Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Hands-On Preview – An Afternoon With Ezio & Altair
Written Tuesday, October 11, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Age does wonderful things to a man. It makes them more experienced. It makes them wiser. It even allows them to grow a grey beard and make them pretend like they’re George Clooney, if only for a few minutes before the startling realisation kicks in that they’re not. In Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s case, it actually makes him more agile – Ezio is 30% quicker in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations for instance – but that’s partly down to his new Hookblade and Revelations’ new zip wire transportation system. We headed to the streets of Constantinople recently to give Ezio – and Altair – a run for their money and see how the stories intertwine with one another. Don’t worry though, no spoilers!
For those not up to date with the Revelations plot, it’s as simple as an episode of Lost. In short, through over-usage of the Animus, Desmond is in a coma and in order to regain consciousness, he must realign both Ezio and Altair’s memories with his own experiences and find common ground. Get it? Good! Revelations then sees Ezio trek to Constantinople (AKA Istanbul) in search of a set of keys that Altair stashed within the deepest regions of the city. Keys that will unlock a powerful weapon that could end the Templar and Assassin war. Seriously, you can’t make this up… oh wait, Ubisoft Montreal did!
Sequences 2, 4 and 5 see Ezio land in Constantinople, make acquaintances with various Assassin faction leaders and seek to uncover a conspiracy that's brewing within the Byzantine Empire. Revelations is just another example of how a lack of variety in the Assassin’s Creed franchise died with the release of Assassin’s Creed II and in the space of those three sequences alone we delved into a tower defence style mini-game, incited a riot on the streets of Constantinople as a distraction and even took out a group of minstrels, stole their costumes and snuck into a party to entertain the guests with amusing ditties from Ezio himself, while protecting the future Sultan from a series of dire attacks. If by some miracle you’re bored by all that, there’s your usual array of side missions to delve into, shops to snap up and upgrade, Animus Data Fragments to collect, Templar towers to free and turn into Assassin Dens, and much more. Variety is very much alive in the latest iteration then.
A large part of the gameplay in these few sequences in our hands-on revolved around the typical-Prince-of-Persia-style tombs that we’d seen become more prevalent in recent iterations of the franchise and their subsequent Altair sequences. After navigating through some epic underground lairs, zip-lining through waterfalls and even chasing down a number of Templars attempting to escape on a boat in the river below, it becomes time for Ezio to snap up a couple of the five Masyaf keys from the end of two of the sequences. Using the Eagle Vision, Ezio is able to discover a secret door set into one of the walls and venture back to snap up one of the keys that is the door into his ancestor’s past. A quick trip back to the Assassin HQ and Ezio is able to relive one of Altair’s memories and throw fans back into the shoes of the man that kick-started a generation of games – yes, Desmond is using Ezio to access Altair’s memories… it’s getting very Inception on us all of a sudden!
The two Altair sequences we went hands-on with were actually relatively short, but thoroughly engaging nonetheless. The first sequence picks up moments after the demise of Al Mualim at the end of Assassin’s Creed 1 and tells the story of the subsequent moments and treachery that Altair had to face. Granted, it did have a rather clumsy and frustrating climbing sequence that saw you interrupted mid-climb from large pulses that emanate from the Apple of Eden.
The second Altair sequence we experienced was a bit more combat-oriented, but like the first, suffered from an annoying gameplay mechanic that almost tainted what was otherwise an enjoyable experience – this time, moving too far away from your associate (no spoilers!) was an automatic mission failure… not bad on its own, but because it was overly sensitive, it frankly became frustrating as hell. While neither were perfect in terms of the mechanics, getting a glimpse into Altair’s life after we last left him him, more than made up for a few oversights. Here’s hoping that they either get tweaked or get progressively better as the game goes on.
The two major game changers in Revelations – for Ezio, that is – are quite easily the implementation of the Hookblade and the bomb creation system – both of which open up plenty of new possibilities for players. The Hookblade not only allows you to access the zip-line system that exists in Constantinople – while also allowing you to drop off them and aerial assassinate some foes! – and use it in combat, either to roll over the back of a foe or to use it to fling them to the floor, but it also means you climb faster and are able to fling yourself forward off the Brotherhood-introduced hanging lamps.
The combat is a lot deeper in Revelations too, mostly down to the fact that certain enemies can now block, dodge and counter with as much intent and purpose as Ezio himself. That’s why making good use of the bomb creation cabinets is especially important. Taking ingredients you find lying around or through looting dead bodies, you can put together various materials – choosing a shell type, the gunpowder it uses and the effect – to create some devastating tools of the trade. Whether you want to create gold coin-dispensing bombs that act as distractions, stink bombs, bombs using lamb’s blood that fool anyone it touches into thinking they’ve been wounded, and so on, you can. There are numerous possibilities and with the trickier opponents, they can be a saving grace and the key to getting the upper hand.
It’s not just about these major changes though, it seems as if Ubisoft Montreal has been listening to fan feedback about some of the minor annoyances too, making for a much more rounded experience. For instance, in walking cutscenes now, where Ezio will walk and talk on the way to an objective, you can stand in a position that will allow the game to auto-walk for you. The lip-syncing has been vastly improved as well, the Eagle Vision is now third-person, and there are even random events in the streets such as the appearance of Stalkers – who are one of many different random events, in fact – who will knife you and steal some cash from you… However, chasing one of these down and sticking a blade in their chest has never been more satisfying! Hell, even the slow-mo kill cam on every last kill in a group of foes is a subtle, but equally as powerful addition.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations might be a case of more of the same and then some, but frankly, after the cliffhanger ending that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood threw at us, we’re champing at the bit to see how Ubisoft Montreal finishes off this particular trilogy.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is scheduled for a November 15th and November 18th release in North America and Europe respectively.