I seem to be the resident Assassins Creed fan, so I thought it only proper to review the next instalment: Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, released back in November. Originally, I thought it would be a short game- being released so close to its predecessor, I expected it to be a glamorised DLC with a few extra missions and the multiplayer the real reason for its release. How wrong I turned out to be.
Assassins Creed: Brotherhood is a full game that carries on the story of the Florence nobleman Ezio Auditore. We join him straight after the second game; Ezio is in the Vault at the Vatican and has just listened to the cryptic message from the holographic type figure, Minerva. Ezio decides to entrust the Apple to his uncle Mario, and they travel back to Monteriggioni together. However, Cesare Borgia attacks their villa. Cesare is the son of Rodrigo Borgia, the main bad guy in the second game who managed to escape from Ezio at the end. The villa attack leads Ezio to Rome where he decides to overthrow the tyrant Borgia family and free the Rome citizens from their power. Ezio is reunited with old friends from the Assassins Guild and his family- Maria and Claudia.
You also play as Desmond Miles- who we last saw abandoning the hideout and running from Abstergo Industries with Shaun, Rebecca and Lucy. We return to them driving to another sanctuary, which you will recognise as the present day Monteriggioni villa.
Unlike the other games in the series, you have much more playing time as Desmond. You get to finally test out how much has ‘bled’ through from the Animus. Desmond must explore the ruins of the Auditore villa and it’s nice finally having a chance to stretch his legs. Also, you can leave the Animus at any time during the game and explore the modern Monteriggioni. I thought it was very interesting to compare the Renaissance Monteriggioni with the future one; complete with cars parked along the roads and street signs. There is an incentive to explore the Desmond-time Monteriggioni too: there are five artefacts to find such as Claudia’s record book and Maria’s feather chest.
Now, the big question for me is where to start? There are so many things to do, side missions, main missions, Leonardo missions and assassination contracts. The first thing we need to be aware of is that the game only really takes place in Rome; but the map is humungous! You can use horses to get around or- when you refurbish parts of the city- secret tunnels can be used to fast travel from one area to another. So, despite just being in one place through the whole game, you don’t really get bored of the scenery because there is so much to see.
The Borgia family own all of Rome, spearheaded by Cesare Borgia who we meet at the beginning of the game. They are responsible for shutting down blacksmiths, tailors, art merchants and stables. Buildings are abandoned and famous landmarks are being left to ruin. You must release Borgia’s influence over the city and rebuild Rome. One of the most important ways to do this is to destroy the Borgia towers. By burning down the towers, you free that area of the map from their influence, allowing you to re-open the shops and refurbish the secret passageways in that tower’s proximity. It then follows; the more towers you burn down, the more Rome you can rebuild and the more money you earn.
As well as rebuilding shops, Ezio can also inhabit abandoned buildings with his choice of Guilds. There are many allies standing beside Ezio to free Rome, the Mercenaries, the Courtesans and the Thieves. If you decide to fill an empty building with courtesans, for example, you will see them standing outside that building and in the surrounding area. You can then hire them for distracting guards or blending. The same goes for the Thieves and Mercenaries; except the Mercenaries will actually join you in battle too.
Similar to the feathers in Assassins Creed II there are 101 Borgia flags to collect throughout Rome. There are also 10 feathers to collect along with boxes of treasure. You can purchase maps for all of these at the art merchant, so you can find all of them when you’ve exhausted every other part of the game.
Another addition to the game is the synchronisation element. Each time you begin to complete a mission, be it secondary or main, you are given something you must achieve to get the maximum 100% synchronisation. For instance, for a mission where you had to assassinate a Cardinal at a big party, you could only achieve maximum synchronisation if you assassinated using poison while sitting on a bench. If you did it any other way, you would not get the whole 100%. You may be asking, why is this important? Well, it’s not very- unless you want to unlock some cheats or be able to access more of the ‘Cristina memories’ (who you may remember is Ezio’s love interest at the beginning of AC II.) The 100% synchronisation is an aspect of the game that will get you frustrated one minute and excited the next. Even if you start out just playing the game and ignoring the criteria asked of you to achieve 100%, you’ll soon find yourself replaying memories over and over just so you can get the full synch.
As you continue with the game, eventually you will be able to see citizens on the map that need your help. They then can be recruited into Ezio’s Brotherhood of assassins. After helping every defenceless citizen, you should end up with a total of twelve recruits under your control. These helpers can be called on during fights with guards and infiltration missions if you need a distraction.
Pigeon coups are important places for the Brotherhood of assassins. Here you can choose to send them off to other countries- such as London, Russia and India- to complete contracts. They gain experience from completing contracts that enables them to gain levels and eventually become an assassin themselves.
The old friend of Ezio- Leonardo Di Vinci- makes an appearance in this game too. You can pay him to make you extra weapons. He is also being paid by the Borgia to make War machines for their use and world gain. There are contraptions like cannons, tanks and the familiar flying machine, but this time with a gun. Once you destroy all of Leonardo’s machines- as well as destroying Borgia’s stronghold over Rome considerably- Leonardo also gives you a gift to use, (it’s fun more than anything.)
Not only is there so much to do in this game, but it comes with a multiplayer option. I reviewed the multiplayer experience in an earlier article so will not be looking at it in this review. But briefly: in the story mode, there are Templar missions where you must track down the Templar agents that you will recognise from the multiplayer mode, and assassinate them in game.
Lastly, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood is linked with a Facebook flash game called Project Legacy. You can unlock achievements and cheats in the console version the more you progress with the Facebook flash game. I thought this was a very innovative way to get even deeper in the games universe; in Project Legacy, you learn more about the characters in Brotherhood and come to get more out of the game. You can also train your assassins with the Facebook game, allowing them to progress through the levels much faster.
Ubisoft have kept familiar elements from the previous game- subject 16’s hidden glyphs, hidden tombs etc- but have added in a whole host of new material. I seemed to have only scratched the surface of this game; the more I write, the more I remember about Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. I haven’t even mentioned the Virtual Training room or the upgraded fighting mechanism, but I guess you’ll have to give Brotherhood the attention it deserves to find out everything it has to offer.
Of course, the ending of Brotherhood leaves it open for the next instalment. I am sure I wasn’t the only one gaping and demanding the next game as I watched the credits roll. Maybe we will finally get to play as Desmond in Assassins Creed III. However much I will miss Ezio Auditore, I can honestly say his chapter in the story is over…but you never know, watch this space.