It's funny when you think about it as a gamer. We saw him as a brazen young man, a mature and experienced adventurer, and now we'll finally see him as an older wiser mentor. Nonetheless Ezio Auditore has returned, and we as gamers may be preparing for a final visit to his story. The deeper we get into this storyline, the more it clearly shows how well planned this storyline and its conclusions must have been from the start. It focuses primarily on Ezio and his journey to Masyaf in an attempt to acquire Altair's past secrets, and the deeper meaning behind his destiny.
Ezio discovers that Altair has a library which requires five ancient keys to unlock. Each key has mystical properties containing Altair's memories and through them Ezio can relive key points in Altair’s life. As Altair, we the player, are treated to five missions that provide a satisfying conclusion and some closure to Altairs timeline and story. These segments are pretty straight forward and do a good job moving the story along. The way Ezio relives Altair is a similar experience to the way Desmond relives Ezio's life through the animus.
Currently still trapped in the animus, Desmond Miles remains in a coma and remains active only in the animus in a safe zone known as the black room. In this zone Desmond finally meets what appears to be subject 16 or at least the residual data his presence left behind in the animus. 16 explains to Desmond how the various partitions of his mind (Ezio, Altair and Desmond) have become fragmented, and the only way to defragment his mind is to achieve a sync nexus, a mental state in which the user will live out their ancestors memories until there is nothing left for the user to see. Only then assuming can Desmond wake up.
Location-wise Masyaf doesn't have the same visual appeal as Rome. However, this doesn't decrease the quality of the experience at all. It's still the same open sandbox style we've grown to love coming out of the series. There are main and side missions scattered throughout the map, you can still use underground passages to get around, and this time around they don't need to be activated, making fast travel much more streamlined. Weapons and armor are still available, but it's not really a large variety you'll generally find yourself upgrading your armor/weapons at the beginning of a new sequence.
Although the armor does help, the extra weapons for sale are optional, and it's possible to have a successful play-through without them. There are no recurring characters from the previous installment, this time around Ezio is aligned with a fresh cast of supporting characters. Yusuf Tazim is the leader of the local assassins, he gives Ezio a tour of the city and gives him a new climbing tool known as the "hook blade". A new romantic interest enters Ezio's life as he encounters Sofia Sartor, a female traveler and book collector. Once again there are collectables throughout the map, there are treasure chests scattered around the city like in Brotherhood, and there are a few new finds, including Animus fragments that allow you to open Desmond sequences from animus island. Animus island is the zone in the animus where Desmond and 16 are trapped currently.
The game play in Revelations is almost completely untouched, you still do a lot of tailgating, eavesdropping, pick pocketing and of course assassinating. There's still property everywhere for you to renovate shops, banks and a various other businesses. Ezio's age shows within the game, we're presented with a much more vocal Ezio as you can hear his grunts and strains of pain as his climbs, jumps or falls. The hook blade is a much welcome addition to Ezio's utility belt, it allows fast climbing along buildings and scaling areas where there may not necessarily be spots to climb and reach. The hook blade also has a useful zipline function, throughout the city Ezio will come across lines he can attach his hook to and slide across to reach areas much faster. Despite his appearance or vocal nature, when it comes to agility Ezio still has it.
The animations and motion of Ezio seem more fluid, and the transitioning between jumping and climbing are a lot smoother. The third person view this time around has a bit more of a hard camera feel to it, allowing faster movement and camera controls. The controls remain untouched and familiar to returning players. Unfortunately what didn't remain untouched are the confusing menus, namely the item wheels were needlessly changed to a longer and more confusing process involving primary and secondary items, hopefully this will be adjusted in future installments.
Unfortunately the new bomb system feels completely out of place and overly time consuming. It takes out the subtlety of being an assassin, and is primarily useless in the game play. Too may combinations of gun powder and bomb tools for an element barely utilized litter the game. It's completely possible to play through Revelations without ever investing time or attention into this. Although unnecessary some players (including XboxEdge.com staff) have found themselves using it as a form of amusement.
The combat system will feel familiar but there are changes, one of the most notable is the difficulty, it's much harder to remain untouched in Revelations then in the previous titles. Counter attacking isn't necessarily the solution to every encounter, there are enemies that require you to grab or kick them more often. The hook blade provides another dimension to combat, as you can now counter with the grab button using the hook blade. Beware of the gunplay! Enemies seem almost quicker to pull the trigger on you here than in Arkham city. You'll find yourself getting shot at very often and the guards rarely falter in their aim.
The Assassin's Guild feature is a more interactive process this time around. In the past your involvement was limited to sending the assassin's to the missions primarily. This time around taking control of the cities affects your income more noticeably. Once your assassins reach level 10, you take them on a personal bonding mission where the objectives vary as Ezio overlooks the pupil assassin eliminating a target. There's an aspect of character development to be found here between Ezio and his assassins as together they deal with various successful and some failure experiences in their missions.
Ezio's assassin's can be used to capture districts like in Brotherhood, the big difference here is that the Templars can attack and recapture them. These areas can be defended two ways, the first is assigning the assassin's to retake the area, the second is to go to the assassin den that's being taken and initiate a new tower defense mini-game. In this game, Ezio commands his assassin's to post on rooftops and defend against oncoming Templar tanks and soldiers. You're given access to various assassin units for this including archers, riflemen, air assassins, barricades and canons. During the sequence Ezio can fire his own gun from atop of the roof as well as his own canon to command. The overall length of the tower defense can range from about 5 to 10 minutes and although this feature doesn't feel comfortably integrated into the game, it serves for a nice change of pace.
Another change of pace noted in Revelations are the Desmond sequences. There are Animus data fragments scattered all around the world for Ezio, after every 10 animus fragments that Ezio collects, the player has the option to return to the animus island and start a Desmond sequence. Appearing like something out of portal, these sequences put you in first person view for the first time in an assassin's creed title. As Desmond in a somewhat abstract form, the sequences consist of puzzle solving and platforming. Imagine portal without the portal gun and you might have a glimpse at what this mode entails. It's definitely not for everyone, but does provide a unique challenge. During this mode the player is provided narration from Desmond where he explains his prequel origin leading up to the beginning of the first assassin's creed. For anyone interested in learning more about Desmond, these levels will come as a treat.
Overall at a length of about 12 hours, Revelations is a very satisfying experience and completely deserving of the title "sequel". Without going into spoilers, the game offers a very satisfying ending, and a sense of accomplishment as the storyline gives you the impression that all involved protagonists have a much deeper understanding of the ongoing situation, each other and their purpose. While ending one chapter of the story, assassin's creed once again leaves players looking forward to the next.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Assassin's Creed Revelations.