March 17, 2011

A Closer Look at Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood returns you Renaissance Italy and puts you back in the shoes of master assassin Ezio in a game that is worth the cost, despite how familiar it feels.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood basically takes the game created for ACII, adds a new setting with an original story, puts in a few new tricks, then ships it off with a multiplayer. Now, while that might not sound like a glowing endorsement, ACII was one of the best-selling and best-rated games of the current generation of consoles. It redefined open-world gaming, and delivered one of the most compelling stories ever written for a video game. ACB’s biggest problem is simply that it is competing against itself and the expectations of fans. If you can put those aside, and if you give the multiplayer a shot, then ACB jumps from being a little more than a lengthy add-on to one of the must-have games of the year.

See Rome! Tour the Coliseum! Stab people!

ACB picks up right where ACII ended. Like, the exact second the previous game ends. Because of that, if you have not played ACII, then you should head off and find a copy before you try to work through the campaign of this game.

Following the events of ACII’s finale, Ezio returns home, contemplating the fact that his long journey for revenge and self-discovery has been completed. While deciding what to do next, the consequences of his actions catch up with him, and his home is attacked by Cesare Borgia, who is partly seeking revenge, but primarily seeking an ancient and powerful treasure called the Apple of Eden. Borgia’s attack succeeds, and he leaves with the Apple, Ezio wounded, and many deaths to answer for.

Ezio heads to Rome to avenge the attack, retrieve the Apple, and to kill Cesare Borgia and his father Rodrigo. When he enters the city he finds that Rome is nearly in ruin under the authoritarian hand of the Borgias, and the people are suffering. Ezio soon realizes that he will need help to defeat the Borgias, and so he sets out to reclaim the city one section at a time.

Rome, however, is massive, and Borgia’s forces are everywhere. So Ezio decides that he needs the help of the people, and he begins to recruit citizens into the Assassin’s Guild who can help him free Rome, retrieve the Apple, and end the Borgias reign of terror once and for all.

While the focus is on Ezio, you are technically playing as the character Desmond, a modern-day assassin who is reliving his ancestor Ezio’s memories through a machine called the Animus. It is easy to forget about Desmond, as he has yet to play a significant role in the series. In ACB there is more to the story of Desmond, including some playable sections and a few interesting story moments, but for the most part, Desmond seems to be being saved for something in the franchise’s future. You do have the option to leave the Animus throughout the game and interact with the team at any time — you can even check the e-mails from the group (yay!) — but you can also skip over that entire part of the game and not miss anything.

While the first Assassin’s Creed had a good story marred by its repetitive nature, ACII’s story was one of the better thought-out and executed plots in video games. The story of Ezio growing into the role of master assassin while attempting to uncover who was responsible for the death of his family stands among the best examples as video games as a storytelling medium. The ACB story? Not so much.


Let me get this out-of-the-way: this is not Assassin’s Creed 3; Ubisoft decided to call this game Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for a reason. The game starts off from the very moment where the last one ended: Ezio has learned the truth of the Templar and the Assassins and what they’ve been fighting for and heads back to Monteriggioni to reveal the visions to the rest of his comrades.

Things look like they are all at peace until Ceasre Borgia, the son of Rodrigo Borgia, makes his grand entrance with a siege at Ezio’s hometown. With his hometown in ruins and the Creed left in disarray, Ezio sets out to Rome to re-establish the Brotherhood once again and rid the Templar who started it all. Just like the other games, you’ll run into both fictional and real life historical characters that meld perfectly into the mythos the series has built upon.

Back to the future, Desmond Miles, Lucy and the rest of the modern-day Assassin team make their way to Ezio’s hometown in attempt to escape Abstergo Industries. It becomes their key goal to understand and figure the meaning behind Ezio’s vision and the story develops a lot more than just Desmond hanging in the Animus 2.0. The pacing in both stories do an excellent job and the connections are sharp and finely played among each other. If you’ve kept up with the storyline from the very first game of the series you won’t be disappointed.

As much as this game could be considered “Assassin’s Creed” 2.5, Ubisoft has not slacked off on the visual department. You’ll notice a huge improvement in the engine with the lighting being far better than before and sharper textures throughout. Still, the engine does drop a few frames and you’ll occasionally be submitted to some screen tearing. My biggest gripe is that certain shadows or grass in the game loads up only where you are very close to it; it practically feels like the vegetation blooms only when you’re near it.

