Whether you're new to the Assassin's Creed series or a seasoned acolyte, there are some things you can do as you prepare to play the new Assassin's Creed: Revelations that will make your time with the game much better.
Consider the following starter tips. They're not spoilers; they're my advice to you so that you can have the best time with the game. Think of it as me suggesting what you should pack before you go on a trip. Except this trip is to Constantinople, 16th century.
1) Get the PlayStation 3 version, if you can. It includes a free copy of the first Assassin's Creed which installs to your hard-drive. That first game is now looked back on as a tech demo for the flourish of the three big AC games that followed, but it's also the start of the series' story. Surely it'd be nice to have it handy.
2) Brush up on the lore You don't have have the intricacies of the Assassin's Creed storyline memorized, but these games are much more rewarding if you know what's going on. You'll benefit from knowing what happens, in the macro-sense, but you also should go into Revelations aware of the crazy cliffhanger that happened at the end of last year's Brotherhood. One way to brush up is to watch this video. Or, I could tell you some stuff...
(OK, some plot SPOILERS here: The short-short version of the larger story is that there's been a centuries-old secret war waged between the Knights Templar and the Assassin Order. In all of the main games, we play on the side of the Assassins, with the ostensible lead character being Desmond Miles, a man in modern times whose ancestors were some of history's most legendary Assassins. A device called the Animus lets Desmond re-live the memories of his ancestors: those of 12th-century Altair in the first game and as Italian Renaissance-era Ezio in the three that have followed, AC II, AC: Brotherhood and now Revelations.
Desmond's playable exploits in the games have involved the events that take place immediately after his September 2012 capture by Abstergo Industries, a front company for the Templars. He escapes at the end of the first game, begins to show assassin-like skills in the second and goes on the run with Lucy Stillman and other members of the struggling Assassin Order in the next.
Desmond, like his ancestors, also starts to experience visions of The First People, an ancient group of what appears to be technologically-advanced humans who prophesize some sort of world-ending event for late 2012. That deadline adds urgency to Desmond's Animus-enabled vision quests into his ancestor's shoes. Those quests are ultimately about locating the pieces or entirety of the Apple of Eden, an artifact of the First People. The quests also send our heroes after other knowledge that supposedly will help Desmond and the 2012-era assassins repel the ascendant Templars.
One problem: at the end of Brotherhood, a vision of one of the First People seems to take over Desmond's body and compel him to stab Lucy, his biggest ally in these on-the-run adventures, to death. And then Desmond passes out.
We begin the new game, Revelations, unsure of why the First People made Desmond do that, unclear as to who the unseen people are who picked up the passed-out Desmond and strapped him into an Animus... and we also get to spend the bulk of our time in this new game as Ezio, who is on his own quest to learn the life story of Altair and unlock keys to a door that will open into a secret vault of crucial information hidden by the great Altair.
Yes, that was the short version, because I didn't mention Christopher Columbus or Niccolo Polo or Ezio's various love interests or the rules of what can and can't be re-experienced in the Animus. END SPOILERS)
3) Don't brush up on the lore by reading the Assassin's Creed Encylopedia The new book's a beauty. It also spoils a lot of Revelations. Play the game first.
4) Start the story, but break away early and do the Den stuff You can play the campaign of Assassin's Creed: Revelations straight through without touching the heaps of side-quests tossed into the streets of the game's beautiful, busy main territory of 16th-century Constantinople. You can't even start the side quests until the game's linear action-movie-style first chapter ends. Let the second one begin but then do like I did and break out on your own by the middle of chapter three. The reason I suggest this is because the game's city is essentially one grand chemistry set.
Doing the right sidequests will make the game a pleasure... and makes it the most fun. The main thing you want to do is keep the Templars from over-running the city. If they do, you'll have a harder time getting through the city and the missions baked within the city without constant hassle from the authorities.
Keeping those Templars at bay is complex. Here's what you do: go to the six Templar Dens in the main, southern landmass of Constantinople. Hunt down the captains of those dens and light their signal towers. That will cause handy ziplines to be built in the region around the Den but, more importantly, will let you start recruiting assassins to your brotherhood. Those recruits can be summoned at any time in the game to help you in a fight, but what you want to do is to also dispatch them into the game's Mediterranean Defense strategy game, where you can assign them missions and level them up. Getting them to level 10 lets you go on a fun mission with each of them in Constantinople. It also lets you assign them to a Den and rank them up to level 15, at which time you get to go on another mission with them (these missions are good!) and, more importantly, locks the Den off from Templar incursion.
All of this is useful because, until the Den is locked off, the Templars will try to reclaim it. They'll attack if and when you commit enough suspicious or aggressive actions to fill an awareness meter atop the screen. You don't want to fill that meter up because it will put your Dens in jeopardy and because the tower defense mini-game you have to play to protect a Den isn't very fun. Get your folks to level 15 and so many of your problems are solved!
5) Collect Animus Fragments ASAP There are little sparkling cube-like things floating throughout Constantinople. You usually have to climb to get them. Listen for them. Turn on your eagle vision and scan for them. One way or another, grab them, even if you're in the middle of a mission. You want them for two reasons:
6) .... because they unlock the Desmond content The Desmond content in this game is good! And weird. (It's a first-person puzzle game). The Desmond sections fill in the guy's back story via some excellent voice-over by Nolan North. Not only are these sections increasingly entertaining, but they flesh out Desmond who is becoming an increasingly important character in the series. Soon enough, we'll probably play an Assassin's Creed that primarily stars him, so you better get to know the guy. There are 100 Animus fragments in the game world. You need 25 or 30 to unlock all five chapters. I did that early and played through Desmond chapters 2-5 in one sitting.
7) ... and because they get you a map. At 30 or so Animus fragments, you can buy a special map. That map you can get is for pages hidden throughout Constantinople by one of the city's elite assassins. You want that map, because it puts the locations for those pages on your in-game map so you can climb to them and grab them (you can't get the final page until you play through the game's fifth chapter, during which you gain access to the Arsenal district). You want those pages because they unlock access to the game's great hidden location level: the Hagia Sophia. And at the end of that level you'll get the coolest suit of armor you've ever been able to wear in the series.
8) Buy maps from bookstores Once you start renovating the city's bookstores, buy the treasure maps sold in them. These maps will clutter your map with icons of treasure chests. I'm not saying you should collect all of the chests, but, in the early going, being able to spot them and plunder them for money and bomb ingredients is very useful.
9) Use the bomb-testing option Once you learn how to craft bombs, use the option in the bomb-crafting interface to test them. This quick-loading test area will swiftly let you try out any of the game's overwhelming variety of customizable bomb types, letting you quickly toss one at or near enemy soldiers or civilians so you can see what the results will be. This testing mode will help you understand the nuances of the bomb system. It will make ACR's best new feature more useful, as you learn which kinds of bombs suit your play style.
10) Try to get 100% synch on all the missions Most of the missions in the game have secondary goals which usually ask you to be more stealthy by sticking to rooftops or not being detected. Completing that side-goal rewards you with 100% mission completion, rather than 50%. Always try to meet these goals as they will compel you to play the game more in the character of Ezio the assassin and less in the mode of ruckus-causing, system-exploiting gamer. Your rewards for clusters of perfectly-synched missions are game cheats, but that's a fake goal. They're irrelevant. Go for 100% synch to improve the mood.
11) Play the multiplayer, too Oh, yeah, that's pretty good, too.
Got any other questions about how to start the game? Ask me below. As for the game's ending, I'll get to that later this week.
(If you want to see some of the game's best new features, check out this video of Revelations highlights I captured off of my PS3 copy.)