Monday, July 2, 2012

Time Traveling Italians!

After months of basically not playing the game because I didn't have a decent-enough television to allow me to read the on-screen text that described what my goal was, the tutorials that told me how to do what I was supposed to do, etc., I have finally finished Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and somehow, months before Assassin's Creed 3 comes out! I know, it's a miracle, right?

Here's a bit of history between me and this game: ACRev was the first game I bought for my PS3 when I ordered it on Black Friday last year. I tried to work my way through the game, but the TV I found on Craigslist didn't give a clear enough image to let the game's tiny text be readable. This was annoying considering how many new concepts were introduced at the start of the game (bomb-making, den defense, rearranged buttons for old features), and especially when the tutorial bits would stay on the screen long enough for you to read the whole thing minus one line. Beyond this, for whatever reason, I would usually get a headache after trying to play any PS3 game for more than 20 minutes (though strangely, not anything on Xbox). So, ACRev sat on the shelf for a long time.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations, creditsWhen I recently resumed playing ACRev (on a less headache-inducing television), I have to admit, I forgot most of the plotline leading up to that point. This wasn't aided by the bizarre plethora of missions available at any point in time. You could do this mission over here where you would look for a hidden book for love-interest Sofia (who effectively served as the new Leonardo, decoding it and giving you new sites to check out). You could do that mission where you assist one of your fellow Assassins in some task. You could do that other mission that actually pertains to the plot of the game. In the end, at least some of these elements came together to form a coherent storyline, but probably not until about halfway through the game.

That's probably my biggest complaint about the game: Unlike in the past where side missions actually meant something, side missions here are little more than toys you can play with. For example, like in Brotherhood, you can recruit and send Assassins to do work for you in other cities. I think unlike the last game, they could knock a certain portion off of the Templars' control of that city, then once the city was "claimed" by the Assassins, it would slowly revert back to Templar control unless you kept sending Assassins there to do more tasks. By the end, I stopped caring about the other cities because this mindless economic exercise didn't even result in much change in the end; most cities became controlled by Templars again anyway. It was probably even a mindless economic exercise in ACBro as well, but it didn't hit home as such until this game proved the efforts to be futile.

Taking over the (local) Templar dens and converting them to Assassin dens allows you to unlock shops for renovation, just like the last game. Once your Assassins reach a certain experience level, you can appoint them to take charge of certain districts of the city, where if a series of other missions are accomplished, they can completely protect that region from attack. How does a den get attacked? Well, if you let your notoriety meter spike just a little to high and remain notorious, one of your dens will be attacked. Or at the very least, that's what I think is supposed to happen, because I never had this issue. Never mind that there was a big tutorial den defense game way back before I gave up playing, I never encountered that problem again. Which I'm thankful for, really, because throwing a tower defense-style game in the middle of the AC series is a really stupid idea, but still the fact that the possibility that it could happen, and then is completely preventable, leaves a sour taste in one's mouth.

But much to my surprise, ACRev is probably more of a story-driven game than its predecessors. Which is to say, its story was less crap than Brotherhood's. Near the end of the game, I played through a few missions that I'm surprised to admit struck an emotional chord with me, and especially after seeing the ending of the game (no spoilers here), those emotional moments were generously rewarded. I had to take a few moments to smack myself and remind myself that I still hated certain parts of the game and the entire game wasn't redeemed by the late-breaking awesomeness of the story. Still, while AC1's ending was a middle finger, AC2's was a strongly-shaken fist, and ACBro's was defecating one's trousers, ACRev's ending was probably the first point of satisfying closure the series has provided, though leaving the door open for more development in the future (obviously, if there's yet another sequel coming).

So to sum up this game way more quickly than any of the other games in the series, is it worth playing? Yes. Does it mean having to go back and play Brotherhood? Eugh... unfortunately, maybe, if only to get certain references that come up again here. Am I pre-ordering Assassin's Creed 3? Not yet. Maybe. I dunno. I'll probably jump on the boat months after everyone else does, as is my usual style. I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually though. Sadly, I no longer have my television to blame.

(Postscript: I haven't done much with the multiplayer, sorry. I'll get on that.)