By Ross Dougherty
Much has been touted about Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s new multiplayer mode. So much so that little was known about its single player component until the game’s release. It may come as a bit of a surprise, then, to learn that Brotherhood’s campaign is just as expansive and exhaustive as its single player only predecessors, Assassin’s Creed I and II. Everything that made those two games great returns in addition to some new and interesting gameplay elements. This review will focus on Brotherhood’s campaign mode, and what makes it a welcome addition to the Assassin’s Creed saga.
Perhaps more appropriately titled Assassin’s Creed II: Episode II, Brotherhood takes place immediately after the events in ACII. You play as Ezio Auditore, a member of a league of assassins in early 1500s Rome, which is now totally under the rule of Rodrigo Borgia (aka Pope Alexander VI). Rome has become completely unhinged under Borgia’s corruption. The economy has tanked, the buildings are in ruins, and the citizens live in constant fear of Borgia’s totalitarian rule. It’s up to Ezio to put an end to Borgia’s influence, rebuild Rome and bring it back to its former glory.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. You really play as everyman Desmond Miles in the year 2012 reliving the genetic memories of Ezio, his ancestor. The modern day assassins are using Desmond and Ezio’s memories to look for clues to stop Abstergo, a corporation bent on controlling the minds of the world’s population. If it sounds a little farfetched, that’s because it is, but it makes good sense in the context of the game. I won’t go any more into the story here because it is truly interesting and engaging and worth experiencing firsthand.
The missions in Brotherhood mostly work like this: Ezio is given the name of a target and then has to go and kill that target (he is an assassin, after all). There are really two ways to do this: you can stealthily climb walls and jump across roofs and rafters to silently stalk your target, striking at just the right moment; or you can run in full steam and attack your target (and all his guards) in a full on melee brawl. Some missions enforce one over the other, and each mission has a secondary objective such as ‘kill only the target’ or ‘avoid detection.’ These secondary objectives don’t serve anything other than an extra challenge, so most of the time you can proceed as you wish. The combat system makes it easy for Ezio to dispatch swarms of guards quickly, and the platforming mechanics allow Ezio to sneak around quite fluidly. Both are equally as fun.
Additionally, there are enough side quests to make Brotherhood a completionist’s nightmare. Borgia’s towers must be toppled and his flags removed; shops reopened; landmarks renovated; thieves, courtesans and mercenaries assisted and additional assassinations executed just to name a few. There is certainly enough content to keep you coming back. There is no in game timer, but my playtime is probably well into the 30 hour mark and I’m only at about 70% completion.
The most significant new addition to Brotherhood is the ability to recruit the citizens of Rome into the Assassins. These new recruits can be sent on missions across Europe to gain experience, and that experience can be used to upgrade each new assassin’s weapons and armor. More significantly, and this is probably the best thing in the game, these recruits can be called upon at will to take out targets. Simply lock on to a victim, and with the press of a button your team comes flying off roofs, leaping out of hay piles and bounding over walls to mercilessly slaughter every hapless, unsuspecting enemy in the vicinity, and then slink away into the shadows before anyone notices anything. It is both hilarious and pride invoking to watch your protégés utilize their skills so effortlessly. Don’t get too cocky, though, as inexperienced assassins can be killed in combat.
Brotherhood is not without flaws, however. The game’s platforming mechanics, though fluid and mostly effortless, are such that more than once did I accidently send Ezio flying off a cliff rather than onto the next ledge, where I though I had told him to go. These moments, though frustrating, do not break the game and only encourage you to be more careful during sequences of intricate parkour. Similarly, a few times during heated combat, Ezio somehow locked on to an innocent bystander, giving them his trademarked double eye-gouging with is patented hidden blades rather than the guard right next to him. These are more frustrating as killing civilians can cause missions to restart immediately, and those people shouldn’t have been standing there in the first place. If you are new to the Assassin’s Creed series, Brotherhood is not a great place to jump in. The story is way too deep to make any sense to a newcomer and hardly any time is spent developing the characters as they were already flushed out in ACII.
There is something intrinsically satisfying about Brotherhood. It is a perfect blend of action, stealth, puzzle and RPG. Completing missions and quests gives a real sense of accomplishment. The city of Rome is fully realized as dozens, if not hundreds, of NPCs move about their daily lives, occasionally pausing to comment on Ezio’s bizarre wall climbing habits. The story is extremely well written and acted, and the story-outside-the-story of Desmond is wholly interesting and keeps me wondering what’s really going on. I hope future installments live up to the standards that AC I and II have set. Brotherhood certainly did.
Overall Score: 9/10