Compared to the wait between the releases of the original Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed 2, it seems like hardly any time has passed, and now we already have Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to play. Maybe the fact that we had several downloadable episodes for AC2 in the interim had something to do with it.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the latest chapter in Ubisoft’s compelling sci-fi action franchise, and it was put together in a record amount of time. Now, before we go any further, let me just put some of your doubts to rest about the nature of the game. Most of the fanfare preceding its release seemed to focus on the multiplayer – so does this mean that AC:B is a multiplayer-focused kill-fest with a chapter or two of single player content tacked on for good measure?
It’s a concern that I’m sure has plagued fans of the previous games who enjoyed reclusive weeks hunting feathers and buying paintings in between less important tasks like saving the world. You’ll be relieved to know that the answer to this foreboding question is a big fat “no”. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has a sprawling single player experience with tons to do, some nifty improvements, and some unmissable story developments for fans to enjoy. It just happens to have interesting multiplayer modes included that seem to have grabbed more than their fair share of the limelight along the way. Okay, now that we’ve put that ugly baby to bed, let’s carry on.
The story for AC: Brotherhood picks up right where AC2 left off – and I don’t mean the next day or after some indeterminate amount of time had passed – I mean right there, literally five seconds after the end of AC2. He returns to his home at the Villa Monterriggioni, to relax for a while and plan his next move, but a surprise attack by the Borgia devastates the place, forcing Ezio and his family to flee for their lives. It turns out that letting Rodrigo Borgia live wasn’t the best idea, and now the guy is hell bent on vengeance. Making his way to Rome, Ezio teams up with an old ally, Machiavelli, who assures him that the only way to turn the tide of the struggle back in the Assassins’ favour is to liberate Rome from Borgia/Templar control. All of this is interspersed with frequent trips to reality, as Desmond comes out of the Animus (which he can now do at will) to talk to his modern-day Assassin allies about what they’re actually looking for by making him relive this chapter of his ancestor’s life.
In terms of actual gameplay, AC:B is very similar to the previous game. Having lost his home, Ezio must now work out of Rome, which has very little to offer initially. Most of the place is under Borgia control, and the shops and businesses have been shut down. Ezio must eliminate the Borgia influence in each district by killing their commanders and destroying their towers. Once that’s done, he can renovate each area, allowing business to flourish. The more he invests in each area, the more money it makes, and the more profit he receives periodically to buy new gear, weapons and art. Just like last time, Ezio can advance the story by finding and completing memories, which have bonus objectives this time, allowing Desmond to increase his synchronization with Ezio even further, leading to rewards in the game. As you might expect, there are plenty of distractions along the way, including hunting for feathers and flags, doing freelance missions and searching for six keys which will unlock the hidden armour of Romulus, the founder of Rome.
Among the new features are improved combat controls, including the ability to for Ezio to wield heavy weapons like spears, axes and two-handed swords indefinitely, and the ability to initiate a “kill streak”, where he kills a succession of enemies with singular strikes without taking a hit. Desmond can exit the Animus at any time, and there’s a lot more to do out there this time round. Desmond can also switch to the Animus desktop, where he can engage in trials that allow players to free-run, murder and fight to their heart’s content to earn the highest score in a variety of events set in Tron-like virtual worlds.
The multiplayer is easily the most interesting new addition. Unfortunately, if you were hoping to go through a co-op campaign with a group of friends, you’re likely to be disappointed. The multiplayer modes are online only (no LAN option) and strictly competitive. There are a few free-for-all and team-based multiplayer modes, but they are all variations on a similar style of play – hunting and assassinating targets. Players choose a character from a lineup of colourful murderers and then set out to complete contracts as quickly as possible. There’s nothing to stop players from killing each other to eliminate the competition, but it’s hard to tell other players apart from the crowd, and you are severely penalized for accidentally murdering innocents. It’s actually rather basic compared to the main game, but it’s strangely compelling to walk around, blending in with the crowd, looking for telltale signs of characters that are under human control and then trying to stalk them unnoticed. As players complete contracts and successfully murder each other, they’ll earn experience and level up, giving them access to new outfits and better gear for their chosen characters.
Of course, the graphics are immaculate and the sound is superb, but then that’s what we expect from Assassin’s Creed. The story is getting even more interesting and the actors do a great job of bringing it to life. With all of this, I think it’s safe to say that, whatever your primary reason for buying Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – singe player or multiplayer – you’re going to be equally satisfied.