Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Last year’s “Assassin’s Creed II” was an amazing game, easily one of the best of the year. But when Ubisoft announced they would be bringing out a new game in the franchise a mere year later that served as a sort of side story, people – myself very much included – were worried.
When it was announced that they would be putting some sort of multiplayer in the game, people freaked out. The “Assassin’s Creed” series’ main strengths are its story and its amazing stealth and free running gameplay, neither of which was thought to be well-fit for online multiplayer. I spoke pretty openly against the idea of a multiplayer “Assassin’s Creed,” worried that Ubisoft was just trying to shoehorn features into a great franchise in order to make more money.
I’m going to just come out and say it: I was wrong on both counts. Dead wrong. “Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood” is an outstanding game deserving of your attention, and it may actually be the best game in the series yet.
I should also say that if you’re new to the series, this probably isn’t the best place to start, especially as far as the single-player is concerned. The story of “Assassin’s Creed,” while fantastic so far, is very complex. It’s full of history, conspiracy and intrigue. It’s some parts “The DaVinci Code,” some parts “Lost,” some parts “The Matrix.” While most of your time is spent as an historical assassin (the first game took place during the crusades while “ACII” and “Brotherhood” are both set in Renaissance Italy), the big picture story that you really care about revolves around a man named Desmond Miles, and it takes place in 2012.
So yeah, the story is sort of crazy. The last game ended on a massive cliffhanger, leaving gamers anxious to see what will ultimately happen in the series. It’s a journey well worth taking, but it would be very hard to jump in with this installment. At least pick up “Assassin’s Creed II,” which should be pretty affordable at this point. If you don’t, at least watch a lot of YouTube videos of both games.
If you did play “Assassin’s Creed II,” “Brotherhood” picks up literally seconds after that game ended. Despite the fact that this is not “Assassin’s Creed III,” which will almost certainly be set in an entirely new time period, the single-player experience in “Brotherhood” is absolutely top-notch. The story is fantastic, the action is better than ever, and there’s more to do.
One of the biggest new features in the single-player is the fact that Ezio is forming his own elite group of assassins, and you get to be in charge of the new recruits. After recruiting citizens to fight against the evil oppressors of Rome, you as the player can send your new assassins on missions of their own all around Europe. Alternatively, you can keep at least a few close by and call them in for backup whenever you need a little help. They earn experience points and level up for all of this stuff.
It’s a fantastic and addictive system that adds a lot to the experience.
And then there’s multiplayer. I had tremendous doubts that the developer would be able to come up with a good multiplayer mode for an “Assassin’s Creed” game, but they proved me very wrong.
One reason the multiplayer is so great is that it’s not just another “Call of Duty” clone. You won’t find yourself running around like a crazy person trying gun down other players. In fact, if you do that, you’re sure to lose.
In multiplayer, each player chooses a character to play as, like a doctor or butcher or jester. The catch is that the game world is populated entirely with exact clones of all of these character models. As such, if everyone were to stand still, it would be impossible to tell the human players from the innocent computer-controlled citizens.
Every player is given a target – another player – to hunt down, meaning you will always be after someone and someone else will always be after you. This is where the fun is. The idea of the multiplayer is to blend into the crowd so your pursuers won’t easily know where you are (if they kill an innocent civilian instead of you, they lose the contract on you and you’re safe from them), and likewise so your target doesn’t become suspicious and run away.
This leads to a lot of amazing gameplay scenarios. You might be walking along innocently, trying to tail your target in a crowded marketplace, when suddenly another assassin climbs out of a haystack and stabs you in the back. Or, you might see your target assassinate a target of his own, giving away his position, letting you chase him down in a glorious fashion.
It’s a bit slower-paced than most multiplayer games today, but that’s part of what makes it so amazing. It’s both clever and original, while still maintaining a lot of popular gameplay features from popular games (you level up and gain new abilities and weapons as you play, for example).
All in all, “Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood” is a far better experience than I originally anticipated. If you liked the last games in the series, the only possible reason for you to skip this game would be if you’re currently burned out on the formula – and if you finished “ACII” just recently, I wouldn’t blame you. If you’re new to the series, this may not be the place to start, but you should definitely find a way to get into the series and find out what you’ve been missing out on.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 with a copy of the game provided to The Daily Toreador by Ubisoft.