Thursday, January 26, 2012

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

            Assassin’s Creed pretty much kicked down the door with its second entry.  If its first game was a middling attempt that tried to force being a badass on you, the second one made you naturally feel like one, and ended with a scene that, while gameplay-wise it’s debatable whether it worked, just getting to do it qualifies as one of the most awesome moments in video gaming.  And that’s fine.  I put Assassin’s Creed II on a pedestal of well-done stealth gaming and pretty incredible sequels.  Brotherhood didn’t quite live up to that level, but it still introduced the calling in of assassins and had some really great segments of playing as Desmond in modern-times.  I’ve always been a fan of parkour in games, and that was done well.  So I got pumped for Revelations.  More Desmond segments!  Playing as Altair again!  And getting the end of Ezio’s story!  What I got was…not quite what I was hoping for.
            The story takes the game from Italy to Constantinople, as Ezio looks for the Masyaf keys that unlock the door to Altair’s vault.  It’s just not as interesting as the story from the last two games.  Those combined historical intrigue with a revenge plot to make a compelling reason for why Ezio was doing what he was doing.  Having Ezio just tracking down some artifacts isn’t as interesting.  You do get some political intrigue, and it honestly might be the better part of the game.  But it also feels like Ezio is standing off to the side, nodding because Ubi-Soft knows he’s a badass and they want you to remember this.  But just like he’s in his old age in the game, playing as him has gotten old.  He has no point here.  The game even introduces an assassin that would’ve been a fine character to play as, and is rather entertaining in his own right.
            The game also fumbles with some of the new gameplay concepts it introduces.  A major component of the game is the ability to find bomb ingredients and make many different types of bombs.  Which is pointless.  Like, I used bombs, sure, but I didn’t need a whole gameplay concept around the creation of them.  I generally just stuck with two types throughout the game.  This might just be a case of it not appealing to me, but it feels like they wanted this to be the next big concept added to the game, and it’s forced.  Another gameplay addition is that your assassin dens can now be attacked, which leads to a tower defense segment.  It’s unwelcome.  I didn’t really use strategy the two times I did it, just spamming my “towers” throughout.  Really, I just didn’t want to stop my action-stealth game to play a round of tower defense.  Finally, those Desmond segments I mentioned?  Instead of being more of the pure parkour that made me love playing as him, they have first-person segments where you place down blocks to travel through the trippy Portal-esque virtual landscape while Desmond narrates parts of his life we either already knew or didn’t care about.  If tower defense was unwelcome, this is the gameplay style where you close the blinds and pretend you’re not home as soon as you see it approaching your door.  This has absolutely no place anywhere near Assassin’s Creed.  It’s not fun.  It’s not interesting.  The only saving grace here is that it’s optional, but honestly, it shouldn’t have ever existed.
            But hey, at least there’s the Altair segments, right?  Yeah, about those…it’s just not memorable.  For one, I feel like Ubi-Soft is still trying to force this idea that Altair was some super badass assassin god on us, and clearly the best character ever created.  Now, if we had been given a whole game, or even half a game to really flesh out Altair’s life and personality, I might’ve been applauding how they had developed the character.  Instead, you’re given five gameplay segments where you play as him, for each of the five Masyaf keys you find.  They jump erratically throughout his life, at point going from the events at the end of the first game to him being 60 (I forget his age in the former case, but it’s at most 30).  They also all take place on the same map, so there’s nothing too interesting happening here.  Just in general, you could’ve gotten rid of these parts and not lost anything.  It’s just the developers shuffling their feet and going “You liked these guys, right?” rather than trying to make new characters.
            And for all this ranting…I enjoyed this game.  More specifically, I enjoyed playing as Ezio, doing things I’ve been doing since AC2.  Well, there is one good new addition: the hook-blade.  It lets you leap up buildings and use ziplines around the city.  It positively affects the navigation of the game.  The missions in general are well done.  There’s a few things that you haven’t seen before.  One level has you chasing after templars in a boat who are shooting at you, destroying the scaffolds in the cave you’re running through.  Another has you disguising yourself as a bard at a party and marking targets for your fellow assassins to kill while you distract them with your singing.  It’s where the game shines, and I’m wondering why they bothered doing so much needless innovating when all you have to do is make a small twist like this to make a fun mission.
            I don’t know if I could in good faith recommend Assassin’s Creed: Revelations for its single player.  I don’t play much multiplayer in general, so whether that’s good or not is up to other people.  For me, I came for the single player, and left entertained but disappointed.  It’s a perfectly fine game, but it feels like they’re going nowhere just to meet the yearly schedule rather than taking a year off and creating something incredible again.

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