Game On: 'Revelations' ends well; 'Lord of the Rings' lacks thrills

"Assassin's Creed: Revelations"
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB Rating: M, for Mature
Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)

It's time to say goodbye to Ezio and Altair, but not before venturing off into one last grand adventure with our favorite assassins of centuries ago.
If you haven't played previous games in this series, you'll face a steep learning curve, both in gameplay and in story. Desmond, our modern-day bartender with a mind full of memories and regrets, is having his brain tapped once again to explore the mysteries of his ancestral past in order avoid Earth's destruction in the present day.
The parts of the game where you play as Desmond in a first-person platforming realm are a waste of time and energy, and make you wonder why these sections were included. When you play as Ezio in 16th-century Constantinople, the action returns to what made this franchise compelling.
Beautiful cityscapes seen from perches high above the busy streets and deft hand-to-hand combat have been series hallmarks. The city in "Revelations" continues to impress, and a few new gadgets like the hook blade give the game's Parkour-inspired movement a fresh feel.
Besides the Desmond missions, the game also fails by breaking up the action with tower-defense sequences, which sap the game of emotion and pace. The return of assassin recruitment is welcomed and is executed better than in previous games. The online multiplayer has been improved. Playing standard fare like death-match and capture-the-flag take on new delight when it's about stealthy assassins and not military run-and-gun mechanics.
This franchise has always been compelling when you are set free in an open city to quietly execute targets and escape to the heights of city skylines. "Revelations" does enough of this to confirm that it's ending this series on a strong note.

"The Lord of the Rings: War in the North"
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Genre: Role-playing
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive/Snowblind Studios
ESRB Rating: M, for Mature
Grade: 2.5 stars

"War in the North" attempts to rekindle the passion that "Lord of the Rings" fans have for Middle-earth by giving gamers an original adventure featuring three unknown heroes instead of the familiar members of the Fellowship. This attempt to extend the franchise is noteworthy, but, unfortunately, the combat and pacing leave you feeling flat.
Gamers can choose from one of three new characters: an elf, a ranger and a dwarf. Each possesses a unique fighting style, but play similarly, meaning there is nothing truly special about any of them.
This emphasis on the tough grunt work needed to defend the northern territories is enjoyable for those who like pure hack-and-slash games. There are role-playing aspects as well, with each character able to earn upgrades to armor, weapons and abilities. These make the game more enjoyable, but are doled out so slowly that repetition might turn players away before they can reap the rewards.
Playing cooperatively online with friends is the recommended way to experience this game. The artificial intelligence otherwise makes too many blunders and leaves you stranded. Returning to Middle-earth lacks the thrills it once possessed, but there are worse ways to spend your time.

Source http://seattletimes.nwsource.com
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