Review – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal (single player), Ubisoft Annecy (multiplayer)
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (Coming in 2011)
ESRB Content Descriptors: Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
The Scoop: Assassin’s Creed returns for a second year in a row in an entry that is part standalone expansion and part full-fledged sequel. You again put on the shoes of Desmond Miles as he agains puts on the shoes of his Italian renaissance-era ancestor Ezio Auditore de Firenze, who is now travelling to the city of Roma to put an end to the Borgia Papacy once and for all.
The Setup: This game isn’t Assassin’s Creed III, don’t think you are going to be stepping into the shoes of an all new Assassin in an all new era; but at the same time don’t think this is a skippable game in the series cannon, as many important things will happen and be unveiled throughout the story of Brotherhood. Think of this entry more as an epilogue to Assassin’s Creed II, kind of an Assassin’s Creed 2.5. I can understand why you may feel ripped off by hearing that if you are an AC fan, but this is more than an average expansion, there is a lot of content in the single player, more than enough to warrant its release as a standalone game. To sweeten the pot Ubisoft Annecy has created a full-fledged multiplayer mode, featuring level progression and customizable special abilities and perks that any veteran Call of Duty player will feel used to.
The story this time around is a little more simplistic than that in the previous titles. Starting with Ezio’s story right as Assassin’s Creed II ends, the battle against Rodrigo Borgia is over and Ezio is finally returning home to retire from his quest for revenge. Rodrigo’s son Cesare has different plans however as he leads a sizable army to attack the villa full force and reclaim the Apple of Eden. Now Ezio must head back to Roma to reclaim the Apple and get revenge against Rodrigo and Cesare. Throughout the game he will reunite with most of the cast of Assassin’s Creed II and fulfill the role he has trained for his entire life, becoming the grand master and leader of the Assassin Brotherhood. Meanwhile in 2012 Desmond Miles and his friends are forced to flee from their previous hideout and seek shelter in the ruins of the villa, while delving deeper into Ezio’s memories to uncover the location of the Apple and the other Pieces of Eden; which can hopefully put an end to Abstergo’s plans for world domination and prevent a cataclysmic solar flare which will destroy all life on the planet on December 21, 2012 (Yes, like in that crappy movie 2012).
What’s Hot: Anyone who has played any of the previous titles can probably guess that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood features triple A graphics and design, top shelf voice acting, and an engrossing story. The city is gorgeous and looks quite alive, the voice acting is believable even at its worst (though the flamboyant Italian accents may get tiresome to some people), and the soundtrack is the subtle ambiance that brings everything together. Rome is a gorgeous city and this game does it justice as much as possible without you physically being there.
One of the most major updates over Assassin’s Creed II is the vastly improved combat system. Building on the previous game’s model you now have the ability to chain execution kills; when you finish off an enemy you can immediately move onto the next enemy and do an immediate finishing move (unless the target is a Borgia captain), as long as you remember to counter incoming attacks and dodge enemies attempting to throw sand in your face you can pretty much go on forever. The endgame of this feature is that you can now easily fend off small armies of guards, and the need comes up pretty often. It also makes you feel like an absolute badass. A crossbow was also added to Ezio’s arsenal which greatly improves ranged abilities by providing a damaging and silent weapon. The only downfall is that it is one of the last weapons you receive and it is rather expensive until later when you own half the city.
While the overall area that Brotherhood takes place in is smaller than the complete area that Assassin’s Creed II enveloped, the city of Roma is quite large by detailed; much more so than any area in the previous games. Not only do you have a very large city with many distinct districts but you also have a small chunk of Italian countryside, containing many historical monuments as well as a few scattered villages. To get around the large area you are able to call on your horse from anywhere in the city where the stables have been unlocked, as well as purchase tunnel entrances to allow for a quick travel option between locations. Between those features and a vastly improved control response, especially while on horseback, you can get around the world map extremely fast and climb the tallest buildings with the most minimal amount of planning.
