Earlier this year, I began playing the first Assassin’s Creed. I completely fell in love with Altaïr, and even though I never completed the game (only because it became a bit too tedious and I had other things to play), I have only fond things to say of it. Despite the fact that we own AC II, I have yet to play a second of it. So why did I completely play through Brotherhood not knowing anything leading up to it? I’ll tell you why. I did it because the game looked fucking badass. And it was.
Now, you’ll all have to excuse me while I completely gush over Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood throughout this entire review, but I hope you all can recognize that I’m gushing because the game is seriously that good. What first made me really appreciate Brotherhood was the fact that before you even really do anything, you are given a wonderful cinematic that goes over everything you’d need to know from the first two games. Sure some major plot points were spoiled for me, but I loved it. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a game anybody can play without having any knowledge of the first two in the series.
I was very skeptical of how I’d like Ezio because all I had known was Altaïr. I thought Ezio’s outfit was too fancy, and wished he had simple robes like Altaïr, but later on when I completed the game and had enough Uplay points to purchase Altaïr’s robes, I thought they were way too plain. I know, I sound like an indecisive woman, but that is probably because I am. Ezio Auditore da Firenze quickly grew on me. Yeah, he was different than Altaïr, but he was different in a good way. He was strong, stubborn, sexy, and an overall badass. One thing I really loved about him was how loyal he was to his friends, even when some of them were looking increasingly suspicious. I also wouldn’t want to run into Ezio in a dark alley, that’s for sure. The main downside to the guy is that, in the romance department, he is constantly getting shit on. First, there is Cristina Vespucci, and then Caterina Sforza. Maybe when they were writing that story arc for him a scorned female employee took over. I don’t know.
As many of you know the game has the main campaign, and there is also the multi-player thrown in. If you’re wondering how that all works out, let me put it in these terms: the actual full story of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is like a delicious cake, full of delicious layers that all work together harmoniously. It’s perfect. The multi-player is the icing on the cake, like that tasty Rainbow Chip kind from Betty Crocker that gets everybody excited because it has sprinkles in it. See, the multi-player isn’t necessary to enjoy the game, so think of it as an addition to give you more bang for your buck, but I’ll get into the MP later.
For now, I’m going to focus on the main story. The game picks up where AC II left off with Ezio and Minerva. Desmond, the poor bastard who has to go through all of the Animus sessions, is still with Lucy, Rebecca, and Shaun. They are in a van outside Monteriggioni, where Ezio goes to see his Uncle Mario, mother, and sister Claudia. The gang is still on the run from Abstergo, and they use the underground sanctuary to hideout so that Desmond can continue searching for the Piece of Eden. The main antagonists, when Desmond is Ezio, are the Borgias. The leader of the family clan, Rodrigo, is Pope, the son, Cesare, is like a crazed pitbull without a leash, and the daughter, Lucrezia, is basically a femme fatale who gets a little too ‘familiar’ with her brother.
The Borgias are trying to ‘unite’ Italia, but really they just want to run things without any of the Catholic Church getting involved. Think of the Borgias as a Mafia. They were Mario Puzo’s inspiration for The Godfather, so it only seems fitting to label them as such. Cesare is thirsty for power, and while Rodrigo thinks he has a handle on all of it, he is walking around with a target painted on his back. Ezio, who is working together with Niccolò Machiavelliagain, thinks that he can have a bit of rest after all of the events in AC II. That quickly changes when Monteriggioni is attacked by Cesare and his goons, and all hell breaks loose. With a personal vendetta now against Cesare, and the fact that the Borgias now have the Apple, you go through the rest of the game destroying the Borgias influence in Roma, along with crippling the Borgias from within.
