How do you take a powerful character in a video game and make him weak again? The usual trope is to remove weapons (and possibly skills). Ubisoft did that with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, but they take it one step farther. They changed the combat.
I’m going to start with what I don’t like about the third game in this excellent franchise. I have never played a game a felt so conflicted. Love it? Hate it? I wish I knew how to quit it.
Combat. The changes to the combat in the game have been getting a lot of praises in the mainstream press. They love it. Certainly, it moves quicker and the “execution” animations are very cool, but I didn’t think the changes were all that necessary. Apparently, I was one of the few who liked the combat in the first two games and was able to master it. It took me a long time to unlearn all those skills and button combinations. Instead of a counter-attack type of affair, it’s become either counter, dodge, or kick with the order of the three listed from least to greatest. You’re going to kick—a lot. “Knee to the gut. Knee to the gut. Knee to the gut. Is he weak enough yet? Nope. More knees to the gut. He’s down? Oh, now I can use my weapon.”
Story. This is a mixed bag because Ezio’s journey is not all that epic, but Desmond’s is pretty important. If anything, it’s a heavily glorified epilogue to Ezio’s story. He was powerful at the end of AC2, but not as much as you thought. Leonardo is back and he’s pretty much regulated to strictly weapons manufacture and destruction. He’s basically a store. All that cool stuff you worked hard for in the second game? Easy pickings here. Got the moolah? Ca-ching, it’s in your inventory. As for Desmond, I cannot say much because you do play a lot more as him and I enjoyed every minute of it.
100 % synchronization. HATE. Of all the things that Ubisoft added this is the one I dislike the most. Many of the missions have an added bonus requirement that range from incredibly easy to absurd. You can still complete the mission, but you won’t get 100% synchronization (completion) of the memory. Many times I would get within seconds of completing an objective, and I would be spotted by a guard (when normally not) or run out of time. After about 1/3 of the way through the game I basically said “forget it” and just went for mission finishes. (There went hopes of 100% total completion of the game.) Totally demoralizing.
Game progression. Here’s a synopsis of my evolved thoughts as I played through the game: Neat -> Yes? -> Yes! -> Amazing! -> Game of the Year! -> Huh? -> WTH? -> Not again! -> No! -> Just finish the dang thing. There are a few missions towards the end of the game that take the established game rules and throw them completely out the window. Hyper-alert guards and bosses, Timed runs, and those incredibly stupid synchronization requirements. There’s an endgame weapon that should be the most amazing thing ever and ends up becoming and trial and error device. You have your other weapons on you but you are not ALLOWED TO USE them one bit. A few missteps towards the end diminished my enjoyment a little. The previous titles did rely on trial and error. Why do so now?
Even with all that, I still consider Brotherhood to be one of the better games of the year. Here’s what Iiked:
Mission variation. Even though it is set in one city, this game is HUGE and there are a large number of mission types. It’s never a dull moment traveling from place to place.
Recruiting assassins. Nothing is more pleasurable in this game than whistling while near an enemy and seeing your fellow assassins come from anywhere and stealthily take out a few adversaries. You recruit them, train them, and guide them to being a full assassin. They can die, however. Once an assassin reaches level ten there is a ceremony in your hideout. I had a problem with mine. My first one to do so, reached it during the endgame. A message constantly kept popping up saying I should go there and reward him. However, those endgame missions are closed. You play to the end. In the meantime I used him for one of those absurd missions for help and he died. No problem, I’ll just die and start over from the checkpoint. No freaking dice! I start from the beginning and he’s gone. All that work. Gone. Apparently when an assassin dies it remembers it even before a checkpoint. In the end it’s not a real biggie. Just train more. It’s fun.
Borgia towers. Climbing towers is a a great mechanic for surveying the terrain. Ubisoft added this neat twist by having some of them be heavily guarded and with soldiers and led by a captain. You must assassinate the captain and then torch the tower to claim it. The ending animation for each one was an awesome stroke of badness as Ezio tosses a torch into the tower and jumps off the top. One caveat. The game has a tendency to show you the towers but then block you off from getting to them. You dies constantly due to going out of bounds of the play area. It’s confusing, especially when there are missions near those towers and you have to go around on an undefined map to get there.
Multiplayer. I think Ubisoft really hurt this title by focusing primarily on the online play in their marketing and interviews. It’s actually a small component of the game. The singleplayer dwarfs it by a longshot. However, In some cases Ubisoft was justified in mentioning it. It is a blast. Basically, it’s stab and be stabbed. It’s slow and methodical and a fine counter to all the twitch multiplayer titles.
Story. Even though I disliked it, I also liked it. (Figure that one out). This game does set the stage for Assassin’s Creed 3 and it’s going to be epic. Do I want to visit Ezio again. No. He’s awesome and my second favorite video game character of all time, but it’s time to move on before he becomes a caricature of himself. Desmond is going to rule.
I had more fun playing AC2 than I did this title. I was still thrilled but somewhat disappointed. However, it’s still one of the best titles that I’ve played this year. I believe it to be a must buy, but be warned—especially if you were in love with the previous titles. It is different in some ways. There is nothing like the mythos of this series in video games. It should be experienced.
I played the PS3 version to completion at just around 26 hours. This has got to be the most disjointed review I’ve ever written. My thoughts are still mixed. Awesome but flawed. Flawed but awesome.