Finished Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Hated it, but liked it

I have to admit I almost walked away from Assassin’s Creed Revelations a few times. I found the gameplay super frustrating a lot of the time. But I stuck with it long enough to get through the main storyline and I’m glad I did.

My biggest issue with the game was the city it takes place in: Constantinople. This place is a maze of narrow streets and buildings constructed on top of each other, and the streets teem with people. For the first hour it’s an amazing place to explore. Then it starts to get annoying since the quests have you having to cross and re-cross the city. Normally in an AC game you’d take to the rooftops to make your way around quickly, but in Revelations the ‘roof guards’ are both much more numerous than in earlier games, they’re much faster to react and call for help too. As often as not heading up to the roof led to either a battle or a long escape sequence that wound up with me farther from my goal than when I started.

There are “fast travel” tunnels but they’re pretty spread out and so not as helpful as they might be. Having to travel around the city was not fun, and since it’s a huge part of the gameplay, it made the whole game not fun.

The ‘raising a guild of assassins’ gameplay returns in Revelations but the towers you have to use to send your assassins on missions are so few and far between that again, it all feels more like a chore than fun.

Then there is notoriety, which works differently than in earlier AC games. In Revelations there are two opposing forces that Ezio has to deal with. The city guard and the Templars. Notoriety only impacts the Templars. The city guards will leave you alone unless you set foot on a rooftop for 2 seconds, or you get into a fight on the streets. But if your notoriety goes up, the Templars will attack one of your “assassin dens” which you will have to defend via a truly awful tower defense mini-game.

What compounds the problem is how notoriety increases. If you renovate a building or buy gear, your notoriety goes up. It takes 3-4 actions to max it out and open you up to having to play the mini-game. To lower it you can bribe a herald or kill a Templar official if you can find one. (No more tearing down posters.) That led to a pattern of renovating two shops, then finding a herald to bribe to bring down notoriety. Repeat. Over and over. Very tedious system.

They added a crafting system for crafting all kinds of bombs. All the little treasure boxes you find hidden around the city contain components for building bombs. I’ve never done much with the smoke bombs in earlier AC games and wasn’t interested in this bomb system in Revelations either.

Lastly, I guess this reflects the values of the people of Constantinople, but after a fight if you loot the bodies of your victims people around you start hurling insults about what a vile piece of human filth you are. That got old really fast. I stopped bothering to loot soldiers or to loot treasure chests. I never upgraded my gear much and didn’t really have to. What money I needed I got via real estate or completing quests.

Look I could go on and on. I really didn’t enjoy the gameplay in Revelations.

Let’s take a break from the constant murdering to have a nice picnic!

As for the story. I spent next to no time outside the animus (you can collect items that let you do Desmond missions but I hate Desmond so I didn’t bother). Ezio, now a grey-beard, is in Constantinople looking for the 5 keys to Altair’s library in Maysaf. Each key he finds leads him into a memory of Altair’s. So we’re playing as Desmond reliving Ezio’s memories of reliving Altair’s memories. So meta. I didn’t play AC 1 so didn’t have a strong connection to Altair, but if you did you’d probably enjoy these bits. In each one Altair is older. We meet his wife, and his son, and eventually see his death.

Ezio meanwhile meets a woman named Sofia and falls for her. He also pals around with Suleiman the Magnificent back when he was just Suleiman, son of the sultan. And he fights the Templars. His story is kind of dull, though I liked Sofia quite a bit.

The game wraps up both Altair and Ezio’s storylines (I’m presuming that is the case for Ezio though he is still alive when the story ends) and we get another glimpse into these people who came before, but not until the very end of the game.

Really, the last “memory sequence” was what saved the game for me. And now I can say I’ve played all the Ezio AC games, I guess.

One who came before decides to explain it all to Desmond.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood fini, on to Revelations

It took me like 3 weeks to play through Assassin’s Creed II and two days to finish Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Part of the reason is that ACB is somewhat shorter, but mostly it was because I was hooked on the story and skipped a lot of the side missions. Plus it being a long, lazy 4th of July weekend didn’t hurt, either.

I liked AC Brotherhood a lot. I liked how it continued the story of both Ezio and Desmond in a very “chapter 2” kind of way. This time around Ezio stays in one city, Rome, but it was large enough that I didn’t find that to be a problem. They also greatly expanded the system of upgrading your infrastructure. In AC 2 you spent money to improve your villa. In ACB you’re improving all of Rome. At the start of the game the Borgias have Rome in a vice-grip but Ezio and his fellow assassins can take back control by killing the Borgia Captain who controls a district, then putting a tower to the torch. Once that is done you can spend money to renovate stables, blacksmith shops, tailors, art dealers and the like.

The more shops you renovate the more income you earn and the larger the discounts you get. It was a fun system but I would’ve liked to see it taken even further. Aside from income there didn’t seem to be any gameplay benefit to renovating the districts. Fortunately my OCD just enjoyed improving districts for the satisfaction of doing it.

Another cool system was being in control of the assassin’s guild. You run around and save citizens from the Borgia, after which they join the guild. You then send them out on missions to level up and bring back goods and gold. If you’ve playing Black Flag it was like the system that let you send ships out on missions. The better part of the assassin’s guild was being able to call on them to help you. Target an enemy and hit L1 and suddenly from out of nowhere your assassins appear to take out that target. That NEVER got old.

