I finally finished the single player campaign for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood so I felt that it was time to make a final assessment about the game. You can see the time I’ve been logged into the game http://steamcommunity.com/id/behemothdan although some of it was sitting idle while managing the baby.
As a preface, in Brotherhood as you receive missions, you are given your primary objective as well as an added restriction/challenge so that you can achieve “100% memory synchronization.” While I might have to assassinate some random person, if I wanted 100% I would have to kill him with a hidden blade. Or perhaps I had to accomplish my goal without losing a single health square. The requirements varied from health requirements, stealth requirements, or time limits.
As I put a few hours into the first game, the first thing that jumped out at me was the annoyingly complicated key combinations. In most cases this has been alleviated in Brotherhood (as I can’t speak for the second game). Kill combinations felt smooth and straight forward, as did timing your dodges or counter attacks.
However there were plenty of annoyances as well. There were multiple times that I would try to grab an enemy to either throw him over a ledge for credit towards an achievement or saddle up a horse and end up picking up another weapon.
Some times this was just annoying, other times it was the cause of me getting hit and failing a 100% synchronization attempt.
Buttons like shift seemed to have too many uses in their attempt to streamline the controls. Off the top of my head, you used shift to grab ledges, mount horses, grab opponents, pick-up weapons, drop weapons, pick-up bodies, loot bodies, gently push people away, and shove them out of the way while running.
As you can imagine, there were plenty of times where more than one of these situations presented themselves in the same place at the same time.
As I approached the end of the game, my map is so cluttered that at most view levels of zoom I can’t even see the map and clicking on certain elements is an exercise in frustration because of overlapping icons or the map simply not wanting to recognize the fact I was clicking on something.
While there is options to hide or display certain icons, I left them on because there were just so many that there was no end to the overlap of icons I wanted to hide and icons I needed to find.
Navigating “memory sequences” was hard to get through and fairly confusing. Think of memory sequences as game levels. And while you were told early in the game that you could go back and replay any particular memory sequence if you wanted to try for the 100% synchronization, tracking down the right memory was tedious and left me not caring enough to dig for it. There were times when I wanted to go through a memory perfectly only to have something go wrong and found it easier to kill myself rather than brave the menus trying to reload the sequence.
It also felt as the developers went out of their way to make the navigation “swoopy” and overly animated which only led to making the interface feel sluggish and unresponsive at times.
I will openly admit that unless I was on a mission, I was not what you call “discrete.” Frankly I am surprised there were any guards left in the city. With so many random achievements to unlock by killing people in different ways, guards had to die.
- Kill a bunch of guards from horseback? Check.
- Kill guards in smoke bombs? Check.
- Kill guards using courtesan distractions? Check.
- Calling assassins to help kill guards, use mercenaries, use poison, kill guards with their own weapon, destroy scaffolding by throwing guards on it, kill two guards at once? All check.
The combat inevitably boiled down to two or three scenarios. One, you stabbed them silently without raising an alarm and went along your merry way. Or two, you made a bunch of other guards mad and held down the right mouse button in a defensive position waiting for one of them to attack so you could counter and launch into a monster killing streak.
Of course there is also the hundreds of guards I laid to rest on the rooftops using my crossbow, but that hardly counts as “combat.”
Overall combat felt fluid and dramatic without feeling overly “showy” most of the time. You had tons of weapons at your disposal like your hidden blade(s), crossbow, pistol, larger sword, throwing weapons, poisoned weapons, your fists, and smoke bombs. Luckily you can quickly bind your favorites to a quick access radial menu bound to your number keys since most of the time you only use 2 weapons or so.
I am sure I could have completed the entire game with only my hidden blade and my crossbow without flinching. Smoke bombs and poison darts were merely icing on the “How can I kill you” cake.
I did have some complaints about some stretches of game play directly relating to some quests where you destroy some war machines designed by Leonardo DaVinci (with whom you are apparently good friends). In particular, the flying bomber was annoying and unresponsive but a small portion overall.
There were plenty of elements of the game not directly related to the main story to keep you busy. One element I know was brought in from the second game was renovation, this time the renovation of Rome to help you build a monster income. And you will need it too. Buying all those historical landmarks isn’t cheap.
