Thursday, December 1, 2011

Assassin’s Creed promises ‘revelations’ in its fourth installment

By Stewart Berg, Guest Writer

Since the release of Assassin’s Creed in 2007, developer Ubisoft has created a franchise of nearly yearly sequels. Almost four years to the day after the series’ origin, the much anticipated fourth installment, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, was released.

In what may be a step sideways rather than forward or backward for the series, Revelations provides the series with a satisfying mini conclusion for its star, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

As promised in the game’s title, Revelations provides answers to many of the series’ most pressing questions.

The story opens with Ezio's search for five keys required to open a library containing information vital to the Assassin-Templar war.

His search takes him to a faithfully recreated 1511 Constantinople and, ultimately, to the culmination of his life as an assassin.

Revelations stresses Ezio’s role as the leader of the Assassin Order. Much like in the game’s antecedent, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ezio is able to recruit and train fellow assassins.

Broadly, Ezio is able to send assassins to cities on every side of the Mediterranean to erode Templar influence and eventually seize control of the cities. Ezio can also individually train recruited assassins and groom them for posts within Constantinople.

Ubisoft did a wonderful job creating a genuine mood of an aging Ezio preparing his eventual replacements.

Of the new changes to the series in Revelations, the addition of the hook blade may be the most successful.

The hook blade allows for variations in free running and combat that have been largely unchanged since Assassin’s Creed 2.

The hook blade allows Ezio to zip line across rooftops and scale buildings more quickly, leading to faster travel across the vast city.

Though an improvement, the hook blade does not have the same groundbreaking feel that other similar changes in the series, such as the addition of a second hidden blade in Assassin’s Creed 2, had.

Another new adjustment in Revelations is the addition of bomb crafting.

While sensible in theory, this addition doesn’t transition well into the game.

I found myself ignoring the bomb feature entirely since it was often quicker, simpler and more fulfilling to dispatch enemies in close quarters.

A lot of time is devoted to introducing bombs at the beginning of the game, but the feature is more of a chore than a privilege.

Revelations' greatest failure comes in the addition of the new den defense mini-game.

When the player gains enough notoriety, Templars will attack Ezio’s in-city strongholds and trigger a real-time-strategy-style defensive battle to protect the Assassins’ den.

Templars slowly march in various group sizes toward the den while Ezio orders assassins to various locations of defense.

These sequences are as disappointing because they are a break from the classic Assassin’s Creed formula. The action is slow and boring and seems more fitted for a bad Age of Empires game than for the fast-paced action of Assassin’s Creed.

Fortunately, these sequences can be largely avoided by managing and limiting Ezio’s notoriety.

Revelations' struggles, such as the bomb making and den defense, come in areas that are either largely avoidable or completely optional.

Thus, Revelations' struggles are largely enveloped by its success in nearly every other facet of the game.

At the very least, Revelations is worth playing solely as another satisfying chapter in what has been one of the most popular series of this gaming generation.