Review by Al0ne72
Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day, or was it?
I rarely ever compare games to their prequels, but between Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, there was only a one year difference in release dates. Surprisingly, this wasn't some quickly assembled filler game, this was an impressive upgrade from Assassin's Creed II, but there's a reason why most players enjoy that game over this one. As always, I will review as if you are a new player who has never played any Assassin's Creed games before. I review by weighing the Goods and the Bads.
Before I begin, an introduction to the new players. The Assassin's Creed series consists of a main story, and a side story. You control a character named Desmond Miles, who escapes from a place called "Abstergo Industries" after they had kidnapped him and hooked him up to this advanced piece of technology called an "Animus". When one sits down in this Animus, they can gain access to memories of their ancestors, and Abstergo Industries was using Desmond to look into his ancestor's memories in order to find something. The entire story of Assassin's Creed composes of two opposing sides; the Assassins, and the Templars. Desmond's ancestor happens to be the main character of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, as well as Assassin's Creed 2, the notorious assassin, Ezio Auditore. The two opposing sides still exist to this day, and it's the assassins that break you out of Abstergo to find what the Templars were looking for. This is important information, because I will discuss why the story itself was either a good, or a bad. This all sounds confusing, but all you need to know is that Ubisoft basically uses this side story as a very clever excuse to carry out an epic adventure. To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, you spend over 90% of the game as the assassin.
The best thing about Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, is the graphics. The level of detail in every model is intriguing, the engravings on the armor, weapons, the detail on Ezio's outfits, everything is so realistic. There's animations for most of these detailed figures too, as well as perfectly rendered shadows on every detail. It's because of this game, that we have reached an era in gaming where there's little room for improvement. I always wondered when we'd be simulating characters that were so close to real people, that we wouldn't tell the difference. Well, I can't say we're there yet, but we're extremely close. I recommend watching some youtube footage of gameplay, just to get an idea of how realistic the graphics are in this game.
If you like open-world sandbox type games, this is your heaven. The entire game takes place in Rome, Italy, a very large city that you can fully explore. Since your character is also an athletic parkour master, you can climb anything and everything. You can scale walls, jump across rooftops, and climb to the top of any structure. At the top of some of these structures, your character can overlook the city to reveal large areas of your map. Because Rome is so large, you are able to call upon a horse at any time. You can also use the underground tunnels that instantly take you from one place to another. There's no actual travel through these tunnels, you simply show up to the entrance of one and select a destination. Half of the city is rural too, open fields and farms with small villages out to the east and the south, and every location has a purpose.
What I love about the environment, are the real landmarks they use in the game. Ubisoft did this in their previous games too, and since Brotherhood takes place in Rome, you will see famous structures such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Castel Sant'Angelo, and so many more. The best part about these landmarks, they're all to scale. I mentioned this in my review for Assassin's Creed 2, if you were to travel back in time and take a picture of any landmark, and then see it in game, there would be no difference. Ubisoft does their best to stay historically accurate, while incorporating their own fictional story into it. I find this to be a good thing, although some tend to forget that this is a video game and not the History Channel. Environmentally, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood does a wonderful job at portraying Rome in the 16th century.
Once again they did a fine job with the Sound. There was a good variety of ambiance, both outdoor and indoor. A decent variety of random dialog, a good variety of impact sounds, and realistic quality for all of these varieties. The music is once again sensational, very deep and interesting. The music in the game changes depending on location and/or situation, such as being chased, or discovering a certain hidden location. The sounds of everything else, weapon sheathing, rooftop running, combat, it was all well put together.
The combat was better and worse, and if this is your first Assassin's Creed game, then you will get used to it very quickly. The system of tutorial in this game is very easy to understand. The game will not smother you when it comes to learning things, you discover more and more as you progress in the game, at a very decent pace. The general idea of combat in the Brotherhood, is to keep your momentum going. I will discuss more when I talk about controls, but for the better, the cosmetics of the combat system are awesome. There are a number of different character animations when performing kills, whether they be counters, assassinations, or just winning a fight. In this game, if you time your attacks properly, you can avoid being touched, and continue a streak of one-shot kills, and even multi-kills if you get really good. For example, three guards, a counter attack to kill one, a pistol kill while he's removing his sword from the guard's head, and he will immediately follow up with a stab to the chest on his next target. The combat is what makes this game as epic as it is, but the system itself that has been introduced in the Brotherhood, well I'll discuss that later.
