Unreal Game Review: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

I was avoiding this Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for a decently long while, as I resented the notion that I should be paying $60 for what was essentially DLC for a title I already owned. But once I heard that it was actually worthwhile, and had more than enough content to earn my cash, I decided screw it. So I asked for it for Christmas.

I just got done with the single player campaign moments ago (I’m going to probably have to do the multiplayer aspect of the game in follow-up post down the line), and I have to say, it certainly is jam packed with enough content to be a standalone title.  Assassin’s Creed 2 was far and away my game of the year, and had perhaps one of the best single player campaigns I’ve ever had the pleasure to work my way through.

But in a way I think it’s too much of a good thing. During the final third of the game, my patience was starting to drag, the missions all began to blur together and I was just trying to push through to reach and end that never seemed to come. In an effort to prove they had enough content to make a full title, I think Ubisoft might have overdone it, and padded the game to the point where it’s almost overstuffed.

How do you make a sequel to game that doesn’t really need to have one? Well in terms of plot, it’s some pretty basic recycling. In the opening scene, your precious villa is blown sky high (conveniently stripping you of your armor and weapons) and your uncle is murdered and the Apple of Eden in his possession is stolen. Back to square one, although at least you’re an actual assassin instead of just an Italian prick.

Multitasking bitches!

So the entire game revolves around avenging your uncle’s death and reclaiming the apple by picking off key members of the Borgia establishment, and using the same three allies from the first game (the thief, the soldier and the hooker) to help you, with varying questlines for each of them.

But I’ve never quite been able to follow the plot of these games, which essentially comes down to killing whoever has a crosshair over their head and occasionally stumbling upon aliens. Rather, the fun is the gameplay itself, and AC2 featured great improvements over its predecessor and you had to wonder what could be included here to make things even better.

Everything that’s been added in Brotherhood however seems superfluous, and actually takes a lot of strategy out of a game that was often based around meticulous planning. New items like the poison dart and crossbow make infiltration and assassination a cinch in most missions, and in open combat, the new one hit execution combo feature allows you to decimate an entire battalion in a few swift blows if you time it right.

The biggest addition the game which blows all sense of strategy completely out of the water is Ezio’s new ability to recruit and subsequently summon Assassin trainees, who eventually level up until they become “Assassinos” themselves. When all are available (you can send them out on quests for cash and treasure) you can summon them at any time, meaning at any moment you can have ten copies of yourself appear out of the ether and kill everyone you’re fighting. This can be as simple as having two cronies assassinate roof guards, or rather they can charge into a heated battle on horseback throwing smoke bombs and shooting their wrist pistols, decimating all in their path. And if that wasn’t helpful enough, if you hold down the summon button when the bar is fully charged, arrows will rain down from the sky killing every single guard onscreen.

Yeah, go kill those guys, I’m going to stand here and eat my sandwich.

So with all these new tools at your disposal, missions are far easier than they used to be, and what used to be careful plan of wall scaling, guard poisoning and crowd blending is more often than not solved by pressing the summon button and having your crew take everyone out while you sit back and shoot arrows at the survivors.

The game realizes its imbalance issues and tries to compensate by issuing you “Full Synchronization” commands about how you can only kill people with a certain weapon, or you must remain undetected throughout the mission. I started to try and do these things, but once they became unreasonable, or forced you to restart a twenty minute mission because of one missed button pressed I gave up. I’ve no idea what happens if you achieve full synchronization in every single mission, and as invested in completionism as I may be (I bought every shop and found every treasure chest), I’m not that much of an achievement whore to spend another 15 hours 100%-ing the game.

The game is unlike the previous one where you slowly get new technology, and your missions reflect your newfound abilities. Rather you tend to get powers in big chunks, and you can really use whatever you want to complete the mission. This results in many assignments feeling the same, and while the last game’s hits all seemed quite varied, they really do blur together here after a while.

Part of this might have to do with the game’s restrictive setting. Yes, Rome is pretty big, but compared to the multiple cities of the last game, it feels claustrophobic, and despite all its cool landmarks, the city actually becomes a bit boring after a while.

I mean, this is cool, but not the seventeenth time you’ve had a mission there.

