Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood- A Breath of Fresh Air

Anyone following my blog would know about my recent “Shooter Fatigue” crisis that has placed my gaming world somewhat off kilter. A Christmas gift has single-handedly saved me from floundering any longer. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was on my to-buy list as soon as the Christmas holiday was ended, but I ended up not having to wait and boy oh boy what an amazing time it has been.

This game is a sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, and takes place immediately after the ending of that title. The player controls Ezio once again as he traverses Rome to scrub out the Borgia influence and set some things right.

The game’s story is a very compelling one, the game offers a nice re-cap of the events from the first two titles in the series, so  gamers that haven’t played the two previous titles won’t be left scratching their heads (like myself). As with the game before it, the player controls both Desmond in some sequences and his ancestor Ezio in the memory sequences. The game has nine memory sequences but that is a tricky means of conveying the depth of this game. While the story missions are compelling and approach the subject matter in interesting ways each time, what really shines in this title are the side quests and additional things you can do while in game.

Players are able to buy real estate throughout the city which increases their wealth and offers players the chance to upgrade their weapons and armor, withdraw money, change their outfit color and add pouches to carry more items, and an art dealer to buy paintings which hang in a gallery in the assassin hideout. The notable feature is the use of the three guilds as well as recruiting civilians to your assassin’s brotherhood which introduces an often fun and always amazing game mechanic.

As the player progresses through the game they are able to recruit civilians to the assassin’s brotherhood, which then allows the player to summon them at will to dispatch enemies efficiently. after the first three are recruited, the player can single them at nearly any point in the gameplay to rub out any of those pesky kills you’re meant to make. They are also useful if you get caught by the guards and have to fight a large group by simply summoning your allies to come help you fight. Once fully upgraded by having at least nine brotherhood members, players then gain the ability to call in an arrow storm which effectively levels any group of Borgia in your way. There are many times throughout the game these mechanics come in handy, I can recall one personal account that while attempting to kill a rather pesky Borgia captain whom I couldn’t quite get at myself, I simply called in an arrow storm to take him out.

While all of the side quests are enjoyable, one that I very much enjoyed were the Borgia towers, throughout Rome there are 8 Borgia towers scattered about, each one controlling a section of Rome making it impossible to buy shops or landmarks in that area until they have been destroyed. Each tower has a captain associated with it whom must be dealt with before moving on to the tower itself and igniting it. The nice part about this side quest is that unlike story missions or even some of the more specific side quests there are very simple objectives that allow for the creativity and even humor of the player to shine through.

In one instance, while waiting for my opportunity to strike at the Borgia captain, I was listening to him give a rousing speech about being alert as the Assassin’s could come at you without a moments notice striking when you least expect it. Shortly after he berates a soldier for not paying attention, saying “I could have killed you just now” at which point I brazenly leaped over the wall I was clinging to, jumped on his horse, killed him, then rode away on said horse. That instance alone made me personally laugh for sometime. My ability to amuse myself notwithstanding, these additional side quests truly flesh out the world of Assassin’s Creed and keep the gameplay fun and interesting.

The most surprising thing about Brotherhood was the addition of a new multiplayer element. Most games these days seem to try and “tack-on” some form of multiplayer mechanic to lure players away from heavy hitters like Black Ops or Halo: Reach. I can safely say that this multiplayer doesn’t feel like it is one of those games. The story premise of the existence of this multiplayer is that Abstergo is training Templar agents to fight the Assassins by placing them in an animus simulation program in which they stalk and kill targets while evading those agents hunting them. I felt it was a nice bit of polish that Ubisoft took the time to work the multiplayer into the games storyline which allows players, even if just momentarily, feel like they are still in the world of Assassin’s Creed.

The multiplayer does have a few flaws, which I’ll cover first before raving about what I do enjoy about it. Firstly, because of the aforementioned heavy hitters in multiplayer, it is incredibly hard to get into a match. At one point I waited nearly 30 minutes and still was not able to get into a match. Unlike games like Call of Duty, if there isn’t a full lobby, the game doesn’t seem to want to start. Another annoyance is the difficulty in countering an assassination attempt even when your killer hasn’t been terribly clever in disguising their intentions.

What Brotherhood multiplayer DOES do very well is offer a new and compelling way to play multiplayer. The game requires strategy, self control, and a quick wit in order to find your target and assassinate them all the while avoiding being killed yourself. Each match is populated with NPCs which resemble the current persona types of the players themselves, this makes it easier to blend in and even use these NPCs to your advantage when tailing a subject. Thus far my favorite game type is Wanted, which is a free-for-all where you have no one to rely on but yourself in order to score. What really helps a currently shooter fatigued gamer is that while the number of kills in a match do matter, the emphasis is more on quality rather than quantity. Players can track their target, and then maneuver into position to make the kill but if they just stay their hand for a while longer they are rewarded with bigger point bonuses. To mix gameplay up, players also unlock abilities, gear, and customization for their chosen persona which work into the the strategy over all. For instance, one ability is to temporarily transform into another character persona, and since targets are located by appearance, not name, it can throw off a pursuer and buy you the time needed to escape. This feature is also useful for appearing more benign when dealing with your own targets as well.

As a total package, this game is worth the price and is a breath of fresh air for a gamer who has seen one too many Call of Duty or Halo titles. To be clear, I love both of those franchises but sometimes you just want to try something a bit different.

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