‘Assassin’s Creed: Revelations’ a worthy finale

Reviewer’s Rating: ★★1/2

While the latest “Assassin’s Creed” title, “Revelations,” wraps up the intriguing story arc of the series,, the gameplay innovations are slight at best. This finale is a must-play for fans of the series, but newcomers are better off waiting until next year’s inevitable sequel.

The lives of three protagonists—medieval assassin Altair, Italian Renaissance assassin Ezio and modern-day Desmond Miles—come together to form the grand conclusion of the “Revelations” story. Through a high-tech device called Animus, Desmond is able to relive his past lives, among which are Ezio’s and Altair’s. The player will guide all three characters through their intersecting stories and explore ancient Constantinople as well as the Salvador Dali-esque digital world of Animus, where Desmond’s mind has been sent in an attempt to save his sanity.

The plot is downright impenetrable for those hopping into the game without having played the rest of the series first, but provides a satisfying conclusion to the story arc set up by the first three games. “Revelations” hits more dramatic high notes than any other title in the series, and the deft juggling of three separate heroes makes for a unique and deep story. The historically accurate setting and costuming are stunning, and losing yourself in a time and place largely unknown to Western culture is a unique treat.

“Revelations” gameplay feels less like a revelation and more like a subtle refinement of the tried-and-true action that fans of the series have come to expect. After the previous game’s addition of online multiplayer modes, a new tower defense mode, bomb crafting, and a hooked blade that allows you to travel using ziplines, feels like a meager meal indeed. While the bomb crafting system is robust and fun, it’s hardly a necessary element of gameplay. The tower defense levels are simply a pain to play through and ruin the sense of immersion the rest of the game tries so hard to achieve.

Desmond’s levels are surreal, first-person, puzzle-based affairs set inside the digital world that may remind many gamers of “Portal.” While it’s a big departure from the medieval combat and stealth gameplay of Altair and Ezio’s levels, it ties into the story well, and is fully optional for players who don’t find it to their liking. All in all, it’s as large a departure as the tower defense mode, but strengthened by having its own contained story.

Climbing the buildings of ancient Constantinople via parkour moves is as fluid as ever, and the combat has received some beneficial tweaks. The gameplay is solid, but after four games, the titular assassins are going to have to learn some new tricks if they want to keep getting the drop on player’s wallets.

The Multiplayer modes now feature a story, giving some meaning to the madness of stalking other players and earning kills online. Add this to some customization options for your avatar and an improved interface, and you’ve got one heck of a distraction from the single player campaign. It won’t make you give up “Street Fighter” or “Call of Duty,” but it’s a respectable bonus to a strong single player experience.

“Revelations” sounds fantastic. The voice actors convincingly cover a wide array of accents and dialects that some gamers may not have heard before, and the suitably dramatic score digs deep into the history of Middle Eastern instruments to bring a local flair to the expected violins and choruses.

Gamers who have been leaping off rooftops to assassinate those pesky templars ever since the first “Assassin’s Creed” owe it to themselves to see the story’s dramatic conclusion. New players should start from the beginning or just wait till next year, since the developer has already announced a sequel set for release in 2012. Hopefully that short development time will be long enough to conjure up some fresh new ideas for a franchise that is starting to show its age, but is still a lot of fun.