GSY REVIEW | X360, PS3 Monday, November 14, 2011 | 6:00 PM

Gamersyde Review: AC Revelations

Gamersyde Review: AC Revelations

As you may already know, the Assassin's Creed series is one of my favorite of this generation of consoles, and so it's with a lot of joy, but also a bit of anxiousness – due to the public demos showing some not so interesting things –, that I finally got my review copy a few days ago. So does Assassin's Creed Revelations manage to be as good as its predecessors? The answer is yes, but there are a few buts too.




Previously on Assassin's Creed

This review is written for people who already played (and liked, I guess) the previous games of the series. There is clearly very little point in playing Revelations without having at least finished the last two previous episodes. And with the return of Altaïr, you would actually be well advised to have played and finished the first game - as tedious as it could be. But more than ever, this new episode is specifically designed to finally give a closure to the two main stories started now 4 and 2 years ago.

ACR is indeed the ultimate chapter of Ezio's adventures, but more importantly, the episode which will give Altaïr an ending fitting such a character. All this without a doubt to prepare the player for something entirely different in Assassin's Creed 3 next year. At least, if the rumors we got to hear in the last few days are indeed true. The game's name itself, Revelations, clearly tells it all, even though not a lot of character development should be expected for Desmond himself, but then he got quite a bit of that in Brotherhood anyway.

The action starts under heavy snow, with Ezio now sporting a very respectable looking salt and pepper beard - but still as fit physically as ever. A few seconds are more than enough for any fan to understand that we are back to the good old Masyaf fortress, the former seat of power of the Assassins and where a lot of the events of the first Assassin's Creed actually happened. After quite a few events – see our videos – our hero finally arrives in Constantinople, the game's new city, for a brand new and exciting adventure.



A bunch of new features

It's with no surprise that we discover that the core of the game doesn't play much differently from Brotherhood, which is not really a bad thing in my opinion. I personally even think that as long as you do not stray too far from that mold, everything works perfectly and is completely appropriate. But it's when you are confronted to the new features which have been added to Revelations that things get slightly sour.

The first – and without a doubt the most visible - new feature is the possibility for Ezio to create and use all sorts of grenades/bombs. To do this, he has to find various ingredients around the city, or buy them if he can, and mix them on one the many mixing benches. After more than 25 hours spent on the game, one thing is clear: I've only used these when the game required me to. It's entirely possible to finish the game and most of the optional missions without ever using a bomb or grenade, and I think it's really foolish to find chests (visually identical to the usual treasures, and doing the same tingling noise) containing some of these ingredients literally every 50 meters. I'm sure some - if not many - will actually use and enjoy the bombs and strongly disagree with me, but I would have preferred not having the city become a graveyard of bomb components like that.

The other major novelty is the possibility for our lifelong enemies – the Templars – to get back the various towers (now called dens) we conquered from them around the city. As far as I can tell, the assaults – see below – only starts if Ezio's notoriety (now linked to all Assassins in the city) gets to 100% and stays that way long enough. It's important to mention that you now only lower this notoriety by bribing heralds (-25%), or killing witnesses (-50%), no more posters like before. Once you reach 100%, the alert only disappears when you get it down to 0. Kill a Templar messenger or one of their captains, and it reaches 100% immediately; but the simple and usual purchase of a shop or monument in the city is enough to get a rather annoying 20% bonus of notoriety. So if you are like me and play it as safe as possible, you are going to spend a lot of time giving money to heralds. And I guess the reason why I never played a Den defense (except for the tutorial of course) in the whole game is because I was always making sure I would never reach 100%. So it's impossible for me to give an informed opinion about this mode. One thing is sure, you are going to spend a lot more time managing your notoriety than before.



There are still quite a few other new features in Revelations, like the hook blade which replaces Ezio's usual retractable blade and allows him to glide on cables and have a slightly longer reach for his jumps. It's nothing game changing, but still a nice and fun addition. The “game inside the game” which requires to actually manage your group of assassins also got an upgrade. This time around, an actual war around the Mediterranean Sea is to be dealt with and you can also count on the ability to assign each of your disciples to one of your dens. Once one of these disciples reaches level 15 – after a master assassin mission you take part in - then the den itself becomes impossible for the Templars to conquer.



