Ezio the Elder


The last three Assassin’s Creeds have seen Ezio Auditore da Firenze mature from a cocksure ladies’ man into the Mentor and elder statesman of the Assassin family. The series has grown alongside him, developing from an entertaining but seriously flawed debut into a highly polished romp through Renaissance era Europe, garnering a large enough following and critical clout to justify annual releases.

Last week, I completed the latest in the franchise: Assassin's Creed Revelations. I enjoyed yet another stunning recreation of a city and period of great historical importance and, unlike in previous entries, I came away satisfied by a finale that offered closure for the assassins of antiquity. The decision to bring Altair back into the fold was well implemented and never overdone, casting him, convincingly, as a man of huge significance and not just the blank canvas from the first AC.

Constantinople is vast and detailed, and there’s plenty on offer for even the most adventurous of gamers. However, Revelations is not without issues, such as the first-person puzzle sections that make Desmond even more uninteresting than ever before. Tower defence is a transparent attempt to shove in more content where it’s not needed, though with some careful management and a pocket full of bribes I managed to avoid all but two of these encounters.

There were of course some worthwhile additions. Just as Brotherhood brought multiplayer and assassin apprentices, Revelations introduces a spring loaded climbing hook that I don’t know how I ever lived without, as well as new combat options including bomb creation. Despite a number of additions across Brotherhood and Revelations, I still feel that Assassin's Creed 2, with its collection of smaller but equally wonderful cities and memorable characters, has yet to be beaten and perhaps never will.

As I have with every other Assassin's Creed, I struggled with Revelations’ opening thanks to unintuitive controls and complicated combat menus. In past entries, these early problems have passed after an hour or so, once I’ve gotten to grips with the rhythm and feel of combat and comfortable with the city and how I'm expected to interact with it. However, in Revelations these teething problems lingered for a good three hours and at one point I was considering abandoning it entirely. It was only the strength of character and likeability - an understated likeability as opposed to the outward charisma of a Nathan Drake - of Ezio, and to a lesser extent the potential of Constantinople, that allowed me to endure. I'm glad I did, as once I’d pushed beyond these familiar, early issues I discovered another excellent game in a consistently excellent series.


Revelation's supporting cast is rather forgettable, but this is perhaps more an reflection of Ezio’s excellence, his presence casting a show over his lesser support. Even when he is forced to share time with Desmond and Altair, Ezio is clearly the star and I can appreciate why Ubisoft decided to milk him for all he’s worth, to the tune of three games in as many years. It is difficult not to like Ezio; he boasts many of the characteristics we look for in a protagonist - strength, leadership, morals, and charisma - without all the outward bravado or emotional baggage of your typical, muscle-bound, video game hero.

In his latest incarnation - wiser, greyer and with no less of an appetite for life - I have found my favourite Ezio. He has accepted his role, even if he doesn't fully understand it, undaunted by the realization that he is only a bit player in something much bigger than he. He understands that glory is not his to be won and that Altair's work will not be competed in his lifetime, but he fights on all the same and commands the respect of those around him. Thoughtful and learned, he also has the capacity to enjoy the simple things in life and in Maria, his love interest, he finds reason to exist once the curtains fall on his part of the story. Matched up against a lead with all these qualities, it’s no surprise that I so dislike the dull as dishwater Desmond. I made no attempt to complete his sections of Revelations and I wonder if Ubisoft have perhaps cottoned on to his shortcomings, having made his role in Revelations almost entirely optional.

Ezio Auditore de Firenze has improved with age, just like our old friend Snake. The years took a far heavier toll on Old Snake than our Italian assassin, but made him no less of an intriguing character. In Metal Gear Solid 4 we learnt much about the motivations and desires of a warrior at death's door, revealing more of this gaming icon than in any of his previous outings. It’s so much easier to sympathize with Snake as he wheezes his way through checkpoints, newly vulnerable and relying on instincts to survive. Old age, albeit unnatural, made him far more human than the man who would clear out a nuclear base full of super soldiers and comic book villains of an evening. Along these same lines, I love the idea of one day playing as an older Nathan Drake, accepting one last treasure hunt before he retires. Struggling up cliff faces that he once tackled with abandon, he would pass on his knowledge to a young, wide-eyed apprentice, just as Sully once took him under wing.

When I thought that Assassin's Creed held little more of interest, it was Ezio that came to the rescue and inspired me to keep going. I'm drawn to him and the time period he inhabits and am concerned that his departure will lessen my fondness for the series, as it begins to move into a more recognisable world of gunpowder and industrial development - a world more suited to Desmond.

Comments

  1. i bought revelations the day it came out and have yet to not only play it but even unwrap it. still haven't finished brotherhood. i'll play it eventually but it seems like i always set it aside for something else.

    on the topic of assassins creed, how come it doesn't get all the hate that call of duty gets? they both pump them out at the same pace and release a bunch of dlc.

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    1. I'd say both Brotherhood and Revelations are worth playing all the way through, but I would leave a good break between the two to avoid fatigue.

