• Review - Assassin's Creed Revelations (PS4)


    Single Issue XXXVI


    Assassin's Creed Revelations (2011)

    I have lived my life as best I could, not knowing its purpose, but drawn forward like a moth to a distant moon. And here, at last, I discover a strange truth. That I am only a conduit for a message that eludes my understanding. Who are we, who have been so blessed to share our stories like this? To speak across centuries? Maybe you will answer all the questions I have asked. Maybe you will be the one to make all this suffering worth something in the end.
    -Ezio Auditore


    You must listen to this while reading

    Desmond Miles is lost to the world in a coma. His fellow assassins have connected Desmond to the animus to keep him alive, and Desmond finds himself in the Animus black room, where he is joined by Subject 16, Desmond’s deceased predecessor that has been a sort of guide for Desmond when exploring other secrets about the past. Desmond learns that his journey with Ezio did not end with the fall of the Borgia, and that he must relive another part of Ezio’s life in order for Desmond to fully understand the past. In addition, Desmond also relives more memories of Altair’s life, giving him a greater understanding of the mysterious assassin. Along the way, Desmond also re-lives portions of his past, a journey he must complete to fully understand his own purpose in life, as well as the only way for Desmond to potentially escape the Black Room.



    A decade or so after defeating the Borgias, Ezio is a much older and wiser Assassin, and has embarked on a journey to understand the history of the Assassins since the time of Altair, the assassin from the first game. Traveling to Masyaf, the former stronghold of the Levantine Assassins, Ezio is ambushed and captured by Templar forces. Managing to escape, Ezio discovers the hidden library of Altair, but also discovers that in order to access it he must acquire several keys created by Altair. After killing the Templar captain in charge of Masyaf, Ezio discovers that the keys were hidden in various locations in Constantinople, occupied by both Templar (who are looking for the keys as well) and Ottoman forces. Ezio travels there and becomes a sort of icon to the Ottoman branch of the Assassins, due to his fame from his previous exploits. As he eliminates the Templar influence with the help of the Ottoman Assassins and befriends and helps the Ottoman Prince Suleiman, Ezio finds the keys, which he eventually uses to access the library. The keys, with the help of a Piece of Eden (Altair’s Apple) also allow Ezio to witness several key memories from Altair’s life as well.


    Because of the keys, Desmond is allowed to relive other parts of Altair’s life through Ezio’s own reliving of those events. One of the memories takes place before the events of Assassin’s Creed, but the rest take place after, one of them immediately after the events of the game. The memories of the assassin mostly revolve around his experiences with the Apple of Eden and his conflict with his friend Abbas, who wishes to use the Apple for himself. Through Altair, Ezio witnesses the flowering of the Levantine Assassin’s under Altair’s guidance, the faltering under the guidance of Abbas, and flowering again when Altair regains control of them. Throughout these memories, is becomes clear that Altair was both helped and harmed by the Apple. The struggle over the Apple is what led Altair to construct the library under Masyaf…


    --

    Assassin’s Creed Revelations is the end of Ezio’s journey as an Assassin, and as the final installment it features a small variety of locations, such as Masyaf (explorable as both Altair and Ezio), an underground city in Cappadocia, and, where most of the game takes place, the city of Constantinople. Cappadocia and Masyaf are only available for specific memories, however, so the majority of the open-world gameplay occurs in Constantinople. The map for Constantinople is divided by the Golden Horn and Ezio must use the ferry to travel to each side of the city. The city features numerous landmark and historical locations such as the Hagia Sophia, Galata Tower, the Yerebestan Cisterns, and the Hippodrome. The map is quite large (not as large as Rome) and much of it is occupied by water, but the game makes up for this by the large amount of detail and improved graphics over Brotherhood. With the remaster, Constantinople is even more vibrant and beautiful than on the original release. Markets are alive and bustling, the setting is incredibly colorful, people go about their daily business ignorant to the war between the Assassins and Templars, and the architecture symbolizes the past and present of a city that has existed for a thousand years. Constantinople was a refreshing change after running around Renaissance Italy, as the architecture and the atmosphere of the location is radically different. I think that Constantinople is easily my favorite location of Ezio’s trilogy and one of my favorites of the whole franchise. One of my few gripes about the graphics of this game includes the changes to Desmond; his changed appearance is rather frustrating from a continuity perspective, especially since his appearance reverts in Assassin’s Creed III. It’s not a big deal either way as it does nothing to impact the story but it is worth mentioning nonetheless.



