I usually prefer to play open-world games, where you are free to roam around and engage missions whenever you choose. Since I only play casually, the vast amount of content & area to explore in these games means it takes me months to finish a title. (Recently, my Playstation has been mostly a Batman & Assassin's Creed machine...)
The rich, vivid re-creations of historical cities in all the Assassin's Creed games make the virtual time-traveling well worth it. "Assassin's Creed II", & "Brotherhood", both took place in Renaissance Rome, following the adventures of the Italian assassin Ezio Auditore. "Revelations" takes Ezio to Constantinople, the city in modern-day Turkey that was the center of the Byzantine empire. It was also a Roman & Ottoman capital at different times- a cosmopolitan city where Eastern & Western culture intermingled.
The Eastern influences in the Byzantine architecture, clothing, & decoration in the city are an interesting change from the styles seen in the Italian cities in "AC II" & "Brotherhood". The amazing level of detail in the cities are probably the thing I enjoy the most about these games. They are the closest thing we currently have to experiencing what the world was like back then. The talent & vision of the teams who create these virtual environments is truly impressive. As I've said in other game reviews, I spend alot of time just roaming around & observing the many details in different
parts of the map.
The game play is not much different from the other AC titles. Most of the missions involve stalking targets using stealth tactics, tailing people without being seen, or battling large groups of enemies. It is not repetitive enough to be boring, but there is nothing really novel in the mission objectives. Still, the story & side missions are fun overall.
There's a fair amount of platforming & environmental challenges, but not as many as previous games. The one that stands out was climbing the inside of the famous landmark the Hagia Sophia. I have a slight aversion to heights & platforming segments that simulate high areas always makes my hands sweat a little! By the time I had reached the top of the Hagia Sophia's interior, climbing across ropes & precarious ledges, my heart rate had definitely gone up.
In "Revelations", the story of Ezio is masterfully intertwined with Altaïr, the assassin from the Middle Ages who was featured in the original "Assassin's Creed". The story follows the historical struggle between two secret groups, the Assassins & the Templars. These two factions are trying to control powerful technology, in the form of relics from The First Civilization. This is a race of highly-advanced humanoid beings who existed before mankind. In fact, they originally created humans as a type of slave labor, similar to the myths of the Sumerian Annunaki.
Thousands of years ago, the genetically-engineered humans rebelled against their masters. The resulting war distracted everyone from a cosmic cataclysm, that almost wiped out both races. Afterward, they tried to come together & rebuild, but for various reasons the First Civilization ended up becoming extinct. They left behind remnants of their advanced tech & holographic avatars to guide the hybrid descendants of humans & "Ones Who Came Before". The hope is that, with enough warning, precautions can be taken to prevent another catastrophe from wiping out the planet's inhabitants yet again.
With this story as a backdrop, you are actually playing as Desmond Miles, the modern day descendant of the assassins. He has been accessing his ancestors' "genetic memories," via a virtual reality machine called The Animus. So, when you play as Ezio or Altaïr, you are really playing as Desmond virtually experiencing the lives of his ancestors. He was held captive by the Templar front company Abstergo, but is now back with his fellow Assassins as everyone is searching for technology called "Pieces of Eden".
In this game, Desmond's mind has begun to fragment, from the strain of all his virtual trips into The Animus. To prevent his mind from completely falling apart, his consciousness is stored in some deep part of the computer. It manifests in an area called "Animus Island," where he must go through several 1st-person environmental mazes. These sequences take place in minimalistic, but surrealistic dream-like architecture. Desmond's missions on Animus Island are a side aspect of the game that can be accessed from the menu at any time.
Of course, most of the action follows Ezio as he carries out missions & searches for keys that will allow him to unlock Altaïr's library, where a Piece of Eden has been hidden.
This was a very satisfying conclusion to Ezio's storyline, even if you have to wait until the end to really get some "Wow!" moments. He was a well-developed character, who was alot of fun to play. Following the many events in the lives of both Ezio & Altaïr give you a deep sense of identifying with the historical struggle of these characters to keep their secret order alive, while they were also trying to grow personally.
If you are willing to invest the time, the Assassin's Creed series is a quality production of the highest order. The visuals are stunning, gameplay is engaging, and the storyline makes you think about ideas like virtual reality, the mysteries of genetic information, and the interconnected history & future of humanity.
• Official Monkey Buddha Rating: 8.5