Since I jumped from the first Assassin’s Creed into Brotherhood, I can’t even stress how significantly better the gameplay is. Everything is more fluid, the way Desmond/Ezio moves is far superior to that of Desmond/Altaïr, and I loved the little economy that was going on. Being able to purchase and upgrade various stores to help you with maps, weaponry, health potions, and clothing was a lot of fun. I also liked how easy it was to earn money once you had enough shops purchased. There is also the ability to purchase major landmarks like The Pantheon, Colosseo (the Colosseum), and more. Unfortunately, when you purchased those landmarks, they aren’t upgraded like when you go through and purchase other buildings. One would think so since when you purchase the Rosa in Fiore for 2,500 florins you get a massive upgrade, but when spending close to 40,000 for Colosseo nothing happens.
Over the course of the game, and all of its Borgia drama, there are some fun things to do like Courtesan assignments, Assassin contracts, and stuff for the Thieves Guild. If you reach a certain level of synchronization, you even get Cristina quests where you go back and watch more of the story between Ezio and Cristina unfold. When you get to a certain point in the game you are able to start recruiting Assassin’s to join you, which is where the term Brotherhood comes in. Sending the recruits out on missions earns them experience so you can level them up, but it also brings in money for you and the chance to obtain some items you can sell at shops. When your recruits aren’t away doing your bidding, you can call them in to help you out. If six or more recruits are available, you can call upon this thing called “Arrow Storm” and it is exactly as it sounds. Hella arrows fire down from the sky, taking out pretty much every target in the area you are in. It’s fantastic, especially when trying to take down Borgia towers and you don’t want to risk the Captain getting away like he sometimes does.
In terms of graphics, Brotherhood is perfection. I hope you all climb to the very top of Castel Sant’Angelo and just look over Rome. If you have the parachutes from Leonardo da Vinci by then, jump off and glide over it all and earn an achievement in the process. Everything is so detailed, so crisp, and it became a world I didn’t want to leave. As a fan of the Renaissance era, and as a fan of history from that period of time, playing Brotherhood was as close as I’ll ever get to living in that era (until time travel is invented of course), and I loved every second of it. The team that worked tirelessly on the cities should really be applauded here because it was truly breathtaking. One thing did irk me to no end, and that was that I couldn’t get inside the Cappella Sistina – the Sistine Chapel. That building is an artistic triumph, and sure the game lets you get to the front doors, but that is as far as you get. Seeing the Sistine Chapel in real life is something on my “Things I Want to Do/See Before I Die” list, so to be so close to a virtual version, and yet so far away, was incredibly heart wrenching for me. If there is a way to get in there, and I simply don’t know about it (although I have furiously tried), please let me know in a comment below because I’d greatly appreciate it.
The soundtrack to the game is wonderfully scored. It has depth and harmony when necessary, but when things are really getting serious, it helps bring about that sense of urgency. The song that played during a scene with Ezio and Cristina, that I won’t spoil, sometimes gets stuck in my head because it fit the moment so well. For me it was one of those rare moments where what you see is emphasized by what you hear, and even though you aren’t actually experiencing what is going on, your real life emotions take you to that place and you live that moment as they are. To some of you what I just said might sound ridiculous, but I’m sure there are some of you out there who can identify with what I just described.
As I said before with the cake reference, everything in Brotherhood is layered, and very delicately. Sometimes when you play a game that has a large story going on, some things get lost in the process. Things or events go unanswered, and some things happen that frankly feel out of place or don’t fit in with the big picture. I can honestly say I didn’t have a moment like that in Brotherhood where I said to myself “well, that was stupid” or something along the lines of that. Even if there was a scene that didn’t initially make sense to me, later events would bring it all together and I’d feel the light bulb go off over my head. With all of the layers, each one seamlessly connects to the next, and those layers I think will play an important role in the next game. I won’t say how the game ends, or what exactly happens, but I suggest that you all finish the Subject 16 puzzles, and that when you finish the game, watch a part of the credits to listen what is said. Sadly there is nothing after the credits are done rolling, but Ubisoft did an excellent job at leaving us all with a “what the fuck?” look on our faces.