    One of the new features of the game involves a tool that Ezio receives from Yusuf (the leader of the Ottoman Assassins) upon arriving in Constantinople: the hook-blade. Taking the place of Ezio’s left hidden blade (which was broken before he was captured by the garrison at Masyaf), the hook-blade has a variety of uses. The city of Constantinople has dozens of zip lines scattered across the buildings, which are angled in such a way that the Ottoman Assassins and Ezio can use his hook-blade to “fly” across the city. Of course, since each zip line is angled, that means that they only have one way. Ezio can use these to quickly move around the city, and can also use them to assassinate guards on rooftops before the guards even realize what is happening. The hook-blade can also be used in combat, which can allow for rather brutal kills. The hook-blade has another use in running through groups of people (such as guards that block his escape) by using it to pull the man down and roll over his back, allowing the Assassin to continue his escape. Finally, the hook-blade allows Ezio to utilize the climb-leap technique of scaling buildings, an ability Ezio lost when he was wounded in Brotherhood (though he could use it by getting the climb-leap glove) and also because Ezio is not as good of a climber as he was in the past. In a way, the hook-blade is what allows Ezio in his older age to still function like he was when he was younger. While many other people found this to be a stupid function I actually quite enjoyed it as it is a method of travel that no enemies can replicate, which is incredibly useful when getting attacked by packs of difficult enemies.


    Also of note is the addition of various explosive bombs to the games. I did not use them very often, but the times I did I found them fairly useful as distractions. You can build several types of bombs that can kill or distract. You can loot components for bombs from dead enemies, and there are several stations around Constantinople that allow Ezio to assemble the devices. Often times, these bombs are useful for completing a mission in its entirety (such as not being discovered…distracting the guards with the bombs can greatly help with this). Again, I didn’t use them very often, so they are not completely necessary for completing the game outside of maybe some missions. I was just another small addition to the game to make it different than Brotherhood.


    Returning to the game is the ability to recruit assassins to help Ezio in a variety of tasks. Like in Brotherhood, Ezio must capture Templar Dens by killing their captains and igniting them in order to remove Templar influence from certain areas in order to recruit more Assassins. These dens become Assassin dens, and Ezio can use these Assassins to help him on various missions and send them to other lands to end Templar influence in other regions. This rewards Ezio with money and also gives the assassins experience, the results of which enable the assassins to become stronger as they rise through the ranks. The first time I played with this feature I actually found it quite boring and non-essential, but the second time through on the Ezio Collection I have found it to be pretty entertaining. It certainly is something that can be done passively, and can really help boost my personal finances from ending Templar influence in these areas. Additionally, it once again shows just what kind of effect that Ezio had during his lifetime as he ushered in a Golden Age for the Assassin’s by eliminating so much Templar influence in the Mediterranean region.


    A new feature added to this is Den Defense, a sort of minigame that is still a part of the story. When Ezio becomes fully notorious by committing illegal acts, the Templars actively search out any Assassin dens. Unless Ezio lowers his notoriety, the Templars will eventually attack a random den, and Ezio will be forced to run to its aid, activating Den Defense. What this involves is Ezio standing on a roof during the attack and directing assassins to various rooftops to help defend the den. Ezio can also direct the construction of a barricade, and call in cannon fire to blast the street. The way this works is “morale points”. Each action costs a certain number of points, and they can be replenished by killing Templar troops. Each rooftop needs to have an Assassin commander (which costs points) in order to place regular soldiers on it. These regular soldiers can be armed with crossbows or arquebuses, and other assassins can be placed that will do rooftop assassinations. These assassins directly engage with the Templar forces, and can be fired on and killed. Barricades can be placed to stop the soldiers from directly attack the den, and the barricades can be destroyed. After several waves the Templars will bring in a siege engine, which must be destroyed before the minigame can be considered “successful”. If Ezio (who cannot engage the Templars directly) fails to stop the Templars, the den is lost, and it must be retaken again in order to use it once more. This is another feature that many people found to be unimportant, and in large part I agree. It is a pain to do at times and can be a distraction from the main story. However, I did find it to be quite fun in some ways despite its relative uselessness. It was not a terrible idea, but I do not find it to have been a great one either.


