In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, a grizzled Ezio leaves Italy behind to seek out Altair's secrets in Constantinople and Masyaf. He is hunting down the five keys of Altair's Library of Masyaf--relics which, it turns out, each function like an Animus, allowing Ezio to skip back through time to relive the memories of his fellow assassin. So you're playing as Desmond, playing as Ezio, playing as Altair. Still with us?
Ezio recovers one of these keys from Leandros, a sneering Templar captain with a scarred mug and plated mail armour. This is the guy who tries to hang Ezio in the debut trailer, and who Ezio assassinates atop a tower in the snowbound Masyaf fortress. The fortress is overrun with Leandros' forces, a Byzantine faction of Templars, who suffer death by hidden blade, naturally, but also by various explosives, each created in Revelations' new bombcrafting system.
The system is accessed via bombcrafting stations set up around cities by the Assassin Order, which the developer likens to the pigeon coops used to manage your team of assassin trainees in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Here, players can use ingredients looted from chests, such as caltrops and shrapnel, to create bombs in three categories: lethal, tactical, and diversion. Bombs are built by combining a shell material, a gunpowder material, and an "effect" material. Where the effect material is caltrops, for instance, the result is a caltrop bomb, which Ezio can use to scatter the spiked balls in the path of a pursuer. Where the effect material is shrapnel, the result is a shrapnel bomb--a grenade, in effect.
Other bomb types include small explosive devices to produce loud, guard-distracting bangs, and tripmine bombs, ideal for planting traps for patrolling enemies. We're glad to see the endless bric-a-brac looted from chests and enemies in Brotherhood being put to better use.
The proliferation of bomb types in Revelations also gives rise to a second weapon wheel. Players now choose their primary weapon from the first and their bomb of choice from the second, though each can still be mapped to the directional pad for quick, in-battle selection.
Besides taking up bombcrafting in his old age, grey-bearded Ezio has honed his eagle vision--the mode that gave coloured auras to enemies and objectives--into full eagle sense. With this advanced version of the skill, Ezio can track and foresee a target's path, all the better for tailing and chasing victims. There is the odd verbal nod to Ezio's advanced years ("This used to be so easy," he grumbles, finishing a climb), but otherwise the Florentine assassin seems as mobile as ever--maybe more so, with the addition of the hookblade, the modified hidden blade that enables zipline use and acrobatic combat moves.
And then from elderly Ezio to postadolescent Altair. In the Gamescom demo, we see the aforementioned key relic transport Ezio back in time into the memories of young Altair, to events before the start of the first Assassin's Creed. Here, at the Masyaf assassin base of the first game, the fresh-faced Altair has been betrayed by a former ally, an armoured crusader who has taken Altair's mentor and assassin cohorts hostage. Cue a spell of classic Assassin's Creed free-running and high-dive-style kills, back in the familiar assassin castle setting of much of the original Assassin's Creed. It ends with Altair's mentor musing about how quickly his mentee has grown up. "You fit your father's shoes as if they had been tailored to your feet," he says, referring to Altair's assassin father.
The five keys that let Desmond, as Ezio, nip back in time to revisit Altair might be a contrivance, but it's one that's worthwhile, drawing the franchise's three leads and three timelines together for what we hope will be a fitting finale. A finale, that is, for Ezio--Ubisoft sees Revelations as the last part of his trilogy. Look out for it in November.