Ubisoft recently revealed that the final chapter of the tale of Ezio Auditore will be played out in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. For fans of the now-classic series, I argue that this decision has much merit.
Arrayed against me, however, are sinister and evil forces that would deny mankind the right to experience the finest game the modern industry has created. These… Templars… wish to deny humanity the chance to explore a vast and varied world, interact with history in a highly fresh and authentic way, and kill new and exciting conspirators.
As initially conceived, the Assassin’s Creed games would form a trilogy. This was a rather bold move for an untested series, to plan a single arc that would unfold over three games. Even Ubisoft could not have predicted the success of Assassin’s Creed II on the heels of the moderate impact of the original Assassin’s Creed. Now, the Ubisoft Assassin empire stretches across multiple consoles, personal computers, and even social media and comic books.
The question then becomes how one is to tell a complete narrative of a complex character like Ezio within the space of a single game. Certainly, Assassin’s Creed II did not end Ezio’s tale. Even without the resulting Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the end of Assassin’s Creed II can only be called a cliffhanger. Brotherhood ends on a similar questioning note, without bringing closure to the Ezio story arc.
In that regard, Revelations is the clearest answer to the un-asked question of “where to from here?”
At the end of Brotherhood, we leave Ezio having recovered the Apple of Eden from the Borgias and revenged upon Cesaré Borgia. We leave our present-day heroes in the alien vault beneath il colosseo with Lucy bleeding out from being stabbed by a mind-controlled Desmond, and Desmond being thrown back in to the Animus after experiencing a total mental breakdown. Is this a satisfying “conclusion?” Of course not; too many questions about the now-reconstituted Assassin Order remain, as well as the… ahem… delicate moment where Ezio will pass along those awesome Assassin genes to Desmond’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent.
An objection was raised that the rapid development pace of the Ezio arc is diluting the series, as both Brotherhood and the resulting Revelations are more like stand-alone expansions than true sequels. After all, they have minimal graphical updates, only a few gameplay changes, and they re-use the same characters.
Except that the gameplay does evolve between iterations of Ezio’s story. Assassin’s Creed II, for example, streamlined combat, added variety in mission types, and included platforming side quests that unlocked powerful armor. Brotherhood took this formula and further refined and improved it, adding Assassin recruits, new weapon types and combat moves, the Borgia tower mechanic to regain control of the districts of Rome, and new types of locomotion, including a parachute. Revelations looks to continue this trend, with the introduction of new recruit mission types, a more streamlined territory control system, and zip lines. In addition, entirely new areas like the underground city of Cappadocia will provide a greater variety in mission and environment types. The online multiplayer component is also getting needed improvements to game types, maps, and playable classes.
The charge still stands, however, that this is an insufficient overall change to justify a sequel within one year of the release of Brotherhood. There are those who would rather wait three or four (or more) years in hopes of getting an Assassin’s Creed III with a new character, new setting, new gameplay systems, and new game engine. They would rather Brotherhood have been similarly delayed to include all of the content that will be in Revelations, which might be a fair charge… except that it ignores the tendency of a narrative to get away from the writers. Oftentimes external limitations — space requirements, executive developmental decisions, et cetera — necessitate going to market with a finished-but-shorter-than-necessary product. Gamers should not be deprived of a complete story, or worse, forced to finish the story in extra-game materials such as tie-in novels and comics, simply because gamers feel that a once-a-year game schedule waters down the brand, as if the only way to build excitement and momentum about a game was to deprive gamers of it for a few years like some major development houses are prone to doing. This sort of development has its merits, but so does capitalizing on existing good favor and momentum by keeping fans in constant content until a single story arc is told.
Which is the likeliest explanation for this move. Ubisoft needed one more full-length game to tell all that Ezio had to tell, and Revelations can do that without resorting to a move like the PSP’s Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, which connected the original game with its sequel. And, I charge, it is the right move to make. Strike while the iron is hot, Canadians, and just pump that historico-fantastic-science-fiction-conspiracy-theory-laden action straight down my digital gullet. Naysayers can say nay whilst Ezio and I are zipping around Byzantium slaying evil and romancing Ottoman babes.