The 'Shroom:Issue LVII/Non-Marioverse Review
Merhaba, benim korkunç okuyucular, ve tüm Noeller! Anyway, forget how little Google knows about Turkish grammar so I can point out that since me previous review was my debut and thus had to be "reviewed" by the core staff before being accepted, I had to hand that in much earlier than the usual deadline and it came out short and messy. Now I'm hired and have more time to do this, so now you get to read double the same shit in an even more inconsistent layout! Hooray!
Also, due to the core staff being chill blokes who don't want to censor my stuff, they've opted to put a "strong content" disclaimer underneath my section on the main page now. So if you're scared away by four or five-letter words, then I'd suggest never reading anything again ever.
You know, the more I play Ubisoft games the more I feel their "multicultural development team, totally not discriminatory" notices are insincere. They made an entire game dedicated to further destabilizing a chaotic African nation, and with the Assassin's Creed series they've aimed each game to at least one racist demographic; the first one for Islamaphobes, the second and third ones for anyone who believes Italians are tossers, and now they've made one for radical Armenian sympathizers. I'm just waiting for them to depict 17th century Caribbean so they can attract the anti-Rastafari crowd, which would be an interesting development considering the company is based in Canada.
So hoorah, it's Assassin's Creed: Revelations, the fourth "major" instalment in Ubisoft Montreal's ever-growing series of free-running platform stealth games dedicated to pissing off historians worldwide. For those of you not familiar with the series, the gist of the story is that you play some berk in 2012 named Desmond Miles, forced to relive the memories of his assassin ancestors (Altaïr in 12th century Middle East, and Ezio Auditore in 15th century Italy) via a machine that does whatever it needs to in order to advance the plot called the 'Animus', to uncover and locate the "magical" secrets of an ancient race of ethereal beings (who are gradually seeming more and more like massive dicks), which the assassins need to combat the powerful but discreet Knight's Templars order who intend to use this power to take over the world and forcefully create a utopia bereft of free will, apparently never once reading George Orwell—oh God, are you hearing this?
Following the Assassin's Creed story is like sitting in a room with multiple conspiracy theorists and being unable to tell where which conspiracy begins and which one ends. Don't get me wrong, I love alternate history and all, but it seems to me that the only people capable of deciphering what the hell is going on by this point are psychotic paranoid history buffs with way too much time on their hands (read: Me). All you really need to know is that the story of Revelations takes off from Brotherhood, in which Desmond finally learns how to be an assassin, which fails to detract from the fact that he has all the personality of a sun-dried tomato, and his voice is like a kookaburra warbling in my ears. Seems Ubisoft have been reading my fanfiction, since Revelations opens with Desmond in a coma with his psyche shattered due to overuse of the Animus, although he's unfortunately still playable and still enunciates words. He sets out on a mental quest to separate the memories of his ancestors from his own and thus piece his mind back together and return to his body in the real world. You spend the majority of the game playing as Ezio Auditore; finished buying out all of Italy and paving the way for Venice's worst nightmare, he sets out to Constantinople to seek out this year's McGuffin of choice, the Masyaf Keys – which will open the door to the artefacts the assassins need to save the world – all the while working together with Prince Suleiman to help combat the Templar Byzantines who intend to murder the Ottoman royalty, reclaim Constantinople and steal all the keys for themselves. Are you following this? Because if you are, you may want to get that checked.
Thankfully moving away from the story, core gameplay hasn't exactly changed much, and why should it? The running/jumping/climbing parkour is as fun, fast and functional as ever, and sneaking along rooftops to stalk your assassination target and promptly giving them a loving knife up the bum as a welcoming gift is what holds the entire game together. The environments are still absolutely breathtaking; although this is a Ubisoft game, so they don't win points for that anymore. Although direct combat is still frustrating, with the only two strategies being "wait until they attack so you can counter-stab them in the eye" or "wail on them until one of your spasms happens to make contact with a part of their body", but you can always do what I do and just run away to find a hiding spot so you can suck your thumb and hope the bad guys go away. The Brotherhood system makes a return, but listen Ubisoft; I'll concede to you that training novice assassins by calling them in mid-game to kill a Templar for you fits the story, but I don't want AI sub-routines to be having my fun for me! It seems the only times I ever used it were when I hit the L2 button by accident, and usually they just cocked up the assassination forcing me to finish the job for them before anyone noticed I was training an army of retarded orang-utans.
As for the new, there's a hookblade now which makes travelling easier; and grinding down a zipline to leap onto an unsuspecting guard at the end never loses its charm. There's now a surprisingly intuitive bomb crafting system, with a diverse range of ingredients for different tactical approaches, including shrapnel, datura or skunk oil (the last of which is way funnier to throw on guards than it should be). And thank Christ there's a fast-travel system around the city, because repeatedly swinging half-way across Constantinople just to get to the next mission starts to feel duller than my daily morning commute to school.
Oh, did I mention that half of Constantinople is under Templar control and you have to reclaim large portions of the city before you can tread through those areas safely? You have to traverse a heavily guarded area of the city to find the Templar captain controlling the area and assassinate him to take control of the den, and by the grace of God do you want to hold on to those dens. Every time Templars grow suspicious enough, they'll attack one or more of your dens, requiring you to partake in a tremendously out-of-place tower defence segment that must've been included to give you incentive not to piss off the Templars and guards. They're unrefined, boring and a crapshoot, and if you fail you have to do the entire den capturing process all over again; and since renovating shops builds up your suspicion, you'll be forced to play armchair general more often than any self-respecting assassin should if you're stingy and unprepared to bribe a few heralds. I at one point spent an hour just running to each besieged den to save my protégées' useless hides; fat load of good that assassin training did them, the cowards!