An assassin in the city

Like any fan of the series will tell you, what matters more than anything else in an Assassin's Creed game is the quality of the environments to explore. And in this area at least, Revelations is almost flawless: Constantinople is a beautiful and interesting city, quite a bit more varied and colorful than Rome itself for example. The various parts of the city all have their own visual identity and inhabitants, and I enjoyed running around a lot, to the point where I spent very little time using the tunnels which serve as shortcuts. One thing worth mentioning about these tunnels though: they are now unlocked almost right from the start, and you'd better be careful because some of them will have you appear right in the middle of enemy territory!



The tombs levels, now a complete part of the main story, are all also very interesting visually and gameplay-wise. Only the first one, which gave me a false impression of what was to come in the rest of the game, was very uninteresting and almost out of place. Generally, I would say the game starts very slowly, and after a few hours I felt a bit disappointed and started to grow a bit worried. Thankfully though, after this rather painful start everything clicks and the adventure finally gets back to the level of the previous games, getting slowly but surely to a rather great ending. I'm not going to reveal what happens of course, but this time at least we get some rather clear ideas of what is going on, and where everything is going in the next game.



Back when the game was announced, Ubisoft said that Desmond would spend the game in a semi comatose state, and it's indeed the case. It doesn't mean he's absent from the game, but that he's going to have his own very special and dream-like levels. It should be mentioned that unlocking these levels requires to find Animus Data Fragments in the city. These are quite visible, and finding the 30 necessary (out of 100) to unlock all of Desmond's levels is not really a problem. These levels offer a clear departure from the rest of the gameplay, since they take place in a semi-virtual world where Desmond doesn't even have a body and can make blocks appear from nowhere to solve various puzzles. And as the hero moves from room to room, he remembers a bit more of who and what he is. These sequences left me a bit perplexed, to say the least, since they don't really reveal much about Desmond, and are more frustrating than difficult.



Killer engine?

First observation, the game’s engine seems to finally be in its last legs in some parts of the city, especially the Bazaar where the framerate gets quite a hit, and the tearing rears its ugly head -up to a point where it gets close to the technical issues of the first Asssassin’s Creed. It’s still perfectly playable of course, and this game is in my opinion one of the most beautiful of this generation (along with its predecessors). The engine still manages to surprise and impress with a very smooth and surprising gameplay sequence near the end. But clearly the designers at Ubisoft tried to push the engine to its very limit.

Another annoying point is that I found quite a few more bugs (visual ones mostly) in Revelations than in the previous two games. The Altair missions especially (I’m not detailing them here so as not to spoil them) seem to be the buggiest of the lot. This problem is without a doubt due to the rather insane one year development cycle, but thankfully I did not encounter any blocking bug that would have caused my death or forced me to restart a mission. Still, this lack of polish is disappointing.

Of course, on many other fronts the game doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Let’s first mention the music, which could very well be my favorite among all the Assassin’s Creed games. Also praiseworthy, the voice acting is still very good for the vast majority of the characters. The cut scenes are more of a mixed bag, with some very good animations for the most part, but a lip sync which is usually a bit off. The character modeling is also quite good, even though Desmond looks a bit odd from up close.

Let’s not forget the multiplayer part of the game, which is a direct follow-up of the excellent and original online mode in Brotherhood. This time, the single player and multiplayer are a bit more interlinked than usual, since some parts of the story are resolved in the multiplayer component of the game. Thankfully for the people like me who almost never play any multiplayer games, it’s not an essential part.



Verdict


After a difficult first few hours, and despite some polish issues, I’ve enjoyed Assassin’s Creed Revelations as much as the previous two games. I have for the most part ignored the new gameplay additions and simply concentrated on the exploration and the story, and I certainly don’t regret spending 25 hours to see the end of both Ezio's and Altaïr's stories. This new episode is clearly for the fans of the series, and they will most likely be pleased. I for one simply can’t wait for the sequel!

The first 10 minutes part 1
The first 10 minutes part 2
The first 10 minutes part 3
The first 10 minutes part 4
Hook Blade
Den Defense
Den Assault
Constantinople
Tomb #2
Desmond memory #1
Day night cycle

All comments

Commented on 2011-11-14 18:37:34
First XD
great review ... sorry i didn't watch any of the videos i don't wanna spoil a second
Commented on 2011-11-14 19:02:17
Some parts of that Desmond's memory video made me feel sick! Not sure this is one for me, great feeling of scale though.
Commented on 2011-11-14 19:15:32
Old Ezio looks badass! My favorite Ezio version.

