If you’ve played and enjoyed either of the first two Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll feel immediately familiar and at home in Brotherhood’s lush and surprisingly authentic Roman setting. In fact, the game starts off by plopping you right back where you were in Assassin’s Creed II: Monteriggioni, the town that we all lovingly built up to become our own personal metropolis and moneymaker. That cozy situation doesn’t last for long, though – we wouldn’t have much of a game in our hands if it did – and almost immediately we are off into the thick of things in Rome, assassinating and climbing buildings like Ezio does best.
This game’s primary villain is Cesare Borgia and the entirety of his family. History buffs will know that the Borgia family did at one point have quite significant influence over Italy, though I’m not sure their early sixteenth century opponents set towers on fire to thwart them. But you never know – it’s certainly fun in this installment, and the actual setting in Rome is amazingly true to life, with certain landmarks appearing precisely as they do even now in the twenty-first century. The basic premise of the game is to overthrow the Borgias, starting immediately with destroying their influence over Rome.
Similar to the last two installments, the game is set up around individual memories. New to this particular one, however, is the completion condition, where you can only achieve full synchronisation if you match a certain standard. For instance, you may have to get across Rome without jumping in the Tiber, or complete a mission without killing anyone. These add an extra dimension and a bit more difficulty for those who are craving it, as this isn’t a particularly hard game to begin with.
In addition to the standard assassination memories, where you rid the city of corruption by going straight to the top, you must destroy Borgia towers to unlock the truly enjoyable parts of the game. Each Borgia tower is protected by a fairly even restricted territory, which you must infiltrate to kill the operating Borgia general. Once you’ve killed him, you’re required to climb the tower to set fire to it. While it isn’t necessary to knock down too many towers to finish the storyline, you’ll need to in order to truly understand what’s going on around you, as they unlock important aspects of the game, like the ability to renovate shops and recruit new assassins, and completists will not rest until they’ve knocked down each of them.
This means that, like with Monteriggioni, you can restore Rome, the money from which of course enables you to buy better armour, weapons, and beef yourself up for other optional tasks. Better yet, though, each destroyed Borgia tower gains you the ability to recruit an additional assassin. You train your assassins by sending them out on missions, where they earn valuable experience, either alone or in pairs. Ezio can also call on resident assassins to vanquish enemies as the game proceeds. I must admit, I felt a strange sort of pride as I watched my assassins go to work; for a game which is such a joy to play, it’s odd that not having to fight yourself is equally satisfying.
Speaking of gameplay, Brotherhood is really just more of the same. There are a few extra weapons, and of course you have to earn back the ones from the first game (I missed the double hidden blade the most until I purchased it), but the only one that matters is the crossbow. The crossbow makes the game a bit easier, as it’s much simpler to hit enemies with this than it is with the throwing knives. Combo kills, where you can attack an enemy with your sword and finish him off with your gun, are new and endlessly satisfying, but in general, hand-to-hand combat is the same battle we know and love.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is ultimately an excellent continuation of the series. It isn’t a ground-breaking improvement, as Assassin’s Creed II was over the first in the series, but it is still an immensely satisfying game that can suck up hours of your time.