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Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PlayStation 3) artwork

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PlayStation 3) review

"If you try hard enough, you can get past all of that and have a reasonably good time even without prior knowledge, but of course thatís not the point. If you play Assassinís Creed: Revelations, the point is that youíve come all this way with Ezio (and Altair), and now you want to find out their stories end. This is the game that will show you that stuff, and youíll likely enjoy yourself quite a bit more if you actually care about the characters and the ongoing mythology."

Before I write anything else, let me just note that you probably shouldnít play Assassinís Creed: Revelations unless you have first played through at least Assassinís Creed II and Assassinís Creed: Brotherhood. If you have also played the first Assassinís Creed (which is also included on the disc if you pick up the PlayStation 3 edition), thatís even better.

Assassinís Creed: Revelations tells the story of an aging assassin named Ezio Auditore who travels to Constantinople in search of five keys that will allow him to explore a vault which was sealed away by his ancestor, an assassin named Altair Ibn-LaíAhad who died hundreds of years ago. A handful of secondary characters makes that central story more interesting. The supporting cast includes a bookish lady named Sophia who helps Ezio to decipher the ancient texts he finds along his journey, as well as various other people with royal and not-so-royal standing within the Byzantine Empire.

You can perhaps enjoy the story of Ezioís treasure hunt even if youíve never played an Assassinís Creed game in your life, because underground passages are fundamentally awesome, but there are certain plot elements that make relatively little sense even when youíre up to speed. Ezio refers to events newcomers wonít have reason to understand, and in the middle of it all, thereís some sweater-loving modern guy named Desmond Miles who walks around on an island and feels sorry for himself (when heís not passing through magical portals or navigating strange labyrinths by conjuring huge platforms out of the air). Finally, there are strange voiceovers talking about a funeral and blurred memories and such. Itís a bit much to take in if youíve not been eased into it.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations asset

If you try hard enough, you can get past all of that and have a reasonably good time even without prior knowledge, but of course thatís not the point. If you play Assassinís Creed: Revelations, the point is that youíve come all this way with Ezio (and Altair), and now you want to find out their stories end. This is the game that will show you that stuff, and youíll likely enjoy yourself quite a bit more if you actually care about the characters and the ongoing mythology. So like I said, you should play the earlier games first.

Playing those early games introduces you not only to the characters and plot, but also to a number of gameplay mechanics that drive this more recent experience. Revelations plays a lot like Brotherhood, on a surface level. That means you can invest in buildings (to generate revenue every twenty minutes, and to secure a discount when purchasing various equipment), plus you can recruit fellow assassins to your cause and call on them when youíre in a jam.

The Borgia towers that were built throughout Rome arenít reproduced here, but there still are towers to climb. This time, your goal is to light signal fires. You can only do so after you first kill a general somewhere near the tower, though. Some of the generals are cowards, and all of them are well-guarded, so assassinating them is a pain in the butt. Then you light the fire and that tower is yours for the rest of the--no, scratch that. The tower is yours only until you let an enemy retake it after defeating you in the all-new tower defense mini-game.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations asset

Iím generally up for tower defense games. Iíve played through a number of the leading titles within the genre, and I find them addictive and enjoyable almost without exception. I was prepared to love the new mode in this case, but unfortunately the segments are quite awkward and the difficulty scales poorly. The first few times youíre pulled into one--which happens if you run around the streets of Constantinople as a notorious outlaw for too long--itís not difficult to demolish any attacking forces. You place generals on rooftops and then you can bring in additional troops. Your enemies, meanwhile, will rush you in waves and then at the end will bring out a powerful vehicle that slowly rolls through your defensive barriers and shrugs off any attacks you mount as if they donít even exist. That final phase is a real hassle, and after putting up with it a few times, I finally just decided not to let Templars notice me enough that they would bother attacking any of the towers. Itís a genius plan, I think.

While Brotherhood and even Assassinís Creed II provided special crypts that you could optionally explore while completing story missions, Revelations writes such adventures into the main script. You wonít have to play for long before you realize that most episodes (or ďmemoriesĒ) in the game amount to the same process: you do some intel work while learning more about the political intrigue playing out in and around the city, you find a book, it lets you track down a dungeon, you clear the dungeon, you get a magical disc, and you examine that disc to relive the memories of Altair. So to recap: you are Desmond Miles, but youíre living inside a machine and trying to recover your memories while you live out the memories of Ezio as he tracks down and relives the memories of Altair.

