With just one year between Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed 2 there has perhaps been a bit of scepticism towards how far the developers could make a different enough game to warrant a release so close together. With the story being a continuation from Assassin’s Creed 2 where leading character Ezio returns to rid Rome of the Borgia family influence. It’s game on as he gathers a following of assassins this time and takes back the great capital for the greater good.
The first aspect that needs addressing is what’s changed since the last game aside from the subtle nuances that are expected in terms of combat animations, new weapons, armor etc. Not much really. The story draws you in as Desmond and chums settle themselves into a new base of operations in modern times, where the animus can be set up and the mind games begin.
Once you’re back in Rome as Ezio, you’ll notice the huge similarities with the previous game. The mission structure and the visual style is pretty much identical, although there’s now added challenge to the synchronizing where an additional objective is included – things like not being detected or losing any health are common themes. There’s a bevy of side missions which you can dip in and out of at any time such as assassinations, races and beating up thugs, and there are now tasks for the various groups such as the thieves, mercs, assassins and courtesans which offer a more persistent gameplay layer. Some complaints of the last game were the rather taxing puzzles which were tied to the main storyline, leaving many stumped and requiring a look online for clues. Well the good news is the fiendish puzzles have been removed from the main storyline and are now optional extras, which you can tackle at any time. Some of the platforming does feel very similar to Prince of Persia, but considering everything on offer, there’s a lot of diversity as platforming only makes up a small segment of the gameplay.
The combat remains unchanged, with the same attacking to counter-attacking patterns we’ve seen in the past games. There’s a new ranged weapon in the form of a crossbow, but in general you’ll get the same combat situations we’ve seen before. You’re also now able to perform one hit kill combos which take some of the tedium away from encounters where you’re suitably outnumbered. What’s new as far as combat is concerned is the fact that now you’re able to take your steed into town and attack from horseback amongst the populace and tight alleyways.
The game world is more inclusive this time, as Rome and its surrounds is just one large area with no loading unless you use one of the all new teleport tunnels to get around quickly. The map is large and with the option to set waypoint markers on just about everything, makes navigation easy as pie. The economy system returns where you invest money gained back into rebuilding Rome piece by piece. It’s an interesting side distraction and a bit more engaging this time as you manually discover buildings to be revitalized on your travels.
One of the most notable inclusions to the gameplay is the all new recruiting assassins to the brotherhood which becomes available halfway through the story. It’s here where you’ll see citizens fighting with guards on the streets. Intervene and they will then join your brotherhood. You can recruit up to 10 assassins, and if any die, then you can constantly recruit replacements. However, the idea is to keep them alive as they can be called into any of your skirmishes at any time.
The most interesting aspect of the recruitment, is the mini game where you can send them off on solo or group missions around Europe. Effectively gambling their skills with the aim of earning them XP to level up, and netting you coins and tradable items. It’s a welcome distraction and makes you feel very much top dog of the guild.
The graphics remain unchanged from Assassin’s Creed 2 which means you’ve got some varied locations ranging from open fields, tight streets and alleyways, impressive structures to climb, and out of city settlements. Everything is included in the one map and with the all new real time day and night cycle, the game world feels less synthesized. The streets are more bustling, and rather than have scores of people wandering around aimlessly, it appears people have a little more purpose. It’s a shame the random element of mad people from the first game hasn’t been reworked to suit, but you can’t have everything. The game is crammed full of detail, although there are some cracks here and there such as poor clipping, and the odd glitch.
As always, the audio is top quality throughout with some very impressive musical score and featured sound effects. A little more variation would have offered a bit more variety when exploring in terms of the background music, but with the music fitting the theme of the period very well, it’s hard to complain too much. The voice acting is very good overall and it appears there’s less merging chatter from the citizens on the streets, which did get a bit annoying in the last game.
There are plenty of things to do in Rome for any would be assassin, so no complaints really as there’s always something you can turn your hand to whether that be killing helping or collecting. With so much on offer ranging from so many different styles it’s a game to keep you entertained for a long time. The added multiplayer mode is an area which could have simply been tacked on, but it appears the game mode which was originally intended for Splinter Cell Conviction features here and is very good. The stealth based competitive play works very well, although getting into games is somewhat slow at present. It’s a shame no offline modes are included for gamers to practise with bots or challenge themselves, but With plenty to achieve in the online playing field and offline in the story, this is a game with much legs which should see you through until the next game. If there’s one complaint to make and that’s still no difficulty select option which has been a standard for games since the beginning. Why the developers still refuse to adjust AI for gamers who want a bit more challenge is a mystery.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is certainly an older brother to its predecessor. Crammed full of features, diverse gameplay, energetic combat and the basic stealth/action the series is renowned for and you have a killer of a game for fans and newcomers alike. If this is your first step into the shoes of an assassin, you might lose some element of the story but not enough to hamper your enjoyment. The added features and new multiplayer option do the series justice and make it feel not so much like an expansion of the last game but a fully fledged sequel. Yes, there are many similarities with its predecessor and perhaps the Italian theme really needs to be put to rest now, but as a stand alone title, you can’t get much better than this. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is very much the definitive GTA style game of the Renaissance period.