|System: X360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Players: 1, 2-12|
|Screen Resolution: 480p - 1080p||Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
One of my favorite games of last year was Assassin's Creed II. The game featured an engaging story filled with plenty of historical and sci-fi tropes, and a twist ending that was definitely on par with its predecessor. Thankfully, we only had to wait a year for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which is the direct sequel to Assassin's Creed II (not to be confused with the eventual Assassin's Creed III linear sequel). However, despite the quick turnaround, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a worthy successor to last year's blockbuster title and improves upon the series' basic formula in many ways that fans will certainly appreciate.
The game starts similarly to other Assassin's Creed games. All seems to be right in the world, and despite a weird appearance by a "goddess," Ezio feels pretty confident in his current state. He's got a beautiful hometown, a family that is finally over their grief (Mrs. Auditore has stopped praying for the first time in ten years!), and plenty of adoring females waiting in the wings. However, things can't be nice for very long, and it isn't long before the picturesque town that you so lovingly upgraded and improved in Assassin's Creed II is quickly destroyed (along with all your stuff!) and you have to start again at the beginning in Rome.
Although Assassin's Creed II essentially put you on a tour of Italy, Brotherhood is unique in that it takes place in a single city. If you are the type that appreciated finding all the viewpoints in each new city and visiting all the local merchants, this aspect may be a little disappointing for you, but the centralized location does actually improve the game's structure in some surprising ways. First of all, the game's economy system works in a completely different way. Instead of upgrading shops and other infrastructural areas in a town far away, Brotherhood puts the local economy in your hands and you can upgrade what you see around you, which will not only put some investment money in your pocket but also help win over the people of Rome to your cause (which is to get rid of the menace posed by the Templars and Cesare Borgia, specifically).
Another interesting mechanic that pops up as a result of the game's single-city structure is the fight for control of the city. When you first arrive in Rome, it can be a pretty depressing scenario, as the Borgia influence in the city prevents you from shopping at local merchants or even being healed by a doctor. However, as you take down Borgia structures and assassinate leaders, you can gain the favor of the locals and become a bigger participant in the local economy. And, of course, unlock new weapons and armor for you.
But overthrowing Borgia has more than just economic benefits. Every time you overthrow a Borgia stronghold you'll gain a new apprentice assassin, and you'll be on your way to forming the titular brotherhood . Assassins need to be trained and as soon as you take one on, you'll need to outfit him with gear and send your budding assassins on missions so they can improve their skills and rankings. Once your assassins-in-training become proper assassins, you will be able to call on them in battle to do your bidding.
Of course, there are caveats to calling on the Brotherhood. You'll have to wait a certain amount of time before you call them, and their performance will be directly related to how much time you've spent improving them and what gear you've outfitted them with. Although there is plenty of minutia involved in building your ideal brotherhood of assassins, the interface is easy to use and never intrusive, which is great if you feel like spending hours working on your group of assassins. Of course, if you don't particularly care for this element of the gameplay, you don't have to build up an army; it is completely possible to take on even the game's most challenging targets solo. I just wouldn't recommend it.