Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood review

    Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is the sequel to Assassin's Creed 2, continuing the adventures of Ezio Auditore. Originally slated to be a DLC, it proved to have enough material for an entirely new game. The premise is Desmond Miles and the other Assassins have to flee their base in order to continue probing Ezio's memories for clues about the First Civilization. Taking up residence in the ruins of the Auditore mansion, they bond over the danger they face from the Templar's global sweep for them.

    Back in the past, Ezio returns triumphant from defeating Rodrigo Borgia's attempt to open the First Civilization Vault at the climax of Assassin's Creed 2. Unfortunately, Ezio overestimates the damage he's done to the Borgia family as Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia lead an army to avenge their father. His uncle killed and adopted hometown leveled, Ezio decides to pay the Borgias back by journeying to Rome and undermining their rule by taking out their supporters one-by-one.

Cesare and Lucrezia were the perfect choices for a follow-up story and historically accurate too.
    Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia are fine villains, despite being extremely over-the-top. Realism isn't always the best thing for a character, however, as sometimes you just want to deal with a pair of incestuous power-hungry weirdos. The fact neither villain is portrayed as particularly smart or capable of dealing with Ezio's plans works surprisingly well. You get to dismantle their empire like a Renaissance Batman and the story is profoundly satisfying.

    Ezio's supporting cast this time around includes the unexpected addition of Machiavelli, who provides a cynical contrast to Ezio's humanist optimism. There's also Le Volpe, a lovable rogue who provides a hot-headed contrast to Ezio's intelligence. Ezio's sister Claudia, who played only a minor role in the previous game, also ascends to become an Assassin herself.

    Much of the game is devoted to following Ezio's emotional journey from a hotheaded young man to the Mentor of the Assassins. The game wouldn't be nearly as emotionally poignant or powerful if we hadn't followed Ezio's journey from his teenage years to adulthood to middle-age. We see Ezio grow into his role as a Master Assassin and it feels earned, unlike so many games where you become the Listener or Archmage of a Guild after just a few favors on behalf of your bosses.

    Yes, I mean Skyrim.

Rome isn't as diverse as AC 2 but still a very satisfying open-world environment.
    The heart of the game, though, isn't the characters but Rome. The game nicely captures the fact that, far from being the center of the world, Rome during the Borgias was at its lowest point. About the only thing missing is the incredible prevalence of syphilis afflicting the city at the time. Rome is a great city to climb around with plenty of ancient monuments, ruins, and so forth to climb around. Indeed, such attention to these is paid that it sometimes makes Rome feel like a series of quaint little villages built in the ruins of a once-grand city 

    The big addition to the gameplay is that Ezio isn't just going to rooftops to synchronize his viewpoints this time around. No, he has to go to each district of the city and destroy a Borgia fortress after assassinating its Captain in order to liberate it. The game makes you feel like a big hero by having the regions be economically depressed, suspicious, and depressed looking places before becoming vibrantly alive ones you can refurbish if you free them. Historically accurate or not, it makes you feel like a big hero.

    Another feature added to the game is the titular Brotherhood. Ezio can recruit Assassins by rescuing them from the Borgia troops and then sending them on missions across Europe to undermine the Templars. He can also utilize them as weapons against the Templars in the city proper, calling them down like air strikes once you've built up your Brotherhood enough. It can be a bit game-breaking but the sensation of being the Mentor is more than worth it.

Going supervillain on Cesare's forces with Clockpunk mad science is my favorite part of the game.
    There's a trio of wild missions where Leonardo Davinchi sends you on quests to destroy his weapons designed for the Borgias. These are just completely insane and set you against wooden tanks, airplanes, and other devices in hopes of preventing Cesare from taking over the world with them. I loved them. The fact the game remembers Leonardo worked for the Borgias is a nice little bit of historical accuracy (as is the fact the Prince was possibly meant to be an insult in its dedication to Cesare).

    The game isn't without its flaws. Traveling around Rome can get tedious, even with the addition of a horse to speed up travel. Likewise, the game's system of having Ezio buy up land for development seems like a rather curious diversion for Renaissance Batman. The DLC for the game is less necessary than in Assassin's Creed 2, consisting primarily of a story about Leonardo being kidnapped by mathematician cult. I was also annoyed by the fact Ezio gets his character model updated while Claudia's remains the same as from when she was a teenage girl. These are minor flaws in the grand scheme of things, though, and ones I barely noticed.

This could have been a great finale to Ezio's adventures.
    In conclusion, this is a fabulous game. It's hard to separate it from it from Assassin's Creed 2 in that it's all just one gigantic story. Unfortunately, this isn't the last we see of Ezio as there is too much of a good thing. I'll get to that in Assassin's Creed: Revelation's review. Despite this, I can't help but give this game glowing remarks. There's no point in playing the game without having played its predecessor but both form a beautiful duology. Also, the ending of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's modern campaign will shock the hell out of you.


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