At first glance, you may think Brotherhood is nothing more than an expansion pack to Assassin’s Creed II, and actually that doesn’t feel far off. The game does carry that vibe. Brotherhood picks up exactly where Assassin’s Creed II left off, for both Desmond and Ezio, making this a direct sequel where you really need to play the second game before firing this one up.
Everything is pretty much the same as Assassin’s Creed II here. You’re still reliving the memories of Ezio Auditore, and there’s still largely the same cast of characters (some of which you’ll see for the last time). You’re still in Italy, but this time around you’re limited to Rome (which we saw very little of in a linear fashion near the end of Assassin’s Creed II), making this the first game in the franchise to only have one city for you to run around in. Granted that’s more than enough considering it’s Rome and it’s massive. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a lot more to do in this game than there was in Assassin’s Creed II.
While Brotherhood released technically less than a year after Assassin’s Creed II, and it looks and feels like Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood, this isn’t an expansion pack. It is a full-length retail title and Ubisoft skipped on nothing. This is the first game in the series to be developed by multiple studios (four worked on the single player, while a fifth handled the addition of multiplayer to the series, which we’ll cover later). The addition of so many other studios did result in some wonderful additions.
This game has everything Assassin’s Creed II, and in most cases improved upon, and it adds in quite a few worthwhile ideas of its own that really help add to the feeling of being a Master Assassin. The game even manages to bring back the “save the citizens” side missions from the first game, albeit with an awesome twist and reason to do it. The big addition is where the game gets its namesake from, the ability to recruit new Assassin’s into the Brotherhood. There are towers that represent Borgia control over districts in Rome. These districts are controlled by a Templar captain. Kill the captain and set the tower on fire to remove Borgia control from the district, and you’ll be rewarded with the ability to save citizens from Borgia guards. Doing so will cause the citizen you save to pledge his life to you and your cause, and he or she will become an Assassin recruit.
These recruits represent the best addition to the series to date. You’ll have the option to simply press a button to have your recruits take out guards for you or join you in battle, so it actually feels like you’re leading a group against another group in a big conspiracy rather than being a one man vigilante. If you have enough recruits available, you can even hold in the left trigger button to have them unleash an arrow storm, which is simply arrows raining down onto seven or eight enemies. It’s pretty awesome to see and do, and it gives off the vibe that Ezio is never alone.
There’s even a management/RPG aspect to the recruits. If they’re called upon in battling, they’re earning XP and they can even die. As they earn XP, you can then spend points to give them better armor and weapons. The best way to level the recruits up is to send them out on missions through contracts. Doing so will earn them XP and it’ll earn you money and other items. You should also want to do this as you’re expanding the Brotherhood through Europe and cities that you won’t actually see (Moscow, Paris, and London for example), whilst also taking down Templars and removing their influence. Each of your recruits have names, and you can customize their appearance, so if you’re a good mentor you’ll come to care for these characters and you’ll be mindful of their skill and success level when sending them on missions as they can die if you send them on a contract where they don’t have good odds of completing.
Brotherhood takes the economy and city-building aspect of Assassin’s Creed II and greatly expands on it. Instead of buying a few buildings and upgrading shops in Monteriggioni, Ezio is now tasked with rebuilding Rome since its wasting away under the control of the Borgia’s. As you earn money, you’ll want to purchase shops around the city. These are the same shops from Assassin’s Creed II; doctor’s offices, banks, blacksmith, art merchants, apparel, and horse stables are tossed in as well. Opening up more and more of these shops not only increases Rome’s income (which is basically your income), but also increases the discount you’ll receive when purchasing goods. In addition, there are fast travel stations you can purchase, faction buildings to renovate, and you can buy any famous Roman landmark. If you want to 100% rebuild Rome, it’s going to take you a while… Rome really wasn’t built in a day.
Several of the historical figures you encountered in Assassin’s Creed II are back, including Leonardo de Vinci. This time around, Leonardo has been tasked to work for the Borgia’s designing some awesome and deadly weapons for them. Of course he isn’t happy about this, and leaves it up to Ezio to destroy his creation. These Leonardo’s War Machines missions are some of the most satisfying in the entire game. You’re tasked with stealthily working your way through a restricted area packed with guards to destroy the blueprints and ultimately to destroy the machine itself. That’s fun on its own, but the real joy here comes with taking control of Leonardo’s deadly machines and bringing havoc down on the Borgia guards. The flying machine is back, and this time it’s packing a cannon (and it’s all videogamey too as it has unlimited ammo). Leonardo apparently loves sticking cannons on things; row boat with a cannon, flying machine with a cannon, and tanks with multiple cannons. Prepare to blow stuff up.
Like Assassin’s Creed II, there’s plenty of things to collect in Rome. Feathers have returned, although there’s only 10 of them. The big is once again flags, this time Borgia flags. There’s 101 of them to find. The Assassin’s Tombs are back as well, although this time they’re called Romulus Lairs. These lairs aren’t filled with Borgia guards, but rather with a group wearing wolf fur known as the Followers of Romulus. These lairs have the same environmental puzzle platforming as the second game, only this time your reward is a Romulus scroll. Find all six of them and you’ll get the super cool, and tough, Armor of Brutus. And of course there are once again a ton of treasure chests to find. The Subject 16 glyphs are back, and while the puzzles themselves are better than ever, the pay off isn’t nearly as exciting as the Truth video from Assassin’s Creed II.
