by Stefanie Fogel
previewed on PC
When in Rome
Last year’s Assassin’s Creed 2 was something of a marvel. Not only was it a sequel that managed to be better than its predecessor in almost every way, it also managed to sell 1.6 million units globally in its first week, outselling the original game by 32 percent. Faster than you can say “cash cow,” Ubisoft announced that a direct sequel, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, would be released in late 2010. However, the developers don’t want you to simply think of it as “Assassin’s Creed 2.5.” While the franchise’s open world, parkour-style gameplay remains intact, main character Ezio Auditore de Firenze has gotten older, wiser and brought along a few friends.
The second chapter of Ezio’s story takes place immediately following the events of Assassin’s Creed 2. Now a master assassin, Ezio must continue his battle against the Templars and the Borgia family in the powerful and corrupt city of Rome, which is three times the size of AC2’s Florence and the biggest map ever created for the franchise. It’s so large, in fact, that the developers have included the ability to ride horses in the city, something that was lacking in the previous game. Guards will also be on horseback as well, and mounted combat will open up as the game progresses.
Taking back Rome from the tyrants will involve infiltrating and burning down guard towers throughout the city. Destroying these towers will have noticeable effects on the areas surrounding them. More shops will open, people will look healthier and the Borgia’s grasp on the city will weaken. The city building mini-game from AC2 is back, and you can use your hard-earned money to rebuild the crumbling city. Win over the hearts of Rome’s citizens and you can unlock extra factions and missions.
It’s Good to Have Friends
Along to help you in your quest is the Brotherhood, a group of young Assassins that you must find, recruit and train. Once you invite a promising recruit into the Order, you can send him or her out on contracts. Communicating with the Brotherhood is done through the many pigeon coops found throughout Rome.
From there, you can view which contracts you have available and which ones are in progress. You can also see a contract’s odds of success, how long it’ll take to complete, and what money and experience will be rewarded. You can use that money and experience to upgrade the Brotherhood NPCs and make them stronger. By spending skill points, you can decide whether or not to make an Assassin a long-ranged marksman or a melee expert, for example, and call them in to help you against the Templars. Be careful, though, because your protégés can fall in battle, and if they do, they’re gone forever.
Unless They Stab You in the Back
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the first title in the franchise to feature a multiplayer component. Keeping with the ‘technological flashback’ theme of the series, you are a modern Templar training in the fine art of assassination using character classes like the Priest, the Barber, the Doctor and the Courtesan. Each class has its own signature abilities and weapons but can only bring two of them into battle at a time, forcing you to choose your load out more carefully. Do you bring the smoke bombs and the cool morphing ability? Or do you go for the less flashy but more practical sprint and throwing knives?
The multiplayer is an elaborate cat and mouse game. As the match starts you are given a target to assassinate while you, in turn, are being hunted as well. Radar at the bottom of the screen fills up as you get closer to your prey, but it’s up to you to pick them out amongst the dozens of similar NPCs around you. Running is a complete giveaway, of course, as is running along the rooftops. Such tactics are often necessary, however, especially when it’s you who has been spotted. Once you have successfully killed your target, a new one pops up on the screen and the hunt continues.
While it is an intense and interesting new take on online competitive play, it is too soon to tell if Brotherhood’s multiplayer will hold interest over the long run. But with Ubisoft promising a single player experience that will run about 15 hours and a new story filled with plenty of twists and turns, it might not matter. To fans of the series who are eager to learn more about the war between the Templars and Assassins and the fates of Ezio and Desmond, November 16th can’t come quickly enough.