The story segments that are revealed over the course of all those disparate adventures are actually quite cool, and itís a genuine pleasure to learn more about the characters and their sometimes tragic lives as assassins. The dungeons where the magical discs (called ďkeysĒ in the game) are located definitely raise the bar compared to the crypts in Brotherhood, as well. There are some truly stunning vistas, and the mission variety feels less forced because it ties into the plot better. One dungeon involves an epic chase, while another one is more puzzle-oriented. Iím also happy to report that there are barely any puzzles where time factors into the equation at all. Iím fine with that. Truly, I am.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations asset

Collectible items that you gather are more closely related to something substantial, too. In this case, that something substantial comes in the form of special side quests that you can activate back on the island where Desmond is trapped. As you find enough lost data fragments, youíll open new gates that lead to additional memories from the contemporary assassinís often sheltered childhood. Each portal leads to a special labyrinth that is viewed from a first-person perspective. Desmond narrates as he works through challenges, and some of what he says is actually quite interesting, even if it does feel like a lazy narrative conceit. My only real problem with those segments is that theyíre quite frustrating. Some of the puzzles you have to solve can get quite complex and the first-person perspective isnít always up to the challenge. In the second segment, for example, you must drop through a long vertical shaft and move quickly to the sides, swiftly producing blocks so that you can land on them and then move quickly again so that you donít accidentally bump into one barrier or another that returns you to a higher point in the shaft. The challenge is more punishing than it is rewarding. Thankfully, Ubisoft made all of those sequences optional (though youíll miss out on trophies if you ignore them).

Even with the optional content considered, Revelations doesnít feel as expansive as Brotherhood and Assassinís Creed II, though some of that is likely my imagination. On the plus side, the online mode is quite robust and servers are still active enough that I had no trouble signing on and dropping into multiplayer matches both in the middle of the day and well after midnight. A system of perks and skill upgrades is in place, like you might find in a Call of Duty game, and there are various modes that let you play deathmatch or team-based games.

You might suppose that multiplayer would just amount to running around and clashing in epic duels, but actually thatís not the case. Smartly, the emphasis is on stealthy kills. In the standard deathmatch mode, which is where I spent most of my time, you have a single target available to you nearly constantly. You have to look closely because thereís no on-screen indicator to inform you of his whereabouts unless he starts running or climbing along buildingsÖ or unless you see him kill or stun another player. In the meantime, someone else is usually hunting you. Basically, you can move as you like--while taking precautions so that you donít call unwanted attention to yourself--and you can kill or use a special skill or stun whoever is chasing you so that he or she must be assigned a new target. Iím probably not making any of that sound all that exciting, but itís quite addictive once you get past the first few rounds and know how everything works. Just the other night, I signed on for a bit and I wound up playing several hours with a group of mostly the same people. It was a total blast.

Assassinís Creed III will be launching soon, and when that happens you can probably expect much of the current online population to shift to that new game. Until then, however, Assassinís Creed: Revelations is one of the most unique online deathmatch experiences around, and itís already available at a bargain price. I recommend looking into it immediately if youíve already played the previous titles in the series. Otherwise, you might be better off waiting for the recently-announced trilogy that will collect all of Ezioís adventures in one place. Revelations is far from perfect, but itís still an adventure thatís well worth experiencing.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 01, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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Roto13 posted October 01, 2012:

I don't like Tower Defense games in general. Even the good ones. I didn't like the one in Revelations either, but I was able to avoid it except for that one really easy forced tutorial. I keep a low profile in those games anyway.
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honestgamer posted October 01, 2012:

I didn't realize at first what prompted the attacks on my towers, until I paid attention to one of the notes on a load screen. Once I realized that, it was all good. I usually don't hesitate to move around the city however I like, since I'm by now capable of wiping out whole platoons and barely taking any damage, so I'm often hovering around three-fourths notorious. Paying off heralds and such is easy enough, though, especially with all the revenue I was generating after renovating most of the shops from an early point in the game. :-D
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Suskie posted October 02, 2012:

I wonder if you'd have liked Brotherhood more (and Revelations less) if you'd been there to experience the multiplayer when it was brand new.
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honestgamer posted October 02, 2012:

I liked Ezio's story and the city environments and various gameplay elements less in Brotherhood, no matter what. For instance, the required stealth segments in Brotherhood were significantly more frustrating than anything in Revelations. The multiplayer in Revelations also seems to offer a lot more (from what I could tell). So I'm thinking the answer is "probably not," but there's no way now to be entirely certain.
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zippdementia posted October 02, 2012:

Multiplayer is a funny thing. For some people it really makes (or breaks) a game and for other people, like me, multiplayer is like the toothpick on the swiss army knifeóI never use it.
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honestgamer posted October 02, 2012:

I love good multiplayer, but I ultimately don't have much time for it. I could probably play Call of Duty for weeks online, but when each new game arrives, I usually spend a few hours on the campaign and a few more on multiplayer and then I have to move on to something else. Strong multiplayer elements are great for people who will only pick up 3 or 4 games each year, but for someone who picks up that many during some months... not so much. In general, I'm much more concerned with the single-player elements. I want a strong campaign that's awesome throughout its duration and knows when to quit. ;-)
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zippdementia posted October 02, 2012:

Well said! I like the phrase "knows when to quit." The reality of my life means that I do want a game with an ending (preferably a powerful one). I'm okay with single player games whose side quests and missions can give me over 200 hours of gameplay, but for a multiplayer experience I always feel like the perpetual newbie. Years of gaming generally keep me mid-tier, but being able to only play a couple dozen multiplayer matchs each month keeps me from getting good to the point where things really start to become fun.

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