Unlike past games where you had more than one city to explore, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood has you spend most of your time in the city of Rome. But don’t worry, this city is far bigger than any other and this only adds to its immersion. With key landmarks and various architecture that seem to replicate its real life counterpart, Rome is a giant playground that was designed to be an Assassin’s breeding ground. If it weren’t for the maps and waypoints, I think I would’ve gotten completely lost.

But hey, if it’s a city like this? I wouldn’t mind.


Just like the last few games, the music has been composed by Jesper Kyd, who is also known for his works on the Hitman series. I can’t think of anyone else composing the soundtrack for the Assassin’s Creed series since Kyd’s music perfectly resonates the sound of time periods the games take place. The voice dialogue is pretty great with pretty much everyone from the last game reprising their roles including Kristen Bell who voices Lucy Stillman. Though, I’m a bit disappointed that they decided to rehash many of the comments that civilians make when Ezio is doing something odd. I mean, does everyone think he’s chasing after some damsel in distress by climbing on top of rooftops?


Assassin’s Creed II evolved from Assassin’s Creed I by bringing a plethora of things to do. Brotherhood doesn’t reinvent this idea, but instead fine tunes it to be even bigger than it’s predecessor. Just like the last game, you carry on the main storyline by heading towards key markers and completing missions that vary from paying off a ransom to trailing a target to his demise. What will change the way you tackle these missions is “Full Synchronization”. Each mission always has an optional objective that you can try to accomplish the way Ezio had actually done it. The synchronization can vary from remaining undetected as you get to your target to completing an entire mission without swimming. In one case, I had the option of infiltrating The Vatican without being caught by a guard. Sure, it would’ve been so much easier just killing everyone and climbing up the nearest wall but the task of remaining undetected left me with a fun challenge that I made sure to accomplish.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, getting a full synchronization isn’t necessary (even I haven’t been able to finish a few) to complete the game but the reward to it is that you get to relive Ezio’s “repressed” memories which usually are extra missions that take place before he wore the garbs of an Assassin. Fun Fact: Did you know before Ezio was a pimp with the ladies, he used his acrobatic girls to stalk ladies when he was younger? Yeah…

Apart from the main storyline, the game is filled with so many other things to do that you can easily get sidetracked. Not only can you take assassination contracts, but you can also take on assignments from the various factions that are there to aid you. Even the stores that you purchase your upgrades from have fetch quests which you need to complete in order to unlock more items. Apart from the quests and the sweet crossbow you can get, Brotherhood expands on the Economy system that was introduced earlier in the last the game. Back in Assassin’s Creed II, you only had to take care and rebuild your hometown Monteriggioni.

Now you’re tasked to rebuild Rome.

Considering, how big the city is, it is one giant job. When you initially enter the city, you’ll notice that a lot of the stores seem to be closed off or not available to you. It’ll be up to you to use your funds to renovate these buildings and in the long-term the increase of revenue stream will help you greatly.

The most important and coolest feature is the Brotherhood system. Not only will Ezio have thieves, mercenaries, and whores (ahem) to aid himself, but his own band of Assassin’s that he’ll recruit throughout the city. Using an interface on the Animus, Ezio will be able to send them throughout Europe to give experience to them. As he levels them up, Ezio will eventually be able to use them to take out single targets or calling out a volley of arrows to bring down multiple ones. This probably the best addition to the game and you’ll want to constantly keep leveling up your assassins throughout your time playing the game.

So what about the controls? Well, there isn’t much of a change to it; veterans of the series will immediately feel right at home since it does not deviate away from what they’ve originally become accustomed. I really did wish they take a bit more effort on fine-tuning the controls since there are just moments where you’ll accidentally hit a wall and break your flow from escaping a band of soldiers, but it’s really not that much of a problem. Ezio does receive a slew of new moves with new counters and the ability to kick people in the groin; it never gets old when you stab someone and then finish him off with your hand cannon. The guard’s IQ have gone up slightly as they will give a bit more of a challenge, especially in packs but once again the proper counters will make sure they can never lay a finger on you.

Really what hasn’t the game improved on?


I’ve tried to cover as much as possible for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but even then I’m sure I’ve missed over a couple of things. As much as this game may not be a true sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, it is probably the best in the series. It takes everything that made the previous iteration great and made it even better. There’s no excuse for a fan of the series not to buy this game. That would be like stabbing yourself with your very own hidden blade.


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