Review: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Assassin's Creed II took the concept of Assassin's Creed and blew it up into something amazing. Can Brotherhood compare just one year later?
- Worth The Time?Most definitely
- Things LovedFluid combat, epic story, creating Rome’s renaissance, da Vinci’s war machines, exhilarating multiplayer, Desmond sequences, shear variety of gameplay elements
- Things HatedLoad times, lack of a challenge in the game, most multiplayer modes require exactly 8 players which can result in a long wait before some matches are allowed to begin
- RecommendationDespite being what is effectively a massively upscale version of AC II, Brotherhood has so much going for it that quite some time can go by before you even do something that you might have in AC II. This is definitely an amazing game that you wouldn’t want to miss out on and certainly worth the money.
- Name: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1, 6-8
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R299 (PC), R599 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Here we are, almost a year to the date when Assassin’s Creed II blasted our minds into oblivion, emerges another Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is this year’s installment and is probably one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year but does it do enough to separate itself from AC II to stand out as something special? Does it match the impact that its predecessor had on gamers, especially when you consider the rather short one year development period?
Here we have Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood which is by its simplest definition an upscale, up-sized version of its predecessor. Effectively AC II with a large expansion pack slapped on. Yes, you may be wondering about the new setting, new story, additional gameplay elements and new multiplayer that comes with the new game but it still sues the same graphics, physics, combat and AI engines. As a result it plays very much the same and looks very much the same, Brotherhood feels a lot like AC II. So what is all the fuss about? What has Ubisoft done to make this game as special as they claimed it was going to be?
Well, not much. They’ve made a few small changes and tweaked elements of the game as well as adding a couple more gameplay elements which all mesh together to make the game far more focused and coherent and unified in its actions than Assassin’s Creed II. Since the game’s are pretty similar and Brotherhood really just builds on what AC II already did, you should probably read the review for it from last year here.
Brotherhood picks up straight where AC II left off, with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the catacombs beneath the Vatican after beating up Pope Rodrigo Borgia and speaking to the projection of the Goddess Minerva. Ezio escapes the Vatican with the help of his uncle Mario and then returns to Monteriggioni where he is met with warm welcomes and a promising retirement now that he has rid Italy of its Borgia/Templar influence and the threat they posed. How naive.
Needless to say, the Borgia army comes knocking on Ezio’s front door with a cannon and an attack fronted by Rodrigo’s son Cesare (funny how that is rather similar to Cesar, another Roman tyrrant). The villa at Monteriggioni is destroyed, the town evacuated, Cesare leaves with the Piece of Eden and we see Ezio fleeing on horseback with a gunshot wound.
Ezio wakes up in Rome, the hub of the Borgia Empire and vows to relinquish both Rome and Italia from its stranglehold. His main conquest becomes to rebuild Rome which has fallen into ruin under the Borgia as well as destroy Borgia influence. He is also out for revenge once again and seeks to exact it on Cesare Borgia for the murder of his uncle Mario.
Early on in Brotherhood, you will meet up with several familiar faces that will assist Ezio in building a strong underground resistance including Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli. Desmond also makes a welcome return and once again plays a part in leaving us with more questions than answers and setting the stage for something epic.
The entire game is set in Rome which may sound disappointing since previous games have spanned over 3 cities but Brotherhood’s Rome is 5 times bigger than any AC city before it. With this new found size comes a need for faster travel in the form of horses being allowed within the city walls and a tunnel network which allows players to travel great distances quickly by means of several conveniently located tunnel entrances.
As has become expected, the environment is incredibly detailed and accurate with landmarks such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican City and various palazzos being featured. This does not mean that Rome is picturesque and perfect though. Instead, the entire city is rather dilapidated and rundown and much like restoring Monteriggioni in AC II, players will get to restore various shops and buildings in Brotherhood which will earn them revenue. In order to do this in any given area though, you will need to destroy the Borgia Tower which controls it. Once done, this will become an Assassin’s Tower that will mark the area as your territory.
