Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/s/assassins_creed_revelations_sp_preview/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Last week, I found myself in an industrial district of San Francisco, heading down a long, empty alley where an unmarked door waited at the very end. Why? For a chance to play Assassin’s Creed Revelations.
To be fair, San Francisco is a pretty nice city, and the invitation came directly from Ubisoft, rendering the entire situation considerably less questionable than it might initially seem. Assassin’s Creed branded snacks were on hand to keep blood sugar levels optimum, but like almost everyone else in the small, dimly lit room, I was there to see Ezio.
Nearly two years have passed since we were first introduced to Ezio Auditore in Assassin’s Creed II, yet it feels like a lifetime ago. In a way, we have known Ezio for a lifetime – we were present for his birth, after all – and next month, we will see his journey come to an end in Assassin’s Creed Revelations.
Assassin’s Creed Creative Director Alex Amancio was present to give us a brief introduction prior to setting us loose at our kiosks. Since we were beginning the session in Sequence 2, a little context was needed.
As seen in the provocative E3 2011 trailer, Ezio’s search for answers has led him to Masyaf, the ancient fortress once home to Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. Upon his arrival, however, he finds the former Assassin stronghold occupied by Templars, who were drawn to it in the very same quest for truth. As such, Ezio’s personal journey becomes a race against time, as he must uncover Masyaf’s secrets before the Templars do.
In terms of length, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is roughly the same as Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and the content we previewed was only about 30 percent of the full game. At the start of Sequence 2, following his run-in with the Templars squatters, Ezio winds up in Istanbul, where he is met by Yusuf Tazim, leader of the Assassins in Constantinople.
The dynamic between Yusuf and Ezio mirrors the witty, somewhat one-sided exchanges our hero used to share with his old friend, Leonardo Da Vinci. The Ubisoft crew was reluctant to talk about Leonardo, but for better or worse, Ezio has a new BFF in Yusuf. After a brief and eventful tour, the alien city starts to feel much more familiar.
Despite the change in scenery, Revelations is structured very similarly to Brotherhood, with a few new bells and whistles to keep the gameplay fresh. Like Rome, Constantinople is split into a number of districts that start out occupied by Templars, who, like the Borgia, restrict access to local businesses and services. Freeing these districts works the same way: kill the regional captain and burn down a signal tower. Tunnel entrances have also returned, offering a quick way of getting around the city, but horses are no longer a viable mode of transportation due to how cramped the streets are. Gone are the days of trampling over guards or yanking terrified civilians from their ponies – very sad.
In Constantinople, you have an Assassins’ Den for keeping track of all your armor, weapons, collectibles, and guild activities, while smaller safe houses and pigeon coops let you manage recruits and pick up additional guild quests. Recruiting new blood is still a gameplay staple, and this works much as it did in Brotherhood. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon a civilian being harassed by a group of Templars, while others can only be recruited through quests. One recruit was actually a skilled pickpocket who was, for whatever reason, slipping foreign coins into other people’s purses without their noticing. For her, the recruitment phase required me to identify her from a crowd then chase her down and confront her about this peculiar behavior.
Leveling your Assassins-to-be remains straightforward, though in Revelations, recruits are characterized by specific weapon masteries and more visual customization options. How they look obviously has no bearing on gameplay, but certain assignments will call for certain specializations, like a swordsman or blunt weapons specialist.
Ezio still has all his old moves, but being a Master Assassin doesn’t mean he stops learning. At the start of the demo and upon his arrival, Ezio is given an Ottoman hook blade, an item that we’ve already seen plenty of in screenshots and trailers. In a later Memory, he is shown how to craft new bombs, which can be custom tailored to suit just about any play style.
The hook blade replaces one of the two retractable blades Ezio wears and comes in quite handy both in and out of combat. In a fight, the hook can be used to yank enemies off balance, leaving them vulnerable to attack or giving Ezio an opening to flee; Yusuf calls the latter tactic a “Hook and Run.” While out and about, the hook blade actually allows the wearer to leap greater distances, and the local Assassins have set up zip lines to help them navigate the cityscape.
Bombs are equally versatile and come in three varieties: Lethal, Tactical, and Diversion. Their names are rather self-explanatory, and the effects are determined by what you put in the bomb. During the crafting phase, you’ll choose a shell, gunpowder, and effect – basically how the bomb is triggered, the type of catalyst, and the ingredient within. Ingredients are fairly easy to acquire if you’re the sort of player who doesn’t mind rummaging through every chest you find. Otherwise, vendors offer a quicker (albeit pricier) alternative later in the game.
What I did notice, however, is that neither the hook blade nor the new bombs drastically alter the feel of combat in Assassin’s Creed. For the most part, you’ll still be falling back on the same basic combat tactics that carried you through the last three games.
Mission types from previous games have also carried over, but Revelations boasts a few new additions here as well. One segment involved defending the Den from a Templar siege, leading to a very simplified tower defense mini-game, where Ezio must set up barricades and direct various Assassin units – like riflemen and archers – across rooftops to counter increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
So what’s Desmond up to? If you finished Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, then you’re aware he’s not in a very good situation at the moment. The game’s menu now has an option to exit a Memory Sequence to a place called “Animus Island,” a literal island that looks like it was yanked from a contemporary surrealist painting. These brief intermissions drop you back in Desmond's shoes, and while wandering the virtual space, you’ll encounter the mysterious Subject 16 and hear the voices of other characters who are observing Desmond in the real world. During the demo, I heard both Rebecca and Sean speaking – so they’re back – in addition to a man named “Bill,” who apparently trained Lucy and Desmond when the two were younger. Lucy’s fate, on the other hand, remains a mystery.
Another highlight from my hands-on time with the demo was, of course, being able to play as Altaïr again. These Memory Sequences are triggered by finding the five seals hidden by Desmond’s and Ezio’s mutual ancestor, detailing his actions following the defeat of his master. The Altaïr-specific Sequence during the demo is fairly story-driven and picks up directly after the end of the first Assassin’s Creed, so I won’t go into any more detail on account of possible spoilers.
It’s fair to say, however, that Revelations will be one hell of a conclusion to Ezio’s trilogy. Desmond’s tale – or “cycle,” as Alex Amancio calls it – is still another installment away from ending. Yet Ezio is the one who became a definitive icon in contemporary gaming, not Desmond, and seeing his reign come to an end should prove nothing short of epic.
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