Product Type: Ubisoft PS3 games
Newest Review: ... Thanks to this immersive storyline (which occasionally branches out into unexpected areas) Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is one of those... more
Rome Was Rebuilt in a Game
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (PS3)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (PS3)
Date: 13/09/12, updated on 14/09/12 (62 review reads)
Advantages: Same great gameplay; more stealth-based missions; huge map, more structured world
Disadvantages: Glitches; fumbly and clunky in places; too easy; inferior soundtrack
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
[see my review on 'Assassin's Creed II': The Second Assassin Who Also Likes To Think He Came Before 47 But, Like Alta´r, Didn't Really Either'. Please note that there may be a few spoilers of the story of this game in the following review]
Due to the heightened success of 'Assassin's Creed II', Ubisoft Montreal believed it fitting to continue the story of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, picking up, just like the first game, right where its predecessor left off. Firstly, for those of you who haven't played the game, or haven't read my previous Assassin's Creed reviews, you are Desmond Miles in modern day, an apparently innocent New Yorker who was kidnapped one day and forced to relive the memories of your ancestors through imprints in your DNA. In 'Assassin's Creed II' (herein: 'ACII'), you began exploring the life of your second known ancestor: Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and spent the game roaming around places in Italy, such as Florence, Tuscany and Venice. Your quest was to find 'Pieces of Eden', ancient artefacts with extraordinary powers that are central to a war that has been ongoing for centuries: between the Assassins and the Knights Templar, the latter of which were the ones to kidnap you, under the cover name of 'Abstergo'. The scientist who originally planned the operation was planning of disposing of you after exploring the memories of your first ancestor Alta´r Ibn-La'Ahad of the first crusade, but his assistant Lucy saved you and moved you to a safehouse where you began reliving the life of Ezio. The scientist, Vidic, however, by the end of ACII, found you, forcing you to find a new place to hide while you continue to delve deeper into Ezio's memories. Your story continues in 'Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood' ('ACB').
You are Ezio in Vatican City in 1499. You've just spared the life of Rodrigo Borgia (or Pope Alexander IV), the man behind the execution of your family, and pursued to enter a mysterios vault with a 'Piece of Eden'. In there, a hologram of the Goddess Minerva speaks to you, but more intriguingly, to Desmond in the modern day, much to the confusion of Ezio - and Desmond for that matter. She speaks of an ancient civilization that once subsisted with the early humans on earth, and that a catastrophe nearly destroyed everything and everyone. The survivors constructed 'temples' to prevent a similar occurrence in the future - and this refers to a specific occurrence that ultimately, these Assassin's Creed games (from the first game to the fifth and final game in the series, 'Assassin's Creed III' which is due out at the end of this October) are based around: December 21, 2012 - the supposed end of the world. "The rest is up to you", she says. Upon returning to your Uncle's home in Monteriggioni, the fortified villa grounds are attacked by Cesare Borgia, son of the man who you spared. Cesare kills your Uncle Mario, and flees, leaving Ezio to escape safely with his sister Claudia and his mother. You find yourself once again seeking revenge against the Borgias, and to do so, you travel to a corrupted Rome.
You are Desmond Miles, in the Animus 2.0 (the machine that allows you to relive the memories), in the back of a truck on the road, and on your arrival, you are awakened from the Animus. You have come to the Auditore Villa in Monteriggioni, which was a central part of your experience in ACII. Of course, this is 2012, and it's all been modernised; remnants of the historic Borgia attack are still very visible, and modern day cars are dotted around as well as various other objects. Lucy (Vidic's assistant who saved you), Rebecca and Shaun (who assisted you during your time in the Animus in the last game) and yourself find your way into the hidden cellar inside the villa that has only become known to you through your reliving of Ezio's memories. Here, you set up camp, far enough underground to avoid being tracked, and you must return to the life of Ezio Auditore once more.
As you find your feet in 1499 Roma as Ezio, you learn more about the city's dire state. Cesare and the Templars are supreme in the capital, and the minor Assassin's Guild is failing in its fight against them. Reuniting with Niccol˛ Machiavelli, Ezio states his desire to up the ante, as it were, and ultimately hunt down Cesare and kill him. Machiavelli also points out that it might be wise to learn from mistakes and remove Rodrigo Borgia from the picture too. And so Ezio begins. It's your job to rebuild Rome and eliminate the corrupting forces. As a player, you are required to renovate various shops, buildings and famous Roman landmarks, but before doing so, you must remove 'Borgia influence' by killing various Templars and free the area of its hold. In the meantime, you have various quests to complete, but also a wide variety of side-missions that allow for hours upon hours of gameplay. Ultimately, you are liberating Renaissance Roma of Templar forces, removing corruption and rebuilding a lost city.
Once you accept that this is a video game and that it is likely to be very over-the-top and cheesy, there's actually quite a good story to it. Yes, like ACII, many cutscenes and dialogues are a bit sickly, but generally, it is very well executed. Following in its prequel's footsteps, the missions you must undertake are logical and relative to the story whilst being varied - I'd say that ACB actually features more varied missions than ACII. There is certainly a heightened level of stealth involved, helped by the 'Full synchronization' addition. Every mission you complete, whether it be a main or a side-, can either be completed with 50% synchronization by simply completing the quest, or with 100% by also abiding by a clause, making the mission more challenging and for the most part, more enjoyable. In some cases, however, the clause can result in quite a fumbly experience that requires the player to have to repeat the mission over and over to try and achieve full synchronization. And what hinders this further is the way missions in the game are designed. Firstly, you cannot restart from checkpoints, which means that if you failed full synchronization for whatever reason and want to give it another shot, you need to 'desynchronize' yourself by either getting yourself killed (which, due to the odd combat & health system, is very difficult by simply getting yourself into a fight), deliberately failing your mission or jumping off a very tall building, all of which can be very annoying and time-consuming. And in some missions, when you revive via a checkpoint, you've failed full synchronization anyway, and have to restart the entire mission, which in some cases (i.e. very long missions) is extremely frustrating. That said, this addition of 'Full synchronization' adds a more competitive and elite level to the experience, and ultimately results in longer gameplay.