In just about every video game, there's a currency system. In Assassin's Creed, you have a calculated income that arrive in your Bank account every 20 minutes, and to get this money, you simply have to visit the Bank and withdraw. However, when you first arrive in Rome, you'll notice all the vendors, merchants, and stores are closed. It's your job to Renovate them, by spending some coin to open them back up, and this will not only allow the use of these shops, but renovating will also increase your income. Renovating just about anything will increase your income, not just shops, but those historical landmarks as well. There aren't that many different types of shops that you can visit for purchasing items, but that's because your character can only benefit from so much. There will be a Blacksmith for your weapons and armor, a Tailor for your Pouches (increases the capacity of certain items, medicine, throwing knives, etc), a Art Merchant for Treasure Maps and Paintings, a Doctor for your medicine and Poison, and of course, the Banks for your withdrawals. There will be many of each of these shops scattered all over Rome. This is placed in the Good section of my review, because the game's economy allows you to maintain not only a fair balance of incoming and spending, but a controlled balance as well. You can choose whether to invest in more future money, or spend your money on the items that are currently available at that point in the game. Certain areas of Rome will be unavailable until you progress in the story, but I liked how you were almost forced to do this, even though it's optional. I like it when optional content has such an appeal that I want to take advantage of it.
The Brotherhood System is new to the Assassin's Creed series. At a certain point in the story, you will run off into Rome, and aid citizens who are in distress. You will rescue them from an outnumbered battle with guards, and you will recruit them as assassins. The Brotherhood assassin system was nothing like I had imagined when I saw the trailer for this game. My first impression was, those other assassins are characters. They are not. Each recruit is just a plain citizen with a randomized name and different face. As you recruit more assassins, you can send them on missions to gain experience to level up, and return with prize money. This is very similar to the Propositions in Final Fantasy Tactics, the only thing you will control is who goes, there is no actual mission experienced. They are given a chance of success based on level, mission difficulty, and how many are going (up to 5 can go) and an ETA on when the mission will be completed. What I loved about the Brotherhood system was how skilled your assassins were, and how helpful they were in combat. One button is assigned to the entire assassin aspect, for the PS3 it is L2. With one press of this button, you can call upon assassins to aid you in combat, or to take out a target or group of targets. This is effective because it causes you to remain undetected, and as AI players, they make all the right moves. Your assassins are equipped with a hidden blade for assassinations, a melee blade depending on their level, armor also depending on their level, and eventually, throwing knives, pistol, and smoke bombs. Occasionally they will arrive on horses, other times they will randomly spawn out of nearby hiding places or rooftops, and run off after all nearby threats have been eliminated. There is a red bar that fills up whenever a group of assassins are ready, and when there are three bars filled, you can perform a "Arrow Storm" which automatically kills any enemies in sight without any revealing of your fellow assassins. This is done by holding down L2 rather than tapping it. Quite an easy system to utilize, and wonderful to have, because the amount of enemies you will be swarmed with in the Brotherhood, compared to AC2, is a larger number. Your assassins can even take out major targets for you, or chase down targets that you are having trouble keeping up with.
However, I'm afraid the Brotherhood system was utterly useless to the story. Even though the title of the game is "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" the only purpose of your new assassin recruits are nothing more than battle aids. Actually, most of your missions are designed to be completed solo. I was hoping for some kind of significance to the Brotherhood, but like I said earlier, each assassin is nothing more than a randomized citizen, with a random name, face, gender, and has no importance to the content of the game itself. Only a few times in the game, does any character ever mention your recruits, and it's usually just to say "use them" or "I might need their help". I'm sure I wasn't the only one thrown off by the trailer, and the cover of the game. I thought my fellow assassins would have mattered, but instead, they're just extra content you don't even have to bother with. Also, some flaws within this system, rarely will your assassins will glitch into the map, or remain stationary and not move at all.
