With the regularity of a flip of the calendar page, November brings us another Assassin's Creed, the fourth major console game in the series in four years. This year's edition is Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
More Ezio. More adventuring 500 years ago. More towers to climb and Templars to kill. They're pushing it, no? But maybe this game is worth your time…
Stephen Totilo, who enjoys this series a lot: This game starts badly. Actually, it's got problems even before it starts, because the sales pitch is that this game wraps up all of those unanswered questions you have about Assassin's Creed. If you don't have any questions—if you don't want to know why Desmond stabbed so-and-so or how a guy named Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad is connected to a dude named Ezio Auditore da Firenze—and if you wouldn't buy a game just for its multiplayer—then stay away. Far away.
This one is for the fans, the fans who might be happy to know that somehow Ubisoft's phalanx of Assassin's Creed studios have managed to make a game that is as stuffed with single-player content as last year's bursting AC: Brotherhood and has even more multiplayer options. You mostly play as an older but still nimble and deadly Ezio in 16th century Constantinople, exploring the most beautiful if topographically uninteresting city in the series. You also play occasional flashback missions as Altaïr and some very strange inside-the-computer-world missions as modern-day Desmond, whose consciousness has been fractured.
You have to have an appetite for the series' formula, established most successfully in 2009's Assassin's Creed II, to even tolerate Revelations. If you do—if you like climbing through an open-world city, taking on main story quests, tons of side missions, lots of stealth, acrobatics and assassination, the new game presents the most intoxicating version. I spent five consecutive hours yesterday ignoring the storyline in the campaign, because I was pulled into a loop of taking over sectors of Constantinople, recruiting and training assassins, sending those assassins on missions around the Mediterranean, and becoming such a master of the game's elaborate chemistry set that I had two minions ranked up to Level 15 Master Assassin before I hit a storyline mission that introduced the concept of training people to become Master Assassins. And the Desmond stuff… wow. It's very good, for once. Plus there's the wonderful stealth-based multiplayer, expanded this year to even include more lowbrow deathmatch options. This game starts rough with a Michael Bay-style first chapter that pretends the series if Call of Duty,. And the genius of the new bomb tools take a while to reveal itself. But this is no mere franchise-milking here. This game is, somehow, the real deal. Should you get it? Yes
So with each new title comes a feeling that to play it I need to go back and start from the beginning, something I don't have time to do. What I'm left with is a series, like Mass Effect, that seems too daunting to drop into. I want to play Assassin's Creed Revelations, but not until I've played all of the others. In a year so packed with massive hits and lengthy games, I can't justify the time. My gut tells me that this is a game I want and should play, but won't until I work my way up to the latest iteration. So as a novice to Assassin's Creed speaking to other novices, I'd say No, wait until you're caught up first.
Just based on what I've seen, it's a lonesome narrative as well, beginning with both Ezio and Desmond isolated for different reasons. I'm surprised at how much I miss the camaraderie on both sides of the Animus, though I'm hopeful to see some familiar faces as the story progresses. And while I'm complaining: Revelations is a touch more challenging than its most recent predecessors, it's still too easy.
But it's also still Assassin's Creed, still that same enjoyable mix of stealth and swordplay, environmental puzzling and classic art. Revelations has also had a graphical facelift and looks much sharper than its predecessors, and its art direction and level design are frequently in lovely concordance. The city of Constantinople has proved to be a terrific and colorful playground, and Ezio's new toys make traversal faster and more fun than ever.
It may be overstuffed, but the stuff it's stuffed with is mostly good stuff. Yes.