Assassin’s Creed Retrospective Pt. 4

A good while ago, I started writing a retrospective on the Assassin’s Creed franchise (he’s not kidding: it’s only part four and the site’s been active for over a year! -ed.). We started with Assassin’s Creed, following the journey of Levantine Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad as he defends holy land from the Knights Templar and a misguided mentor. Then we took a trip to Renaissance Italy with Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, a Florentine Noble turned Assassin working to avenge the death of his Father and two brothers at the hands of Templar Grandmaster Rodrigo Borgia. Ezio then reprised his role in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to finish what he started in the previous game, all of which were games that were pretty good at minimum. You would’ve thought that Ubisoft would have been done with Assassin’s Creed after all of that, right? Going out on a high like they did with the Prince of Persia trilogy?

You would be wrong. In 2011, the series decided to return again with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, a further continuation of the stories of both Ezio and Altaïr. I know this is kind of giving my thoughts on the game away already, but let me just open this with a question straight to Ubisoft: what was the actual POINT of this game? You know, aside from making more money for you? The game falls on its face on the simple logic front already because we have protagonists who are somehow able to live to be old men despite the fact they have suffered huge amounts of injuries in times when those would have badly impacted their life expectancies (in times when you would have been lucky to have lived past 40 even if you didn’t have a job which ran the risk of you being killed on a daily basis, like, say, an assassin) and yet who are about as athletic as they were in their 20s. I know this is a video game, so expecting complete realism is probably a bit unfair, but this is a video game series which has prided itself on being as accurate as it can be with historical stuff, so I think this isn’t an entirely unreasonable question!

Dear lord, I’ve not even finished this introduction and I’ve already putting more thought into this game than the developers clearly did…OK, let’s actually start diving into Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

The gameplay is probably the worst that the franchise had offered up to this point. Free running, which, I’ll remind you, is one of the strongest features of the franchise, feels clunky and unresponsive. The Den Defenses are a tower defence minigame (and not even a well done one: these sorts of games do not work from the perspective of a commander standing on a rooftop!) that is completely pointless to the game and could have been cut without losing anything of any real worth and the combat in this game, while still functional, is just rehashing what the last two games did without any attempt to innovate or shake it up, which is just being lazy by this point. Admittedly, the hook blade is pretty good fun to use for throwing enemies around and bomb crafting, while something which could have easily been cut from the game without causing too many problems, is enjoyable, but those are nowhere near strong enough to save the gameplay of this game.

Constantinople is the new setting for this game and, I have to say, it doesn’t live up to the standards of what the previous two games offered. This isn’t helped by the fact that this game just refuses to run at full HD and it consistently drops below 50fps, which makes it look worse than it should do, but even full HD and a solid 60fps framerate wouldn’t make up for the fact that Constantinople just looks dull and lacking the life and excitement that the previous two games had. We also make a return to Masyaf for Altaïr’s story and, while the control scheme certainly feels like a step up from what was in Assassin’s Creed, Masyaf suffers from exactly the same problem the rest of the game does: the visuals are just dull! We’ve seen Masyaf in the first game and I’d say it looks better there than it does here, which should not be what I’m thinking with a game that came out nearly four years before this one did!

So, with all of that, you’re probably thinking “Surely the story makes up for its shortcomings?”.

Not really. There’s definitely some interesting ideas in this game, but there are far too many story parts which simply don’t make any sense if you think about them for any length of time. Ezio’s quest for knowledge in this game simply makes no sense. He’s the mentor and he’s leading his brotherhood in its Golden Age, so his quest for knowledge is just out of place here and flies in the face of what the rest of the Assassins are depicted as being like in the previous games. It’s actually more akin to Templar behaviour, so Ezio acting like this feels like a case of someone on the writing team running out of ideas and not caring if their solution ran foul of previously established characterisations! I also find the choice of Templar Grandmaster to be flat out wrong, as there was a much more logical choice in the game which is completely ignored in favour of a choice that doesn’t hold up as well. This might have been a deliberate attempt to misdirect players, but it doesn’t hold up very well. Desmond’s story in this game…well, I’ll say there’s nothing bad about it, but that’s because there’s NOTHING there at all. Seriously, Desmond could have been removed entirely from this game and nothing would have been lost, as his story here has no impact upon future games in the series.

So where do I stand with this game? Hmm…for all my complaints, I can’t say I hate this game, but I’d be lying if I said I liked it at the same time. It’s easily the worst game with Ezio and Altaïr in it and one of the weakest games in the whole franchise (not the actual weakest in my viewpoint, though: trust me, we’ll get to that one when we get to it!), but it still has some ideas in it which stop it from being completely worthless. I would only recommend it to the most die hard fans of the franchise and, even then, it’s not a strong enough game to be worth getting for anywhere near full price. Newcomers, save your money and get something more worthy of your time, like a Mars bar. Or, better yet, go actually visit Constantinople (now better known as Istanbul), you’ll get far more wonderful views in a much better image quality than this game can provide.