This article will contain spoilers regarding the Assassin’s Creed Series.
After the release and subsequent success of Assassin’s Creed II, fans were buzzed to see which era the series would be visiting next and how good Assassin’s Creed III would be after the jump in quality from the first to se second game. However, it seems like Ubisoft had other things in mind as the next game released wasn’t a game with a new hero and time period, but another game starring everyone’s favourite Italian rogue; Ezio Auditore.
When Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was first announced there was a bit of confusion as to what the game actually was. The big thing the developers were pushing was the brand new multiplayer being introduced for the game, but what more could there actually be to the game aside from the multiplayer. The story was over right?
Wrong. Eventually, Brotherhood’s true nature was revealed and it wasn’t merely an expansion to the previous game, but was a full game all its own, a continuation of both Ezio’s and Desmond’s tale. Time jumps forward for both characters as they find themselves in search of a forgotten vault.
The culminating events of Assassin’s Creed II took place within Italy’s capital of Rome. Events at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, cast Ezio away from the cities he has familiarised himself with in the first game and cast him into Rome itself. Starting with almost nothing but the clothes on his back, Ezio and his cohorts begin to take the fight to the Templars and start to establish a new assassin’s order, right under their noses.
Ezio’s decision to be the bigger man and let Pope Rodrigo Borgia live and the end of II has come back to bite Ezio and the man is out for revenge against the lone assassin that made an utter fool of him along with his order.
Desmond and the assassins continue to use the Animus in order to learn the location of where Ezio eventually hid the Apple of Eden that his took from Rodrigo Borgia in a hopes that it would help them avoid the coming end of days.
Like the very first game, Desmond is seeking out a particular piece of knowledge, but most sift through years of his ancestor’s life before he is synchronised enough to view this particular events. These years Desmond relives are those of Ezio building an Assassin’s brotherhood from the downtrodden citizens of Rome.
Proof that Brotherhood wasn’t just filler for Ezio’s fans comes in the biggest involvement of Desmond within an Assassin’s Creed game to date. The first acts of the game have the player controlling Desmond through an underground cave system, jumping and climbing around trying to find a way into the hidden vault built so many years before. At this point Desmond controls and has all of the abilities of both Altaïr and Ezio.
Gameplay remains mainly unchanged from the previous Assassin’s Creed. Ezio retains all of the weapons and equipment from the previous game, which is nice for returning players, the game also assumed that the player knows how to use everything in their utility belt as it forgoes the lengthy tutorial this time around.
The property ownership features of the game make their return as Ezio continues to pour money into local shops and guilds in order to gain more support and available equipment for his cause, only this time Ezio can buy up the entirety of Rome. Ezio can also buy and renovate a number of famous landmarks around Rome. By the end of the game, the entire city seems to be owned by one man.
The main new function in gameplay comes in the form of attaining and training new assassins for the order. Ezio can save downtrodden citizens while roaming around the city and they will pledge themselves to his cause. While at any safe house the player can send these recruits off to various European locations to perform missions in order to gain experience as well as earn some money for the order. The eventual goal being that the recruits themselves all becomes fully fledged assassins.
This might sound interesting, but these missions all come into the form of a few paragraphs of exposition and little else. The context of the missions eventually becomes irrelevant and the player will just start sending recruits off on tasks without looking at what they are but merely based on their the odds of success.
It’s a micromanagement mini game at the end of the day. However, when these fledgling assassins aren’t out on assignment, they can be called upon by Ezio at any time in order to perform assassinations on targets or aid in particularly hairy combat situations.
On the Desmond side of the looking glass, the player gets to control Desmond a fair few times throughout the game, him having several jumping puzzles throughout the game when time for him to use his newly attained abilities is needed. Players also have the option to leave the animus at any time to explore the modern version of Monteriggioni at their leisure.
Ezio’s story continues with Pope Rodrigo’s son being the constant thorn in the players side to where he eventually kills his own father and tries to claim all of Rome for himself. Ezio eventually wins the day and the Pope’s son is arrested, but Ezio shows that he has become much wiser to the world and eventually decided that he must put down the young Borgia once and for all, culminating in the game’s final battle. As well as the revelation of the location of the Apple of Eden.
