“Who are we, who have been so blessed to share our stories like this? To speak across centuries?” — Ezio Auditore.
Revelations isn’t the first game that comes to mind when I think back on the adventures of Ezio Auditore. In my mind’s eye, I see the rooftops of Italy before those of Constantinople — see the face of the man we were introduced to on the streets of Firenze, rather than that of the stranger who sets out to open Altaïr’s library. Despite this, though, it’s easily my favourite of the trilogy it concludes.
I love it for much the same reason that I love Uncharted 4, even though — like that final adventure of Nathan Drake’s — it doesn’t quite gel with the rest of its series: I’m a sucker for depth. And in charting Ezio’s final days as an Assassin — not to mention Altaïr’s final days full stop — ‘depth’ is a department Revelations certainly doesn’t lack in.
Its not-quite-final scene (quoted from above), in which Ezio speaks directly to Desmond and relinquishes his role as an Assassin, remains my favourite moment of the entire series — even if the spell it casts is immediately shattered by the cartoonish (and, frankly, increasingly uninteresting) intrusion of Those Who Came Before.
Thinking about it, in fact, that scene — with its great/not-so-great dichotomy — is a pretty fitting analogy for the whole game.
Unsurprisingly, given that it was the most visually accomplished of Ezio’s last-gen adventures, Revelations is easily the best-looking ‘remaster’ the Collection has to offer. Marred only by a weird, intermittent, and thoroughly distracting layer of golden mist, The Crossroads of the World remains a beautiful playground in which to reap the series’ trademark havoc — said havoc underscored by what I personally consider to be the last great Assassin’s Creed soundtrack.
Subsequent scores have certainly had their moments — Black Flag‘s in particular comes to mind — but it was a dark day for the Creed when Jesper Kyd’s involvement came to an end (the proof, of course, lying in the fact that the tremendous Ezio’s Family has gradually become the series’ signature theme).
“The things I do to save the world / Surprise me time to time / Like learning how to play the lute / And making these words rhyme.” — Also Ezio.
In an odd case of irony, though, I found Revelations — despite its visual superiority — to be the most technically dodgy experience of the Collection.
Far more often than in any of the others, Ezio would head off in completely random directions, plunge his hidden blade into unfortunate passers-by rather than his intended — not to mention targeted — victims, and, once or twice, he simply stopped moving, ignoring all commands from the controller while the world simply carried on around him.
“Oh, the beauties of Firenze / Can melt a heart, you see / Beware the girls of Roma / Lest fire you wish to pee.” — Still Ezio.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that Revelations was a relatively early entry in the series, and is, therefore, chock-full of said series’ infamous annoyances. Follow this person or that person and listen to them talk for what feels like several hours; tail this character or that character, but don’t touch the ground, and don’t dare let said character go off-screen for so much as a fraction of a second or we’ll hit you with a hideously annoying timer! And while the various ‘Den Defence’ sections didn’t bother me quite as much as they did others, I nonetheless found them frustratingly intrusive and spent almost every second itching to get back to the main game.
“Cesare, oh Cesare / A man of great depravity / Believed himself immortal ’til / He had a date with gravity.” — Ezio strikes again.
Despite it all, though, Revelations remains, as I mentioned above, my favourite of its trilogy. His redesigned face undeniably packs a whole lotta ‘W.T.F.?!’, but I love its older, more reflective Ezio, and though the game’s villain isn’t anywhere near as memorable as Brotherhood’s Borgia, this is more than made up for with great side-characters like Yusuf, Sofia and Suleiman.
And then, of course, there are the intermittent glimpses into Altaïr’s life, enjoyable asides running parallel to Ezio’s final adventure until, in the game’s closing minutes, the coming together of both stories brings that favourite scene of mine to the screen.
As much as it might seem like it, however, this isn’t quite the end.
Ezio’s story doesn’t conclude in Revelations, but in a twenty-minute animated film titled Assassin’s Creed: Embers. As you might expect, given that The Ezio Collection charts his life from beginning to end, Embers is included…
… but though the film itself is great, it nonetheless closes the Collection on a disappointing note, just as it opened on one with the sub-par presentation of Assassin’s Creed II.
See, despite the fact that it’s both tremendously enjoyable and emotionally satisfying, Embers, as presented here, is barely watchable, skipping and stuttering along as though the system (in my case, a PlayStation 4) is having trouble rendering it. Not to mention the fact that you can’t so much as pause, fast-forward, or rewind the thing…
The real shame is that, with it’s noticeably better presentation, Revelations goes some way towards making The Ezio Collection feel less disappointing — but Embers once again hammers that disappointment home.
Ultimately, I’m left feeling just as I did when writing about Brotherhood:
“The games of The Ezio Collection are much easier to digest if you consider them mere ports rather than the remasters they’re advertised as being.” — Not Ezio this time.
The content isn’t the problem — the presentation is. Revisiting Ezio’s adventures is a pleasure, but Ubisoft should be ashamed of how little effort it put into the Collection. It had time, but it did not use it. Its players deserved better, its games deserved better — and, frankly, Ezio deserved better.
“When I was a young man, I had liberty, but I did not see it. I had time, but I did not know it. And I had love, but I did not feel it. Many decades would pass before I understood the meaning of all three. And, now, in the twilight of my life, this understanding has passed into contentment.” — Ezio Auditore da Firezne, The Mentor.
Unfortunate though it is, you won’t find similar contentment here.