Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood ReviewGreg Knoll
Even before its release, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was the victim of utter scrutinization. Many knew the premise, but most wondered if the ideas present weren't more than fancy add-on content. Multi-player they said. You don't need to make an entirely new game for that! Angry retort from the R.E. 5 fans I suppose. How so many could say such a thing about one of the most ingenious, incredible franchises is beyond me, especially after the sequel. It now seems that I must again use my superior powers of deduction and persuasion to convince the loyal Trueps that Brotherhood is far more than simply an expansion pack.
Okay, it kind of starts like one. Seconds after part two ended is where Brotherhood begins. Ezio's memory takes place only moments later, even reciting bits of the dialogue we heard at the end part two. Once the scene ends, Ezio returns to the hallway to find Alexander the VI (Rodrigo Borgia) still broken and defeated in the hallway. Yet, with all the hell he put Ezio and his family through, the assassin decides to leave him alive. Why? I wondered the same thing.
It's called foreshadowing. A sometimes useful tactic, but that only led me to believe that was the excuse for rehashing the same story we saw in part two. New structure, same boring enemy. Not to mention, they tied up everything with Desmond rather quickly in the second scene. The end found him racing away from the Templars, desperate to get back into the Animus. Without so much as another encounter with them, Desmond and the crewthrough chance, or even a twist of fatefind sanctuary in the basement of the Monteriggioni. Away from dangerat least for a timeDesmond is free to once again discover where the Apple Of Eden is hidden.
From there, the game focuses strongly on Ezio and his trials. Remember Rodrigo? You should. It's only been about five minutes into the game when he returns, this time with an army. Cannon balls blast through the mansion, the Borgia army rips apart the town killing both your allies and innocent civilians. Madness ensues and it takes everything Ezio has just to escape alive...
Sorry. Was that dramatic? It was supposed to be, because I thought the same thing of the opening sequence, until I realized just how silly that was. It wasn't shocking, or surprising. The guy you just let goyou know the Pope whom has a deranged, unhealthy obsession with powerwants the item that you took. The Apple. Something that has the ability to control the minds of men. Did you think he would just forget about it? News flash: You're an Assassin. You've killed countless people for the safety of the world. Why would you let a man who commanded hundreds, was worshiped by thousands and perhaps the most vile person you've ever met go? Conscience? Guilt?
I'm not sure. Even after playing the entire thing I still don't have an answer and needless to say it frustrated me. It seemed like a lack of effort on the developer's part. An emotion that was only furthered for the first part of the game, when I discovered a lot of the great ideas from part two hadn't been expanded upononly, expanded. Building Monteriggioni back from a shambled mansion to a gorgeous villa was one of the most ingenious and addictive parts of Assassin's Creed II. In Brotherhood it's up to you to rebuild all of Rome. Each stable, blacksmith, tailor, art shop, etc. is now closed and must be purchased before they can be used. Great I thought to myself. Done that too. But this time, there's a catch. The Borgia army has overtaken the city, and placed towers in specific areas as viewpoints. Anything within the range of these towers can't be purchased right away. Ezio must infiltrate them (all of which are restricted, immediately making you a target) assassinate the Captain before you can climb the tower and set it ablaze. Sometimes they meet you head-on, other times you are forced to chase them down. Let them get too far and they're gone for the rest of the day to regroup and gather more troops. Once the tower is destroyed, everything below it opens up and you're free to purchase it, adding both to your revenue and accumulating loyal townspeople who will help you in a bind.
And that was only the beginning. Shortly after learning about the towers, you gain the ability to start building your own army, that of assassins. Some of those citizens mentioned above are randomly attacked by guards. If you happen to run across them (or even track them from your map) and save them from the Borgia's army, they swear undying loyalty to you, joining your small but deadly league of assassins. From there, you can send them out on missions that range from gathering information, attacking supply troops or even assassinating powerful targets. The downside is these missions only garner them experience, and have nothing to do with the actual story. However, the real joy in having an army is the ability to call on them in a moment's notice. Though you can't see them, they follow you everywhere. Often in Assassin's Creed II my stealth and blending was ruined by a scout on the rooftop that I couldn't get to before he alerted the other guards. In Brotherhood with the press of one button, I could call upon one of my brethren, who in the blink of an eye would leap out from the nearest hiding spot, gut the guard and disappear before anyone else saw what happened. Such an element was crucial in missions that required you to go undetected, allowing you to easily dispatch guards without ever lifting a finger...well, not in the literal sense at least. The further you get into the game, the more assassin's you're allowed to have and the more powerful they become. The war against the Templars is full-force now. This time, you're not at war alone.
