As if recreating historical eras was not enough, Ubisoft ups the ante considerably in the final installment in the Ezio story arc, which also brings some closure to the story of Altair, the one who started it all. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is the end of both of these eras as both characters deal with how their lives have turned out and the Order they’ve lived for so long. The story is just one part of a truly enjoyable game that is sure to delight veterans of the series and newcomers alike.

The series has always had a strong emphasis on story and Revelations does not disappoint. There are no less than three leading protagonists, though a vast majority of the game focuses on Ezio Auditore. For this installment, Ezio is in Constantinople searching for a series of keys to unlock Altair’s secret library in Masyaf. There he makes contact with the local Assassins and begins the search. Of course it’s not that easy, as he gets caught up in the political situation and even befriends the grandson of the Sultan, the future Suleiman The Magnificent. To acquire these keys, he must navigate the ‘dungeon’ levels that are always varied enough not to be repetitive. He also finds time for a budding romance, despite the fact he has to go around stabbing people. Altair is a playable character through flashback memories contained in the Masyaf keys that highlight certain moments in his life, from a young novice to an old man. It gives a depth to the character that wasn’t seen in the original game. When Ezio gets into the secret library, it is a very emotionally charged scene that has a sense of finality and ties together the lives of the two Assassins. Oh and Desmond gets a bit of time to shine as he’s stuck inside the Animus and even comes digital face to digital face with Subject 16.

The core of the gameplay remains mostly the same as in previous games. You control Ezio as he goes on missions that involve stalking, killing and meeting people, you know, the stuff that Assassins normally do when not relaxing. However, there are a number of additions that change the experience. First there is a better button layout that allows the player more options in mapping weapons to certain buttons. It also makes switching weapons easier, allowing seamless transitions from those used in stealth to ones used in combat. Chaining kills is back but at the end of such a chain, the final kill is in slo-mo to deliver some gruesome and satisfying scenes. In the previous game, Ezio would kill Borgia leaders to claim their territory. This is back, but Templars will attempt to take back such areas and they must be defended through Den Defense. The tower defense mini game is certainly a big departure and while somewhat entertaining it disrupts the flow of the game. Of course if you stay on top of things you only have to play it once. Another bizarre addition are the Tron-esque sequences you play when controlling Desmond. However, they are different enough to be an entertaining side quest. Also of note is that Ubisoft appears to have borrowed the ‘big set piece’ concept from Uncharted for a few scenes, such as crossing a burning set of sinking ships to hitch a ride on a not-burning one, but they’re still enjoyable.

There are three changes that affect the gameplay in significant and unique ways. First is the introduction of bombs. By combining various ingredients, effects and casings, Ezio can use bombs of different types. Smoke bombs are used to help escape, some are used for diversion and others just for the thrill of watching enemies go boom. The variety of bombs gives that player a whole new way approaching certain situations and enhances the tactical side of the gameplay. Not so much a change as it is an upgrade is the training of assassin recruits. You still send them to various cities to perform tasks, but this time around the cities begin in the hands of the Templars and the missions chip away at their influence, at which point you can take over the city. They don’t stay in Assassin hands as not paying attention to their upkeep allows the Templar sot wrest control back. It’s a very nice upgrade that gives more context and meaning to the task of sending out recruits, other than a menu-based mini game as in Brotherhood. Third and perhaps the one that affects the player most of the time is the addition of the hookblade. It allows for travel over ziplines scattered on the city roofs. Not only do they allow for some sweet air kills, but they make traversing the city so much easier. The simple act of climbing a building wall is sped up since Ezio can use the hookblade to propel himself upwards.

The series’ calling card has always been its recreation of historical places and eras. The developers, as usual, spared no expense in building a virtual 16th century Constantinople. Famous landmarks such as Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia are re-created in incredible detail. There’s a certain joy in just wandering around the city and admiring the architecture. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed about the series, coming from a history and art history background. The city has a different feel to it as Ezio trades in Renaissance Italy for Ottoman Constantinople. He also visits the Cappodocia region of Turkey and an underground city filled with Templars as well as Masyaf, the ancestral home of the Assassin Brotherhood.

In many ways Revelations at its core is the same game as Brotherhood, but instead of mailing it in like some series do, Ubisoft improved it in so many ways. From the bombs to the setting to the enhanced Assassin recruiting, they took what was great about Brotherhood and made it better. Yes there are some parts that could have been left out, mainly Den Defense, but it is all part of an attempt to make what was an already a great game, an even more enjoyable experience in Revelations. No one aspect of the game symbolizes this change more than Ezio Auditore himself. He is much older than in previous games and shows it, with a full gray beard and various comments about how it’s ‘not as easy as it used to be’. Nevertheless, he continues on, dedicated to a mission he understood very little all those years ago in Florence. With Revelations being the end of his story arc, it is a fitting end to his quest and an immensely delightful and enjoyable game that anyone will enjoy.