Assassin's Creed Revelations feels like more of the same, but it can still deliver a great gaming experience.
Our story begins exactly where Brotherhood left off. Desmond's consciousness is trapped inside the Animus, where he meets subject 16 - the previous occupant of the machine. Desmond quickly learns that in order to separate his own fragmented consciousness from those of his ancestors, he must continue living their memories until there is nothing left for them to show him. This may sound a bit complicated, but all it really means is that the player gets to spend most of the game as Ezio, as he explores the city of Constantinople in search of mysterious artifacts that hold within them the memories of Altair. So basically, we play as Desmond who is living the memories of Ezio, who in turn is living the memories of Altair. Confused yet? Don't be; Revelations does a great job at managing each layer of story, so it never feels out of place or confusing, and each character's story is well defined and holds on its own.
Without giving too much away, Ezio's story takes place almost entirely in Constantinople, where he teams up with the local guild of assassins in order to fight off the remaining Templars in the city, thus making his search for the artifacts a lot easier. Along the way Ezio meets a few new faces, including Yusuf, a master assassin that teaches him all he needs to know about the city, and a young Italian bookseller named Sofia who helps him in locating ancient books that hold the secret to the artifacts' hiding place. These two new characters are both fun to talk to and interact with, and witnessing Ezio and Sofia's cautious relationship blossom into a romantic one is quite fulfilling. The main plot, however, isn't that interesting at all, and follows Ezio's involvement in a political struggle within the royal family. It does a nice job of carrying the game along, but almost none of the unfolding events manage to overshadow the secondary storylines.
Probably the most interesting storyline is the one following Altair ibn La-Ahad, the protagonist of the first Assassin's Creed. As mentioned before, each artifact Ezio recovers hold a unique memory from the life of Altair, and the player gets to experience them first hand. These memories follow the entire life of Altair, and they manage to bring new life into the character, which honestly wasn't that interesting the first time we met him. These memories are diverse, with each one showing a different time in his life, and the events portrayed in them are really fun to play and watch unfold. While Ezio is Revelations' main character, the life-story of Altair is definitely the highlight of the game when it comes to the plot.
While each character's story is new and unique, the same cannot be said about the gameplay. Assassin's Creed: Revelations does not stray far (or even at all) from what you've come to expect from an Assassin's Creed game. Free-running across the rooftops of Constantinople is still as fun and intuitive as it was in previous installments of the series, and remains practically unchanged. This, of course, means that most of the annoying flaws are back as well, and while they are mostly unfelt throughout the game, they can quickly turn a simple race across the city into a frustrating trial of patience and perseverance. A new addition that helps make traveling around the city a bit faster is the Hookblade. With this new blade Ezio can climb faster and use ziplines to quickly move about the rooftops with speed and ease.
Another area where the Hookbalde adds a little verity is the combat. As you probably guessed, the combat is exactly the same as it was in Brotherhood, with only a few new moves. It is now possible to use the Hookblade to "counter steal" during combat, a move that allows Ezio to loot guards without killing them during a fight. If a fight gets a little too crowded, Ezio can now launch himself off a guard into a sprint, thus avoiding being cornered by his pursuers. These new moves may sound great on paper, but in truth they add almost nothing to the combat experience, and won't change your viewpoint on whether it's fun and satisfying or way too easy.
So if both the free-running and the combat stayed pretty much the same, where does Revelations manage to innovate and improve on the Assassin's Creed experience? Well, one new element is the bomb-crafting system. Sure, Ezio used smoke bombs before, but the Ottomans take bomb-making to a whole new level, with dozens f new types of bombs that can do almost anything. There are bombs for creating diversions, bombs to help Ezio escape his pursuers with ease, and of course bombs for good old fashioned mayhem and destruction. Each bomb is crafted from a shell, some gunpowder and an active ingredient that gives each bomb its unique effect. It is possible to mix-and-match these components to craft the perfect bombs for your play style, but once you find the bombs that work best for you, this overly complex system becomes a little redundant. Still, the addition of bombs into the combat system is a welcomed one, since a well placed bomb can change the odds of any battle.
If you feel like taking a step back from face-to-face combat, and want to try your skills as an assassin guild leader, Revelations got you covered. Just as in Brotherhood, Ezio can recruit new assassins into the local guild and send them all over Europe and North Africa to complete specific missions and slowly free other cities from Templar influence. These missions also strengthen the ranks of the local guild, and allow Ezio to call fallow assassins to his aid during tough situations. You can also sharpen your leading and strategizing skills on a smaller scale, as you defend your local assassin dens from templar attacks. This "Den defense" mode is basically a tower-defense mode, where Ezio spends morale (the mode's form of currency) on additional forces and barricades in order to repel a Templar attack on one of the assassin dens across the city. It's a fun little diversion from the main game, but one that will quickly lose its appeal.
Ezio and Altair are not the only characters to have a rich back story in the universe of Assassin's Creed. Desmond's past is still a mystery, and Revelations hopes to clear some of it up with a few special missions depicting the major events in his life. These missions are no more than a walking tour in Desmond's shattered memories, with some rudimentary puzzle elements, but the real highlight is the way they are designed. Each mission is designed around Desmond's narration of his life events, and the environment around him changes according to his story. For example, while remembering his arrival to NYC, the level around him changes into a dark, industrial looking place, filled with flashing lights and pulsating music, as a simple imitation of the clubs he used to work in. These little touches make these otherwise simple segments more interesting and immersive, and help Desmond seem a little more than just a vessel for the deeper characters.
In addition to feeling very much like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Revelations looks a lot like it too. The graphics are pretty much the same, only a bit more polished, and the environments, while not as beautiful as ancient Rome, are still nice to look at. The main difference between the games is the character models. For some reason, the new character models in Revelations all look weird and sometimes even downright ugly. It's not so much a problem with the graphics, but with the design. Desmond's face, for example, looks really different than the way it did in previous games, and not in a good way. It's too bad that these little blemishes hurt the overall visuals, which are still rather stunning.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations feels more like an add-on than a complete new game. Everything it tries to add on top of what was established in Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood just emphasizes how little the formula has changed. Sure, there are a few unique and original ideas, like the den-defense mini-game and the tour through Desmond's life, but they all feel somewhat unnecessary. Given that, Revelations is still an awesome and fun game that continues the proud tradition of its ancestors, and delivers a great gaming experience to everyone who doesn't mind a heavy dose of formulary open-world assassination.