    Eliminating Templar influence in areas of Constantinople is also part of the economic system that has carried over from Brotherhood. Ezio can again renovate shops to open them as well as increase Ezio’s money. After renovating these shops, Ezio receives an income boost to his personal finances, which he can collect from the various banks scattered throughout the city (which must be renovated as well). Ezio can also purchase or renovate some of the historical structures, like the Hippodrome. The money gained from these ventures allow Ezio to make further purchases of either more property, armor, weapons, or other things (sheathes, robes with a different color, etc). Like before in Brotherhood, this is a solid mechanic, though still not as fun or engaging as upgrading Monteriggioni in Assassin’s Creed II. I would have prefered the ability to upgrade my headquarters or the various assassin dens scattered throughout the city.


    Combat has changed since Brotherhood. Ezio is an older man, and fights in a seemingly much more conservative style, the hookblade being a personal favorite of mine. I won’t go into too much detail on this partly because there’s only so many ways you can talk about combat in this franchise, but let’s just say the combat with the hookblade is the most brutal in the game. Facing him are essentially the same old guard types with the introduction of quite possibly the most frustrating enemy of the whole franchise up to this point: the Janissaries. The Janissaries bring tough fighting in that they can both shoot pistols at Ezio and are quite capable melee fighters…getting surrounded by them can often lead to Ezio’s death. They are also quite fast and can catch Ezio in most situations. More than once I was forced to flee by using ziplines, which the Janissaries thankfully cannot use.


    Side missions and objectives return, and while some of it may feel like a rehash of previous games it is still a solid system that needs little changing. Collectibles return, with plenty of chests and other items to find throughout the game. Within the Assassin dens lies the ability to do several missions with assassins that you promote to Master in order to help further solidify control of the city. I missed those missions on the first time through and I regret it as they actually are quite fun. There are also many side missions that help unlock upgrades and other things for Ezio. While none of these are integral to the plot and you can easily skip them, to do so would be a disservice in my opinion. While not fantastic, they are nonetheless quite fun.’


    The story of Revelations really is one of my favorites of the whole franchise. Throughout the game you get to explore more about the three Assassin’s you have met so far: Desmond, Ezio, and Altair. All three stories all have their issues, but the core of the matter is that being an Assassin has messed up their lives. Desmond, unknowingly an Assassin for much of his life, is forced to relive that life through a series of memories that show how being isolated made him resentful and ran away at a fairly early age, forsaking his family, friends, and heritage to live a normal life. For Ezio, you get the sense of loneliness he has lived by; for throughout his life, he has never had a chance to settle down. His life as an Assassin has consumed everything for around three decades, and this sacrifice has clearly weighed him down. But throughout the game he finds happiness with Sofia, a woman from Italy who lives in Constantinople, and one in which he shares many interests. And luckily for Ezio, Sofia is just special enough to allow him to realize that there are more important things in life, and convince him to finally hang up his hidden blades and call his journey done. And finally there is Altair. Altair’s life is barely mentioned in the first game which is why it is such a treat to further explore him using the Masyaf keys. You get a real sense of sacrifice from Altair as well when you experience everything that happened to him after he took over the role of Mentor of the Levantine Assassins centuries before Ezio. All three stories intertwine to tell a tale of tragedy; the life of an Assassin is lonely, sad, and difficult. Yet nonetheless they all press on, and do manage to find happiness in the end. And for Desmond, you finally get to see the true purpose of his destiny by reliving the memories of his ancestors and himself, which makes for an epic conclusion that stands among my favorites of the entire franchise. The story of Revelations is superb in my opinion, and stands second to only Assassin’s Creed II at this point in the franchise.






    I have not done this as of yet, but I feel that the discussion of the soundtrack of the game deserves its own section. Jesper Kyd returns for the last time as composer, this time being assisted by his eventual successor Lorne Balfe and even Hans Zimmer. The entire soundtrack, the longest of the franchise, is over two and a half hours long. And in all honesty, the soundtrack is quite breathtaking. The main theme (what you should be listening to now) has to be considered perhaps the most stunning addition to the entire franchise. There are other quite noticeable tracks, from “Istanbul”, which plays in the background of much of the walking around, to “Labored and Lost”, which brings considerable atmosphere and “feel” to the scene it plays during. "A Hard Ride", one of my most favorite tracks from the game, was absent from the soundtrack. It's a shame, because it really is quite the heroic theme.


