Ubisoft’s primary reveal at this year’s E3 was a teaser trailer and gameplay footage of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. The company – currently celebrating its 25th year of existence – made no secret of the fact that the fourth Assassin’s game was to be a swansong for protagonists Ezio and Altaïr, but that the property would continue with Desmond’s story and, presumably, some new cast members.
Seemingly worried that fans will be tired of playing Florentine noble Ezio, Revolutions’ lead writer Darby McDevitt was quick to stress that once Ezio’s story has come to its conclusion “you’ll be sad to see him go when you realise he won’t be coming back.”
“We worked really hard to make this one of the grittiest chapters in Ezio’s life – a lot of mystery, a lot of intrigue,” he added.
The gameplay footage shown to press was bereft of both these qualities, but did showcase some new weapons as well as a vibrant new city, the ‘crossroads of the world’: Constantinople circa 1511 AD.
Hot on the trail of a leading Templar, we catch up with Ezio as he is meeting his local equivalent, Yusef – another charismatic master assassin who shares a friendly rivalry with the Grand Master. At this point in the game, Ezio is a recognised threat in the city and must flee via the port, but a large chain blocks the mouth of the Golden Horn. A bomb exchanges hands, and Ezio is on his way to the harbour to destroy the shackles that prevent his escape.
In true Assassin’s Creed style, the bustling city is wonderfully evocative of the era. Better still, no horses are in sight. Reaching his objective, Ezio uses a new ability, bombcraft, and with a small blast disposes of two guards at the base of a tower which houses the great harbour chain. Three more guards are smoke bombed, and here we see Ezio’s new Eagle Sense in action. He is able to see silhouettes through the haze of the blast and fluidly kills all three within seconds.
Following the detonation of the gift bomb, the tower crumbles and we get a look at another new toy – Ezio’s hookblade – as he uses it to zipline onto a neighbouring boat. Both a weapon and a climbing instrument, the hookblade allows for quick horizontal movement via ziplines, faster vertical scaling when climbing, and of course, a handy tool with which to impale or grab nearby enemies.
Aboard the ship, Ezio heads to the bow where there sits a Greek fire cannon – basically a 16th century hand-cranked flamethrower. This weapon doles out the destruction, quickly destroying nearby ships before a barrage of cannonballs dislodge Ezio from the turret. From there it’s familiar Assassin’s Creed platforming across the burning ships to freedom. We’re then treated to a glimpse of the Animus rebooting before the demo ends.
Bombs aside: so far, so Assassin’s Creed. Graphically things haven’t progressed, and the tweaks presented are hardly game-changing. However, the game will also continue Desmond’s story in the present day, following on from the events of Brotherhood where he was trapped, comatose, inside the Animus and here we may see something new from the franchise.
Indeed, we were promised a new kind of platforming experience by McDevitt, but he remained tight-lipped on specifics. We do know, however, that the gameplay involves Desmond attempting to piece his splintered subconscious back together by reliving specific memories from his own life, and that the programming architecture of the Animus will spill over into these imaginings and influence the environment and play style somehow.
The demos demoed and the details detailed, it’s difficult to see how Revelations will be anything but another resounding success for Ubisoft. Following up an engaging narrative with more fiction set against historical facts and figures while expanding core gameplay and multiplayer sure sounds like a recipe to sate current fans and draw others to the series. Further, the Canadian studio proved with Brotherhood that a short development cycle doesn’t equal a game short on charm or content.
For now, Revelations appears to be on course, but we’ll know for sure when the finished product hits shelves around mid-November this year.