Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Ezio Auditore is back and in fighting form in this direct sequel to 2009’s city-traipsing blockbuster. Renaissance Rome is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time in Brotherhood, fighting valiantly against the twisted schemes of the Borgia clan. While it’s not unfair to say that variation in the landscape has taken a significant hit, the game proves itself a standout experience thanks to the wealth of content and gameplay styles on offer. Make no mistake; this is the full sequel Ezio fans have been hoping for, and it’s time to take back Roma!
As with previous instalments, Ubisoft has employed an impressive art direction that gives the world an atmosphere of its very own; sun-drenched crop fields, damp caverns and bustling streets are present and accounted for, but it’s in the way the music punctuates this that makes the world seem so enchanting. As you run, blend, climb and gallop (horses can be used in urban areas now) it’s likely that you won’t question this artistic rendition of Rome at all, mostly down to the flair with which it’s been crafted. True, the game essentially presents one major city as opposed to the three that made up Assassin’s Creed 2, but Rome is much richer with content that you might expect. There’s nothing here on the same level as Venice however,with the world being something of a cross between Florence and Tuscany.
Treasure chests, flags and feathers are back, but there is one system employed in Brotherhood which can best be described as ‘gaming crack’ – scratching that collector’s itch that sees many a gamer wander off the beaten path in a blissful state of distraction. Rome has suffered significantly under the boot of the Borgia and requires a great deal of investment in order to thrive. The state of the economy is tied directly to Ezio’s bank balance, so the better the state of the city’s finances, the thicker his wallet will be when it comes time to withdraw money from the bank. Before such renovations can be performed however, each area must first be liberated by assassinating a captain, then igniting a tower in a powerful display of defiance. This task might sound like hard work to begin with, but once the game gets going and you’ve explored a fair portion of the map, it can be all too tempting to put the story on hold for completion’s sake.
As the story progresses, Ezio will find himself allied with a host of returning faces such as Machiavelli and La Volpe, as well as the surviving members of the Auditore family. Some characters – such as the likeable Leonardo – are on hand to offer side-missions and have less to do with the main plot this time around, but the tale is kept interesting throughout as the rebels rise in power, much to the chagrin of new nemesis, Cesare Borgia. The story might lack the bite and freshness of the previous outing, but it’s still strong enough to hold your attention until the end, plus the Desmond sections are much more involved – and indeed more interesting – than before as the mystery surrounding ‘those that came before’ deepens.
The adventure features many missions similar to the ones seen previously, only with some much-needed variety thrown in to keep things from becoming stale. You’ll run, climb, hunt down a target and move in for the kill just as only an assassin can, yet things have changed with a number of multi-tiered story missions and optional criteria to be fulfilled for complete synchronization. These criteria change depending on the situation, such as completing a dungeon in less than eight minutes or escaping a chase sequence unscathed. It can be frustrating when you fail at the last hurdle, but with a new ‘memory select’ function available and just begging to be used (there’s even an achievement for doing this), the intention was clearly to improve the game’s replay value.
Some mission highlights include a daring three-stage jailbreak and the tense lead-up towards the final battle. Other missions, while they should be applauded for their creativity (rather than simply tracking and killing an NPC), the trade-off can be an extremely frustrating one, resulting in a game that requires you to often finish a mission in the way the developers intended; rarely can you fluff a mission and adapt to the situation in the style of Altair. This time it’s a case of ‘do it and do it right’, otherwise be prepared for an irritating, if brief restart. Brotherhood also has noticeably more missions in which Ezio must remain undetected, where simply being spotted will result in de-synchronization. While the occasional hair-pulling sections won’t spoil your enjoyment of the game overall, we hope Ubisoft will be more cautious of them in the inevitable sequels.
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