Coming out of the animus, Desmond and his team go to the vault in order to find the apple. After further evidence that Desmond is overusing the animus and starting to experience flashes of his ancestors while not plugged in, they eventually lay their hands of the ancient relic. It is at this point that one of the ancient being appears before Desmond and mysteriously takes control of his body. Despite his resistance, she forces him to stab his fellow assassin and love interest before they both fall unconscious. This ends the game on a cliff hanger.
Brotherhood was a case of more of the same. Thankfully, what is was bringing us more of was already really good. While I didn’t do this in the last part of this series, I think there is a reason in this one to go back and list some pros and cons
After the massive success of Brotherhood, it didn’t come as a surpise when Assassin’s Creed Revelations was announced and that it would be another game starring Ezio.
After Desmond has passed out from being controlled and forced to stab lucy, he is put into the animus again to prevent him falling into an ever deeper coma. While in this state Desmond finds himself in the deepest parts of the animus where he encounters the consciousness of the man who used the animus before him, known only as Subject 16.
He tells Desmond that he consciousness has become to intertwined with that of his ancestors, and in order for him to wake up from his coma he must live out the remainder of both his ancestor’s lives until they have nothing more to show him.
It is through this that Desmond sees both Ezio’s and Altaïr’s final days. As they search for meaning to the Pieces of Eden and the higher lifeforms they both have encountered.
Revelations did the same as Brotherhood in that it added a number of new basic gameplay elements to the player’s general experience. The first of these was the new hook blade. The hook blade was an extended prong with a hook on the end concealed along with the hidden blade.
The hook blade was mainly an aid in travel, allowing Ezio to climb quicker and reach hand holds even further than before. It also allowed him to make use of the numerous conveniently placed ropes around the city as ziplines. It could also be used in combat. The hook blade is most likely an excuse to help explain how Ezio can still move around at a pace equal to his teenage self at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed II. That isn’t to say the game is always point out Ezio’s advancing age throughout the game, it just doesn’t show up within the gameplay at all.
The other major addition is that of a bomb crafting system.
Throughout his time in Istanbul, Ezio comes across a number of materials that can all be used in the crafting of bombs. There are a number of factors that go into bomb making that give the player a lot of freedom to choose what types of bombs they think they will need at a given time. Crafting is split into three components, the gunpowder, the casing and the ‘filling’. The types of material the bombs are filled with are also split into three types, them being lethal, tactical and diversion.
The different types all have different effects while the casings and the powders both effect the scale of the blast and they method of which they actually explode. Using all these variables means players can make bombs ranging from a stink bomb land mine to a poison gas sticky grenade as well as many more.
At first it can seem a little daunting and the variety of different explosives than can be created will have you wondering where you can start. The fun in this is experimentation though. While all the different bombs fulfil their own purpose, it won’t be too long before the players settle on the three or four that they think are the most effective and stick with those.
I, personally, never used the fake gold bomb to any real effect, but I suppose that it comes down to how creative and elaborate the player wants to make their strategy when doing something like this.
Like the games that came before it, Revelations includes all of their features including the property development and recruitment of new assassins of the previous game and add one new thing to the mix.
The one new feature that we get comes in the form of a castle defence mini game? Throughout the game, players will be trying to split their time between whatever it is they do on this game and fighting to control certain portions of the map, gang warfare style. The ownership of a certain area centres around the ownership of a certain key building within the area. Taking an area from the Templars is simple enough, you merely have to kill the leader of the guard without him seeing you, defending them is a different story.
This is where the ‘tower defence’ aspect comes into play. Ezio stands on a rooftop and plants various defences along the road and on the surrounding rooftops. These come in the form of bowmen, pouncing assassins and barricades. Killing the slowly moving guards gains you points which you can further spend to upgrade reinforce your defences. Ezio can also take part in the defence by using his hidden pistol and ordering cannon strikes on the road.
All in all, these games are, at best, dull or, at worst, frustrating and happen so infrequently so that you never get a chance to become all that skilful at them. I got to the point where I would let the point be taken because killing the guard again as a much simpler, and far less time consuming alternative to the defence game. The thing is though, once the leader of that particular assassin’s den becomes a master, the guards can’t retake the areas, meaning the game just stops happening.