A brilliant aspect and in truth, that was enough for me to consider Brotherhood just as phenomenal as its predecessor. But like the ending of Assassin's Creed or the vast improvements made in Assassin's Creed II the new elements continued to intensify. Mid-game you meet up with Leonardo. With a heavy heart he admits that the Borgia has forced him into designing devastating machines of war, including his legendary flying machine, and asks that you destroy them before the enemy can make any use of them. This phase of the game is entirely optional, but opt to pass on them and you'll miss some of the most entertaining side quests I've ever seen. Yes, you do eventually destroy them but you get to play with them first. Prototypes have already been built, and to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands you must both burn the blueprints and destroy all working equipment. You'll take flight in Leonardo's flying machine (with newly attached weapons) and hurl cannon balls down onto watchtowers, setting them ablaze and using the heat to ascend higher into the air. You'll find sanctuary in a primitive tank, one that almost looks like a UFO with wheels, speed it through guarded valleys, obliterating dozens of Borgia troops with one blast and going head-to-head with other tanks. My favorite, however, was the war ship. Well, in honesty it was only slightly larger than a kayak, but atop its bow was yet another cannon, this one however shot with the speed of a machine gun. Once I had snuck into the port holding it, I hoped onboard and whisked it out to sea, rushing up to the Borgia's massive freighters, blasting their sails down in a matter of minutes (provided my aim was on) in order to ensure I wouldn't be followed. From there, sadly, I destroyed the fine piece of machinery to make sure my enemies could never use it.
It impresses me how much effort Ubisoft is willing to put into side quests and non-essential aspects, but what truly makes Brotherhood much more than just add-on content is the multi-player. You find yourself on the opposite side of the spectrum, working for Abstergo as a newly acquired agent and training amongst other applicants (live players around the globe) in a virtual death world. While its structure and modes are similar to those of more famous multi-player games (death match, team death match and assassination/protection) once you're actually inside and playing, you'll discover it's anything but typical. In truth, the first time I played I got...beat. Okay, okay, I was obliterated. I'm a run-and-gunner. I charge in, shoot anything that moves and blow everything up. I had that same mentality in Brotherhood. My first few seconds in and my assassination target's name and picture appeared in the upper right corner. Too easy. The fool was right there in front of me. He didn't even react or try to run when I closed the gap (ignoring that little blue ring at the bottom of the screen) and picked him up, only to drop him on his head and break his neck (a signature move of The Butcher). I cheered. Talked smack. Claimed myself the victor. The game desynchronized me for killing a citizen. What?! I...didn't...did I?
I did, yeah. And that was the first of many fascinating, compelling things I learned about the multi-player. The town is full of civilians, only they're not civiliansthey're NPC's who look like the other assassins playing. And they're everywhere, giving the term disguise a whole new meaning. If your target is smart, he'll surround himself with others that look like him, so it's impossible to tell who he is simply on sight.
That's where the blue ring comes in. It serves as your radar. There's a large dark blue ring, and a fragment inside that's a brighter color. It will twist and turn inside the regular ring, growing larger or smaller. This indicates where you're real target is. If it's on the left side, you go left. If it grows bigger, you're getting closer. Once it's entirely full with light blue, your target is near and then it's up to you to discern which one it is. It's slow, methodical but tense all at the same time. Sometimes your target will see you coming and bolt, leaving you to chase him down. Other times you'll be nabbed from your pursuer out of a hay bale or from them leaping off the roof. Everything you could do as Ezio you can do here, but acting like an assassin will reveal you as one and make you a much easier target. The game almost forces you to slow down, and use your mind but in the most
entertaining way possible. Stalking your prey, studying them, ending them. It makes you truly feel like an assassin, even more so than the games before it.
So if it's not blaringly obvious to all those who wondered if Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is not just simply a jazzed-up add-on content, I'll spell it out for you: no. No, no, no, no, no. They could have easily replaced the word Brotherhood with III and gotten away with that. It's as much a sequel as any I've ever seen, and yet another example of Ubisoft's apparent desire to improve and grow this franchise into something grand. The climbing can still be kind of touchy and the wait time on multi-player a little too long at times, considering you have to wait for at least six characters, but I have no doubt they'll address this for part three. And yes, there will be one. In typical fashion, Brotherhood ended with a bang and a mind-blast that left meeven more than the first twowith more questions than answers, waiting fervently for a sequel...
Brilliant, irritating bastards.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
Bio | Email | Twitter | Facebook