Constantinople, NOT Istanbul

The war between the assassins and the Templars is one that has raged for ages and the adventures we’ve seen with Altair, Ezio, and briefly with Desmond are all but small chapters in this war that started eons ago. Now, we approach the end of Ezio’s involvement, but first we will learn just how vital his life is to the Assassin’s Order and how he serves as the lynchpin for his bloodline between Altair and Desmond. Soon, all will be revealed.

I had a chance to go hands-on with three of the new sequences we’ll see in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations campaign and had a chance to learn about Ezio’s new allies, his new weapons, and just how Altair and Desmond will fit into all of it in the end.

I started in Sequence 2 and was immediately introduced to Constantinople, where most of the game takes place, in ways I never thought imaginable. The graphics have been so refined and sharpened that you could actually pick out every individual strand of hay for the leap of faith points and every vegetable in the marketplace. You could also see that time had not been kind to Ezio as new scars crisscrossed his face and his hair that was once as black as the night had been lightened considerably in many places and went beyond “salt and pepper” in its effect.

As I made my way through the bustling, cramped city streets with Ezio, who also seemed to move a bit slower on the ground now, another clear sign of his age, I proceeded to find the only friendly face I knew at the moment, the head of the local Assassin’s Guild. There I would learn the ways of the Turkish Assassins and acquire my first bombs and hook blade.

The hook blade immediately caught my fancy because although Ezio may have moved half a step slower now on the ground, in terms of his parkour, he was easily moving twice as fast as he had in previous games. Using clotheslines to zip from roof to roof and the extra reach of the hook blade allowed me to scale buildings faster than ever before as I could reach grips that normally I would have missed in previous games, and this easily made up the difference of speed I’d lose on the ground and then some. This also made me want to stay on rooftops more so than usual.

The hook blade also added several new aspects to assassination and taking down enemies. Not only could you drop down on foes from above now while zip lining across rooftops, but in more traditional combat, like when Ezio finds himself surrounded by Templar or Turkish Royal Guards, he could use the hook blade to pull enemies down to vault over them and let him change the direction the battle might be heading in. Or just stab them in the face. Whatever opportunity presented itself first.

The bombs were also fun to play with as they provided several new aspects to Ezio’s possible strategies of getting around Constantinople. The first one we were introduced to was the cherry bomb. Primarily used for distraction, you could throw the bomb in one area to lure guards over to where the sound came from, while you sneak by the new unoccupied pathway or set them up for an easy assassination from behind. There are also more explosive bombs that do damage or stun foes and we also see the return of smoke bombs for those moments where you may need to slip away or to assassinate enemies via eagle vision in the confusion.

Later on in the sequence we also came upon a brand new mini-game element introduced to the series. In Brotherhood, you could take out Templar towers and convert them into Assassin hideaways. Now, in Revelations, you cannot only take out the towers, but the Templars may attempt to reclaim them at various times. When this happens, if you race back to the tower, you begin a tower defense style game where Ezio, no longer young and fit enough to lead men on the front lines, will use his accrued wisdom over his many years of waging this Assassin vs. Templar war to place various assassins on rooftops leading up to the Assassin tower and build barriers to slow down the advance of his enemies. If you defend the tower for so many waves, your foes will retreat and you will remain in control. If you fail…well, let’s just say it isn’t in your best interests to fail.

As we moved on to Sequence 4, we got our first hands on with Altair. Our Crusades era experiences in the finished game will look to entail five missions, but this was the first of two I was able see. It took place immediately after Altair had slain Al Mualim and we see the rift that starts forming in the ranks of the assassins. I immediately felt the difference with handling Altair compared to Ezio as Altair was much lighter and fluid in his movements as he raced to put affairs in order after Al Mualim’s death. Although rather short, the Altair missions explain so much about what happens between the first and second Assassin’s Creed games.

What was most interesting was in Sequence 5, when we took over as Altair again, we saw him as an old man. Still quicker than Ezio, we see that the rift between the assassins has become a chasm and Altair, after settling a threat in another part of the world, returns home unwelcome and surrounded. This change in scenery and time for the same character in such a short period of time game play wise really hammered home just how significant these events were in the grand scheme of things and makes you wonder just where we’ll bounce to next in further Altair missions.

Leading up to the Altair missions as Ezio was also very different. Unlike in previous games where it felt like a very separate experience to go hunt down artifacts of Altair and other assassins, now it felt much more intertwined with the story. One mission had us racing against a group of Templars to reach Altair’s hidden key while another had us simply platforming and parkouring around a collapsing mine, which felt like more of a threat than many of the Templars did. This gives the game a much more fluid experience in terms of the storytelling and clearly shows the importance of locating all of Altair’s keys, as they are the main purpose for Ezio to be in Constantinople after all.

Unfortunately, we did not get to play at all as Desmond, but his levels will definitely be like nothing we’ve ever seen as we were able to confirm from Creative Director Alex Amancio that Desmond is in an Animus induced coma and that he is located somewhere called “Animus Island”. This is also significant as instead of collecting feathers or flags, Ezio will collect Animus data pieces while in Constantinople as the reality Desmond is experiencing begins to blend with the technology that induces it like never before.

All in all, with new weapons at our disposal, a new world to explore, and many questions to finally be answered, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations looks to somehow once again raise the bar for this stunning historical sci-fi franchise and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product.

Are you folks fans of the historical aspects of Assassin’s Creed? Where do you think the series goes from here? How do you feel about this being Ezio’s final chapter? What about there being a tower defense mini-game aspect now? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!