Review by horror_spooky
"Live together, die together"
My relationship with the Assassin's Creed series has been erratic at best. When the first game released, I didn't get the hype. Then Assassin's Creed II came out, and I was blown away. ACII made me a fan. I was a bit disappointed when I found out Ubisoft planned to put out another title in the series the next year because I have seen exactly what happens to good franchises when they are bogged down by annual releases and begin to suffer from franchise fatigue. After completing the story and spending extensive time with the multiplayer, I think Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood certainly shows signs of franchise fatigue, but the overall quality and polish of the game helps it maintain the reputation of the series.
My buddy rented the game before I could really sink my teeth into it, and he expressed his woes to me. "I had to take the game out and make sure I didn't accidentally rent Assassin's Creed II again." Indeed, the opening hours of Brotherhood are very much like Assassin's Creed II. Unlike when the series jumped from the original game to the sequel, there's no noticeable graphical upgrade, and there's no other visual differences in terms of characters or setting. Brotherhood is set during the same period as ACII, meaning that a lot of the architecture is exactly the same style as you remember, and a lot of the NPCs are recycled from the last game as well. That's the sort of sacrifice made with an annual release schedule, though.
However, it can be argued that Brotherhood isn't supposed to be taken as the literal next step in the series. With the recent announcement of Assassin's Creed III, perhaps we were supposed to go into Brotherhood assuming it would be more of the same, with small, incremental improvements. Hell, most of the game's plot isn't even important to the overall story arch of the series except for the very end. Most of the story focuses on political issues, but the uninspired cast, save for the darker Ezio, fail to draw you into what's going on. You'll find yourself not caring about virtually anything that's happening story-wise, until the closing moments of the game, that, for a brief moment, manage to recapture the intense magic that made the story in Assassin's Creed II so engaging.
In terms of gameplay, Brotherhood is largely identical to its predecessor. Players are still stealthily murdering people, fleeing from guards on rooftops, and experiencing the tale one "sequence" at a time. Brotherhood tries to carve its own identity with a few specific gameplay additions. For one, the real estate mechanic that was slightly touched on in ACII is largely expanded in Brotherhood. I found a lot of enjoyment just buying buildings and improving Rome's economy. Ubisoft implemented a system here that makes the entire economic process an absolute blast.
Another new feature is recruiting new assassins and sending them out on historical missions around the globe. Similarly to the real estate element, this aspect of the game is subtle and it really draws you in. To start the process, you have to happen upon a citizen that is being haggled in the street by guards. After saving the citizen, they can be recruited as an assassin. Then their issues can be ordered, and as they successfully complete a variety of missions, they level up and you are able to upgrade them in a variety of ways. As you liberate more areas of Rome by burning down Borgia Towers (more on that later), more and more assassins can be recruited and sent on missions together.
The third gameplay element that really helps Brotherhood be a good game is all the extra content to enjoy. Side missions are all over the place that offer up a challenge, and they don't feel tacked on like how they do in a lot of other games. But the side content that's really deep and a lot of fun are the Tombs of Romulus. Remember how fun it was hunting down all the pieces of Altair's armor in ACII? The Romulus tombs are the extension of that, and they remain awesome. The puzzle elements in these side dungeons are challenging, the platforming is thrilling, and the combat is brutal and furious.
Honestly, I felt like the main meat of the game was just a distraction. Usually I feel like the side content is just in the way of enjoying in the main game. It's the exact opposite in Brotherhood. The main game is just a barricade that was in the way of buying new property, upgrading my league of assassins, and exploring Rome for Tombs of Romulus. The main game is still adequate, but it's nothing extraordinary, and after ACII, it's too much of the same. It suffers from Call of Duty syndrome.
Along with all this new content, Brotherhood also introduces a multiplayer component to the franchise. Instead of going down the "generic deathmatch" route like it could have easily done, Brotherhood uses innovative multiplayer that's quite entertaining. In the multiplayer, you're assigned a target, and another player is assigned you as their target. Your goal is to move stealthily throughout the map and kill your target without getting killed. It's intense, to say the least, and offers an experience that just can't be found with most online multiplayer gameplay.
Before I wrap this up, I have to talk about the Borgia Towers I mentioned earlier. Saving Rome from the clutches of the evil Borgia is fun, certainly, but having to scale the Borgia Towers to do so is a pain in the ass. First you have to find the captain of that area, and almost immediately dozens upon dozens of guards will swarm and try to kill you. The captain can escape rather easily, and it's almost impossible to chase him sufficiently since Ezio will constantly switch his focus to a guard when they get close. Scaling the towers is not a picnic either, as they are often overly complicated platforming messes that feel out of place in the otherwise orderly platforming world of Assassin's Creed.
I like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. It has obvious faults, and the familiarity between this game and ACII has me seriously worried that Assassin's Creed is going to go the way of Guitar Hero and become a dead franchise. However, everything that Brotherhood does differently from the previous games is what makes it fun. I spent hours and hours renovating Rome and building up a strong team of assassins. It's clear, though, that Assassin's Creed can't simply rest on its laurels, and unless Ubisoft mixes the pot quite a bit, I'm afraid the franchise may falter. As for now, Brotherhood stands somewhere between the mediocre original entry and the fantastic sequel, meaning it's a good game, but it's not the masterpiece that was Ezio's inaugural adventure.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (US, 11/16/10)
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