Yet those tales didn't really match the rather dull achievements we pulled off in the first game.
As the title implies we're due some answers and that's what we're getting in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, even as new questions also arise.
Ezio finds himself in Constantinople, where he's looking for keys to unlock the secrets of Altaïr's library in Masyaf, and much like in previous games you will run across people straight out of the history books. There is a lot happening in the story, and unlike previous games the game never skips ahead a few years. Probably a good thing given Ezio's advanced age.
Ever since Assassin's Creed II Ubisoft has proven that it knows how to create great characters and build solid relationships. While there may be fewer characters this time around, they are still flawlessly portrayed and it's a pleasure to watch them interact.
Altaïr, the main character from the first game, has found his way back to the limelight, and he has also been given a more interesting personality. It's nice to see him back in action, both as a young man and an old one. You won't be spending much time with him, but the time you spend with him is precious, and fills the holes in his story, helping paint the picture of a legend that feels more in line with what you've heard than what happened in the first game.
The only thing missing from the story is a proper villain. Previously we had Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia to focus on, but this time a clear and obvious target is missing. What we're served instead is a story of allies, who share friendly and interesting dialogue with our hero, and bad guys whose motives and ambitions are revealed only just before they are replaced by another threat.
The quiet moments with your allies are spellbinding and believable, and the series has really made giant strides since the first instalment. I often forget just how entertaining the dialogue can be, and with an unexpected nerd joke during the first ten minutes and sharp remarks about Ezio's age, Ubisoft ensures that we'll be smiling on occasion this time as well.
There aren't a lot of changes from a gameplay perspective since Brotherhood. You'll run, climb and fight, pretty much the same as before. One new addition is the hook blade, that facilitates climbing, and also lets you zip down lines from building to building.
The biggest change, however, must be the bombs. It doesn't take long before Yusuf, leader of the Constantinople assassins, teaches Ezio the art of making bombs.
There aren't a lot of limitations placed on what kind of bombs you can make. The outer shell decides whether the bomb explodes on impact, or if it's timed by a fuse or whether it should stick to the surface it hits. The contents of the bomb dictate whether it distracts, maims or kills. It's a robust system, that will add many essentials tools to your box if you're willing to spend some time learning and experimenting.
In his role as a mentor Ezio will sit back and delegate some of the work. This is true for the new "Den Defense", something that kicks off every time the Templars attempt to move in on Ezio's territory. It's something of a tower defense mode, where gradually more difficult troops of Templars move down a street where you can place barricades of various kinds. Everything from simple rubble and boards to a reinforced wall with a cannon. On the rooftops you can place your troops armed with rifles, crossbows and more.
These attacks happen when you've drawn attention towards your operation. Virtually everything you can do in the game that creates an advantage, whether it is to taking over territory, recruiting new people or even renovating some of the stores that are around, increases Templar vigilance, and it can honestly be a little annoying to have to bribe people and get rid of witnesses, just because you want to invest in a tailor. There were several times I simply postponed renovation of the stores, which is what generates income, because I had no patience for having to clean up afterwards, and avoid having to fight off a crusade.
There is a cure for this. As the charming gentleman he is, Ezio continously recruits new people to his cause. These recruits get experience from partaking in Den Defense and missions they can be sent out on.
What was only a brief break for your typical chores in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has now been fully fleshed out. A good number of cities in the Mediterranean can be taken over by sending troops on missions, and this cities will provide you with money and experience that can be used to level up your recruits.
Finally, once the recruits are powerful enough, you can place them permanently in a location, so that you no longer have to worry about it being taken over. It's a nice solution to the massive work load that has been placed on Ezio, but it still takes a lot of time.
After spending several decades in Italy Ezio isn't the only one in need of a change of scenery. Constantinople is perfectly suited for the Florentine man of the world. The city is enormous, and lacks the wide open spaces found in Rome, and a true metropolis of the 16th century. The developer has managed to create a plausible and authentic feel to the city, and I struggle to find anything that feels odd or out of place. We're not given the same incentives for exploration this time around, but there is Animus data to collect, which in turn helps us shed light on Desmond's situation (it gets a bit tricky keeping track of three parallel stories spanning the centuries).
Desmond, who in reality should be thought of as the main character in the series, is trapped in the Animus world, where he meets a character often referred to, but until now unseen. The so called Animus island is one of the darkest corners of the program, and as Desmond finds fragments he will begin to remember. Things don't play out as you expect them to, and this is some of the strangest moments in the series.
Once again Jesper Kyd has been tasked with composing the music, and he has done a brilliant job. There is room for both quiet little background melodies and bombastic pieces that erupt at certain moments in the series. It's a pleasure to listen to, and marks the best music of the series to date.
Pretty much everything that has to do with sound is well crafted. It's not just thanks to the programmers that the characters are as memorable as they are, voice actors have done their bit and the improved facial animations add to the experience.
If you only want to get through the main story you can do so in about twelve hours, but then there is additional development of your recruits, and side missions of different types. It should, however, be noted that this is a shorter experience than the last game.
My biggest complaint with Assassin's Creed: Revelations is the lack of a proper antagonist to get to know. It is not until the very end that a villain with proper malice is presented, and you never really get to know him.
Aside from that niggle, the gameplay has never been more varied, and the polish the mechanics have received over the years is clear to see. In a very crowded gaming season I must still recommend you go out and pick up Assassin's Creed: Revelations. It entertains you with phenomenal music, and well crafted story (albeit without a proper villain), and overall it is just a lot of fun to play.