The multi-player portion of the game has you working as an agent for Abstergo. You are tasked with going in and basically killing people. With many characters to choose from, you select one and can level them up as you play more of the games. I kept picking the Courtesan, as I liked how she would use this sharp fan, a la Kitana of Mortal Kombat, and slice peoples throats. I was tempted to select the Doctor because the masks they wear are pretty creepy, and he comes with a syringe that, I assume, is used similar to a hidden blade. When you begin, there are a few modes available like Play Now, for those who aren’t picky and just want in a game, but there are options to go into Ranked games, or if you want to do some sessions with friends, randoms, and closed parties. Ubisoft really wants people to play the multiplayer portion because a lot of features are locked and you can only gain access to them, or even see what they are, when you reach a certain level.
With the characters that you choose, you can eventually unlock new colors for the outfit, new weapons, attributes you can equip, and more. There was this nifty shape shifting ability I equipped my Courtesan with, and whenever somebody was close to finding me I’d be able to change my appearance for a certain amount of time. Sadly, there was a cool down that left me vulnerable for awhile, but it sure as hell came in handy. As you level up, there are options to extend the length of your transformation, so that was really nice.
I played all of the modes that were available to me, and those that I managed to unlock, and I can say that I personally preferred the 4v4 mode rather than the free for all one. I hated FFA in Halo 2, so I knew that I wouldn’t be fond of the one in Brotherhood, but I tried it anyways. Some people will really dig it, but it wasn’t for me. In the free for all mode, everybody is against each other, obviously. To the upper right of your screen, an image will be there with your target. Your goal is to get to your target and kill them, but you also have to keep in mind that there is somebody out there who is wanting to take your head off. There is no radar like in first-person shooters to help indicate when somebody is getting near to you, but if you are observant and pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll be able to see if there is a character moving on your screen in a way that isn’t normal.
When you are going after your target, there is a round icon on the screen that works like a compass. There is a lighter blue section that, as you get closer, grows and will point in the direction you need to go. When you are right near your target, the entire icon will be that shade of light neon blue, and then it is up to you to find the target before they start to flee. Sometimes they will be right out in the open, other times they will be trying to blend with crowds that are either stationary or moving about, kind of like in the main game when you are trying to blend and hide from the guards.
With the 4v4, you are teamed up with random people or your friends, and you play two rounds. One round is where you play the target and have to blend in and keep an eye out or you try to run around and hide. When you are blended in and are hiding, you are given points for how long you can remain that way. If you are found there really is no way to properly defend yourself aside from using the B button to stun them. One huge downside in stunning them is that if you do it wrong, you leave yourself completely open to attack with no way to counter. I admit, there were times where I would take a knife to the throat or a hidden blade to the back of my skull, but it was all a part of the process. If you do die, you are simply respawned, like in other games, and start over with the clock still ticking down. The other round has you and your team as the hunters. You have to find everybody on the other team and kill them as much as possible. For every kill you are awarded points, and at the end of your round it is determined which team is the victor simply based on points.
I really appreciated how, just because a multiplayer mode was added in, it didn’t take away or cheapen the single player experience. Sadly, that is becoming the standard these days, and we are seeing a shift in gaming where companies create a weaker campaign, yet go batshit crazy with the online features. Ubisoft really needs to be given credit for still delivering a fantastic solo game while adding in something to satiate the fans until the next in the series is released.
Sure, there were things about the game that irritated me, like some of the Leonardo’s Weapons missions, or how you couldn’t be detected at all otherwise you’d get desynched immediately, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is one of the best games I’ve ever played. So, if you don’t own a copy of the game or are unsure if you’ll like it or not, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. The game is incredibly fun, has a rich story that has a lot of history thrown in so you’re actually learning something, and who doesn’t love sneaking up behind people and giving them a blade to the back?
For more information on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, check out their official website, follow the game on Twitter, and ‘Like’ them on Facebook. Also, don’t forget about the free DLC coming out on the 14th!