I really enjoyed Ezio’s part of the story. Desmond’s was just so-so. I’m having trouble relating to Desmond (he’s the guy in present day who sits in the animus to relive Ezio’s memories). Part of the problem is that he’s voiced by Nolan North who uses the same voice he used for Nathan Drake. In fact there’s a section of the game where Desmond and Lucy (voice by Kristen Bell) are climbing through a ruin that felt very reminiscent of Drake and Elena (voice by Emily Rose) moving through Uncharted. It felt kind of unsettling to me.

Yussef is the guild master in Constantinople

Anyway, glad I played it. I have a lot of side content I can (and may) go back to still, but once the credits rolled I jumped right into Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. And honestly, so far I’m not feeling it. ACB felt like the end of Ezio’s story and so far Revelations kind of feels like an extended epilogue. Ezio is in Constantinople so we’re dealing with a fresh cast of friends and enemies. They’ve also changed a lot of the controls just enough to drive me crazy. L3 is now used where Triangle used to be, for instance.

They’ve also added bombs to the game. Ezio and craft and toss bombs, and at least early on there is a huge emphasis on this. Bleh. I played through most of ACB with a big-ass 2-handed weapon, cleaving my way through swarms of enemies. Now I’m supposed to hide and lob bombs? I say again, bleh.

Worst of all, they’ve managed to wedge a tower-defend mini-game into Assassin’s Creed. Ugh ugh and UGH. If I wanted to play a crappy Tower Defense game there are plenty to choose from. Hopefully I don’t have to do that too often.

We’ll see though. I’ve only got a few hours into it so far. Maybe it’ll get better.

Of couse Ezio has to find at least Western woman to romance

Assassin’s Creed, past and future

As of January 1st of this year I owned 6 or 7 Assassin’s Creed games for some reason. I’d never finished any of them so I’m not sure why I kept buying them, but I did.

Earlier this year I finally did finish Black Flag but at the time I attributed that to it being 1 part Assassin’s Creed, 1 part pirate game. But I did note that the sense of history grabbed me too.

Now I’ve finished my second Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed II, and I think I’m hooked. Once again knowing the characters (and the locations) from my limited historical knowledge definitely played into my enjoyment of the game. I’m sad to admit that knowledge actually came from a couple of dramas I’ve been watching on Netflix (“Medici: Masters of Florence” and “Borgia”), but at least I knew the broad strokes about which families hated which other families and how corrupt things were. Borgia in particular taught me to dislike Ezio’s main enemy, Rodrigo Borgia.

Contessa Caterina Sforza

The writing/characters were great too. In one scene, hot-tempered Caterina Sforza is on the roof of her keep, shouting down at enemy soldiers. The enemy commander says he has captured her children and he will kill them if she doesn’t open the gates. She blusters back “Do with them what you will!” Then she hoists her skirts to expose her knickers and shouts “I have the means to make more!” And of course then turns away and bids Ezio to please save her children. When Ezio finds her daughter, the little girl has her mother’s spirit. She is constantly berating the soldiers keeping her captive and one of my favorite lines is “I’m bored! I need something to do until you are killed!” Minutes later Ezio, of course, kills them and saves her.

I dunno how well this translates, but even with the dated graphics I really felt attached to these characters and wanted to help them. I also found myself looking up the characters on Wikipedia to see what had happened to the real people these characters represent. Pretty cool stuff.

I remember when the first Assassin’s Creed was coming out, the developers talked about how they’d tried to make the city of Acre as historically accurate as possible. While I thought that was cool, I didn’t even know Acre had been a city. But AC2 goes to Florence and Venice; cities that have at least a bit of resonance with me. I think that helped too.

Leonardo’s latest work-in-progress

I don’t think I’ll ever play through the original Assassin’s Creed unless they do some kind of re-master at some point. People seem to think the series took a big jump in quality with AC2 and it’s hard to go backwards in a series’ history (for me). But after I finished AC2 I jumped right into Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood where Ezio continues to pursue the Borgia family, this time in Rome. Again it’s fun to be in this world…I mean I’m climbing around on the Coliseum right!? I’m notoriously fickle but as of now I intend to keep with the series through AC: Revelations once Brotherhood is complete, and I’m happy to know AC3, AC: Unity and AC: Syndicate are all out there waiting for me (though I only have AC3 as a backwards compatible title on the Xbox One so we’ll see if it’s actually playable).

Now all that said, I’m a little concerned about Assassin’s Creed: Origins coming out this fall, for a few reasons. First it’s set in ancient Egypt, which I know nothing about. I mean I know the pyramids and a couple of pharaoh names but beyond that? I fear it’ll be a bit like Acre was in not hooking me historically. Second, they seem to be veering away from the historical side of things. I’ve been watching some previews and interviews and the assassin in Origins has things like a shotgun bow (shoots 5 arrows at once) and weapons with elemental effects, like a knife that sets enemies aflame. There was also a monster in the reveal trailer iirc: a giant snake or something. Though that could have been in a hallucination or something.

Ezio and Machiavelli walk and plot together

I’m still looking forward to Origins but not so much from an “Assassin’s Creed” point of view as just for an open-world adventure point of view, if that makes sense. Other changes I’ve noticed are swapping out the mini-maps for a Fallout/Skyrim-style compass with icons, the addition of some kind of crafting system, RPG-style levels and a pretty robust loot system with tiers of rarity. So I think it’ll definitely be a fun game, but I don’t think it’ll have that historical connection that I’m suddenly enjoying in Assassin’s Creed games.

As always, I am late to the party. But at least I still have a bunch of the old AC games to play!

Ezio recruits for the Assassin’s Guild
Sometimes you just need to hit the taverns.
DaVinci’s workshop in Roma