Ezio Auditore di Firenze is back for his second adventure, and the third Assassin's Creed game from Ubisoft. While his mission was complete in his mind at the end of Assassin's Creed II, a few of his confidantes didn't think so. The additon of a few new Borgia members, most notably Cesare, become the main villians. I actually purchased this game first, before the first two games in the series, but waited a few months to try out the single player as I had never played an Assassin's Creed game before. It always seemed so daunting and seemed like there were too many actions to perform and not enough buttons and the game too vast. Once I got the hang of the multiplayer, I gave the single player a try.
After debating a while, even though I had heard you didn't need to play the previous iterations, I purchased and completed the first two games, aptly titled: Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed II. I'm really glad I did, as it added more to the whole experience of Brotherhood through some inside jokes and older characters returning. I would recommend at least playing ACII, before Brotherhood.
I was a big Altair fan from the beginning, so I was a bit disappointed when Ezio was introduced. In fact, even after completing Assassin's Creed II (platinum trophy!) he still hadn't won me over. So when I popped in my Brotherhood disc, I was expecting to be a little disappointed. Needless to say, Ezio really won me over with this game (the Assasssin's Creed: Revelations E3 trailer helped a bit too).
After being dropped in a battle scene where you need to just press buttons, Brotherhood opens with you replaying the final moments from Assassin's Creed II, in which Ezio must escape with his Uncle Mario. The game quickly returns to Monteriggioni, which had changed a bit, however, with a few simple memories to make sure you still remember how to control Ezio, the main game begins. The quaint town is quickly under attack, so Ezio and friends need to escape.
After a brief interlude with Desmond, Lucy and the 2012 crew, the game, then turns its sights to Rome. After AC II, with all of the different towns to visit, I was a bit surprised to see Brotherhood only featuring one city. This is definitely the Liberty City version of Rome, which seems absolutely huge (makes Florence seem like Forli). Within Rome, however, there are nicer parts, poorer parts, and even countryside settings, which reminded me of the original Assassin's Creed game, with the variations.
The missions are what you'd expect, however I loved the variety in Brotherhood. It wasn't all about the killing. Two words sum up why this game is the best in the series: Full Synchronization. Someone not as enamored with the AC series could still enjoy this game, but potential "couch assassin's" get so much more out of it. Each mission could be completed how the user preferred and still progress through the story, but those who take their games seriously could opt to carry out the mission the way Ezio would, and achieve Memory Full Synchronization. This could mean do the mission in a certain time limit, use a particular weapon, don't be detected, don't use the roof, don't kill anyone, etc. The first time I only achieved 50% synchronization on a memory sequence, I immediately paused and restarted the mission, sometimes multiple times (you know who you are "Hell on Wheels").
This game is loaded with optional side missions, as well. There are still the Tomb Raideresque missions (this time called Follower's of Romulus Lairs - which are worth it for the bonus after they are all completed), the search for Subject 16's video, feathers to collect (only 10 this time), Borgia flags (101, but you can purchase maps), the usual contracts (Assassination, Courtesan, Thieves), Guild Challenges (Assassination, Courtesan, Thieves), and the capturing of Borgia Towers under command from a Borgia leader (Some fight, others run and hide, leaving you to wait until a guard shift change to challenge them again) . The addition of the crossbow, throwing multiple knives at a time, Leonardo missions (where you try out some of his inventions - Renaissance tanks!), and horseback riding as it should be, make things even more interesting and enjoyable.
But, what would the game be without a Brotherhood of assassins? For every Borgia Tower toppled, you can recruit one assassin (male or female, even). These can then be trained (by being sent on missions in other places) and upgraded with better armor and weapons until they reach the ultimate ranking of assassin. When the assassins are needed, they can be called upon to help you battle forces or dispose of foes without you being spotted or bothered. They also have a power called arrow storm, which releases a flurry of arrows out of nowhere into multiple targets in your vicinity. While the training of recruits was quite basic, as you had to pick proper missions to send them, resulting in experience points and subsequent leveling up, they certainly come in handy.
The story progresses nicely, with even a few surprises thrown in. Ezio is one determined dude, but you do get to see a softer side of him as he matures, especially when it's not all about the assassinations. Where it does seem to lag, is unfortunately in the 2012 sections. The interactions between Desmond and Lucy seemed forced, while Shaun is even more irritating than before. Plus, guiding Desmond around, seems to lack much of the fluidity that Ezio posesses. At least those sections are few and far between. Yes, I did achieve 100% Synchronization in all missions, including every side mission, and often liked just roaming around finding treasures, flags, etc, so that my 55 hours invested in the game, really felt like around half of that.
The fact that this game finally has multiplayer, has to be mentioned. The fact that it is actually very good definitely deserves higher praise. Multiplayer in Brotherhood is a totally different experience than I'm used to. There are a variety of modes, some where you're on your own (Wanted), and some where you're part of a small team (Alliance, Manhunt). Anyone looking for a run and stab kind of game should look elsewhere. The mulitplayer modes do a great job of mirroring the single player experience, but kicked up a few notches. It's all about blending in and sneaking around. In Wanted, you're searching for your target, but are also being targeted by one or more of your opponents. The more obscure your kill, the more points you'll get. This is a game where you need to sit up and concentrate!
In Manhunt, for example, for one round, you and your teammates are the hunters, but in the next round become the hunted. Any mode I've played definitely gets the blood pumping. It does have to be noted that actually getting into a multiplayer game can be tortuous. Sometimes it connects with the correct amount of users and the game starts right up, but more often than not, you are waiting 15-20 minutes before you get a full group of 6 or 8. Extremely frustrating, to say the least. It's tough going at the beginning being lower leveled, but once you get to level 29 (poison is now an option), I would think things pick up (I'm currently at level 25).
The cities are quite detailed, but often a little repetitive. If you don't mind that kind of thing (I didn't), you'll be fine. I did like the differences in regions, from the buildings, to the clothes the people wore. There is, however, quite a bit of pop-up when on a horse. I didn't notice it so much at the beginning of the game, but later on when I was trying to avoid certain groups of troops, all of a sudden a guy would pop in on top of a building's roof. I'm not really a huge graphics person and I was so immersed in the story, that it wasn't a game killer.
The city is vibrant with sound, ranging from people getting annoyed that you ran into them, to those mystified by your agile grace, and the return engagement of those annoying minstrels (which I just tackled this time around). Also, the score does pick up, especially in tense moments, with the correct mood music.
There is A TON to do in this game, especially if you'd like FULL SYNCHRONIZATION on all missions, and the additional sidequests. I'd say a quick run through might take around 15 hours, and going for everything around 30-40 hours (or my 55 hours). Quite a lot, I think. Ubisoft could have just put out a filler game for half of that. The multiplayer adds infinite replay, in my opinion. That is when you get connected.
As enjoyable a game as I've come across, although I am an AC fanboy. Definitely the best in the series to date.
I paid $37.99 for a new copy of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and played for over 55 hours, not counting additional DLC missions.