Guest Author - James Shea
A game that can be described as "Assassin's Creed 2.5", Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood takes the basic gameplay, graphics, and setting of AC2 and adds a bunch of new features and content for a whole new city.
Brotherhood picks up exactly where AC2 left off. Players once again control Ezio, an assassin in Renaissance Italy, as well as Desmond, his modern counterpart who's reliving his life through genetic memory. Most of the game is the same as Assassin's Creed 2 - if you liked it, you'll like Brotherhood. In fact, I'd say a good 90% of the game is recycled. Therefore, it's more important to talk about the new parts of the game.
The combat has been retooled slightly. The weapons are the same for the most part, with a few changes. One change is that some weapons are now automatically paired with a ranged weapon - the main weapon connects to Ezio's hidden pistol, while the sub-weapon connects to throwing knives. This allows for smoother combos, and means that you can use a weapon without having to specifically switch to the ranged weapon. Enemies are a bit smarter, too, and will grab at you more frequently (though they still attack one at a time and are easily dispatched by counter-kills).
In AC2, the player had the opportunity to invest money into their home villa to make it more profitable and prosperous. AC:B takes place entirely in the city of Rome, and thus the entire city can be renovated and upgraded. This primarily takes two forms: the first is clearing out enemy strongholds, and the second is fixing up shops, banks, and landmarks. One issue I had with the latter aspect was that the only real "benefit" of it was to get you more money (which also happened with the first game), and the only real use of money besides upgrades is to upgrade your property, which gets you more money and so on.
One thing I did appreciate is the increased number of missions that are actually about "sneaking" and "assassination", including the previously-mentioned enemy strongholds. There's actually a lot of missions where there's an incentive to remain undetected, find creative ways to approach a situation, and so on. It wasn't perfect, but it was a pretty neat attempt all things considered. A lot of the game's best moments are a result of these missions - almost failing, but then shooting the sentry with a crossbow before he discovers you, and so on.
The titular "Brotherhood" refers to the brotherhood of Assassins, who Ezio takes command of roughly halfway through the game. Assassins are recruited from the rank of discontented citizens (the maximum number is based on how much of the city you control), and they serve two purposes. The first is to help you in the game world, either by assassinating a target for you (if you select a target and call for help when not in combat) or helping Ezio fight enemies (if you call for help while in combat). The second is sending them off on missions to get experience and monetary rewards.
The upgrade system for the Assassins is unpleasantly simplistic: as Assassins become more experienced, the player can assign points to attack or defense. The problem arises because all assassins end up in the same place (there's 9 levels and only 4 points of attack and defense each). Assassins can be differentiated by their names, facial appearance, and selectable colors; unfortunately, when they hit maximum level their new costume means that they lose those selectable colors, which makes them all basically the same.
The Assassins felt sort of unbalanced, too. The combat system is pretty easy, so for the most part calling your allies in felt like overkill. It was neat in some sequences, but it always felt more like "I don't feel like bothering anymore, you guys come take care of this". The only time I had assassins die was early on, when my low-level recruits blundered into a giant group of guards and refused to run away. Still, despite these issues, they still seem pretty cool: it's fun to chase a guy, almost lose him, and then sic one of your apprentices on him at the last second.
Brotherhood also has a multiplayer mode, based on blending into a giant crowd of NPCs while trying to assassinate (and avoid being assassinated by) other players. While it's certainly innovative and entertaining, it also seemed a bit oddly-paced. It felt like a deathmatch, but with more gaps between kills. It was kind of fun, but just sort of simplistic. Once you'd figured out the gameplay, it just felt like doing the same thing over and over - there weren't a lot of evolving strategies or clever ploys to carry out.
My main problem with this game is that a lot of the content feels sort of overdone. The new stuff is fun, but the thing that actually named the game (the assassin recruits) is really underdeveloped. Most of the content is just stuff from AC2 over again - your new hideout, the new flags to collect, the new feathers to collect, the new secret lairs to explore, etcetera. The new levels and side-missions really make up for it, but a lot of the content just felt like a slog that I didn't want to bother going through again. Still, if you enjoyed AC2, you'll definitely want to give Brotherhood a shot.
We purchased this game with our own money from Amazon.
Buy Assassin's Creed Brotherhood from Amazon.com