At first glance ‘Revelations’ is an unfortunate subtitle for Asassin’s Creed’s fourth console release. Echoing the title of a disappointing finale to a sci-fi trilogy may not carry the best connotations for the third and final title in the Ezio saga. Also, the intrigue of the word is somewhat diluted by the fact that last-minute ‘revelations’ have become a staple in the dying breaths of each and every one of the series’ targets.
But take a biblical slant – which is, of course, another Assassin’s Creed staple – and we could be talking ‘Revelations’ revelations. The last book – a final word as momentous as it is confounding; as earth-shattering as it is fascinating. In this light, maybe the apparent cliché of the subtitle isn’t a lazy buzzword at all, but a hint at the epoch-changing events that will lead to the series hitting the big III.
Understanding the plot
Brotherhood was a shock. Not for how easily it infiltrated the online scene with its cat-and-mouse multiplayer – an idea so ingenious it seems to make its originators appear paradoxically stupid for not thinking of it sooner – but for its single-player; or more specifically, that there was one. Boxed in with this heavily marketed and remarkably complete multiplayer experience was a whole new instalment in the Assassin’s Creed narrative. With this, Ezio went from being the second assassin to star in his own stand-alone title, to the protagonist of a trilogy, one that finds its end in Revelations.
This closing chapter of Ezio’s story of religion and conspiracy picks up after Brotherhood as he embarks on a pilgrimage of self-discovery to the homeland of his ancestor, Altaïr. There he discovers that his predecessor once hid an artefact in the order’s stronghold which has the potential to finally end the war between assassins and Templars. First he must uncover the five seals scattered around the city of Constantinople, each one carrying an imprint of Altaïr’s memories where the two assassins’ paths will overlap.
This all takes place through the prism of a comatose Desmond in 2012. Relying on the Animus as a life-support, he falls in to a sub-system known as the ‘Black Room’ which he hopes to use to access Ezio’s memories of accessing Altaïr’s and thereby connect the fragments of his psyche.
Reinventing the kill
Far simpler to explain than the elaborate plot is Ezio’s new weaponry. One major addition is the hookblade. A variation of the hidden blade, it allows Ezio to utilize ziplines placed around the city for a quick escape. (These ziplines will appear in greater frequency wherever you have established an Assassin’s Den.) The hookblade has its advantages in combat too, where it can catch targets and bring them in for a closer kill.
Ezio also now has the ability to craft new types of bombs from ingredients he discovers in his travels. These craft stations are scattered around the city and allow for bombs to be designed for specific requirements. Basic types include the familiar smoke bomb, the volatile impact bomb, and the spike-strip caltrop bomb (which can slow both pursuers and targets), but this is just a taste as the alchemy of fine-tuning allows for up to 300 potential bomb variations.
One neat twist is bombs can now be placed on guards. Tripwires can be placed on a downed guard to kill any that might discover them. Stink bombs can be placed on a living guard to alienate them from the pack. With all bombs falling in to categories of lethal, tactical or diversionary and the possibility of altering a bomb’s casing to produce a secondary effect, they could well prove to add more than just an increased arsenal but a whole new way of using it.
New ways to compete
Two new multiplayer modes bolster the online play. Artifact Assault is a capture-the-flag style game which plays with the predator/prey dynamic with territory lines which, once-crossed, leave you capable only of stunning the enemy if discovered in their base. Deathmatch is a tense affair, doing away with the compass in favour of a simple portrait of your target with an alert when they cross your field of vision. In Deathmatch there are no skin replicates, so survival is a matter of active evasion rather than relying on camouflage.
This reflects the much greater customisation settings of your online persona. In a seemingly counter-intuitive move, you can now personalise your assassin. While this might appear to make you stand out from the crowd the NPCs are similarly varied. Weapon sets are no longer reliant on the character type and can be modified on the fly. There are also new multiplayer abilities including the tripwire bomb (seen put to good use next to the ‘flag’ in Artefact Assault) and ‘closure’ which can bring down chase-breakers to either prevent or aid a kill.
Where simultaneous kills and stuns still work out in favour of the assassin these now qualify as ‘honourable deaths’, with the target receiving 100 points and the assassin taking damage and being opened up to enemies. Assassins’ defence are also lowered when performing less stealthy head-on kills which produce longer animations in an attempt to shift the dynamic seen in Brotherhood multiplayer to greater favour the unseen assassin.
New perks have been added for the dedicated leveller, with a level cap of 50 only leading to prestige loops of a further 50 levels with their own benefits – this process can be repeated almost infinitely. There is also clearly plenty of minor tweaking going on underneath the hood, with one example being throwing daggers showing a noticeable increase in effectiveness.
An honourable death
In Revelations’ current state it will undoubtedly be a day-one purchase for most Assassin’s Creed initiates. This won’t be the title that sways the outsiders – apparently a mission laid out for III when it arrives – but as a final word on the trials of Ezio and Altaïr it’s unlikely to disappoint.
Whatever revelations lay in wait for fans at the end of this saga, it’s worth bearing in mind that Desmond entered the Animus in September 2012. Perhaps this won’t be the last book for long…