Controls. First off, if you are playing on a console, there will be your traditional movement configurations, with your left analog being character movement, and right analog being the camera. This isn't new, but in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, I felt as if my right analog had a mind of its own. There would be a fixed camera angle for anything that was targeted, which was quite annoying because the game will often 'auto-target' for you. Pressing the target button would sometimes target me an archer in the distant, rather than the heavily armored guard walking towards me with his giant sword. When looting, opening, climbing, or just about any action that doesn't involve free movement, your right analog will lock up. This is different from Assassin's Creed 2 where you could loot a treasure chest and still have the ability to look around - not in this game. Half of my interactions with the controls involved correcting some kind of 'jump' in my camera angle. Another huge flaw with Controls in this game, was action anticipation. By this, I mean, parkour/climbing becomes very difficult, because even if there is only one thing in sight to jump to, if you make the slightest wrong angle towards that destination, you will dive in a completely random direction. In Assassin's Creed 2, the game did a fine job at recognizing what you were trying to do, but in this game, it was the complete opposite. This isn't even entirely caused by the spazy camera angles, it's caused by a sensitive movement axis in the analog. Before you dismiss this flaw with human error, read some other reviews or comments about this game, it seems to be a common issue.
With faulty controls, came complications in the combat system. I love the improvements they made to the entire battle system, but once again, the game was very picky about your analogs being in the right place at the right time. Counter attacks became a primary source of kills, because in this new combat system, kicking your target is mandatory for engaging any kind of advantage in melee combat. You could whip out a sword or knife, and your target could parry all day long until you finally decided to either, dodge, disarm them, counter, or kick them first. The game considers this "breaking their defense" but I would have liked to see even the slightest possibility of avoiding this in combat. I will have to make a separate section for comparisons between the two good Assassin's Creed games.
The story. It was a good story, but nothing happened. The setting is Rome, Italy, starting with 1499 as the introduction to the game, and most of it takes place between 1500 and 1503. In both the main story, and the side story, little is actually accomplished, as if this entire game was meant to be Ubisoft's stock-gap we thought it was going to be. At first, this game felt like an upgrade, but then it just felt like an expansion. What I didn't like were the useless achievements within the game. When given any mission, you have the option of doing it a certain way, they'll call this "100% synchronization" and this will distract the player from enjoying the game the way they want to. It also causes you to isolate yourself from the Brotherhood system, since most of the full sync requirements are to use your hidden blade. There's lots of optional quests, but no more than a few hours ago, I just completed the entire main storyline in one long sit-down. Half of the time spent in the game, I was involved in the game's economic system, I wish the game offered more action, more interactive content, considering how much time you spend just acquiring the means to make that combat easier or more effective. Don't get me wrong, the story itself was good, but eventfully, it lacked.
The projectiles in this game are greatly enhanced, adding a Crossbow, quicker pistol aiming, your poison can now be darts and shot as if it were a silent pistol, the effects of that poison can be accelerated through shop upgrades, and throwing knives are much more effective now. The problem with this, is that I found myself completing nearly the entire game with just my hidden blade, and my throwing knives. In the first Assassin's Creed game, you could take on entire armies with Counter, in AC2 countering was less effective, and in the Brotherhood, all counters are kills, making dodging pointless. A wonderful fix from AC2 is looting, before it was a lottery, either you get to refill your ammo a little, or single digit coin. Now, you pick up a lot more coin, and a lot more ammunition. There are nowhere near as many groups you can hire in the Brotherhood. Thieves, Courtesans, Mercenaries, they're not as common in Rome, and by the time you renovate faction buildings for them, you've already got your assassin recruits doing all the third party work for you.
In Conclusion, I never rate a game based on comparison, but I like to give some insight to those who aren't new to the series. This is a wonderful game for any gamer who enjoys recreational or cosmetic gameplay. For those hardcore gamers that are into competitive gameplay or endless multiplayer matches, this game's wonderful features can be easily overlooked by its flaws. Some people will get too comfortable with your character performing more actions than you do with the controls, and eventually feel like the game should play for you. It's easy to forget the scale of epicness this game brings to the Gaming Industry when we get too comfortable with a game the way we do with this one, don't lose sight of the big picture of what this game really is. I'm positive that Ubisoft invested their ideas perfectly by choosing the settings they do for the potential they have. It wouldn't be the same, had they implemented different content, I think 15th-16th century Italy was a perfect fit for such a realistic interactive open world game. It has such a perfect balance of interactive participation, by this, I mean if Assassin's Creed were to be modernized and they handed you a gun, it wouldn't be as exciting if you were to just walk around shooting things. Without a doubt, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is worth the purchase.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (US, 11/16/10)
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