    One of the best songs

    As this review is of the PS4 remaster included in the Ezio Trilogy (like my other two reviews), I should once more spend some time discussing the effects of the remaster on Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Like with its predecessor, it is good that Revelations was included in the purchase of the other two games as otherwise I find it was mostly unchanged. While the differences between the PS3 and PS4 version of ACII were very clear, the differences in the remaster of Revelations is mostly unnoticeable. I’m not entirely surprised as this game was already quite beautiful to begin with, and it would have been tough to do much better without remaking the game and sticking it in the engine of Unity or Syndicate (Which would be cool, don’t get me wrong). The addition of all the DLC content such as The Lost Archive is great, as it will finally allow me to play that game. As it stands, though, being a part of the entire trilogy release is a a big deal, as if this had been a single-release,it would have been a great disappointment compared to the remaster of Assassin’s Creed II.



    Overall, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is one of the oddest, yet one of the most satisfying games. Missions and story have taken a strange turn, in my opinion. Throughout Revelations, Ezio only assassinates a few people, and much of the game takes place in cutscenes and the Altair flashbacks. Ezio pretty much sticks to Constantinople, though he does travel to Cappadocia for one sequence. It was clear that this story was intended from the start to retire Ezio…He’s an old man, like I already said, and he has spent much of his life as an Assassin, though not as long as Altair, which you learn in the flashbacks. Though the game doesn’t have much excitement or adventure in the way of missions (at least not compared to the previous installments), Ubisoft made up for it with an absolutely beautiful story. The game brings the story of Altair to a close, while greatly expanding on Desmond’s own story while trapped in his own consciousness: his adventures into his past are quite illuminating. Constantinople serves as Ezio’s swansong in that his fight with the Templar’s finally comes to an end, and Ezio realizes that his fight was not his own, but as part of a greater struggle that he cannot even begin to understand. The story ends in a worthy place, with quite possibly the best ending the series as a whole has to offer. The point of Revelations was not for the gameplay, it seems, but for the story, and I will say it again…The story was beautiful. Many people do not appreciate this game as much as its predecessors, calling it the worst of the entire series.


    I respectfully disagree.


    9.5/10


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    As I begin winding down my capacity as a game reviewer, I will start releasing the ones I have been working on for a while. First up was the review of the PS4 version of AC Revelations. Soon I will follow it up with AC The Lost Archive and the Jack the Ripper DLC.

    I have also begun preliminary work on my final series of reviews; AC Origins and the associated DLC's.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      Great review! I like the sound of the development of the character of Ezio, so that playing an older Ezio has its challenges as well as its opportunities (that hookblade sounds lethal, as well as a handy way to get around.) Vibrant and beautiful locations, solid combat, a engaging narrative and breathtaking music - this sounds like a game with a lot to offer.
    1. Commissar Caligula_'s Avatar
      Commissar Caligula_ -
      Did you search for the goofiest pics you could find?
      Nice review though. It wasn't my favorite of the games (Assassin's Creed 2 or Black Flag were) but it was a pretty interesting one.
    1. Admiral Van Tromp's Avatar
      Admiral Van Tromp -
      Good review. I agree with almost everything, especially when you say that Constantinople is one of the better locations in the series and that the story is only surpassed by AC II. I did use the bombs a lot, but I agree that they were more of a gimmick to differentiante Revelations from Brotherhood. However, I wouldn't really put them below the hookblade in terms of originality or inovation.

      All in all, I Caligula has it right. AC II has the best story, Black Flag the best gameplay. Revelations would probably be my third favourite.
    1. Commissar Caligula_'s Avatar
      Commissar Caligula_ -
      What did you guys think of the underground city in Revelations? Personally it was my least favourite part (I can't remember whether a lot of the game took place there or not).
    1. Admiral Van Tromp's Avatar
      Admiral Van Tromp -
      I wasn't a fan either. Luckily, it's a rather small segment.
    1. ♔Greek Strategos♔'s Avatar
      ♔Greek Strategos♔ -
      Thanks for reviewing this. I really liked ACR.
    1. Gen. Chris's Avatar
      Gen. Chris -
      Cappadocia was not my favorite part either. Especially since Ezio, unintentionally or not, blatantly disregards the creed when he sets fire to the armory. Dozens or perhaps even hundreds would have choked to death on the resulting smoke.

      Pretty thing to do really. I know Ezio is everyone's favorite but none of the other Assassin's ever do something so terribly reckless.
    1. Admiral Van Tromp's Avatar
      Admiral Van Tromp -
      Yes, that harbour sequence was a bit too high-profile. I remember it was shown at E3, so it was probably conceived more as a flashy display of the graphical quality of the game and less as a "lore-friendly" way to deal with a problem.