23 January 2011 | bob the moo
Another step up for the series – flows well with plenty of detail and loads to do
When Brotherhood was announced it was sold as Assassin's Creed 2.5 as it wasn't a "proper" next game but rather a direct continuation of part 2; the inclusion of a multiplayer aspect also made it feel like perhaps it would be a shorter game, put out as a stop-gap between 2 and 3 – particularly since it had only been a year since AC2. As a result I didn't get too excited about it and was fine waiting till Christmas to pick it up. Surprisingly ACB improves yet again on the previous game, with lots of little things added, changed and improved. The story continues to be an impressively crafted mix of religion, history, truth and Da Vinci code nonsense but it is still engaging. The overall movement of the series story is not great though but in terms of providing a structure for the game, Cesare Borgia and the recovery of the piece of Eden is more than sufficient to engage in addition to the progress made by Desmond towards the end (even if the end does feel a little rushed when it comes).
As before the game plays really smoothly and with a decent amount of variety. Naturally everything involves going somewhere, doing something and then going somewhere else, but the missions are well constructed and the challenged to do them "100% Synch" by achieving additional challenges makes them more interesting and essentially increases the difficulty for those that wish to try it. Around the main narrative though there is loads to be done. I really liked the addition of the Borgia towers to be cleared, the war machines and the many smaller missions for thieves, mercenaries etc that are scattered around. The collectables are still in place but this time the ability to unlock and buy maps makes this so much less of a chore. Developing the Assassins is a nice idea – not nearly as deep as it could have been but quite good and handy for calling them and earning money. Redeveloping Rome is quite easy to do – a bit pointless considering it surprisingly leads to no achievement but not having to go to one place to do it or get money (the Villa in AC2 was a "once an hour" chore). The little challenges from the various guilds are a nice idea as well and a good example of just how many little things there are to do if you want to do them; none of them will extend the game forever but I enjoyed doing all these things in between story missions – sometimes I would play for a couple of evenings without advancing the story at all. Getting out of the animus is also a nice addition even if it isn't particularly meaningful till the end.
Rome is beautifully designed and there were only some parts that were annoying for having to go all the way round the cliffy areas. Once you accept that things will often "pop" onto the horizon as you approach, it does look good and play well. The cut scenes are great apart from some weaknesses in the facial animation, which put it a step behind some other games where it looks better and has better lip synch. The characters remain engaging as well, although I missed some of the humour from AC2 – Leonardo in particular was such fun in 2 but here he seems too drab and a little dull compared to who he was originally. Ezio remains a great character to play while the modern characters are also stronger and more fun.
The multiplayer shows such potential and I do enjoy it but so far I have played only 10 or so games. The matchmaking is poor and for some reason it will not start till there are a full number of players – if one drops one 5 seconds into the game then it continues fine, but to start needs a full number and wait times have varied between 2 minutes to 30 minutes – there is no need to rush to the bathroom like with COD for sure! The stealth aspect and quality of kills beating quantity works well – I won a game with half the kills of the people sprinting around. At times it can frustrate to try and flank your target at walking pace for 3 minutes only have some idiot shoot you for very few points, but it is thrilling to know you can be thousands of points down but still only need one great assassination for the win! With some work this aspect of the game could be great but for me it is a curio – but not one that I want to play so much that I'm happy to spend 10 minute waiting for 10 minutes playing.
Overall, if you loved AC2 then ACB keeps almost everything you loved and makes it better with lots of minor improvements and extensions. It is a really great game and serves to make the wait till the concluding game all the more painful!