I was hooked on the Assassin’s Creed series since the first game. Free-roaming through Masyaf, Jerusalem, Damascus and the kingdom in-between was a breath of fresh air. The fact that you could jump from rooftop to rooftop, climb towers and jump on haystacks like a reckless badass was so sweet. Then came AC2, and that was, in my opinion, the best AC game Ubisoft ever released. The amout of details in the world, the fact that NPCs have different things to say when they notice your actions, how you could get income by buying businesses, all the weapons, paintings and upgrades available to unlock, and even Leonardo Da Vinci? Win in my book. I played through it in 3 days and got all the achievements (first game I ever did that!)
Brotherhood was a bit of a let-down on the solo side: at various points throughout the campaign I had no clue what was going on in the storyline, because I was busy doing side missions and increasing my income, and I had to play the game twice to understand the plot. The multiplayer, though, was incredible. Totally mind-blowing. But I’d like to focus on the solo experience rather than the multiplayer.
AC:Revelations is freaking beautiful. The graphics of Istanbul and its inhabitants are breathtaking. Gone are the days when there were a limited number of skins the NPCs could have; now I don’t even recall seeing twice the same person. You can swim, you can jump higher and farther, you can grab weapons from enemies and cave their face in with maces and warhammers, you can craft bombs of your own choosing, you can send your assassins abroad to level them up, and call upon them when in need. There are so many tiny details, side-stories and character biographies that game feels historically accurate and Ezio seems to belong to this believable world.
But Revelations could and should have learned from the series’ past mistakes, like AC2 did. The first thing that bothers me is the combat system. All you ever have to do is parry, and sometimes shoot from your handcannon to kill those Janissaries. Sure, you can kick, grab, headbut, through sand in the enemies’ faces, but nothing is as effective as parrying a blow and slicing the enemy’s throat. This has not changed since the very first game, and in my opinion makes Ezio/Desmond/Altair feel very week. I have been playing a lot of Arkham City recently, and that got me thinking that if AC drew some ideas from the Free Flow combat system, the game would be twice better immediately.
Next up: the HUD and the way information is presented to us, the players. The fact that we know the game is a simulation of Desmond’s ancestors’ memories gives Ubisoft the freedom to give us in-game information through white-over-black text. This does not bother me, and I think it is a clever piece of game design that gives them a lot of options and freedom without sacrificing immersion. But when I see that the game talks to me about NPCs and “resume the game” and similar pieces of (sometimes useless) information, it immediately takes me out of the experience. Why would you talk about NPCs? I don’t want to be reminded I’m playing a game when I’m fully immersed in the story and the incredible details of the city!
Third thing that bothers me (and a lot of my friends) is the freaking Tower Defense mini-game Ubisoft put in. Like, seriously, what the hell? Don’t take me wrong, I LOVE TD, I still have Warcraft 3 installed just so I play TD on Battle.net. But the way they implemented TD in AC:R is just lame. First, the camera sucks, and it’s really hard to get a good notion of what is going on. Second, where the hell do you get all those assassins with all this cool gear, when you can only call upon say ten of them to go on missions and all? To win this mini-game, all you have to do is spam assassins all over the rooftops and then spam some more. No depth, no fun. It really feels like an unfinished experience that Ubisoft threw in just to say “hey look, we can do that!”.
Fourth, and that’s not new from AC:R but from Brotherhood, is the “memory-completion percentage” bullshit. Basically, if you don’t complete the missions EXACTLY like the game tells you to, you’ll only get 50% completion. What I think they tried to do with that is make you feel like you had to complete the memories exactly like your ancestor did, and I guess this is an okay argument. But what is so thrilling about this series is that you have a shit-ton of options to deal with each situations: you can rush in recklessly and take out all opposition with your sword and dagger, you can kill each guard silently and finally get your target when it is isolated and alone (so gratifying!), and all the things that go in-between (poison darts, calling assassins, using mercenaries/thieves, hiding on benches/haystacks, etc.) So why would Ubisoft give us all those amazing options and then tell us that we only use one?! It’s like giving a kid Legos and telling him he is only allowed to build one thing!
All in all, Revelations is a great game, and the amount of work involved in it is just phenomenal. I am not trying to hate on the studios and the people that made this game happen, I just someone at Ubisoft will read this and take my humble opinion into consideration when working on AC3. Ubisoft learned from their mistakes and the progress made between the first and the second game in the series blew my mind at the time, and I don’t think any game has ever evolved that fast.
So Ubisoft, please make AC3 as great as AC2 was in comparison to AC, and I will love you eternally.