Game Review: "Assassin´s Creed Brotherhood"

Platform(s): PS3, Xbox360, Wii U, PC

None speak ill of the Borgia!… Except for everybody.

The Ezio Auditore saga continues in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood immediately after the final moments of Assassin’s Creed II when Ezio comes face to face with a greater power beyond his comprehension. After the defeat of the man ultimately responsible for the death of his family and a Templar Grandmaster, Rodrigo Borgia aka Pope Alexander VI, Ezio takes the Apple of Eden back with him to Monteriggioni as well as to consult with his fellow Assassins. What he does not count on however is the fact Rodrigo’s military commander son and all-round lunatic, Cesare Borgia, is hot on his trail and is about to make Ezio’s life a living Hades. Back in present day, Desmond, Lucy, Shaun and Rebecca have found safe harbor in one of their final holdout posts, the modern Monteriggioni. Desmond knows how much is at stake, not just with the Apple, but a looming, seemingly inevitable global cataclysm that threatens to destroy the world. It’s literally a race against and in time.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a game I am particularly fond of. Although in comparison to II it is not as epic in scope, it still presents a worthy, high-stakes story. Essentially, the once glorious jewel of Italy, Rome, has fallen into destitute straits thanks to the Borgia family. Shops are closed, guards overseeing every single district in mighty towers, citizens are dressed in filthy rags with nary a piece of bread to eat and the economy is all but extinct. Ezio takes it upon himself to restore the city to its former glory and instill its people with the right for autonomy and the ability to inspire. In doing so, the Assassin Brotherhood expands beyond those in the secret order and takes root in the common humanity which leads to arguably the best new game mechanic: getting a little help from some friends in white.

Although Brotherhood mostly takes place in one city, it’s large enough to keep Ezio (and you, for that matter) busy. To say 16th century Rome doesn’t look impressive would be blasphemous and just plain untrue. You will see the Colosseum, the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, the Basilica di San Pietro and countless other familiar landmarks that leave absolutely no doubt in your mind that you are digitally treading about Rome.

I don’t believe I could honestly say whether or not Brotherhood had more to do than its predecessor in terms of side quests because a lot of alternative activities echo those that were available in II. The economic system makes a nice return, only instead of merely upgrading Ezio’s Roman stronghold, you are also granted the opportunity to improve Rome through the same type of renovation mechanic.

Additionally, other familiar features return: you can still fulfill assassination contracts, you can take part in races, beat up events, courier work and you even have the opportunity to unlock a new suit of armor by thoroughly exploring places known as Lairs of Romulus. The Lairs basically double as the Assassin Tombs in the second game, but this time around, they are inhabited by fanatical cultists known as the Followers of Romulus (how original) whose higher members also happen to be in the employ of the Borgia family.

What IS different however is a massive expansion on Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine that was briefly tasted in II. As a result of being without massive patronage thanks to the Borgia in Rome, Da Vinci has basically made a business deal with the devil and has created four war machines for Cesare’s army: the flying machine, the tank, the mounted machine gun and the naval canon. Despite being rudimentary by modern standards, it is definitely something when Ezio commandeers these prototypes of destruction. Although these mini adventures are that and nothing more in the wider account of things, it was still nice that Ubisoft decided to explore this potential. Whether or not this approach was successful is more or less left up to the player, it was a kind thought and I appreciated it.

Personally speaking, my favourite out of all four missions was definitely the machine gun, in particular the second half with Ezio struggling to maintain control of a wily chariot while using the gun to fend out pursuing guards. It’s the closest Assassin’s Creed will ever get to Grand Theft Auto and I am completely okay with that!

Liberating Rome is made a virtual reality through the process of destroying tower complexes that house Borgia military that are under the power of Borgia Captains. Often these tower missions are of varying difficulty so it’s best to take into account a plan of attack (the head on approach or a stealthier one, there is no particular specification) as well as what resources Ezio has on hand. Some Captains will stand and fight with their men, others will turn tail, forcing Ezio to give chase. But truly, the real satisfaction comes from when you free an impoverished district by giving back to the people which in turn allows the financial clout of the city to flourish. As a result, shop quests come into play, when Ezio can embark on treasure hunts to bring back to various merchants in exchange for exclusive goods. You may also purchase landmarks and aqueducts which become sustainers of life and fortune for the people.

Throughout this entire game Ezio further endears himself to the player. He’s older and more sagacious compared to the 17-year-old cock-robin from Assassin's Creed II. While he still has gallons of charm to win over the ladies and the charisma to launch a thousand civil riots, he has fully realised that now on a special path that will lead him to a certain destination. He is unsure what that is exactly, but he no longer takes anything for granted and has fully become a pro-active character.

This is my favourite incarnation of Ezio because he strikes that balance between mighty and vulnerable. I failed to mention in my previous review regarding Roger Craig Smith’s performance, so I will address that now. Considering how long we have traveled with Ezio, he has changed as a man. His voice used to be youthful and full of fire, toward the end of II the voice of a man older than his years emerged. In Brotherhood, this is the voice of a wise man and a warrior. The way Smith altered his performance to suit where the character is in life is actually very astute. Brotherhood Ezio’s tones are deep and gruff but at the same time passionate. His Spang-Italian accent has given others the lumps, but I want to ask: what does an Italian accent sound like? It really does depend on where you are from, whereabouts you were raised. An accent is something the speaker acquires, so to criticize Smith for his accent is to take away from the fact that Smith is turning in a wonderful performance. In the end, how an actor does their job matters, not the tongue they speak in.

Yep, this is the guy.
Now onto the most major game changer (har har): the Brotherhood Assistance Mechanice, or BAM for short. Via introduction in the story proper, Ezio is able to recruit passionate civilians who are sick to the Borgia’s rule to join the Assassin order. The basic way it works is that the game allows you as the player to send these fledgling Assassins all around the world in order to carry out various missions such as taking part in battles, escorting, espionage and helping out the people. For every successful job, they are granted XP and the opportunity to be upgraded with weaponry, armor and other accessories. The more XP they gather, the more powerful and skilled they become. At various intervals throughout the story, Ezio may call upon the recruits to help him out as a compulsory or optional means of completing an objective. When a recruit earns the rank of Assassin, I always felt a small burst of pseudo paternal pride to see them be christened; yes I know, I’m incredibly silly and overly sensitive.

Another thing I found great about this feature is that after calling for assistance, you have to wait a while before help is available again. The way I see it, it enables the player to use their Assassin assistance wisely which in turn makes the game fair. Oh sure, I fantasized a lot about having my white-clad apprentices descend upon every single guard I saw who so much as cocked a wrong eye at Ezio, but that would have taken away the challenge factor.

Flaws? I can’t remark on any particular thing because in some cases, some of its problems span from general control issues that may more or less come from human error than faulty gameplay on the part of the developers. However, I really must get this mammoth off my chest: why is it that the gorgeous and wicked Armour of Romulus couldn’t be obtained a little earlier in the game? On all of the play-throughs, I have tried to get Ezio’s hands upon these awesome vestments before the story mode was through but I had no luck. Considering the armor is designed to be combat-tough and has a literal intimidation factor on enemies, why not allow it to be completely accessible come the over halfway mark of the story when the doo hits the fan? There is only so much the concept of player fairness can go, but damn it, when I finally faced down with Cesare Borgia during a heated skirmish, I wanted to fully look the part. Much appreciated, Ubisoft.

Done and dusted, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a worthy follow-up to Assassin's Creed II. Sure its overall result is not as grand, but that is not to say it is absolutely not worth playing if not worth purchasing. Highly recommended for fans of the series as well as curious gamers.

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