Once again, the game is essentially the same as the other two, but with some non major additions.
The tale comes to a head when Ezio collects all of the seals and somehow relives moments of Altaïr’s later life alone with Desmond. Ezio finally finds the final key and discovers the final remains of Altaïr as well as his Piece of Eden. It is at this point that Ezio speaks directly to Desmond and says he is giving up the assassin’s way so that he can settle down in his final years. He then leaves the apple where he found it along with his weapons and finally closes both his and Altaïr’s story in the series.
Desmond, finally able to wake up from his coma encounters the ‘ones who came before’ again. The three beings explain how they are the last of their kind. They were wiped out by a disaster very similar to the one that is going to befall modern civilisation in the very near future. While they were unable to prevent the destruction of the majority of their species, they believe that there is hope for us and that Desmond is the key to their salvation. It is with this that Desmond wakes up, announcing he knows what they have to do.
As much as Assassin’s Creed II was brilliant, Revelations seemed like a third, lengthy, addition to that one same game. While the solid gameplay was still present, there was too much of the same old, same old and not enough new to keep my interest.
Desmond’s major lack of contributing to the story, especially after his major upgrade for Brotherhood, is very disappointing. This is made all the more frustrating by the huge revelation at the end of the game that could have replaced the ending of brotherhood easily. The only look we really get at Desmond is an awkward first person puzzle section that announced via voiceover as you play why Desmond ran away from home. It was nice seeing the end’s of both Ezio and Altair’s stories, but it was ultimately irrelevant to the overall story the series is trying to tell.
I don’t want to say these games are dragging the series out, because I thought that brotherhood was actually a genuinely good game that took the story in a meaningful direction and made a major step setting up for the final goal of preventing the coming apocalypse in 2012. It seems, however, that Ubisoft decided to make two game right after releasing II, only to realise too late that they only had enough for one.
Don’t think I forgot about the other big addition to the series in these two game, the multiplayer. In my experience, the multiplayer is so similar in both Brotherhood and Revelations that I thought I might as well discuss them together at the end.
At its most basic, the multiplayer has a group of players all pick a character and then dumps them in a large area filled with dozens of npcs that all look like the players. Each player has a target that they must take out, the more stealthily the better, before they themselves are unceremoniously taken out. Players start with little equipment but as they level up they gain more gear and access to more equipment.
To begin with, the mode was a nice idea, it had players using patience and stealth, trying to fool other players into thinking they were npcs. However, as players levelled up, they gained access to new weapons and abilities. Before too long, the multiplayer degenerated into people sprinting around rooftops and shooting their targets with guns.
There was nothing to punish the griefers for playing the way they did, and they soon became the best people in every game. Assassin’s Creed’s Online multiplayer didn’t stay fun for very long. There were too many bugs and ill explained combat functions for players to make use of and turned out to be a very hard thing to get into when playing with other players who were of a higher skill. And that’s about all I have to say about it.
Both Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Revelations are solid games, building on the foundations of Assassin’s Creed II and adding further gameplay functionalities, multiplayer and story to the overall series. The thing is though, they weren’t really necessary. While Brotherhood did seem like a legitimate sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, continuing the stories of both of its heroes and ending on a very gripping moment, Revelations seems very tacked on. Brotherhood ended on a perfect moment for the series to go to Assassin’s Creed III, dealing with the ramifications of Desmond’s stabbing of Lucy coupled with the unknown factor of whether he could be trusted anymore and if this could happen again. Revelations takes all of the momentum out of the story and decides it needs to tie off any loose ends it can find before coming out with III.
While they add new gameplay functions to both games that are both interesting in how they integrate with the abilities set by the previous game, they’re all, ultimately, pointless additions that are unlikely to find their way into a later game in the series.
While Brotherhood is a worthy Assassin’s Creed 2.5, I think Revelations drops the ball in so many places, it’s casual dismissal of the death of Lucy, and apparent ‘we’re not bringing it up again’. While, on its own, it is still a good game, better than many that came out around the same time. It seems to stick out in the series and doesn’t, as of this moment, seem to contribute anything to the overall story presented in the series thus far.
In the final part of this retrospective I’ll be talking about what each of these game contributed to the overall series and will talk about what has been revealed about Assassin’s Creed III thus far.
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