Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Smells Like Skunk Bombs." My Review of Assassin's Creed: Revelations

So Christmas has come and gone, and for a while now I've been playing all my new games. This includes the latest addition to the Assassin's Creed games: Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Which I just finished. Now, I'm going to tell you all about it, but before I do I will get the non-spoiler filled review done and over with and say that this game ranks the lowest of all the Assassin's Creed games. The highest, in my opinion, was Assassin's Creed 2 followed by the first game and then Brotherhood.
This game just didn't seem necessary from the get go. When I heard it would once again put players in the shoes of Ezio Auditore once again I asked myself: "Do we really need another Ezio centric game? Hasn't the dude done enough? Why not go to a new time with a new character for us to get to know?" This all comes back to the fact that by this time the folks at Ubisoft should have let the Venetian Assassin get some well deserved rest after his discovery of the Vault in AC 2, which had by far the biggest revelations of any game even the one with "Revelations" in the title.

I was willing to go on another adventure with Ezio when Brotherhood came out, it wasn't too bad. I liked the guy and his time period well enough to see what other mysteries he would uncover, but alas, all that really happened in that game could've been reserved for a half-price expansion pack. Not that I'm saying Brotherhood was bad, it just wasn't the proper step to take after AC 2 basically laid everything on the table and told us what needed to get done: which was (spoilers if you have yet to play the second game) save the world from a massive solar flare with the lost technology from the first civilization.

To be honest, from then on out, the third Assassin's Creed game probably should have taken place in present time, with Desmond (the actual protagonist of the games) finally becoming the primary player character instead of "just some guy" you play when not actually playing the game. In fact I thought the whole point of living through Ezio's life was so that Desmond could absorb his training and become the assassin he should've been.

However, the folks at Ubisoft felt it was better* (*more profitable?) if they stretched things out a bit* (*over the course of two years). We got Brotherhood and Revelations as a result, and where Brotherhood introduced some innovative new gameplay (the introduction to gathering your own group of assassins to use during missions) and some not so innovative gameplay (repetitively burn down a series of towers) Revelations takes it a step further while taking two steps back at the same time.

Revelations adds very little to the table worth mentioning with the exception of the "hook blade" which Ezio uses to zip on zip lines and extend his reach when climbing and being an all around bad-ass. However, this addition's charm quickly wears off as I kept finding myself not being able to use the zip lines because wherever I was going the zip lines would be going in the opposite direction. The hook blade offers very little combat advantages since Ezio was already a force to be reckoned with by the time Brotherhood started, and I rarely ever used the hook blade's features.

Another addition to the game is the introduction to different kinds of bombs instead of just the smoke bomb. Don't remember using smoke bombs in Assassin's Creed before? That's because you probably never used them outside the missions they were introduced in during AC 2 and Brotherhood. I sure as hell didn't. Now there's more bombs for you to use* (*not to use unless you like throwing bombs filled with skunk oil) including flash bombs, tack bombs, and... sheep's blood bombs? Once again, this feature hardly ever proved useful during my playthrough of the game and whenever I did make an effort to use them they seemed to work most of the time, but then again, I never found myself really wishing I had more skunk oil bombs (yes they have those).

Returning from Brotherhood were the ability to summon Assassins to do your bidding or send them off to do more interesting missions than the ones you were currently on. Also returning from Brotherhood were the Templar towers, now called dens but they're just the same monotonous chores from Brotherhood that I detested.

Then there's the new features that Revelations brings that I wished they never even thought of: mainly the management of your own dens. Now, mind you, I never felt interested in doing this beyond the story mission that made you do this, and there's a reason why. Basically, every now and then, the Templars will try to take over your den to which you must stand your ground and fight them off. Sounds relatively awesome right? You get to fight wave after wave of Templars until they give up and leave your territory. However, you will not be swinging your sword at them for any of this. Instead, the game goes into a strange RTS style of combat where you must place assassin archers and snipers on the rooftops, along with barricades on the ground, and have the snipers take out the Templar forces invading the area. Doesn't sound so fun now does it?
The only time I did this was enough to make me yawn and wish I could just jump into the street and cut down every Templar I saw, because I could've killed the entire invading army faster single handedly than my snipers were taking pot shots at them from the rooftops. What results is a boring mini-game that has you micro-managing a small war and watching it take place. Sure you can shoot at the Templars with your pistol, but it all adds up to one very disappointing tower defense game the likes of which you can find in abundance on Armor Games.

Along with this we have a mini-puzzle game that I guess is supposed to take us through Desmond's life before the games. They're found on the Animus Island and are unlocked after collecting a certain amount of Animus data shards found throughout the map in Constantinople. They play out like a first person platformer. Initially, they seem to be an interesting look into the past of Desmond but quickly degrade into a blatant Portal knockoff as you traverse room after room full of strange physics puzzles revolving around you summoning two shapes of blocks in order to skirt over deadly pits and lasers. All while Nolan North drones on about very uninteresting portions of Desmond's life, and the guy sounded like he was enjoying this as much as I was as I kept expecting singing turrets around every corner. Yeah, way to be interesting and original Ubisoft!

As for the story, well...
Without getting into spoiler territory I can say that one word sums up the entire storyline of Assassin's Creed: Revelations and that word is: Unnecessary.
There are no "revelations" in this game that are worth revealing. Sure, you get to see what happens to Altair from the first game, but it ultimately ends up feeling like the writers are just shrugging and wondering why anyone cares at this point. By the time I finished this game I wondered what all this meant in the context of the story and I honestly can't find one. The fact of the matter is, this game, and Brotherhood for that matter, are really just filler and nothing more. Sadly, seeing what's been done with Revelations makes me wonder what the true third game in the series is going to be like, because with the current track record for these games it can't be good.

