I admit that I liked the tower defense component when I first played it. I even kind of enjoyed it the second time. But by the third time around, I was over it. Despite the new toys you unlock - flame throwing barricades? Yes, please - it's very much a rinse, lather, repeat affair. Once you attract enough attention from the local Templars, they'll come knocking at the door of one of your dens. If you don't want to lose it, and the income it and the surrounding neighborhood generates, you need to hightail it back home and start orchestrating the defense. I applaud Ubi's efforts to give us something new but between this, the assassins' mini-game, the bombs, the hookblade, the ridiculous cart-driving and mine-shaft sliding levels, and the handful of other extras thrown in to the mix, I'm finding myself spending more time doing things that aren't what drew me to the series in the first place.
Of course, I wouldn't want Ubi to swear off of innovation forever. After all, that's what brought us the highly enjoyable and addictive multiplayer assassination games. They're still here in Revelations and they're just as compelling as they were in Brotherhood. What makes them so compelling is that they're not like every other competitive multiplayer game out there where it's just your skill at killing that determines how well you do. In Assassin's Creed half of the game is knowing how to blend in with the dozens of NPCs who happen to surround you while you track down your targets. Naturally, they're trying to blend in as well, so you spend most of the game trying to tell which people are actual players you need to kill and which people are just NPCs going about their AI business. It's such a refreshing alternative to the usual FPS deathmatch. I mean, where else can simply sitting on a bench and watching people walk by get your heart racing?
From a standpoint of pure historical simulation, I'm sure the version of Constantinople in Revelations is probably just as accurate as Rome was in Brotherhood, but the city in an Assassin's Creed should feel like one of the characters and this one just doesn't. It's monochromatic, indistinct, and homogenous. Maybe it doesn't have the variety or the familiar landmarks of a city like Rome or Venice, but it just lacks the life that makes the cities from the other games feel like real places inhabited by real people. Mechanically, it's still sound, with loads of crowded markets, towering spires and backyard gardens that make assassination such a fun game. It just doesn't feel like it has any soul.
I don't want to say too much about the plot because there are some jaw-dropping moments that are well worth experiencing unspoiled, but I will say that the story itself seems to come to a satisfying conclusion, at least as far as Atlair and Ezio are concerned. The loose ends of both men's lives are effectively tied up in a neat little bow in Revelations (and the accompanying Embers movie), so all that's left is to speculate about what happens with Desmond in the inevitable sequel. The trouble is that there's basically nothing going on with Desmond in this game. His sequences are so marginal that they might as well not exist, and the game really doesn't even bother making a big deal of Desmond's presence outside of some cinematic bookends. After having dreaded Desmond's lack of character and real gameplay, I'm curious to see where Ubisoft wants to take this series next. Are we going to get a full Desmond game or are we just going to see a new surrogate and a new setting?
Bottom Line: The thrilling gameplay that attracts fans is still here, although it's a bit obscured by too many mini-games that are less fun than or relevant to the core experience. The story is finally ended but we're still left wondering what's next for Desmond. Multiplayer is, as expected, awesome.
Recommendation: It's a must-buy for fans of the series' gameplay and narrative and inventive take on multiplayer. If you aren't already in that group, get in on the ground floor by reading up on the story from the first game and then playing Assassin's Creed II.
Steve Butts is scared he'll have to play a whole game as Desmond.
This review is based on the 360 version of the game.