Despite having never played the first Assassin's Creed game, Assassin's Creed II became my favourite game of 2009... by a long way. I was not even of a mind to play that game until required to do so for a BAFTA award panel I was honoured to sit on. Despite a slow first 30 minutes that I might not have struggled past if I had not been obliged to do so, once AssCreed II bit, it bit hard, and I subsequently put many many hours into the game.
Which meant once I got to the point where I had pretty much exhausted it - you can never really "finish" AssCreed II
, there is always another assassination to perform - I was immediately eager for more. Ubisoft did not disappoint, providing very enjoyable downloadable episodes, Battle of Forli and The Bonfire of the Vanities. But these were both bite-sized morsels after a fabulously lavish main course.
Then everything went quiet for a while, before rumours of another Assassin's Creed
game began to circulate. No surprises there... but when the release date of Q4 2010, just one year after Assassin's Creed II, was slated for release
I began to worry.
was so extensive, so detailed that I could not see how it would be possible to create another similar game in so short a space of time. True, they could throw a massive team at it but three women cannot, between them, have a baby in three months.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Now the resulting game, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
is with us. And it IS similar to Assassin's Creed II
in many ways, and very different in a few others. The similarities are its weaknesses, the differences may prove to be its strengths.
Firstly, let's acknowledge that this is not Assassin's Creed 3
. It follows on from the previous game in a way that makes it feel like a downloadable episode. The characters are the same and the story is immediately consecutive. The setting has changed, but it is merely another Italian city of the Renaissance. Last time, we had Florence, Venice and Rome, this time it's just Rome.
This of course means that there are new key buildings, the Colosseum prime amongst them, to explore and climb. The rest of the city does not differ too much architecturally from the previous game. In fact, some buildings seem to have been cut and pasted directly. This is not a problem at all though, because the resulting game world lives up to the same high standards we have come to know and love from the series. But, set in Rome exclusively, the game is certainly not as extensive as AssCreed II
Eking Out a Living
The action takes off literally from the last scene of AssCreed II
, without much in the way of exposition. If you are new to the series, this is not a good place to start. Even as someone who played AssCreed II
extensively, I was somewhat confused. A "Previously on AssCreed
" section may have helped.
Then you are almost immediately into some boring following-people-around sections; clearly not engaging the player in the first 20 minutes is an AssCreed
tradition. After that, you are into some pretty tough combat sequences. But unlike AssCreed II
, where you had a friendly combat tutor and lessons conveniently broken down by technique and weapon... no such tutorial is available in AC:Brotherhood
. There is a virtual tutorial, but like everything else in AC:B
, every ounce of time extension has been eked out of it. So, instead of a bite-sized and informative lesson, it now takes the form of a mini-challenge: you have to kill so many assailants in a set amount of time.
Eking out apparent playability seems very much the theme in AC:B
. The core elements are not changed overly from AssCreed II
, but they are remixed to make them take longer, to deliver the illusion of value. Memory Starts are further apart than in AssCreed II
, and traversing between them is more time consuming. But the biggest difference to this game in story mode is that the vantage points you must climb in order to extend your view of the map are now heavily protected by Borgia captains.