Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Post-Launch Reviews #7
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PC)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: November 16 2010 (console) / March 22 2011 (PC)

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is not so much a sequel, but more of an expansion to Assassin's Creed 2. Ezio Auditore travels to Rome to topple the Borgia influence over Italy, while Desmond Miles searches for the Apple of Eden. The most notable new game mechanic is the recruitment and management of the assassin brotherhood. Brotherhood introduced a novel form of multiplayer where players compete to earn the most points by stealthily killing their targets while avoiding their pursuers.

At Launch
Brotherhood was quite well received, earning high review scores across the board, especially praised for the new assassin system and the multiplayer. Critics questioned why the PC version was so long delayed, given that the only difference to the console version was minor graphical improvements.

Post Launch
Several DLC packs were released. Two multiplayer packs each added a new game mode and map, while a much larger pack titled The Da Vinci Disappearance includes extensive singleplayer AND multiplayer content: new missions, locations, game modes, and maps.

The Good
The recruitment, management, and use of your “assasslings”, as a friend calls them, is a lot of fun. You can call recruits in to help during combat or to quickly eliminate a target without drawing attention to yourself. Assasslings can be sent on contract missions around the world, earning experience for them and cash for you. As they level up, their weapons and armour can be upgraded, earning new attack options and health for greater combat efficiency. With enough assasslings available, you can call down an arrow storm that will kill every enemy within range. With clever management of your assasslings, you can work your way through an army without ever being spotted.

Assassin's Creed 2 looked nice, but Brotherhood kicks it up a notch (BAM) by increasing the level of detail and lighting effects (at least in the PC version). It's most noticeable on the character models: Ezio now looks middle-aged, with some lines starting to show on his forehead, and textures (such as his skin and armour) are more detailed.
In the intro sequence alone, there were shots that looked gorgeous in their own right — not just because the graphics were impressive, but because the quality of the graphics and art direction resulted in a scene that simply looked beautiful. Pic related.

Combat Update
The previous two games were criticized for the counterattack being too powerful, encouraging the player to wait for an enemy to strike before countering. Brotherhood makes combat faster and more dynamic by adding execution streaks and making first strikes more powerful, encouraging you to go on the offensive and make an opening yourself rather than to wait for one.

ACB's multiplayer is rather unorthodox compared to other games' offerings: the players are all assassins disguised as commoners, trying to kill each other while avoiding their pursuers by pretending to be AI characters. You earn more points for more skillful kills: stealth kills earn the most points, while gunslinging earns comparatively little. It's exactly like a game of assassin in the real world, only you get a whole city and disguises and multiple tools to play with. It's great fun, and a much more cerebral, thinking-man's approach to multiplayer gaming than standard shooters. You CAN play it like a cowboy, but that's less fun.

The Bad
Poorly Populated Multiplayer
I'm playing on the PC, so I imagine this doesn't apply so much to the console versions. PC multiplayer has very few players. I only managed to play one game after the intro session because the matchmaking service simply couldn't find enough players close enough together to start a match.

There are a few unlockable alternate costumes for Ezio which exist independently from the armour system, and some of them are pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, though, wearing a costume overrides any plot-related costume changes -- when Ezio changes into the garb of a city guard to disguise himself, nothing happens. Minor issue, really, but a little weird.

Why does it exist?
I'm sure this point will upset some people. I'm wondering why Assassin's Creed Brotherhood needed to exist at all. It's a great game, and tells you more about Ezio and his life — but I got the impression that the plot of the series revolved around Desmond in 2012, and Brotherhood puts a hold on that story for more Ezio. You do get a fairly big thing with Desmond at the end, but I was kind of upset that I played for twenty hours just to get a little bit of plot that could have been done in an extra cutscene or two in AC2.
Ezio's plot starts when the Auditore villa at Monteriggioni is attacked by the Borgia, and the Apple of Eden is stolen. Ezio goes to Rome and raises an army to get it back. That's pretty much all there is — and it's made worse by the fact that THE VERY SAME THING happened in Assassin's Creed 2 — two DLC missions (which were intended to be in the game originally but were cut due to time constraints) centre around the Apple being stolen and Ezio getting it back. Brotherhood's plot feels like an extended rehash of that, with some neat gameplay additions and a new city.

The Verdict
Recommendation: maybe.
Play it if you're a fan of the franchise, if you'd like to see the gameplay expanded and refined with new elements and improvements, or if you'd like to see how the Assassin's Creed mechanics work out in multiplayer. If you don't have a lot of time to devote, or you just want to see the new plot developments, you might as well just watch the ending on YouTube. The gameplay is a lot of fun and a definite improvement over the other games, but personally I tend to look for a bit more than good gameplay in games that are supposedly character- and plot-driven.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed, on all points. I haven't paid much attention to the hype, rumour, or intel concerning the next one, but it seems as if they're milking a series instead of expanding upon a great original concept. Maybe the next game will be eye-opening, but you're right in the fact that something in the middle which might contribute a little but not a lot to the overall series is not something worth recommending.