Four and a Half Torches (Out of Five)
First, let me say this: I loved Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009). The story was great, the challenges and puzzles were interesting, and the setting was fantastic.
In Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (Xbox/PS3), the highly anticipated follow-up released earlier this week, the setting is even more beautiful and compelling, the gameplay has been improved, and there’s at least as much, if not more, content than in previous AC games.
And yet, it’s not quite as good as it could be.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood picks up where the second game left off. The Borgia family is after Ezio for ruining their plans for world domination, and when they torch his lovingly restored villa, Ezio takes the fight to Rome. There he’s given the task of liberating each section of the city and restoring it to its former glory through renovation. All of which offers a wealth of missions and side-quests, like saving the madam of the local brothel from slavers, or searching underground caverns for treasure.
The game’s most significant change is the requirement to recruit and train a band of assassins, who are then at your beck and call. This makes combat much more fun, as you can summon reinforcements at the press of a button, and it adds another layer of complexity to the game, as you level up their weapons and experience.
The other noteworthy change is the ability to ride your horse almost everywhere, which helps given how large the city is.
You also spend a little more time playing as Desmond in this game, which ties the past and future together well, but drags the game down a little in the beginning (and doesn’t seem to add much to the game other than letting you spend more time with Kristen Bell…I mean Lucy).
So if this game seems to do almost everything right, why am I giving it only 4.5 torches?
Because it feels like Assassin’s Creed 2.5. The improved-but-familiar setting and gameplay is a strength, but it’s also a weakness, and the story isn’t quite as complicated and interesting in Brotherhood as it was in AC2. (The strange cliff-hanger ending doesn’t help, either.)
In short: Brotherhood just doesn’t have quite the same “wow” factor as AC2. It’s clearly designed to be a bridge to Assassin’s Creed 3.
But a very good Assassin’s Creed game is still better than the best of many other video game series, and Brotherhood should be on every gamer’s must-play list this year.
The multiplayer game is also notable. Unlike most multiplayer games where the goal is to shoot anything that moves, in Brotherhood, stealth, trickery, and silent assassinations are the key to taking down your target, even as you attempt to avoid the assassin targeting you. As you level up, you gain access to more weapons and talents, like the ability to look like someone else. I’m not sure it will have staying power once the novelty wears off, since it requires more patience than most multiplayer games, but it’s definitely worth playing.