It may not be the best story in the series so far, but as usual the storyline is pretty good. This time around there is a bigger focus on the world outside of the animus. You even get to spend time exploring a modern day Monteriggioni as Desmond Miles, though it offers little to progression. The main Ezio storyline is a little shorter than Assassin’s Creed II, covering only nine memory sequences; completionists however will find dozens of optional standalone memories, which range from minutes to roughly a half hour in length. There are also challenges in each level which promote replaying in order to gain the often rather difficult 100% synchronization with Ezio. I finished the story and a good portion of the side missions at around 17 hours, but unlocking many of the side missions requires high sync rates, so a total playthrough would realistically be about 25-30 hours, pretty decent for a retail game.
Between assassinations there are a small handful of fun and rewarding metagames at your disposal. Returning from the second game is the ability to purchase stores and fix up landmarks which will provide you with a regular supply of money, while the mission rewards are enough to get you through the game with decent equipment you will definitely want to buy up as much property as you can as the monetary reward is extremely helpful. A new metagame thrown in is the ability to recruit, train, and deploy your own assassins around the world. To do this you rescue a civilian who is willing to fight for your cause and go to an assassin hideout or to a pigeon coop, from there you can send varying groups of recruits on missions around the world, you don’t actually play them, but the strategy involved is very engrossing even in its simplicity. You only need three assassins to complete the story and they do not require any rank whatsoever, but it is well worth the time to assemble a small army and train them up to the rank of Assassino. You can call in recruits that aren’t top rank, but they will often die very quickly before taking even one or two enemies out. At top rank however they will come out of any available hiding spot and begin a mass of murder rivaled only by you. It is also recommended to have a full allotment of Assassino ranked recruits by memory sequence 8 as they are invaluable to a particularly stupid mission which has you walking around in large fights almost completely helpless (seriously you can’t even punch).
What’s Not: There is a lot of loading time. You start up the game, it loads, that is obvious; but when you die it loads, no matter how close you were from the last load. It loads after a cutscene and often the checkpoints are before them, so even more loading. Get caught on a stealth mission and desync, it loads. This wouldn’t be too bad, but they aren’t short loading screens. You can make one minor mistake and be forced to endure 20 seconds on loading screen minimum. I tried to get 100% sync in an early fight which involved not getting hit once while surrounded by enemies, but if I took a hit I needed to reload the memory, load, move 5 feet to start the memory, load, watch the cutscene, load, then the bastard behind me hits me right at the start of the fight and it isn’t block-able, it must be dodged. So I would get hit and have to sit through another 1-2 minutes of crap. It’s called a cache, use it you heathens!
An AI glitch almost prevented me from completing a Followers of Romulus memory that is needed for three achievements and the best armor/dagger in the game. It took about an hour and a half to sort things out, and it was a stroke of luck on my part that it worked even once. These kinds of glitches can ruin a game on just once occurrence, and while this was by far the worst case I experienced these kinds of glitches about a half dozen times in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Two friends of mine also experienced the same FoR memory glitch. I said this before with Fallout, you are a triple A publisher, you have a Quality Assurance department, USE IT!!!
Multiplayer was a completely unnecessary addition to the series. The basic idea is good; each player is given a target and is also the target of another player. The goal is to spot your target by their actions while trying to blend in with the virtual world around you to avoid your own would be assassin from noticing you. If everyone is playing properly you can have fun, but that is seldom the way it works out. In about fifteen multiplayer sessions only two were actually played properly, the rest were just populated by players doing nothing more than playing tag as if they are in a standard FPS. What makes this even worse is that the game rewards this, as those players gain score faster which results in everyone finally giving in and just running around stabbing each other. Character progression is also excruciatingly slow, which may not have been the best of moves as I figure within three months no one will be playing this game online anymore, further slowing progression. They shouldn’t waste their time with this again, just ignore any though of multiplayer for Assassin’s Creed III, unless you want to go for some Co-Op memories, cause that would have been awesome for Brotherhood and would have fit into the theme and formula perfectly.
Final Verdict: It may be little more than a glorified expansion to Assassin’s Creed II but you’ll find more than enough content contained within to warrant the full retail price tag. I just hope for future installments they sacrifice unneeded competitive multiplayer for more single player content or better yet a juicy multiplayer campaign.Review - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood,