Getting By With a Little Help From Your Friends
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.
There are plenty of new elements in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but there are also improvements made to old elements of the game. Ever since the first Assassin’s Creed was released way back in 2007, one of the common criticisms of the game has been the combat. And even though last year’s Assassin’s Creed II made some serious improvements to the combat system, Brotherhood makes the combat feel seamless. While last year’s title let you use plenty of weapons and attack single enemies with powerful counters, the combat still suffered from being too slow, and fighting more than three people at a time could take ages because you had to wait for people to attack before you could land a comprehensive attack. Fortunately, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood has an execution chaining system that allows you to go after enemies in rapid succession, which makes epic battles that much quicker. The game also has some new weapons to check out, including a long-range crossbow that makes taking out rooftop enemies oh-so-simple.
The single-player mode in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is the main reason to pick this game up, and the immersive plot, expansive setting, and plethora of side missions certainly push this title into the forty+ hour range. However, to sweeten the pot an all-new multiplayer mode has been added. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little skeptical of the multiplayer component when it was first announced. Running around assassinating people didn’t really sound like that much fun, and I foresaw this mode being a little bit on the repetitive side. However, I really have to hand it to Ubisoft Montreal on this one, as they have created a multiplayer mode that uses the game’s basic features to its advantage. There are several individual multiplayer modes, but the premise behind each is the same: take out a specific target. You may be responsible for taking out a specific person or a team, but the challenge comes not from your speed or deft with a trigger finger, but from your ability to detect enemies when they blend in with their surroundings.
Each match starts off with players selecting a character-based avatar, and it’ll be this avatar that players will have to hunt down. However, the world of the game is filled with plenty of lookalikes and you’ll have to keep your eyes on your target if you hope to track them down (instead of attacking an NPC, which will result in a loss of contract). The game also rewards your ability to hide, and awards points for spotting, stunning, and running from pursuants. Although the basic premise is fairly basic, the game’s leveling system gives the multiplayer mode plenty of variety, and you’ll be able to unlock bonuses that will alter the way you play dramatically.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is definitely the apex of the Assassin’s Creed series thus far. The story does a great job of furthering both the historical plot as well as the overarching sci-fi elements of the story (Desmond has a much larger role here), and the game’s new structure is refreshing for those who may have found the back-and-forth structure of last year’s title to be a bit tedious. With plenty of story content and even more to unlock online, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is a must-purchase for fans of the series, and does quite a bit to improve upon an already-solid formula.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
The city of Rome comes to live in incredible detail. Animations and character models are beautiful. 4.4 Control
Controls are nearly identical to previous iterations of the franchise, although combat mechanics have been greatly improved. 4.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and voice acting are a great compliment to the action on-screen. 4.9 Play Value
With the new ability to switch between memories, a plethora of side-missions, and an engaging multiplayer component, there is no shortage of content here. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|