Continue Ezio Auditore’s fight against the Templars.
PC Release: March 22, 2011
By Ian Coppock
Yearly installments are a tricky point for many gamers and game developers. On one hand, many studios might have an actual demand to satisfy by releasing a yearly installment, but I worry that this is done at the cost of quality. Certainly Call of Duty could be a strong argument for the latter. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is no call of duty, but it is the latest indicator of a trend that bears potential for ruining a series that I enjoy.
No, Brotherhood is not Assassin’s Creed III. That was the biggest point of confusion for fans when it was announced that the next AC game would be what amounts to Assassin’s Creed II-2. Surprise surprise, the developers planned on including this game in the previous installment’s storyline, but screw it, let’s stretch it out into a full game! Because the Ubisoft yacht fleet isn’t going to gold-trim itself!
Anyway, Brotherhood continues the story of Ezio Auditore, the Renaissance-era assassin who’s out to stop a bunch of Italian fatcats from peeing in the face of free will. The Templars, as these nobles are called, seek to control the world to bring about peace using a telepathic artifact. Also like the last few games, Brotherhood continues the binary story of Desmond Miles, a modern-day Assassin who is now seeking that exact artifact.
The game picks up right where the last one ended, which is a touch I rather like in the Assassin’s Creed games. It’s nice for continuity, and it prevents the developers from putting some comic or novel tie-in between the games just to screw with your understanding of what’s going on. Ezio and his uncle Mario return to their hometown just in time for the Templars to bomb the living hell out of it. Just like when his family was murdered in the last game, Ezio sets out on (another) quest for revenge.
Rodrigo Borgia, the Templar leader and primary antagonist of the last game, in fact sired a bigger asshole than himself, Cesare Borgia. This dude is the commander of the Papal States’ forces and has a personal score to settle with the Auditore family. Ezio flees his home and decides to hit the Templars where they live: Rome. He packs up his hidden blades and hits the trail.
Ezio arrives in Rome and begins setting up a Rebel Alliance-type operation alongside his fellow freedom-fighter, Machiavelli (seriously, it makes no sense that Machiavelli is an Assassin and not a Templar, given his authoritarian views). The two conclude upon the basic premise of the AC series: Kill the half-dozen or so guys in charge and watch the fireworks.
It’s at this point that Brotherhood started to get boring. The main plotline of the game is incredibly short; I finished it in about five hours. The other 20 or so hours of gameplay are devoted to repetitive, trivial side quests around the city of Rome. Some missions are contextualized as vital to overthrowing Rome’s Templar masters, but most of them are repetitive, tedious and repetitive. They’re also unnecessary for finishing the game.
The over-abundance of side quests and trivial collection missions made the game feel like a MMORPG. Assassin’s Creed II‘s storyline was the main course, while the side missions were pleasantly ordered and none-too-numerous appetizers. Brotherhood felt like getting a shriveled chicken wing of a meal and a gigantic bowl of cashews. Yes, I am hungry right now, shut up.
Anyway, my point is that AC: Brotherhood loses the structure of its predecessors for a relatively chaotic MMO-style bucket’o’raids. A few of the story’s events do have a bearing on the feel and atmosphere of Rome but the two worlds are otherwise eerily separate. It didn’t help that most missions take place in and around the Vatican, leaving entire swaths of the city unnecessary to visit.
The other thing I don’t like about Brotherhood is that it’s so obviously another part of the Assassin’s Creed II story, but was bloated up and stretched out so that Ubisoft could put out another title and make more money. To give you an idea, the entire main plotline of Brotherhood is about as long as one of the four or so city campaigns in Assassin’s Creed II. This also explains the absolute overabundance of side missions.
The PC version of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood includes a free DLC called The Da Vinci Disappearance, set during the events of the main story. Ezio has to take on a fanatical cult of mathematicians who have kidnapped Leonardo Da Vinci, which is a ridiculous sentence in and of itself, but it’s one of the best stories in the entire game. Ezio visits locations all over Italy, alternates between stealth and combat gameplay, and encounters a riot of characters who are all more interesting than most of Brotherhood‘s main cast! That’s the thing about DLC, folks. It gives us a chance to see the developer’s hindsight, and the hindsight is “…we could’ve done a little better”.
With Brotherhood‘s story spinning about like a balloon that is shriveled and yet somehow overinflated, I turned to the gameplay to get me through. There are a few gems here; the main new mechanic and the root of the title Brotherhood is Ezio’s ability to train and unleash new Assassins upon his enemies. There is something incredibly badass about standing in a crowd, giving a small nod, and watching as your apprentices descend from on high to murder the crap out of some oblivious aristocrat. I will give Brotherhood a prop for that feature. It’s very well-done.
A few new weapons and tools are added to Ezio’s already-impressive arsenal, including one that breaks the game: the crossbow. The crossbow is the AC equivalent of the Killstar from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. It can kill anything in one hit and you can get tons of ammo for it. It’s also silent, so no one will notice that you just bolted his chum to the wall by the throat. Such a powerful and silent weapon is great to have, but it nullifies the need for basically anything else in your arsenal, especially the extremely loud gun.
Ezio’s character remains largely unchanged from the end of AC II. Having already undergone quite the journey in that game, Ezio’s new focus is that of becoming a grand master in the order. The role is thrust upon him quite unexpectedly, but the game doesn’t really explore any emotion around it. Take the job. Kill people. Same gameplay. The end. Simple story.
Brotherhood receives a slight graphical upgrade from AC II but nothing noteworthy. The environments of Renaissance Italy are once again rendered beautifully. Even though the entire game takes place in one city, Rome is easily three or four times bigger than Florence or Venice from AC II. It also features a surprising variety of environments, including verdant farmland, villages and ancient Roman ruins.
The music is a continuation of the last game’s epic strings, with a few epic opera pieces BECAUSE IT’S FRICKIN ROME. These compliment the game’s first few missions all the way to the epic finale against the Templars.
Roger Craig Smith provides another admirable performance as our hero Ezio, and most of the supporting characters new and old also deliver an Italian-laced epic. Even if the narrative falls flat, the characters remain believable thanks in large part to this work. Cesare Borgia’s increasingly tyrannical manner was acted out particularly well.
AC has always had good art and Brotherhood was able to continue that, if not the franchise’s story and structure.
I played Brotherhood once and I was all good. Diehard fans of the source material will get it, but for the casual fans, it takes about five seconds to sum up the main events of the game from the wiki. I generally don’t advocate learning a story that way but I’m not certain Brotherhood is worth the time to figure it out conventionally. It pains me, but unless you’re a hardcore AC fan, I’d move on to Assassin’s Creed III.
You can buy Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.