Review by Crono09

Reviewed: 02/08/12

A minor but welcomed update to the previous game

It wasn’t too long ago that I reviewed Assassin’s Creed II, and my love for the game (especially following its mediocre predecessor) led me with no doubt that I would get Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I didn’t expect to get it this quickly though, but I decided to take advantage of some extra free time. It was well worth it, and while Brotherhood doesn’t venture far from the previous game, it adds some nice touches that make you want to further explore Ezio’s story.

The framing story once again takes place in 2012. Desmond and the other assassins escape from their safe house in Assassin’s Creed II and move to the only other safe location they could think of: the ruins of Ezio’s villa in Monteriggioni. After getting set up, they put Desmond in the Animus again, this time to find out what Ezio did with the Apple of Eden that he obtained at the end of the previous game. Some problems occur with accessing the memory, so Desmond has to go through Ezio’s memories leading up to that point.

Ezio’s story begins immediately where it left off in the previous game, taking place in Renaissance Italy from 1499 to 1507. With Rodrigo Borgia defeated and the Apple of Eden in hand, Ezio goes back to Monteriggioni for retirement. Unfortunately, this does not last long. The following day, Cesare Borgia (Rodrigo’s illegitimate son and leader of the Papal army) attacks Monteriggioni. Some of Ezio’s allies are killed, and the Apple is stolen. Cesare intends to use the Apple to gain control of all of Italy. Ezio goes to Rome to eliminate Cesare’s influence there and regain the Apple.

The core gameplay hasn’t changed much from Assassin’s Creed II, which makes sense considering that you’re using the same character in a similar environment. Ezio has most of the same weapons and skills, and the notoriety system works the same way. A few new features are definitely welcome. Ezio can now obtain a crossbow, which lets him make silent kills from a distance. This weapon alone is almost a game breaker since it lets him pick off distant targets easily, excellent for handling rooftop guards. He also gains access to parachutes late in the game. While I didn’t use them often, they proved valuable for the accidental leap from a tall roof when I didn’t know how high I was.

Although Ezio ventures into other cities a few times for quick missions, the only city that he really gets to explore is Rome. While I did miss the variety of cities to travel to, Rome is a very big and diverse place, consisting of busy streets, small villages, expansive fields, rocky hills, and massive structures. Taking place in a single city also allowed a change to the game economy. Ezio now earns money by rebuilding shops, infrastructure, and landmarks throughout the city. Doing so requires reducing the Borgia influence in a district by killing an oppressive Borgia captain. This felt a lot more heroic than simply remodeling buildings in the previous game.

One thing that did exhibit a lot of change in this game was the combat system. No longer can Ezio hack at his enemies nonstop or wait for them to attack so he can counter-kill them. Armored soldiers cannot be hit without disabling or distracting them first, and those with long or heavy weapons can no longer be counter-killed with basic weapons. To make up for this added challenge, Ezio can now string his kills together, allowing him to instantly deliver a fatal blow from one enemy to the next. This requires skill to perform correctly, but it becomes essential once it is learned. Furthermore, the pistol and throwing knives are much easier to employ in battle and can be used during an execution streak. Battles in general are much more difficult, but—and it’s rare that you’ll hear me say this—the added challenge makes them more fun and interesting.

As the title of the game implies, Ezio isn’t working alone in this game. While some of his fellow assassins from the previous game return, the main focus is that Ezio himself must restore the Assassin Order by finding new recruits. These recruits must be rescued from harassment by Borgia guards, an element similar to the rescue missions in the first Assassin’s Creed. Once recruited, they can be summoned by Ezio to go hand-to-hand with guards, or they can be signaled to fire arrows from a distance. The recruits start out weak, but they gain better weapons, armor, and abilities as they gain experience. Experience is primarily gained by sending them out on missions in other cities, which makes them unavailable for a while. I really enjoyed being able to walk around and summon recruits to do all the dirty work. While this makes some parts of the game much easier, you’re never able to rely on the recruits completely since they can never be as subtle or as skilled as Ezio.

Continuing with tradition, Brotherhood once again has optional search and find quests. This time, you have treasure chests, feathers, and (returning from the first Assassin’s Creed) flags. Fortunately, maps are available for all of these things, so you don’t have to rely on searching every nook and cranny for them. Both feathers and flags have rewards for finding them, which makes these quests worthwhile.

Another feature from the first Assassin’s Creed that returned in Brotherhood is the ability to replay previous memories. This was sorely lacking in Assassin’s Creed II, and it’s great to be able to go back to your favorite missions. To go along with this, most missions have an additional optional objective that must be met to obtain 100% synchronization. Sometimes, the requirement is to kill your target in a certain way or to avoid detection, which fits well with the theme of the game. However, many missions have more arbitrary objectives, such as finishing within a time limit or not taking damage. These requirements feel out of place and serve little purpose other than to make the player redo the mission. This is made worse by the fact that if the objective is failed, you have to restart the mission from the beginning in order to try again instead of from the last checkpoint. In fact, it is better to fail a mission completely than to fail the synchronization objective for this reason. While the full synchronization objective was an interesting idea, it wasn’t executed as well as it should have been.

The story itself follows a different pace from Assassin’s Creed II. Ezio is already an experienced assassin from the beginning, and he knows early on what his objective is. This adds a little more structure to the game with most sequences involving taking out a certain target. The addition of the assassin brotherhood makes things more interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the sequences towards the end when it becomes clear that you have overwhelmed the Templars. However, it didn’t quite have the same draw as seeing the spoiled nobleman evolve into a deadly assassin.

All in all, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is on par with its predecessor. If you liked Assassin’s Creed II, you will want to see how Ezio’s story continues in this game. It improves most of the gameplay features of its predecessor, but it adds a few new frustration features and lacks some energy in its storyline. I would say that this ranks Brotherhood slightly behind Assassin’s Creed II, but if you’re a fan of the series, this is nevertheless a game you will want to play.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (US, 03/22/11)

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