Now onto the spoiler portion of the review.
Going a little more in depth into the so called "story" of Revelations now, the game starts where the last one left off. Desmond has been locked in the Animus after going batshit after being possessed by the Apple of Eden and stabbing Lucy (who was played by Kristen Bell) and killing her. Desmond finds himself on the island from Lost (or is it the trash file in The Matrix?) and is told by a guy who is revealed to be Subject 16, the illusive test subject who went bananas before the first game and placed all those weird glyphs in AC 2 and puzzles in Brotherhood. He's revealed to have survived in the Animus...somehow that is never clearly explained... and doesn't really contribute anything for the rest of the game. Which is sad because these games made it sound like this guy had all the answers we were searching for, since he was the guy who discovered a lost memory of Adam and Eve that you could unlock in AC 2. There is even a hint that he is actually plotting on taking over Desmond's body and leaving him to rot in the Animus as a data ghost, but that never pans out sadly, because that could've given Desmond something to do other than rip off popular first person puzzle games and drone on about Shirley Templars.

Instead, 16 tells Desmond that in order to get back to reality he has to live through the rest of Ezio's life until there's nothing left. Desmond once again delves back into his ancestor's past as we find Ezio, now well into his sixties, and still lookin' good considering healthcare wasn't so good back in the 15th century, at Masyaf (the home of the Assassins in AC 1) in search of some secret library under the castle that is supposed to contain a secret that Altair hid there during his later years. Sadly, the Templars are here too and pretty much ruin any chances of making Ezio's quest any easier. Compounding this fact is that the door to the library is locked and requires five keys in order to open. Ezio learns that these keys were hidden in Constantinople and goes in search of them.

Already, this game is looking like it will be a short one since all Ezio must do is find these keys throughout the city, so to add more padding to the narrative Ezio is tasked with helping the Constantine Assassins in some obscure political struggle that I never really gave two shits about. By this time, I was hoping we'd have focused on just what the hell happened to Lucy and quit wasting time in the past so we could get on with saving the world. Sadly, this isn't the case. Instead we have Ezio, who is Master of the Assassins mind you, going around and doing chores for the other Assassins. Not once does Ezio think that being a 60 year old man and the supreme master of an entire order of knights entitles him to tell the other Assassins to fuck off and get someone doing something less important than understanding the age old secret that could determine the survival of the entire human race. I mean Jesus Christ! Darth Vader wasn't this big of a pushover! Sure he was the Emperor's lapdog but you didn't see an Imperial Lieutenant coming up to Vader and asking him to strike down a lowly government official just because the Lieutenant needed Vader to "prove his skills." Shit, if he did Vader would've choked the guy on the spot for being such an incapable piece of shit!

This all just points to the idea that Ezio is suffering from a mid-life crisis. The guy's pushing sixty and is still jumping on rooftops like Batman. When he's not doing that he's trying to court a woman who is definitely half his age if not more!
When not being the bitch of the Assassins and not denying his age with over-compensation Ezio is looking for the Masyaf keys. It turns out that these keys are actually futuristic data discs that hold memories of Altair's time before and after Assassin's Creed 1. Why and how a man living during the Crusades managed to make technology like this is left to the handwavy power of the Apple of Eden, and ultimately these little flashbacks serve no purpose other than to further annoy you with the fact that any and all "revelations" in this game result in nothing of value being added to the established story. This becomes painfully clear on the first flashback which, as I mentioned, takes place before Assassin's Creed 1. You even are forced to save the man you know is the true bad guy of the first game! It provides nothing of value and only serves as a mode of appeasement to the whiny fans who wanted to play more of Altair for the second game. The rest just detail how Altair's life pretty much fell apart after the events of the first game where half of his family is killed and is driven from the order only to take it back and die an old man. Which is disappointing since Assassin's Creed 2 had hinted that maybe Altair had managed to cheat death in some way, only to be ruined when you find his skeleton in the library at the end of the game.

So Ezio gets the keys and some bad dude who I never really knew or cared to know kidnaps Sofia (the aforementioned young woman Ezio woos with his seniority). Ezio saves her and they unlock the library, only to find it empty with the exception of Altair's corpse and the Apple. There is something mentioned that it's not the same apple from AC 2 but by this time these apples are becoming harder to keep track of than the crystal skulls in the fourth Indiana Jones movie. In the end, Ezio, who talks to Desmond even though he still has no clue who he is, says he's too old for this shit and retires from the Assassin order.
What follows afterwards is another message from the ancient aliens telling Desmond to pretty much do the same thing they told him to do in the second game and he wakes up.
And that's it.
The plot has furthered a whole two inches since the end of Assassin's Creed 2.
I wasted about six hours of my life pissing and moaning and all I got was: "Yeah, we better get a move on that Ancient Temple thing before the sun kills us."

So what "revelations" did we divine from this game? The truth that needlessly stretching out the plot only gets you absolutely nowhere.

God, here's hoping Assassin's Creed 3 will be a step in the right direction....

I give Assassin's Creed: Revelations two skunk bombs out of five.

I've got a lot of walking in Skyrim to get to....

No comments:

Post a Comment