At first you wonder, how am I going to afford all this stuff? Between faction buildings, landmarks, and all manner of weapons, that’s a lot of coin to be spending, especially when it runs upwards from 20,000 florins all the way up to 40 or 50. But I will tell you this, at the end of the game I was sitting on almost half a million florins that I had nothing to spend on.
In addition to “city building”, you have access to side quests from the mercenaries, the thieves, the courtesans, and eventually the assassins.
In the beginning of the game you personally take assassination quests, but as the game progresses you recruit citizens to the assassin’s guild which you can then call in combat or send them off on their own assassination quests to help them level up, get more money, and some times unlock items you need for shop quests.
The quests you receive generally vary from assassinating a target, assassinating a target and planting evidence on someone else, assassinating someone with a particular weapon, and assassinating more than one person. You get the idea.
They wisely limited the number of tedious “race” quests to few and far between, and they were generally entirely optional. The real challenge and fun from the quests comes from the 100% Synchronization option. It definitely brings a “Challenge Accepted” moment.
Speaking of shop quests, these are never really explained in-game effectively. Like most games, I picked up a lot of vendor trash, which I then sold to the vendor since they prominently had the “Sell Items” option. But I then learned that the shop quests are nothing more than having a certain quantity of items in your inventory to complete, but since you never receive an update about your progress as you acquire new items you can easily sell them by mistake.
It made it hard to keep track of what was trash and what wasn’t, so I ended up keeping everything in case I needed it later.
The general overarching storyline involves you moving to Rome to get revenge for the attack on your home and reacquire a sacred artifact that has the power to bend people to your will.
In the process of “getting revenge” it just so happens that you renovate shops, repair aqueducts, buy landmarks, take control of a number of guilds in the city, become leader of the assassins, raise a private army, and overthrow the people running the whole place.
I guess anything worth doing is worth doing right.
At first the single player story wasn’t keeping me interested, as I find the out-of-Animus sequences rather boring. What that means for those of you who haven’t played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, you aren’t technically the assassin in the screenshots, you are a long lost relative using a machine that magically reads your ancestors memories from your DNA (just run with it).
This is why I initially spent so much time playing multiplayer. Those out-of-assassin experiences were pretty boring. Once I was able to get past that part and convinced myself to sit back down with the story, it was more entertaining as long as it let me run around and do what I wanted.
After all, Rome was a fairly big city with plenty of things to do. Obviously most problems you had to solve circled back around to doing what you do best, which is killing people.
You can consider that a bonus though. Nothing is more annoying than playing a game where you are the ultimate killing machine and the game then forces you to be completely passive. While many sequences require you to be undetected, you are given plenty of tools to do so, and is generally really easy to achieve since it’s the nature of the game. Remember, being undetected doesn’t mean you can’t kill anyone, but they just can’t see you while you do it.
The easiest way to stay undetected in a castle courtyard? Clear out everyone in it. No one to see you!
For a while I was thinking “Why do I need to get rid of this regime?” Sure, they let some of Rome fall into disarray, which you fixed, but as it unfolds you discover that the villain does have at least a few more sinister plans which you happily dismantle. And there is the revenge thing. And that works for me.
I don’t see myself playing the single story a second time like I have in other games. In the Hitman series I know I had gone to replay certain missions because the grade you received was more of a sliding scale rather than a Failed/Completed/Completed Awesomely.
I never really had to do any research on my targets either. Even the ones where I had to remain completely undetected and kill only one person I felt confident enough that I could run straight to the target location and fly by the seat of my pants and accomplish my goal easy enough.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun doing it. Unless I was trying to get certain achievements by killing people in a certain way, I felt like I had solid control over my character and combat usually played out exactly how I wanted it to.
I reached the point last night where I was tired of my relentless onslaught against the guards and decided to push the story into it’s final elements. I like to think I have a high tolerance for repetition too, so I knew it was time to finish. Do you know how many daily quests I did in WoW? It was a lot.
If you’ve enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series so far, Brotherhood seems like a strong addition and by itself it is enjoyable enough for a single play through. If you have a penchant for stealth and assassination style games in the same vein as Hitman and Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood will fit right in.
The multiplayer is enjoyable if you have the patience to plot and brood in certain game modes, and can be quite entertaining when you need a break from the chaos of the first person shooter genre.
But as I outlined, Brotherhood is not with out is quirks or it annoyances and I hope that Ubisoft will continue to improve and polish the franchise.