The benefits of capturing dens are they allow you to safely walk the streets and buy out every single shop in the area to shake them down for daily protection pay. But none of the weapons and armour really cost that much, so you'll probably find yourself just throwing your money at whingey citizens in a desperate attempt to get rid of it all. Expanding on the text-based strategy of the previous game, dens also provide you with more spaces to recruit new assassins, and you can send these recruits out to other cities across Europe, Middle East and Africa to relieve them from Templar control, all the while levelling them up enough so they can permanently protect your dens from Templar attacks, although this process takes forever and so you'll still be beating up the bullies for them about one-hundred fucking times before their balls finally drop. Aside from that, the only real benefits from capturing cities is occasionally receiving bomb ingredients that you're basically tripping over in the streets anyway, and more motherfucking money. It seems to me that whenever Ubisoft are confronted about their games being filled with padding their solution is to fix the padding with more padding, hoping that their new mistakes would somehow correct all their other mistakes.
The playability of Altaïr from the first game was the source of much hype in the pre-release stage, wherein Desmond relives the memories of Ezio reliving the memories of Altaïr – magically losing his initial American accent in favour of a proper Arabic one – during different intervals of his life every time Ezio finds a Masyaf Key. These levels are really short and mostly scripted, but they move the story along alright and I suppose it would've been weird seeing an 80-year old man jumping along rooftops; and the way Altaïr's memories blend with Ezio's story at the end of the game was beautifully done and almost made something move in my coal of a heart. I also mentioned earlier that Desmond was still playable, but for most of the game he was strangely absent, which led me to believe Ubisoft had caught wind that he's a completely unlikeable character and opted to axe him from any important developments and just keep him there as a vehicle to move the plot along. But they love to see me cry, as I found out that his side of the story is an optional group of missions that can only be accessed when you collect an arbitrary number of shiny gems spread out across Constantinople. Unlike the rest of the game, the Desmond missions are in first-person and are focussed more on solving platform puzzles than stealthing around rooftops, and the minimalistic approach to the environments gives it a strong Portal vibe, because all puzzle sequences in big name titles need to be like Portal these days. I'd say they were out of place if they weren't optional and detached from the main story, but Ubisoft take another two steps back once again since Desmond spends all five levels narrating his boring life story, failing to realize that no amount of generic backstory will make him any less irritating and detestable. So much for that, then; I was almost having fun there for a moment!
I tried to ignore the multiplayer mode when writing this, as I have a predisposed aversion to most multiplayer games due to them having all the variety of an anorexic's diet, and being played primarily by whooping chimpanzees with a tendency to fling poo at the other players. I knew that whatever I had to say about it would be biased and half-assed, but my fellow Assassin's Creed players (and that one sword-throwing faggot) told me ignoring a key part of the game's "lasting appeal" was unprofessional and made me as bad as IGN, and like hell I would take that insult lying down, so here it goes; the multiplayer is actually not that bad. You're given a randomly selected target that you have to find, stalk and assassinate without them realizing what the fuck, all the while keeping an eye out for other players stalking you and promptly run like hell when they get a clear sight on you so you can find a haystack to hide in. It's actually fun, and answers quite well to that little impulse in our brain that says "ruin everyone else's enjoyment" without being considered griefing. But I guess the reason I didn't want to mention the multiplayer is because bugger-all has actually changed from the last game; I guess if you want to scrounge, there's been HUD improvements, they've added Capture the Flag and Deathmatch modes, and most importantly they've introduced a much more varied selection of weapons and equipment to further infuriate your fellow man. But more than half the content is locked until you upgrade to the required levels, and even then you have to buy each new item with points won arbitrarily by winning accolades while playing, which makes much of the game balance a matter of who has the most levels and "experience points". Most of the equipment seems superfluous, too; at the end of the day all the primary weapons insta-kill your opponents anyway, and I never really saw anyone use anything aside from the throwing knives and smoke bombs for secondary equipment. It all just feels insubstantial, and while I'm sure some people will find enjoyability in killing the same nine characters all the time and always painfully reaching for the next shelf of unlockable goodies, I know that I'll stop selling my soul to this monster after I finish writing this review.
That said there are still plenty of fun platforming segments in the game, especially the dungeon levels which hold the Masyaf Keys. One of these levels features you racing a Templar boat through an underground lake, with you swiftly jumping along scaffolding to chase them down all the while dodging their gunfire and explosives, which is some of the most fun I've had in the entire series even if it was tremendously showy. I also like the optional objectives the game offers you every mission; although some are simple and inane, the ones that actually had thought put into them are engaging and genuinely fun to do. Just because you're a highly-trained assassin with the fate of the world resting in your hands, doesn't mean you can't casually challenge yourself during an important operation. But even so, I feel like all the good parts are being spread thinner and thinner each game to make room for more tedious micromanagement and tyrannical monopolization. 'Screed: Revelations seems to me to be a sign that Ubisoft are running out of ideas; just throwing in whatever comes to their mind in a vain attempt to keep the series fresh and interesting to disguise the fact that they have no idea which direction they're going in anymore, although in retrospect I probably should've seen that much earlier when they started writing novels for the series. I find it hard to dismiss the game entirely as it still has all the good I enjoyed from the previous titles, and it's still immersive so long as you keep the kids from throwing rocks at your windows; but since it's the same fine polish with more bullshit as a fresh new coat, I guess a recommendation boils down to two factors – how interested you are in the story and how blatantly racist you are.