buttons

  21. I agree with most of what you said.

    the story seems to progress and then hang as if nothing really happens unless ezio is there.

    I was really pissed off with the extreme lack of things to do after the game was finished.
    rennovating anything bored me because it was more of a beat the game thing rather then a rebuild.
    The combat once again dissapointed me.
    what I mean by that is it seems too easy and there is not enough enemy’s and variety to keep me occupied(I really like to fight 100′s of different enemy’s at once).

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