Top critical review
Solid game, but ultimately more of the same
on 31 January 2015
Was it really necessary? That's the question I kept asking myself after I had finished this game 44 hours after having started playing it. Don't get me wrong - the game world is pretty vast and early 16th century Rome rendered quite believable - at the same time, the various Roman ruins scattered around the game world give you a feeling of antiquity as well. You have the Vatican, with St. Peter's Cathedral in the middle of construction, its dome half finished; there's the Colosseum, in pretty much the same state as it is today, and various other remnants of Roman baths, arches and pillars mixed with the architecture of Renaissance Italy.
But the reason I cannot give this game the full complement of stars is because unlike Assassin's Creed II, which was a real quantum leap from the original Assassin's Creed in terms of setting, innovation and story, AC Brotherhood offers little compared to AC II, and its story, in fact, feels dull in comparison. Even years after having played AC II I still remember the story pretty well - Ezio growing up in Florence, then half of his family being murdered and left to hang, Ezio swearing bloody vengeance on the man who ordered the executions, then killing him, but then discovering he is only a small pawn in a bigger ring of conspirators, Ezio fleeing the city to Montereggioni, then hunting down the bad guys in Florence, Venice and Forli where he finds an ally by the name of Caterina Sforza, and the game ending with the final revelation being the transformation of the main bad guy you were desperately trying to hunt throughout the game, Rodrigo Borgia, into none other than Pope Alexander VI! So Assassin's Creed Brotherhood essentially begins where AC II left off - Ezio arriving in Rome and trying to kill Rodrigo Borgia. However, now his prodigal son, Cesare Borgia and his plans to unite Italy in a big military campaign stand in Ezio's way. Then there is Lucretia Borgia as well, and a host of other characters Ezio needs to assasinate. However, none of them really contribute to the story. In fact, shortly after completing the game I already had trouble remembering exactly what the course of events in AC Brotherhood was. All I remember is infiltrating the Castel Sant Angelo several times, once to rescue Caterina Sforza, then killing several characters and then defeating a French mercenary army to finally be able to take revenge on Rodrigo and Cesare.
While AC Brotherhood is a game that does indeed have improved gameplay elements (and arguably slightly improved and smoother graphics through there is a really stupid brown daylight filter for outside environments you can't turn off) compared to AC II, the story feels tacked on. You also only have Rome to explore, with some side missions revolving around Leonardo da Vinci's war machine prototypes taking you to various other cities in Italy, but only briefly for those missions only.
While AC II was an RPG that focused on the story, AC Brotherhood is an RPG that focuses on the role playing and free roam elements. You can rebuild Rome bit by bit after liberating a district from the presence of a Borgia tower and its captain, and then restoring various shops and fast travel gates from a state of disrepair into full function by spending a small sum of money. Restoring Rome earns you money which you can pick up at Banks. You can also invest in shops to get some unique items needed for shop quests that in turn give you special equipment upon completion, and earn or lose money depending on the risk factor. Pretty much every mission now has a 50% and 100% synch version, the latter requiring you to complete it within a certain time limit, not get detected, only use your hidden blade or other such challenges. The main selling feature of AC Brotherhood is that you can recruit and train your own guild of Assassins, and send them on contracts to earn money and help them level up. Just like in AC II, you have faction speific lairs, this time being the usual Templar lairs that give you a large sum of gold upon completion, and lairs belonging to the Followers of Romulus, a cult whose devotees drape themselves with wolf skins and attack you on sight. Once you have snagged a scroll from the end of each of the Romulus lairs, you unlock the Armor of Brutus. There are also other outfits unlockable by uPlay points which you earn by completing specific actions in the game. These outfits include Ezio's teenage Florentine garb, the Assassin's Creed II Altair armor, the AC 1 Altair outfit and the Helmschmied Drachen armor.
Overall, AC Brotherhood certainly has more fun RPG-type open world gameplay than AC II, but in terms of story it is quite lacklustre in comparison with its predecessor. So ultimately, just so we could get to explore Rome, Ubisoft dedicated an entire game to it while keeping the last snippet of AC II's story - killing Rodrigo Borgia - for this game. Of course, one thing I do have to credit this game for is that it features an interesting Desmond & friends story arc as well. Both the beginning and end of AC Brotherhood is played from the perspective of Desmond, so he does get to do some parkour climbing of his own.
Overall though, a 3/5. A game that wasnt reeeeeeally necessary from a narrative point of view, but a solid game giving you plenty of stuff to do nonetheless. Oh yeah - there is multiplayer now. I guess that's where a good portion of creativity went to... ;)