Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC
After the immense popularity of Ezio Auditore da Firenze and the Italian Renaissance setting, it comes as no surprise that Ubisoft opted to continue the adventures of the character in two sequels to Assassin’s Creed II rather than move directly onto the new mainline title, Assassin’s Creed III. The first of these sequels, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood deals with the immediate aftermath of the previous game and Ezio’s misguided decision to let Rodrigo Borgia live. After tragedy forces the remaining Auditore family to relocate to Rome, Ezio finds himself attempting to build his own empire of assassins, thieves, mercenaries and courtesans to rival that of the Borgias as a dangerous battle for control of the city ensues. Meanwhile, Desmond and the present-day Assassins continue to make use of the Animus to search for the Apple of Eden before the Templars find them.
While Assassin’s Creed II focused on a grand conspiracy of Templars and had Ezio travel to various locations within Italy, Brotherhood keeps the focus on the Borgia family and Rome, and as a result, the plot feels tighter and the vendetta between Ezio and Cesare Borgia feels more personal. The actual storyline is relatively short, and much of the game is filled with side-quests and missions for various factions. As a completist, I found myself willing exploring all these options in between main story missions. I particularly enjoyed the “Cristina” missions, which picked up on a forgotten plot thread from Assassin’s Creed II as we found out the tragic story of Ezio’s childhood sweetheart. Each of the factions (Thieves, Assassins, Mercenaries and Courtesans) had their own set of story missions that resulted in a deeper affinity with the heads of each organisation.
One of my favourite elements of Assassin’s Creed II was the ability to invest in and build up Ezio’s family estate in Monteriggioni. Brotherhood takes this concept and expands it to encompass the whole of Rome, allowing the player to improve conditions of certain sectors resulting in gameplay benefits and easier progress in specific missions. As Ezio removes Borgia towers and captains from each region, he is able to build various shops and invest in landmarks to revitalise Rome. This means that the city grows with the character and there is a real sense of progression as the game continues. Another addition to the gameplay is the inclusion of Assassin apprentices, representing the Brotherhood aspect of the title. Throughout the game, Ezio can send his trainee Assassins out on missions that help them earn experience and money – this meta-game plays like a mobile app and allows Ezio another stream of revenue.
The inclusion of these apprentices adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay as Ezio is able to summon them to aid him in missions. If he has enough assassins available, he can also call down an arrow storm, which eliminates every enemy onscreen. This definitely helps out on some of the trickier missions, but sometimes made the everyday exploration of Rome too easy. In the previous games, I felt more of a need to run and hide from guards, but in Brotherhood, I felt like I could just summon my minions to deal with the guards for me. The game does compensate for the easier difficulty by introducing “synchronisation challenges” – specific modifiers or criteria for missions such as “do not get spotted” or my own particular bug-bear “do not lose health”. In order to achieve 100% synchronisation within a memory, the player has to perform these tasks. They aren’t essential, but there are achievements tied to the successful completion of all the challenges.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, as the name suggests, focuses on Ezio’s supporting cast and the expansion of the Assassin’s Guild. I really enjoyed Ezio’s interactions with his peers such as Machiavelli, La Volpe and Bartolomeo. Even his mother and sister get a larger focus in this sequel, developing their characters in unexpected ways. Leonardo Da Vinci remains a key figure in the game, even getting his own dedicated DLC chapters, and the sequences where you must destroy his prototype war machines allows the game to experiment and introduce completely new gameplay mechanics to the game. Ezio remains a likeable character to play as and the wealth of content in the game ensured that I spent another 30+ hours exploring everything that was on offer. While the edition included in The Ezio Collection doesn’t have multiplayer, the game felt substantial enough without it – although I would love to try my hand at the multiplayer option one day in the future.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood improves upon a game that I had previously considered to be perfect. Each of the new additions works beautifully, adding brand-new dimensions and RPG elements to the gameplay. The open-world map is the perfect size, allowing players to explore a living, breathing Renaissance Rome but without making it too much of a slog to travel. Some of these sandbox games over-indulge in the map sizes, making it more of a chore than a joy. The sequences with Ezio in Rome easily overshadow the present-day action with Desmond, and while the game does allow you to explore a modern Monteriggioni, you find yourself itching to get back to Ezio. Despite the relatively slow pace to the Desmond story, things ratchet into high gear at the end with a shocking twist. I look forward to getting to grips with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the final game in the Ezio trilogy as it promises to finally deliver answers about what the heck is going on, and if it continues to follow this upturn in quality, it may be the best one yet!
I know I’m extremely late to the party considering the game was released ten years ago, but Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is quite possibly the best-ever “sandbox” style videogame that I’ve ever played. Not too long, not too short, as Goldilocks would say, it’s “just right”.
Score – ★★★★★
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC from Amazon. It is also available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as part of the Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection from Amazon and direct from the Xbox Store.