Crossing the Steams 10.27.12: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is where everything really went into overdrive, as far as the series goes. While AC1 is a problematic game, AC2 is where the series really came into focus. With a new, personable hero, in the form of Ezio, and many new game improvements, AC2 was heralded as a huge success. So much so, that Ubisoft took the game off the rails a bit and gave fans two more Ezio games to enjoy, one being excellent (this one), and one being….not excellent (Revelations). While there isn’t anything groundbreaking in this game, it does host a lot of new additions that help keep the game fresh and interesting.
AC: B follows the mold of AC2 by quite a lot. Ezio has a lot of the same moves as before, free-running, climbing buildings, combat, etc. But with the new game, there are a few additions to the overall move/weapons arsenals as to keep things fresh. AC: 2 had a late game problem (I found) of “Once you got the gun, you could pick off anyone.” This game has a similar issue, but instead it’s with the Crossbow. Because the Crossbow is much quieter, and holds a lot more rounds, it’s really the first weapon you should buy, because it’ll be your mainstay throughout the entire game.
The biggest new combat move is the execution streaks. Once you’re in combat and kill an enemy, you can usually move the stick in a direction of another enemy, and instantly kill him. Then you can move the stick in another direction, to kill a 3rd enemy, and so on. You can keep the streak going as long you want, as long as you don’t get knocked out of it. This method of “streak building” comes into play with combat, because it makes it an overall faster experience. In AC: 2, you usually just waited around for an enemy to attack you, countered him (killing him in the process), and then waited for another enemy to attack, so you can repeat the process. Now, you only really have to counter the first enemy, and then you can lay waste to everyone that surrounds you. Overall weapon fighting has also been improved, so that if you want to just wail away on the X button, you actually *can* do okay with it, but still countering and kill-streaking is the way to go.
The other biggest improvement this game has is the world itself. In AC: 2, you went to various Italian cities, doing missions and the like. Your base was Monteriggioni, but you could fast travel with horses to get to the various cities that inhabited the world. In Brotherhood, Rome is the only city you inhabit, but it’s a huge world to explore and do missions in. Except for the last story mission, the entire game takes place within Rome.
Instead of rebuilding Monteriggioni, you rebuild Rome in this game. Around the world you’ll find various shops that need renovations, Tailors, Artists, Doctors, Blacksmiths and Banks that you can invest in in order to make the shop functional. This serves a dual purpose of letting you buy items from the shop, as well as generating a revenue stream that gets deposited to your bank account at regular intervals. In order to unlock the stores though, you’ll need to find the Borgia tower in the area, assassinate the captain of the guard, scale the tower and then blow it up. This is also where a lot of the map viewpoints are, so as you’re doing this, you can fill out your overall map with info about the world. This process is usually not hard, and is a lot of fun trying to find the Captain, then figuring out how to scale a tower.
Another addition and the subtitle of the game is that you create your own Brotherhood in the game. After you start knocking down the towers, you’ll see people that can be recruited into the Assassin’s guild, able to be sent on missions around Europe, or at your beck and call, to do some fighting for you. You can recruit up to 9 Assassin’s for your brotherhood, and the game does a decent job of actually making you care for them. It’s nothing deep, but as you send them out on missions (via a basic menu), and they level up, you’ll learn to appreciate them. In the event that they actually die, it can become a bummer because of how much time and effort you’ve already spent with them. Sending them on missions can net you money and materials to use in upgrades and shop quests. The screen provides info on the success rate of your own Assassins and how difficult the mission is. While out on missions, the selected Assassins can’t be used during your game, but once the mission is over they can be used again. You have two abilities when Assassins aren’t on missions. You can either call a group (of 3) in to fight for you against enemies. You can call in 3 groups (of 3 Assassins) to fight, which leads to wholesale slaughter of most everyone. The other thing you can do is call in an “Arrow Storm,” which uses all 3 of your Assassin markers in one go, but has your Assassins shoot arrows in all the enemies on screen, in a single blast. This takes a bit of time to recharge once you use it, but it is immensely fulfilling to see it happen on the screen.
A lot of the old troupes make it back from AC 1 and 2, crowd blending, the Eagle Vision, hiring of groups to help you, finding collectibles around the environment, the basics of climbing and basic traversal, that sort of thing. A lot of these things are core staples of the franchise and can’t be monkeyed with, without a more upending of the basic gameplay mechanics, like in the soon-to-be-released numbered sequel. And this game doesn’t do that; it only improves upon its predecessors ideas.
