ACR_SP_SC_09_Constantinople_PRINT_ImperialNorthPort_HD copy

This is it. Assassin’s Creed Revelations, released today on Xbox 360 and PS3, is debonair Italian Ezio Auditore’s last outing. Finito. The tale of the dandy handy with a blade may be coming to an end, but it’s far from over for the blockbuster franchise. Where does the game’s lead writer want to go next? Ireland.

Assassin’s Creed is a landmark series, not least because it’s changed the perception of how long gamers should have to wait between instalments. Once a two year, three or even longer turnaround time was the norm. But between Activision’s Call of Duty series and the four Assassin’s Creed instalments, console gamers have come to expect a five star experience annually. It appears to be paying dividends too: the last episode, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, sold more than 6.5 million copies worldwide.

“We’re a successful franchise, we’ve got all the tools we need already,” Assassin’s Creed Revelations lead writer Darby McDevitt told Electricpig in an interview last week. Typically, “you have to actually build a camera first and then you write the script,” he explains. “When you have the camera, [the game engine] you can shoot the movie straight away.”

That camera is a modestly tweaked version of the engine powering Assassin’s Creed 2, and it still looks beautiful today. The early modern Constantinople of Assassin’s Creed Revelations is a vast, shimmering megalopolis that stretches out to the horizon, and can take as much as an hour to traverse from end to end.

It’s not just a sandbox to play in though. The storyline is mapped out years in advance, and months of planning and research goes into rendering a city so full of detail, from the warring factions to the spires of the Hagia Sophia.

“What we do on the narrative side is plan out our characters stories far, far in advance,” McDevitt says. “We had it in our minds to send Ezio to Constantinople two years ago.”

“Most of my research for many months was reading as much about the Ottoman empire, Constantinople, just finding as many ideas as possible…just putting it all in a big stew.”

McDevitt, a history nut, is adamant that this is it for Ezio, who appears visibly older, if still ludicrously agile, in the game, (“We’re not using Ezio as a character anymore”). But, he says, Ubisoft has a whole storyline mapped out for his entire life.

“We can have this whole story mapped out, and then if the top brass says ‘Oh, we need another console game, we’re not done exploring Ezio,’ we don’t have to scramble. We tend to try and keep things open, even at the end of the game….in our minds we do have more story that’s going on.”

Assassin’s Creed Revelations itself is an impressive, but flawed game. Where Brotherhood was, in this writer’s opinion, the best game of 2010, Revelations feels a tad too familiar. Haven’t we climbed up this minaret before? Didn’t we play capture the castle last time?

Compounding this are the bizarre new gameplay modes woven into the single player campaign. You now have to defend your assassin dens against Templar invasions via a woeful tower defence mini-game marred by awkward camera angles, and by virtue of being a tower defence mini-game. Segments of the story played as Desmond in the present day meanwhile are played in first person, and appear to have been influenced heavily by Portal (Yes, really), and the dreamscape sections of the first Max Payne games.

McDevitt says he has no idea where a new Assassin’s Creed might be set (“Oh they don’t tell me anything”), but I wonder if the conclusion of both Ezio and Altair’s storylines could be the set up for an installment set entirely in Desmond’s present day. Would McDevitt, who says his focus is on character development, and cites the TV show western Deadwood as an influence, like to write a science fiction Assassin’s Creed?

“I do like sci-fi a lot. My favourite sci-fi is one where you create a world, and ignore it, and only bring in detail when you need to. Films like Primer, those are the sort that I prefer, where you get the bare minimum of explanation,” he says.

“I think that I would like to write the sci-fi stuff, especially if we get to build the world sideways, not push so hard forward towards a resolution, to set up what the world of the near future is like. What does it feel like when Abstergo [the future front of the Knights Templar] is this company with its fingers in every pie?”

Without quite confirming it, McDevitt gives me the biggest hint yet that another Assassin’s Creed game is in the works.

“The animus has allowed for this almost Dr Who type thing because every couple of games we can regenerate our assassin, and that’s a blessing and a curse,” he says.

“Most franchises create a character and stick with it as long as possible…I wonder if other companies think we’re mad because we’re going to give [Ezio] three games and then retire him?”

Go on, I push him. Where would you love the assassins to go next?

“I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland,” he says. “The last 200 years of Irish history. For me, it really would be just an excuse to have James Joyce and others.”

A descendant of Ezio hunting down Ulster Unionists? It could happen.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations is out today on Xbox 360 and PS3 and on PC on 2 December.

  • Cjwbball99

    Assassins creed brotherhood could have been much better….

    • Anonymous

      I thought Brotherhood was a masterpiece. Absolutely fantastic missions, story, setting. Despite the annual release cycle it didn’t feel rushed – but Revelations does.

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