Assassin’s Creed Retrospective: Part III

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By Kimberly Kuxhause
 
Building on the success of its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood met, and exceeded, expectations. The city of Rome was transformed into a multi-faceted gaming environment, complete with side missions, collectibles, and epic sword (and gun) fights. Brotherhood was able to excel because of small tweaks in gameplay, new weapons additions, and an intense storyline both inside the animus and out. Multiplayer is a notable addition to the assassin world, but isn’t something I will be touching upon in this article, as it is a completely different beast and potentially merits its own article all together.
 
The gameplay changes weren’t drastic, like the improvements in Assassin’s Creed II, but their variety and expansive reach, on top of an already good thing, impressed me. New weapons were added to Ezio’s arsenal – he could equip heavy weapons and chuck them at enemies, he could shoot from a gun mounted on his arm, and he could shoot a variety of ranged weapons, from a crossbow to poison darts. Ezio could use parachutes to save himself from dangerous falls (though ease of use was buggy to say the least) and could pilot some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s war machines in his attempt to keep them from the new enemies, the Borgia. Execution streaks allowed for an easier flow in fighting and running from guards became less of a necessity. Even if the player chose to run, horses were now available for use inside the city (wha?!) to aid Ezio’s escape. You could even perform trick stunts and attacks off of horses – if you managed to get the timing right. Altogether these improvements made fighting ten times easier. Gone were the days where the player had to hide from enemies. Now, the enemies hid from you (but not really). The best improvement of the game was the addition of assassin recruits that could not only support you in battle, but complete missions elsewhere in the world to earn you money and items. If a mission proves too difficult for Ezio, they got his back. They could even die on missions or while helping Ezio escape, which prevented them from becoming too much of a crutch. I do lament that the number of male recruits far outnumbered female ones, but frankly I’m just happy they were included at all.
 
Glyphs made a spectacular return, with an even more spectacular appearance from Subject 16 who cryptically foreshadowed the end of the game. These small glimpses into the future and into the complications of Desmond’s quest continued to tug the player farther in, like quicksand. With so many side quests and optional missions, these inclusions were especially important to retain interest, and boy did they ever. Lairs of Romulus missions did the same. The creation of another layer in Ezio’s storied past induces the revelation that the player knows very little about the Assassin world. In fact, Assassins aren’t the only ones out there. The armor received from the Romulus missions isn’t as appealing as the missions themselves. However, the Lairs of Romulus do still prove right the old adage, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” while also adding another layer to Ezio’s gameplay. Most of Ezio’s actions are fighting or stealth missions, but in the Lairs of Romulus, the player gets an exploration-centric mission. It’s where the creators really strut their stuff and show off their design skills while the player launches through ancient ruins.
 
Brotherhood 2
 
Ezio’s storyline drifts a bit from the mark, however. The game was not as much about the Templars and Assassins as it was about Ezio and his quest for retribution. It drew the player farther from the epic fight and more towards the less established First Civilization foreshadowing plot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, I do feel that the game lost its way a bit. Exploring the historical realm of the Borgia within a fictitious environment is definitely entertaining, but then again even in the game, the Borgia weren’t synonymous with the Templars. What of the actual Templars in Italy? Rodrigo was a confirmed Templar, but Cesare did not specifically support the Templar cause. (And the fact that he killed his father, one of the most powerful Templars of the age does nothing to disagree with that statement). While I enjoyed the story immensely, it felt like even with all of the added quests, there was still some connection missing.
 
I admit, I always enjoy Desmond’s story more than the main Assassin’s, and this game was no exception. Desmond can now explore modern day Monteriggioni, which makes a nice connection to the past, and his exploration of “The Truth” with Subject 16 adds foreshadowing to the mix, intensifying the plot. With the final scene of the game, Lucy Stillman’s death, the game rips the player from the past and into the immediacy of the present. What happened to Minerva and why has Juno shown up instead? Why did she make Desmond murder Lucy? What will this mean for the Assassin’s fight against the Templars?
 
After all is said and done, the improvements in gameplay and the continued development of an immersive storyline leave the player happy and wanting more. Yet the improvements made in Brotherhood, compared to that of AC II, did remind me of a learning curve that’s plateauing. The game play had already become so extensive, so immersive, that I feared the next game had no chance of surpassing this one. It was a small fear, but present nonetheless. Regardless, at the end of the game, we’re left with more questions than answers. The uncertainty of it all propels the player seamlessly into the next game to discover what it all means. We expect answers soon, but will we get them? Only time, and the animus, will tell.


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