Going back to the idea of this improving and expanding on the things implemented in Assassin’s Creed II, the factions now play an even more vital role. Yes, you can still hire courtesans, mercenaries, and thieves to distract or fight the guards, but there’s a lot more you can do here. You can get guild missions, which are side missions, and each guild has a set of challenges for you to complete. Of course the challenges aren’t anything extreme and you can do them at anytime, and a lot of them you’ll complete just by playing the game, but it still is something to do and complete.
Another new addition is the Animus Virtual Training Room. Here you’re inside the Animus as a computer program and you can practice your combat, being stealthy, and your free-running ability. You have goals here, time limits, and you’re scoring points based on how well you do. This doesn’t look like much (it is after all in the Animus, like the loading screens), but these are kind of addicting due to the fact that you can see how well your friends did and you’re competing for the high score against them. I’m a big fan of leaderboards, so this was a fantastic addition that, for me, offered quite a bit of re-playability.
One thing that must be mentioned is how Ubisoft Montreal has continued their trend of streamlining the combat. And by streamlining the combat, I mean making it easier. If you though the combat in Assassin’s Creed II was easy, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. Combat here in Brotherhood is ridiculously easy. They’ve added chain kills, which when added to the one hit counter-kill ability (not to mention your Assassin recruits), makes you virtually invincible. These chain kills allow you to kill one enemy, target another, and instantly kill him in one fluid move. Of course it’s called a chain because you can just keep going from one target to the next so long as you don’t get hit and there’s a target within range of hitting. Heck, one of the challenges in the training room is to see how many kills you can chain together. This really makes combat just too easy, and if not for the satisfying kill animations, getting into actual fights wouldn’t even be worth it.
Of course the biggest addition to Brotherhood was the implementation of multiplayer into the Assassin’s Creed series. The multiplayer aspect was developed by Ubisoft Annecy, so it didn’t take away any time or resources from the single player aspect (the single player here is just as big, even bigger, than any that has come before it) as so many gamers are always concerned about when a single player franchise adds multiplayer.
In multiplayer, you play as a Templar agent in training at Abstergo industries. There’s no co-op here, this is strictly a competitive affair. Your modes are fairly standard, yet the way they play out is anything but. Wanted, my favorite mode, pits six to eight players in a map and it’s a sort of Free for All. You’re assigned a target (another player), and your job is to go and assassinate that target (and no one else). Meanwhile, another player is pursuing you, and you’ll want to keep an eye out and try to identify them to either escape them or stun them. The better you do, the more pursers you have. So you can have three people hunting you, which is a lot considering there can be no more than eight players in a game. Other modes include other variations of Free for All, and some team modes.
The initial multiplayer characters (avatars) you’ll recognize from some main and side missions in the single player (you’re tasked with killing these characters in the game). These include the Barber, Blacksmith, Captain, Courtesan, Doctor, Engineer, Executioner, Priest, and the Prowler. All in all, with the DLC included, the game features 21 multiplayer characters to choose from. In addition, as you level up, you’ll unlock new abilities and perks that will ultimately make the game a little easier for you.
I love the multiplayer, I think it’s a great addition to the series and its something unique. It brings over the awesome free-running, stealth, and assassinations of the single player to a fitting and enjoyable online experience. You’ll want to keep a low profile and try to act like an NPC as much as possible, but odds are you won’t be completely undetectable; your pursuer as a compass pointing directly at you that will fill when you’re close and in sight, and if you’re the pursuer your target will start hearing whispers when you get near. There are abilities that will expose you, and you can be stunned (it’s easy to recognize your pursuer if they’re close to you as a circle [PS3] will appear above their head, although getting stuns isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do).
I do have a problem with multiplayer though, and it was apparently exclusive to me. When I get killed and respawn, I do so on the other side of the map as far as I can be from my target. That’s fine, but the problem is I’ll always spawn within five seconds from my pursuer. That’s not fun, and I haven’t seen too many other people complaining about it, so I really don’t know why it happens so much to me. And there’s nothing more frustrating that traveling all the way across the map, slowly, and stalking your target trying to get a Focus bonus only to be killed by your pursuer. But in the grand scheme of things, dying in multiplayer games is always frustrating in a good way, so that aspect isn’t a knock on the game itself.
At this point (this review is obviously well after the games release), the multiplayer isn’t going to be much for you, as most people have moved on to later releases and I’m not sure how many people are still playing this version anymore. But nevertheless it is a great addition to the franchise and is handled really well. And it’s a ton of fun.
The story of Brotherhood is great, just as good as the one in the second one and Desmond’s story is push forward in a big way and the game has a “holy crap” ending. My only real knock on the game, and the reason why it isn’t getting a perfect score, is because the game falls apart near the end (as Ezio) and becomes tedious and unfun. I don’t really want to spoil anything for anyone who may not have played it yet, but there’s a section near the end where Ezio is carrying the Piece of Eden and can’t actively fight in combat. And no, using the Apple isn’t fun at all. This isn’t a challenging part, but it’s just not fun and feels more like a chore.
Brotherhood is ultimately every bit as superb as Assassin’s Creed II was, and even more so since it improved and expanded on virtually every aspect of that while also adding in several new and exciting additions. Brotherhood is a superb experience, and one not to be missed. It is, to date, the best game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.