But all this being said, this is still an Assassin’s Creed game, and with that comes an inherent amount of fun. I particularly enjoyed the “Da Vinci’s Machines” quests where you had to infiltrate an army base, destroy blueprints, steal a piece of technology, use it against your enemies and then destroy it so it couldn’t be used further. The game presents the hilarious notion that Da Vinci invented the tank and machine gun, with his most hilarious project being a glider (from the first game) strapped with a giant functional cannon so it can be used as a bomber. Physics be damned!

Fundamentally, this is a good game, and I did pour about 20 or so hours into it finishing all the sidequests to placate my OCD, but the changes that were made to it made it far easier, and far less strategic to play, which was most of the fun of the series. All the ideas seem good on the surface, but the difficulty lost is also often fun lost, as the novelty of killing every enemy with one button press wears off after a time, and you find yourself trying to make the game harder by not resorting to the cheap tactics made available to you.

I wish that Ubisoft had spent their time prepping for the next true sequel in the series, as though this was fun, it doesn’t take the franchise forward in any significant way, and actually is a step or two back in a lot of ways. I really do think that they’re going to have to severely mix things up in the next installment, lest the game become stale, and with rumors the next title might be in Paris, I’m a bit worried that’s not going to happen. Go to feudal Japan, an old Viking kingdom or hell, even the present day.

But in any case, this game was made, and it’s clear significant effort was put into it, which is more than can be said for many titles these days. Ubisoft knows their craft, and I’m looking forward to seeing this franchise continue to grow and evolve once true sequels are actually released.

Probably not fair to give a star rating until after I’ve played multiplayer, but I’d give the campaign 3.5 out of 5.

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  1. I think the multiplayer is a blast, especially Wanted, but reviews I’ve seen online seem to have the general consensus that it isnt fun because (fill in the blank).

  2. Da Vinci DID invent a tank, a machine gun, and the like. They were ideas that never made it out onto the field in engineering, mostly because he never got funding for them or other ways.

    The tank had guns coming from EVERY angle and you would sit inside and fire them. It was an AoE machine of death. Never made, just like many other inventions of his.

  3. @George

    Whoa! Mind blown, as Googling reveals it actually looks like the one from the game. That’s pretty cool, and my mistake. The machine gun looks different, but he did have the concept. No bomber though!

  4. Brotherhood was the game of the year, in my opinion. Just as AC2 was the game of 2009. Brotherhood took even the most miniscule issues (such as how hard the feathers were to find in AC2) and fixed them. The gameplay was diverse, from chases to stealth to saving people to stealth to saving people while chasing their pursuers away while in stealth. The story was brilliant, as was AC2’s. The villains weren’t quite as good, but they were still better than 90% of games. It was long as hell, too. The campaign took me roughly 35 hours (AC2 took 41, but I had no experience and had to learn from scratch) which is more than you could ever ask for from any other games on the market really.

    The only thing that I didn’t like was how detached Desmond was from the real world this time around. I guess that was part of the point of the story, but it still made it feel like the actual reason you are playing as Ezio is meaningless because we never once see the Masons and only a few times do we even really see the friends.

    Also, they killed Kristen Bell. Screw them.

  5. I have to admit I really enjoyed this game but as Paul mentioned, it was a lot easier this time around because not only is Ezio a more complete killing machine this time, he has a bunch of friends who can jump in at any time and save him when the going gets tough.

    As for what Josh said above, that reminds me of that one Simpsons episode where Homer and Marge go to see The Empire Strikes Back and Homer reveals the ending to the crowd outside. Priceless.

    But seriously, that was a pretty dick move to be honest for people who haven’t played the game.

  6. this game, campaign wise isnt as good, i wasnt drawn into it as much as in 2, but the multiplayer compensates for it, i was surprised with how fun it was, i would give this a 4, maybe if ubisoft worked on it a bit more, it would be a bit better

  7. For fans of the series, its more of the same. For noobs, its a great way to introduce the series. The ending confused me, but they had to try to match AC2, so decided to shock instead of amaze. The multi-player is spectacular. It overshadows the campaign to a point where the story seems like practice for the online play.

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