If you’re going to call your game Revelations, the actual revelations should be pretty darn good. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. It doesn’t ruin the game, but it adds to the overall feeling of jumble that is this game. Simply put, there are too many ideas in this game. Everything is just sort of put together and where it doesn’t fit, they just shoved harder. You would think this results in an unplayable mess. At times it feels that way. However, the core gameplay loop is just so good it’s able to overcome all that and be an enjoyable game.
It’s not a new gameplay loop. It’s the continuation of the refinement that began in Assassin’s Creed II and progressed in Brotherhood. There are a few dead ends in their quest for progress this time. I don’t know who thought the carriage chase sequences were so good that we needed more. The one at the end is so ridiculous that is almost verges on parody. Really though, when it gets silly, it’s actually more fun than the beginning. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. Don’t even get me started on the mess that is lair defense. I’ll just say that using your highly trained assassins as cannon fodder seems to go against the whole philosophy of the rest of this game and the others in the series.
Once you’re actually on the loose in Istanbul (not Constantinople), that loop really kicks in. Yes, you have to collect the five magical macguffins one of which is being held by the evil whozits. Now you have freedom again and can start to feel more powerful. Of course, you’ve been stripped of nearly all your cool armor, weapons, tools and money. Did I mention that Istanbul (and surprisingly all the Mediterranean is Templar controlled territory? It’s time to start building up again. Naturally, as an assassin, doing that involves rivers of enemy blood.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the early game is the tension in the city. The Ottoman Sultan rules the city. His guards and Janissaries patrol it. The Templars run sections of the city that you haven’t liberated. These two groups don’t like each other. You can exploit this for fun and profit. For instance, killing a Templar roof guard and throwing him down in a crowd between Ottoman and Templar forces will cause a commotion and a fight. This can be useful for sneaking past or just thinning out the opposition.
You also get a few new toys. You get a hook blade that can be used to make city traversal more fun especially when combined with high launch points and parachutes. You move beyond the basic smoke bomb into advanced grenade territory. You have lethal, tactical and diversionary variants for four different types of shells. Theoretically, you can lay elaborate traps or isolate targets. Mostly I used them to thin crowds or discourage pursuit.
The story isn’t that great. Few of the characters are memorable. The revelations are underwhelming. The Desmond memory challenges have so many awful decisions in them I’m already trying to scrub them from my memory. Yet, when you’re just on the loose in Istanbul completing missions, taking over territory and eliminating high value targets, it’s a great game. Overall, recommended for fans of the series. It does get big bonus point for not forcing you to repeatedly do things you don’t enjoy just to complete the game. You can literally ignore whole systems of the game if you don’t like them. I wish more games were like that.