Luckily, the overall style of combat in Brotherhood is a welcome change over the counter-attack waiting game that was combat in AC II. It has been revamped to promote striking first, striking fast and keeping momentum. You can now perform execution streaks by simply tapping the attack button while killing an enemy and directing the analogue stick in the direction of the next enemy you’d like to kill. In this manner, you can level a room of about eight guards in a matter of seconds. What’s more, you have the ability to kick enemies and subsequently makes fighting brutes or enemies with lances much simpler. At this point I should mention that players will be able to equip Ezio with not only the kind of heavy two-handed weapons that brutes wield but also a crossbow which is a lot like the hidden gun only more expensive and silent. With this comes gunmen posted on rooftops to add an extra dimension to combat.
There’s also a host of awesome new counter-kills and executions which make splendid use of the hidden-gun and crossbow. The mission structure remains the same free-form style that we had in AC II which allows for a great deal of variety and depth but every mission, main and side, now includes something called full-synchronisation which gives you a specific task that you must fulfill such as not losing more than a certain amount of health or complete it in a specific time frame. While it does just about nothing, it does add a little bit of challenge to what is really a very easy game. There really is no challenge in Assassin’s Creed anymore and there wasn’t much to begin with actually.
Once again, Ezio can purchase supplies and upgrades from shops but this time with a twist. Some of the best items that a shop has to offer will require you to complete what is in essence a scavenger hunt. You see, instead of simply receiving money from chests and pick-pocketing, you might just receive an item that can be anything from dye to ore to tomatoes. Most of this crap can be sold for cash but some of it needs to be saved to complete certain challenges which will help you unlock the best armour, weapons and treasure maps. This makes acts such as treasure hunting and pick-pocketing seem more focused and purposeful than the senseless coin-chasing that it was in AC II.
Linear platforming sequences make a return in the Lairs of Romulus which are based on the Roman legend of Romulus and his followers. Like the Assassin’s tombs, these each contain a key which when combined with all the other keys unlocks the game’s ultimate armour which not coincidentally is the Brutus Armour and we all know what that dude did to the last psychopathic tyrant to control Rome. What disappoints though is that while the Altair armour of AC II was awesome and black and shiny, the Brutus Armour looks mouldy and crusted with vomit.
Moving on though, a big part of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is Ezio’s vision of rebuilding the brotherhood of assassin’s, thus the title, and using it as the frontline of attack against the Borgia and Templars. The plan is to enlist the help of the people which gives new purpose to helping citizens which I haven’t bothered doing since AC I when it nearly got me killed. You save the life of a citizen who has risen against the Borgia and then recruit them. For every Borgia tower you destroy, you can recruit another assassin. You can then control your recruits from either Assassin’s Towers or pigeon coops and send them on contract missions all over Europe from Barcelona to Constantinople and Moscow. Your assassins will earn rewards for you from these in addition to XP which goes towards leveling them up and upgrading their armour /weapons. After long enough a recruit will amass enough XP to be initiated as a fully-fledged assassin whereupon Ezio must return to the Assassin’s hideout to conduct the initiation ceremony which is a pretty sweet little touch.
You can also call on your assassins to take out large groups of enemies if you’re trying to remain anonymous or don’t want to get your hands dirty. Alternatively, a barrage of arrows can be called upon to rain down on enemies.
The three factions that assist you – Courtesans, Thieves, Mercenaries – all make a return and just like in Monteriggioni, each has its own base within Rome but each also has challenges which Ezio can complete for rewards such as killing a certain number of guards or stealing a certain amount of money etc. This just adds to burgeoning list of things to pass your time with.
I should probably say that while Leonardo does not invent for Ezio has he did in AC II, he does give you a parachute and is forced into building some of the war machines which the real da Vinci designed but never actually created. Machines such as his tank or machine gun or rocket-firing glider. They are all amazing and frickin’ awesome. They are also all part of side missions if you can believe that.
Right, you probably want to know what that new-fangled multiplayer is like? Well, it’s insane. Let me first explain how it works. You have access to about 16 different classes or characters each with different abilities and attributes. Like any other multiplayer there are perks, kill streaks and levelling-up. Each match you play will earn you an amount of XP which goes towards levelling up which in-turn unlocks new equipment such as smoke bombs, the hidden-gun and even explosive charges. XP is rewarded based on the amount of kills and deaths you tally in a match and more XP is given based on the quality of your kills. There’s also a series of challenges which are like the faction challenges of the singleplayer but unlock various upgrades.