'Synchronization' is a buzz word in the Assassin's Creed games. It is important, as Desmond, that you remain in 'sync' with Ezio by not doing anything that he wouldn't do. For example, killing more than one or two citizens (which can be done accidentally from time to time) may get you 'desynchronized'; running too far into an area that Ezio can't fully access will too, and as will doing something wrong in a mission. The idea of 'synchronization' came about in the first game ('AC'), where it would be of paramount importance for you as a player to 'synchronize' yourself with your surroundings by climbing up to the top of certain buildings. Since AC, the importance of such an act has diminished, to the point where in ACB, you have only 24 buildings to use to synchronize, and 12 of those are Borgia towers that you automatically use to synchronize with after you destroy them following the assassination of their respective Templar leader. I think it's a shame that this concept has become less central to the games. The Assassin's Creed games have always prided themselves on stunning visuals, breathtaking views and gorgeous graphics. ACB is set in Rome, and they outdo themselves once again with how liberating it is to sit on top of the Colosseum and look around at beautiful surroundings, and it's a shame that you are only required to do this 12 times, in essence. Of course you can climb to the top any building you want in the game; the sandbox style of gameplay allows for free roaming, which is fantastic and very enjoyable. Also, in AC, synchronizing would reveal to you what quests were nearby to help you towards your assassination mission. Due to the distinctly different style of gameplay in ACII and beyond, this has become somewhat obsolete, but I still feel that they could have rebuilt on this idea as it is a good one.
The Assassin Creed games are cinematic experiences. Games are leaning more towards that direction these days, and with the current standard of graphics combined with the competition and thus people involved in development, you can understand why this opportunity has been grasped tightly. Personally, I think game developers are getting slightly carried away. Games have become too easy, and sometimes people don't want all of the cinematics, they just want to chill out and play. ACB, like ACII, is very easy. They have added some features, like the aforementioned 'full synchronization' aspect, that add difficulty, but contrastingly, the addition of weapons such as the crossbow make eliminating guards and progressing through missions much more straightforward. The combat system has been improved once again with ACB, but with the fluency of kill streaks now increased, this too has been made easier. This notion arguably agrees with my point that players just want to 'chill out', but I think it's gone too far. And while the gripping story is very enjoyable, if say you were on your second run-through of the game and didn't necessarily care too much about reliving all of the cutscenes, the effort you have to go through to skip one - sheesh! Press pause, which in itself isn't anywhere near as quick to load up as other games, and then go down to 'Skip cinematic', before having to wait a good fifteen to twenty seconds before you can start the mission - you may as well have just watched the bleeding cutscene!
With ACB, so far we've had the change of scenery (from smaller towns around Italy to one big city - Rome), the slight change of gameplay and the combat system and some improved elements. The biggest addition to the series that ACB makes however is the Assassins Guild, and despite it being quite a cool feature, it only adds to the simplicity of the players' experience. At around a third of the way through the main missions, you are required to help out various citizens around Rome, all of which seem to have got themselves in a little pickle with exactly three Roman guards. By saving them, you recruit them to the Assassin's Guild, and you can send them to missions across Europe and the Middle East in order to earn money, ultimately for you to spend on your main quest of rebuilding Rome. However, when they're not out getting you dosh (and themselves 'XP', or 'experience points' for you to improve them and customize them with), they're at your disposal. By the press of a button, you can either send two assassins to kill a group of guards or even a target, or you can hold the button and all of your assassins will fire arrows at a group, killing them instantly. Of course this can't be used constantly, and there is a wait between kills, particularly with the 'Arrow Storm'. But like I say, this is just another element that allows you to sail through missions with ease, however cool it is.
It is important that this review is partnered with my previous review on ACII (about three reviews down from this one), because 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood' is very similar to its prequel. This means that, despite a review full of niggles, this is a very, very good game. It's not perfect, and they are absolutely getting there with ACB; stunning graphics and visuals, enjoyable gameplay, an engrossing story and much more. Where it falls is with various glitches, the rising easiness of gameplay, an inferior soundtrack (again provided by Jesper Kyd, but it just doesn't quite live up to that of ACII) and other small issues. But I can ensure you that this is great fun to play, and really interesting. For the story, the Dan Brown influences are once again omnipresent, while in the case of simple gameplay, Ubisoft Montreal are clearly focussing on providing a game in cinematic style and appealing to a wider audience. ACB, like ACII, is a wonderful experience. The music may be 'inferior', but it still provides a fitting accompaniment to the romance of Renaissance Italy, served to you as a visually and physically stunning representation of early 16th century Rome. Follow Ezio Auditore on the second and penultimate chapter of his story as an Assassin, and draw ever closer to the Assassin's Creed conclusion.
Summary: The Italian Job II
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