There are very few games that I buy immediately when they hit the shelves (financial situation permitting). The newest NCAA Football and Fallout games are in that rare class. Assassin's Creed is, as well.
The newest installment of the franchise, "Assassin's Creed: Revelations," continues to exceed the already high standards the franchise has set. They even threw in a few subtle jokes, which I won't spoil but definitely keep an eye out for them during the game.
In "Revelations," you continue playing as master assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze as the Assassins continue their fight to defeat the Knights Templar. Although he has aged quite a bit since the previous game, he still hasn't lost a step.
Altaïr, the protagonist in the original "Assassin's Creed," plays prominently as well through flashbacks. We're also treated to much more of the back-story of Desmond Miles, the modern descendant of both Ezio and Altaïr.
Restored and vibrant cities have become a hallmark of the franchise, and Revelations continues the trend. The game takes place mostly in Istanbul (or Constantinople if you're into that kind of thing) in 1511 AD. The city's vibrant crowds offer interesting interactions, and occasionally you'll hear comments about the politics of the Ottoman Empire (a treat for history nerds like me).
The story jumps quite a bit between the three protagonists. Desmond is trapped in the Animus, the machine that allows him to access his ancestors'memories and live vicariously through Ezio and originally Altaïr. However, in some "Inception"-like twists, Ezio finds pieces of artifacts that allow him to relive Altaïr's memories.
It was really enjoyable to learn more about the back stories of both Altaïr and Desmond while pushing the story of Ezio forward. The game added new wrinkles while keeping the better features of the previous games.
The game also improved the combat system, adding a bomb-building system. Essentially, you can create different types of bombs using materials around the city. This is helpful for getting around guards and making kills without attracting a lot of attention.
Much like "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood," there are different types of guards that require different strategies to defeat. Although fighting guards is easy, there are more finishing moves, which are fun to see, and the combo system is much smoother when fighting in a crowd.
As before, Ezio can recruit assassins and utilize them both in Istanbul to help in a crowd as well as fight abroad to make money and expand Assassin influence. With that money, he can purchase better armor, weapons and different clothing accessories through shops around the city. He can also purchase and renovate book shops, an homage to the printing press' prevalence during the time.
Those shops start as rundown buildings. As you restore shops, it earns income for the city that players can withdraw from banks every 20 minutes.
Another wrinkle is a tower defense game. In the game, each Assassin den is in its own building. As you fight in public or restore buildings, it makes the Templars more aware of your influence. If the influence maxes out, the Templars will eventually attack a den.
The tower defense game was a nice change of pace from the typical game play. Also, for those who don't like that type of mini game, it's easily avoidable. Players can pay off heralds or kill specific targets to bring down the notoriety.
Another huge improvement came in the multiplayer. In "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood," the game featured a small multiplayer system. It feature a cat-and-mouse scenario where you tried to assassinate your target while someone was also trying to assassinate you. While a great idea, it felt more tacked on than an integral piece of the game.
This is not the case in "Revelations." In addition to the death-match game, there are games involving teammates protecting a target or trying to spend the most time with a relic. The games add a fun diversion from the single player side of things.
This game is definitely not for everyone. It's very story driven, and because of that, the pacing is pretty slow. If you're someone who wants to blast through a storyline and avoid all the side stuff, this game isn't going to be too enjoyable. Also, if you haven't played the other games, the story might be a bit too far along to just jump into.
Overall, "Revelations" is a fantastic game worthy of the Assassin's Creed franchise. If you haven't gotten the game already, it's definitely worthy of being added to the Christmas list.