Also, is it me or did they upgraded the visuals a bit since AC Brotherhood? Looks better.
I love the outfit Ezio has this time around, especially during those snow levels, very cool.
Commented on 2011-11-14 19:38:50
25 hours? Surely that's including the side-stuff as well? People on forums spoke of 9 hours story.
Commented on 2011-11-14 20:10:20
I appreciate the team adding new fully fledged mechanics turning into their own modes, the tower defense bit looks cool even if simplistic. But that first-person exposition block-making seems like a wasted opportunity, maybe I'm looking for Mirror's Edge in everything (new Spiderman trailer)?
Commented on 2011-11-14 20:29:28
Can someone tell me why the hell Ubisoft hasent added a crouch stealth move in this AC yet?
It pisses me off that so many stealth games like Splinter Cell, MGS and similair games with stealth has stealth has crouch move, yet in AC there is non.

Many times I have come across a enemy were I wish i could crouch to hide my body behind a small wall and move around, or hugg the wall and move.
But now, you got to keep rotating the camera and then either walk or sprint to kill them, its annoying.
Commented on 2011-11-14 20:49:08 In reply to Moonwalker
Posted by Moonwalker
25 hours? Surely that's including the side-stuff as well? People on forums spoke of 9 hours story.
I did some of the side stuff, but I skipped most of the faction missions so. I bought all the shops, monuments, got all the data fragments, treasure chests and pages.
I took my time, obviously :)
Commented on 2011-11-14 21:19:43 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
I did some of the side stuff, but I skipped most of the faction missions so. I bought all the shops, monuments, got all the data fragments, treasure chests and pages.
I took my time, obviously :)
Ok thanks! I wasn't planning on buying this game this year, i'll be busy enough with Skyrim and other games like Batman AC and Deus Ex to finish.
Commented on 2011-11-14 21:51:11 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
I did some of the side stuff, but I skipped most of the faction missions so. I bought all the shops, monuments, got all the data fragments, treasure chests and pages.
I took my time, obviously :)
This is all I needed to know. Glad to see we have MOARRR than enough to be entertained, one way or the other. :)
Commented on 2011-11-14 22:57:48
When are they going to come out with an actual sequel to assassins creed instead of dishing out these "expansion packs" every year and selling them for full price. Honestly, the small improvements they make each year are not enough to dish out 60 dollars every couple of months these games are released. Assassins creed 2 was a big improvement over the 1st, and all these games since then are just new maps with some new features that are nothing to write home about. I hope these games are just being made to hold off until a next generation assassins creed 3, but I guess we'll see
Commented on 2011-11-15 00:46:49
You're dishing out on a story and reviews show (and personal experience imo) that they more than justify their price in terms of content. I don't have a problem with iterations if the series is as strong as this. It doesn't really matter if the games resemble one another, they're impeccably made and it's great to see something in gaming with a historic, if fictional, background that takes things seriously.
Commented on 2011-11-15 01:48:37 In reply to mustacio
Posted by mustacio
When are they going to come out with an actual sequel to assassins creed instead of dishing out these "expansion packs" every year and selling them for full price. Honestly, the small improvements they make each year are not enough to dish out 60 dollars every couple of months these games are released. Assassins creed 2 was a big improvement over the 1st, and all these games since then are just new maps with some new features that are nothing to write home about. I hope these games are just being made to hold off until a next generation assassins creed 3, but I guess we'll see
Agreed. I still love the series, but they are milking this thing to death pretty quickly. (Well, maybe not since everyone seems to love the yearly releases...)

Anyway, I loved the first game for its originality and style. I thought the second was quite good, but a lot of the newness had worn off, and I barely made myself finish it. I skipped the last game altogether, since there were so many other, original games out at the time. It looks like I will be skipping this as well, as I still have UC3 to beat, and Skyrim just showed up today.

I think I will wait and see if they actually try any innovation in the next game before I consider it. Sorry, but 7 games in 4 years (if you count handheld games), is more than enough to burn me out on a franchise when the only changes are scenery and minor gameplay tweaks/additions. If they were to make some serious changes and release them every 2-3 years I would be all over the series...
Commented on 2011-11-15 15:30:09
Thanks Blim for quality review once again. Will play it soon I reckon xD
Commented on 2011-11-16 19:06:44
EPIC!!! Hope the next chapter will be set in the decade of the french revolution!!!

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