There are 4 different types of matches:
Manhunt – players are split up into 2 teams of 3 or four and the objective is for one team to hunt the other. There are two rounds of 5min each in which each team has the chance hunt the other
Wanted – this is the one that most people should be familiar with. Each player has a target but is in turn a target for another player. It’s like a Mexican standoff, only with more people.
Alliance – similar to Wanted except one target will have two players after them and that player will in turn be part of a pair hunting a single target.
Advanced Wanted – another mode similar to Wanted except there is far less aid from the compass which helps players find their target thus putting greater emphasis on stealth.
Unfortunately, the latter two modes need to be unlocked with a certain amount of XP. All matches take place within constrained maps that include locales such as Venice and in all modes, except Manhunt, players will be assigned new targets after killing their current target or being killed. The maps are also inhabited by the characters that comprise the array of multiplayer classes so finding your target is slightly more difficult than it may seem but there is a handy compass which indicates both which direction and how far you are from your target.
I say that the multiplayer is awesome because it is fresh and exhilarating and properly enjoyable. I played one match of Wanted and the first minute was literally me running, a smoke bomb goes off, some dude runs past me and stabs the guy behind me, I then run on find my target who is just getting up from killing his target, slice my target’s throat and then get an axe to the head. And that’s only the first minute of the match. All the fast-paced free-running and stealthy gameplay really come alive in this multiplayer whether you’re being chased or are in fact the chaser. There’s just something going on every minute of every match to keep your heart pumping.
There is also a new Virtual Training arena which is like the challenge mode in Batman Arkham Asylum combined with the training area in AC II and lets players hone various combat skills.
Brotherhood bares the same visuals that we had in AC II and is therefore a spectacle to behold but manages to fix some of the visual bugs that plagued AC II such as the jittering that corpses tended to do when they dropped to the ground or were dropped from height. There are still some little bugs and jitters but they are rare and infrequent.
There is just an infinite number of things to do in Brotherhood. On the way to a simple main mission I destroyed a Borgia Tower, recruited a new assassin, sent my assassins to Moscow, Lisbon and Paris, did a Lair of Romulus platforming sequence, restored some buildings, destroyed da Vinci’s tank before it could be used for evil, bought a crossbow and then eventually got to the mission which I had initially set out to play through. All this can diffuse some of the impact of the game’s narrative but it is luckily strong and engaging enough to keep your attention and while many gameplay elements are repeated, there is literally too much to do for it to ever feel grinding or monotonous.
Despite this shear number of things to do, nothing feels disjointed or separate or irrelevant. Everything you do is tightly weaved into a coherent driving goal of liberating Rome and restoring the city to its former glory. Every action is purposeful and meaningful because everything you do is part of the plan. You are literally creating Rome’s renaissance.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is easily the best game that I’ve played all year. It is massive but focused and everything you do really feels tied to the core narrative. There is the sense that every aspect of AC II’s gameplay has been sharpened up and improved for Brotherhood. What Ubisoft has done is what the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini do. They’ve taken what was already an amazing thing, made every facet of it just a little bit better and thrown in a little extra something to keep things from getting stale. Unlike the supercar however, you don’t need to pay an extra million bucks for the new version.
A Second Take From Tody:
Ultimately, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood ends up a great deal closer to the vision we had for the series from the start. With a brilliant single-player mode that features a huge variety of gameplay options and an enormous amount of things to do, a gripping story, fantastic visuals and music, improved gameplay and a lot more options for stealth, Brotherhood is a winner before you even get to the multiplayer mode – and it is here that the game innovates and really shows its greatness even more. The multiplayer is what really makes you feel like a true Assassin as you stalk your prey and evade your pursuers, and despite its concept and the fact that it’s the first of its kind, it manages to be action-packed, wildly chaotic, silent, thrilling and just purely exhilarating. It’s an instant hit.
To any Assassin’s Creed fan, this is worth every cent. And after all is said and done, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the best game in the franchise, and one of the most awesome games of this year.