Graphically, the game looks sharp and nicely detailed. Some ancillary characters faces look hideous, but that’s a minor complaint. Rome is brought to life within the Anvil engine and looks great. Ezio moves around with fluid animation, and while the game isn’t 100% animation-wise, the sheer openness of the game world is an impressive feat. Combat, especially, looks nice and visceral, with you getting a good feel for the action.
Sound is really nicely handled in the game, with special attention going to the voice acting. Ezio’s voice actor, Roger Craig Smith, does a superb job in the role. His voice work really holds that game together and you want to experience the story through Ezio’s eyes. The rest of the voice cast is also impressive, with everyone being distinct and having good personalities. The music is composed by Jesper Kyd who does his usual stellar job with it. Sound effects all fit into the game world as well, adding to the immersion factor.
Replayability and Ease of Use/Installation are condensed into the same paragraph, for a good reason. The game installs fine, and has the Ubisoft Uplay DRM program. I’ve never had a big problem with it….until they patched it. They recently patched the program itself, which has caused some issues. Single-player is fine, and you can enjoy the game with no “real” problems. However, when you select “Multiplayer,” the game exits completely and says “Thanks for Playing.” Uh….what? It’s apparently a problem with the Uplay launcher, but they haven’t bothered to fix it. The way to actually get it working (at least the Multiplayer side), is to make a Steam shortcut, target it to the “ACBMP.exe” file in the game folder, and have “/launchedfromotherexec” after it (outside the quotes). So the target should look something like “C:Program Files (x86)SteamsteamappscommonAssassins Creed BrotherhoodACBMP.exe” /launchedfromotherexec . That is complete craziness. Due to this issue, there’s almost no one playing the multiplayer game, which seems like a shame. The multiplayer part is a very neat idea that is kind of a lot of fun. It not being available because of the stupid DRM program is very annoying. Aside from that, there is a good chunk of replayable content in Brotherhood, you can replay missions, do Animus training, find hidden glyphs, try to 100% everything and so on. The game uses the 360 controller, which is really required to be able to play the game.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the best of the series. It takes the improved gameplay from AC2 and enhances it further, creating a much more robust and full game experience. The look, the sound and the gameplay are all stellar. It’s just a shame that the DRM is causing an issue with the PC port. Hopefully, Ubisoft actually cares enough to fix it, because it’s worth checking out. The multiplayer issue aside, the game is *well* worth a look.
Graphics — 9.0 A few incredibly small issues pop up, but they can be easily dismissed. This game looks fantastic, and has no slowdown when the action gets intense.
Gameplay — 9.5 Most everything from AC2 has been touched on and improved. Execution streaks, your own Assassins and the Crossbow all make the game much more enjoyable.
Sound — 9.5 The voice work is amazing, as is the music. There is a fullness to the sound that most games don’t even attempt to reach. Sound effects also fit into the game world nicely.
Ease of Installation/Playing — 5.0 The game installs and plays fine with single player. The DRM bug makes multiplayer largely unplayable. Good 360 controller support.
Replayability — 8.5 An interesting multiplayer mode, tons of unlockables and just a fun game overall to dive into for any length of time.
Overall — 8.3 (exact) which I’ll round up to 8.5
Other Steam News
Due to the new time schedule of the column, I’m going to instead list the games that are coming out next week. There are 6 games due for release, so I’ll be a bit brief about this.
On the 29th is Guns of Icarus Online. It looks like a team-based, action game.
On the 31st is Primal Carnage an action-Dinosaur game. Also on the 31st is Natural Section 2, a strategy/action game. Finally Painkiller Hell & Damnation is also on the 31st. It’s more Painkiller, so if that’s your thing, have at it.
On Nov. 1st is Cargo Commander, a platformer where you play a Cargo Commander. Go figure.
Lastly, on Nov. 2nd is 007 Legends, the PC port of the disappointing 360/PS3 007 game. Great. They ported this game, as opposed to the superior GoldenEye 007: Reloaded remake, because…why? Yeah…exactly.
Next week I shall look at Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Here’s a quick preview, there’s nothing revelatory about the game.