I sort of feel the significance of the events depicted by the Assassin’s Creed games are lost on a history pleb like myself. Although I admit being moderately more interested in World History than American History, if only because past the colonization of the US most history classes in public school seem content to forget the rest of the world. Still, for all I know of the events in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood they could just be making stuff up.
AC Brotherhood begins almost immediately after Assassin’s Creed II with Desmond et al. on the run from the Templars while trying to find a safe place to hole-up & give Desmond the opportunity to scour Ezio’s past for clues to the Apple of Eden’s location in modern times. This is paralleled by Ezio’s story, where the assassin’s villa gets attacked by the guy he let live at the end of the previous game (surprise!) & he must flee to Rome. Now facing the family of the freakin’ Pope, Ezio must gather allies & rebuild the Assassin Order before taking the Piece of Eden back.
Not much has changed in terms of gameplay, though a few new features have been added. The most prominent is the ability to recruit the downtrodden of Rome into your order. Once you recruit them, you send them off on missions to be completed off-screen for gold, rewards & experience. As they grow in level, you can customize their equipment & create a formidable order, even gaining the ability to call on your recruits during missions. The renovating mechanic returns, except now you can buy up all of Rome to earn a steady income. But to do this, you must free the region from Borgia control by killing their commander & burning towers. This also carries the benefit of fewer guards about, making travel & missions a bit easier. You can also complete side missions for the three factions you ally with in the game.
Narrative: To me, the story feels disjointed, especially toward the end. At first, it flows fairly smoothly. But I don’t feel like new characters get introduced properly. The new big baddie, Cesare, just shows up without any preamble or context outside of a text blurb you can bring up. I don’t recall him being mentioned in the previous game, though there was a big gap between my playing them. This happens several times throughout the game, especially in regards to targets I’m supposed to go after. I just don’t feel like Ubisoft does a good job of meshing their world together. Characters just pop up without any establishment. And having their involvement explained through a text dump that I don’t read half the time is bad storytelling. Video games are an interactive medium, not expensive books. If I miss vital bits of the story because I didn’t read a prompt that shows up in the middle of a cutscene, you’re doing a bad job. It gets worse at the end, where entire months fly by without ceremony. Seriously. Ezio steals the Apple back, Cesare runs away, then five or so months later he shows up to lose a fight over Rome. Then several more months later we’re fighting in some out-of-nowhere siege battle against him. What is going on? Important characters from the last game pop in & out without much influence over the story as a whole. Even the Truth & Subject 16 subplot ultimately went nowhere, even after the massive build-up. I think the worst example was the Cristina missions you unlock if you meet enough sync requirements. What’s the point of these? When do these occur in relation to the story? I appreciate learning about Cristina’s fate, but couldn’t they have added these during the regular course of the story? It just comes across as a bunch of unconnected bullet points. It’s a shame, because I like the idea behind the story. I like most of the characters, & enjoyed seeing their evolving interactions with each other when they’re there. I just wished there was more of it. If I have to look up the Wiki to understand what’s happening, the story’s busted. Score: 3
Mechanics: As I said before, most of the core mechanics of the game remain the same. The combat is still ridiculously tedious, though real effort has been made to make it more engaging. You can string counter kills together if you’re fast enough, which makes dealing with the swarms of enemies the game throws at you a bit easier. I also appreciated that it gave me more options for going on the offensive instead of twiddling my thumbs waiting to counter. Enemies still block a ridiculous amount, but you can throw dirt in their eyes, shoot them or (my personal favorite) kick them until the fall over then stab them. Weapons are fun & fit a wide variety of styles. I loved the crossbow & poison darts, which were perfect for stealthily taking out enemies. I also appreciated that the game gave me a wide berth on how to complete missions while also providing goals. Every mission has a Full-Sync goal, or challenge for completing the mission, such as remaining undetected or killing a target with the hidden blades. These are optional, but it’s a nice motivation. The newer elements are fun, but ultimately pointless. You can ignore the recruitment & Borgia towers outside of the one plot mission if you want. But they do make the game more fun & slightly easier. I really enjoyed building up my order & calling in recruits to help me. Although they didn’t seem to have much in the way of self-preservation instincts, & never understood the concept of being a distraction then running away, instead taking on every guard in the area. I also wished taking out the towers meant no guards on the rooftops. I get why, from a balanced gameplay perspective, they’re there, but it seems unrealistic. I’m pretty sure ancient Rome didn’t have people walking around the rooftops. Or at least make the guards less adept at climbing buildings than me! Why is parkour a skill everyone has? But for all these little annoyances, the only parts that made me angry were the Da Vinci machines, especially the glider. Don’t give me timed missions where I have to drop poorly aimed bombs on some running twat in a fiddly hang-glider. It’s so hard handle both in terms of maneuvering & aiming the weapons. I nearly broke my controller during that mission, I wanted so badly to throw it at the TV. Overall, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the additions are a lot of fun to play around with & really make you feel like an assassin… while others make you wonder if anyone actually play tested them. Score: 3
Aesthetics: I don’t recall there being an obvious difference between the style of Brotherhood & its predecessor. It’s not bad, by any means. The models are nice enough, & I really enjoy the design of the city. The music was great, as always. Even if it doesn’t suit your personal preferences, it still fits the feel of the game well. Except one track that randomly played while I was just running around that made me think I was being chased when I wasn’t. The voiceacting was decent as well. Score: 3
Replay Value: Low. After the credits roll you can keep mucking about in Ezio’s time, though there isn’t much reason to short of being a completionist. But you can replay any mission you’ve already completed, including side missions, from the DNA screen, & there are “cheats” you can unlock to affect random aspects of the replay (like all female assassins). Score: 3
Overall Score: 3
Recommended for: those who enjoyed the previous Assassin’s Creed games & want to see Ezio’s story continue. Possibly a rental for those who enjoy having fun mucking about in a historic city.
Not recommended for: people who found the previous games tedious or repetitive.
-GamerDameTitle: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Consoles: PS3, 360, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft Release Date: November 16, 2010