A Brit Late: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Single Player)
For all intents and purposes, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (which will be referred to as Assbros from now on in the article) appears to be a quick and dirty yearly cash in building on the success of the first two games with a multiplayer component hastily thrown it. It probably is, I won’t deny that. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a damn good game. This is a review of the single player portion
The last time we saw Desmond and friends in the crazy ass sci-fi current day, they had escaped from their hideout after being found by Abstergo, and through Ezio’s memories, learnt that the world as we know it was about to end in 2012. Or they could have just watched Roland Emmerich’s natural disaster wet dream. Anyway, the team retreats to the Auditore Mansion and Desmond is plucked back into the Animus to find where Ezio left one of the pieces of Eden before his death. If you hadn’t realised, this will just sound like a lot of nonsense if you haven’t played Assassin’s Creed II. Unlike the transistion from the first game to the second game, you really need to play Assassin’s Creed II before you even touch this. The story starts literally the moment that game ends and the whole of Assbros is a direct continuation. Besides, the former is better anyway.
One good move Ubisoft have made with this game is removing nearly all interaction with the current day storyline. Apart from the beginning and end of the game, you can stay in the animus and Renaissance Rome for the entire duration. Aside from one cut scene that plays if you solve this game’s Subject 16 puzzles, you won’t even miss anything that affects the storyline. Well, unless you want to know who ate all of the Assassin’s yoghurts. I don’t have a problem with the current day events in the game. As much sci-fi nonsense as it is, the canon of the Assassin Templar war throughout history that Ubisoft have created is very interesting, especially to a history geek. However, Desmond and Lucy are just plain bland. They are not enjoyable to watch in the slightest. The only interesting characters in the current day so far are Shaun and Vidic, but the former is a background character and the latter doesn’t even appear in this game. Therefore, sticking to pretty much the ensemble cast in the past is better because they are actually interesting characters.
The plot in 1500s Italy then is that after Ezio gets his redemption for the death of his family, the Apple of Eden is stolen from him by Cesare Borgia, son of Rodrigo Borgia (the second game’s antagonist) and the leader of the Borgia army that is slowly grasping control of Italy. It’s up to Ezio to put a stop to his work, reclaim the Apple and restore the Brotherhood of Assassins. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t feel as well executed to me as in its prequel. The two main themes of this game are the politics surrounding the Borgia family and the expectations and pressure upon Ezio to reform the Brotherhood as its leader. To me, these are both two interesting ideas that could be well developed, but here they just felt like they were never fully expanded on and were instead hastily sandwiched inbetween a set of different assassinations.
Even then, killing these people is meant to cripple Cesare’s grip on the people but it never becomes evident just from the game’s world that anything is happening. The Borgia guards are just as powerful as ever and they don’t even become more aware of Ezio’s activities. The same can be said for the Borgia Towers in the game, which when destroyed, remove influence over that area of Rome. In an expansion of the rebuilding of Monteriggioni in Assassin’s Creed II, Assbros allows you to rebuild the whole of freaking Rome by buying shops, buildings for the various factions and even landmarks (Yes, you can buy the Colloseum). Apart from the shops opening though, Rome never looks rebuilt.
We do get hints of these themes but I came away feeling there could have been so much more. Rather than being a cardboard cutout villian, Cesare could have been much more complex. The troubles of running his army, the pressure from his family name to deliver and his morals about whether he really thought he was doing the right thing for Italy all could have been explored. He appears slightly incestual to his sister but we never find out why. Other than that, his personality could be from any other countless number of fictional villains.
With Ezio, it just felt like the potential to develop him further as a character was wasted. In Assassin’s Creed II, we got to see in detail his journey from Florentine nobleman to training as an Assassin after his family’s deaths before eventually coming to terms with it as his redemption reaches a conclusion. Here, we could have seen the relationship with his sister and mother and his journey from Assassin to Grand Master. Again though, these are either hinted at or just hastily shown in one cut scene. It definitely feels like the game was only developed in one year.
Gameplay wise, it is virtually identical to Assassin’s Creed II save for a few additions. It really feels like Ubisoft have perfected what they initially set out to do with the first game. The controls feel natural and are easy to pick up and learn and stringing free running combinations together makes for some satisfying movement. The combat engine has also been further developed from the second game. For starters a few more items have been added such as poison you can shoot from a distance, a crossbow for silent kills and even a parachute designed by Mr.Da Vinci. Kills can also be strung together by holding the attack button after killing an enemy and aiming it at the next enemy. On the one hand it makes handling large groups of enemies much easier but that’s also its flaw, as it never feels like the game is really challenging you. Even the tougher enemies can usually be killed this way, who would have taken a lot longer to wear down in Assassin’s Creed II.
The big change comes in the overhaul of the side Assassination missions. Once you form the Brotherhood, you can begin to recruit one Assassin in training for every Borgia Tower you have destroyed and then either send them out on contracts or use them during your own missions. The contracts all have varying amounts of difficulty, with the higher difficulties resulting in a smaller percent chance of completing it but with much higher amounts of XP and money available. In a way it becomes a little management game, as you decide whether to risk sending one less Assassin on a mission to earn more XP for the Assassins involved or whether to play it safe like I did. Once they start reaching higher levels, your “bros” also become really helpful in missions. Once you get 6, you can use arrow storm to kill all targeted guards with such a force, and it never stops being satisfying. In combination with Ezio’s arsenal, it makes missions much less linear and more about what approach you prefer to take.
So in conclusion, you might think I didn’t like Assbros, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure I have some criticisms about the story but it’s by no means bad and by now, I am a sucker for the combination of free running, assassinations, historical fiction and sword fighting in the game. The game still packs in a load of content for a game that Ubisoft advertised more as a multiplayer game. It took me about 16-18 hours to finish the game and the side missions, which is an hour or two shorter than Assassin’s Creed II. The game also a smaller map than that game but it’s still damn good value in my eyes.
There’s plenty of do after finishing the game, from the Subject 16 puzzles to collecting Borgia flags. There is also a side goal in each memory that, if completed, will result in 100% synchronisation with that memory. It’s a crafty way of getting us to replay missions but for the completitions, they won’t be able to resist. There’s even a virtual training mode so you can hone your skills. (And unlock a Raiden skin for use. Keep in mind whether you’d actually want a Raiden outfit)
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a good game on its own merit, and it is definitely worth the money in my opinion. Bear in mind though, that this is exclusively if you’re already a fan of the series. If you’re not, then you’ll find nothing to enjoy from this game, as it is more of the same. If you’re a newcomer, I would buy Assassin’s Creed II first and then buy this. If I was to be more cynical though, I would say that it’s evident that this game was made in a year, with a lot of plot points seemingly left on the cutting room floor. As a fan, it makes me worry that Ubisoft will eventually drive the series into the ground if they keep on with a yearly release schedule.