Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Video Game Review - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Readers of my blog will remember my reviews of Assassin's Creed, and Assassin's Creed 2. In short, Assassin's Creed is a game worth playing, despite many flaws, and Assassin's Creed 2 is a game that, while probably a better game objectively (all the systems worked better in AC2) it was, to me at least, a less enjoyable experience. Still a game worth playing though. Also, it had a brilliant ending.

Now, folks, let me tell you, it is time for much rejoicing, for while Assassin's Creed and Assassin's Creed 2 were both sort-of-good games, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a GREAT game. This is by far the best Assassin's Creed experience thus far, and it blows the other two out of the water.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is sort of an "Assassin's Creed 2.5" if you will. It picks up directly where the second game left off, and honestly, if you don't play it you WILL be confused jumping into the inevitable Assassin's Creed 3. It puts you, once again, back in the shoes of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the renaissance assassin who you were put in the shoes of in Assassin's Creed 2. The game literally begins exactly where the second game left off, with Ezio *spoilers for the ending of AC2* walking out of the vault, bewildered by the mysterious message left for Desmond. Victorious over the pope however, he goes back to his home, and relaxes in a segment where you help the various townspeople with mundane problems.

And then, it naturally all goes wrong. He is renaissance Batman, after all.

In short, the son of the pope who you DIDN'T murder at the end of AC2 (which was dumb, Ezio has no problem killing hundreds of guards who likely just work to feed themselves and their families, but finally when he meets the evil pope he doesn't kill him? What?! Bah, I digress, that's a problem with the second game, not this one.) Cesare Borgia, blows up the city, and takes the Apple of Eden from you.

Cue going back to Desmond, and finding out the reason why you're still reliving Ezio's memories, to find out where exactly the Apple of Eden ended up. Of course to do that you have to relive the memories leading UP to that point because if you don't the polarity of the power couplings could be reversed causing a temporal anomaly which would leak vast quantities of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey radiation into the stargates which would then... You get the idea. It's a cheap excuse why we're playing a full game not just 15 minutes of one, but it works nonetheless.

The plot of this game, like most aspects of this game, is FAR superior to the other two. You'll remember one of my main complaints about AC2 was that you didn't become an Assassin until the last hour or so of the game. In this, you're already an Assassin at the beginning, and it shows.

However, another problem I had with the story of the second game was that it was CONFUSING! Half the time I didn't understand how the people I was killing were related to the overarching conspiracy, and was really just killing them because the mission told me to.

This game however, has a central story with definite first, second, and third acts. It has one central villain (Cesare), and it's coherent. Whereas the second game lacked any kind of focus and just felt as though the story were aimlessly wandering, Brotherhood has a story that pulls you in, and keeps you interested.

That said, Assassin's Creed is becoming my new Lost. Each game thus far has had an infuriating cliffhanger ending that leaves you scratching your head going "What just happened?!"

In any case, the game plays almost identically to Assassin's Creed 2, but every aspect of it has been polished to the point of near perfection. The combat is actually entertaining, the missions are tons more fun due to a new system of bonus objectives you don't HAVE to complete. For example, some missions have you get into a heavily guarded area, but the bonus objective is to do it without killing anyone.

The result is the perfect balance between being a stealth game, like Assassin's Creed SHOULD be, and still allowing you to muscle your way through large portions of it, like in AC2.

There are also loads of optional missions in this game, similarly to AC2, but they don't suck this time. There are Courtesan missions which follow their own storyline, missions to kill Templars, and missions reliving the past, introducing you to Ezio's first love Cristina.

The biggest change to the single player game though is a system where you rescue citizens and then teach them to become assassins, who can help you in combat, or go on missions of their own to get you money, among other things. As you teach them they gain levels and become more powerful, before finally become Assassin's themselves.

Overall, the game is a blast to play, and is definitely better in every way than the past two installments. It's the game the first Assassin's Creed should have been.

However, the biggest new addition to the series is multiplayer. In the multiplayer, you play templars who are in a training programs to learn to be assassins.

The object of the multiplayer is to assassinate your assigned target, while being pursued yourself by someone else. Assassinations earn you points, and the person with the most points after 10 minutes wins. However, the map is populated with NPC's who look like each of the players, and thus you have to learn to act like an NPC to fool other players into thinking you're an NPC, while figuring out (given only their general location via a compass) which one of the many people who look like your target are actually your target.

The multiplayer is a LOT of fun to play, although it seems nearly impossible to find a game anymore, due to lots of players having quite playing by now. It takes a good 5-10 minutes sometimes.

Buy this game if: You enjoyed the first two Assassin's Creed, or thought there was potential for a good game in them.

Don't buy this game if:
You really didn't think there was any way you could have liked the first two Assassin's Creeds.

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