      I think there are some key differences between AC and CoD. First is genre, as most people seem to have very strong opinions on the FPS. Second is the tone of CoD - very gung ho & "fuck yeah" (!) - which rubs a lot of people up the wrong way. Also, CoD is a far more visible and well known series and for some reason people like to demonize Activision in a way that they don't other publishers (with the possible exception of EA).

      Personally, I enjoy both series and actually think that CoD lends itself much more to annual releases, being that they are much shorter games, thus avoiding the kind of repetition that can plague longer experiences. Also, multiplayer is a much bigger feature in CoD & is always in need of updates, even if it is just a glorified, giant patch.

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  2. If I ever do play this, it's just going to be for the tombs. The more I think about Brotherhood, the more I realize how much I disliked that game and this sounds like it doesn't add much. I'm excited for 3 though, looks like they can do something fresh with the new setting and maybe even tweak the combat to fit it so it's actually fun.

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    1. I didn't even come close to exhausting all the extra missions in Constantinople but I did notice there are far fewer tomb/platforming levels than In Brotherhood. So if you are just wanting tombs, you would be much better off sticking with Brotherhood.

      I have my concerns with the setting for AC3 but am looking forward to getting more information.

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  3. While I was past done with Ezio going into this game, I must say the way they ended his and Altair's story was excellent. I really think the biggest advantage that AC2 has on this and Brotherhood is one you mentioned, that it had the multiple cities. Each had its own feel and before any wore out its welcome, you were off to another city. That is something the new one should bring back in some way. I did enjoy parts of Revelations, but I am definitely ready to move onto a new time period now.

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    1. Yes, it was a nice mix of cities in AC2 and I do have a soft spot for Venice.

      **ACR SPOILERS**

      I had convinced myself that Ezio was going to die for the cause, so was pleasantly surprised to see him giving up the life of an Assassin, though I wonder if he sticks to a regular life or if we will be flashing back to him in future ACs, as with Altair in ACR.

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  4. Daydream Drooler3 March 2012 at 10:59

    I loved the opening level to this one, I was right at home so much so that I turned off the HUD and jumped right in, only to later be frustrated by the tower defense game because I didn't realize how important the HUD was for that little part. I don't think they did a bad job with the tower defense stuff but I didn't care for it one bit, I only had three encounters with it so I can't really complain. I really loved how each mission felt like a tomb or lair that they set up with AC2 and Brotherhood, to me it felt like the whole game was one giant tomb.
    I actually didn't care either way for the ending, I enjoyed it but was fully expecting Ezio to die as I knew it was his end, I had already known what happened with Altair after AC1 but enjoyed seeing him again and playing as him but I felt some players might be lost as to what was happening in his story line because it was so split up.
    Desmond was godawful and I know Ubi has heard the out cries about it and yet the new DLC they just released it all new sections of the FPS Desmond crap, I don't get why they would do that for DLC. other than that I really love ACR, my favorite in the series despite Desmond and tower defense.
    I am I little worried for AC3, I don't care for the time period with this type of game/story and the history which the assassin's carry with them. I wanted a full blown Desmond game this outing, I'm also worried about the environment. I doubted both the double blade and assassin feature and ended up being dead wrong about that, I was even ready to be worried about the hookblade in Rev and look how that turned out, lol. so I think I will wait to open my mouth on AC3 but that still doesn't fix my issues with the time period and Desmond.

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    1. I think the fact that I had just finished with Skyrim didn't help, but I struggled with the opening. It just didn't grab me.

      I'm really glad they did this with Altair, as AC1 didn't really paint him as being particularly interesting or likeable. Good way for him to go out.

      Oh, Desmond. Did you notice that they barely made reference in R to his part in the ending of Brotherhood? It was as if they decided to ignore that whole "bombshell".

      I'm both intrigued and wary of the setting for AC3. Will probably post something about it next week

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    2. Daydream Drooler4 March 2012 at 08:08

      they make reference to her, when your kicked out of Ezio's play time you can over hear them talking about her, there are about four or five times they mention her out of about 6 to 7 times your kicked from Ezio. that one dude Shaun even asks at one point if they think Desmond knew what he was doing or was even in control of what happened.

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    3. I only did the first of Desmond's puzzle sections and each time I found myself back in the nexus I immediately jumped back into the portal to get back to Ezio & cut-off the voices(I'd imagine I missed a fair bit of dialogue there). Playing in that way, I can only recall two mentions of her: one where Shaun brings it up and another when the three overseeing Desmond's progress briefly make reference to her. If you jump straight back to Ezio without delay, then it would appear that you miss a lot of the dialogue that you mentioned. Interesting that Ubisoft would allow you to miss all that

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    4. Daydream Drooler4 March 2012 at 08:31

      yea I didn't like that they did that, you really have no reason to run around that little island at all, I hung out there each time for a minute or two to listen to their conversations, you get a fair bit of info as to whats going on and how long its been sense the last game. nothing too important however, but I honestly don't blame you for jumping right back into Ezio, Desmond's stuff this time around was so godawful and I still can't get over the DLC Ubi just released, they have to know people hated the Desmond puzzle crap and yet their pushing it with this DLC... makes no sense to me

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